Paul E. Anna: High Points
December 16, 2010
Had enough of Christmas Carols yet?
For those who toil in retail shops, airports or any other place where the songs are looped through the sound system 24/7 from Halloween on, the sound of Christmas music can grate on the ears like a dentist’s drill.
When Andy Williams (the former Mr. Longet) breaks into “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and the chorus in the background rings out with “ding-dong, ding-dong” it becomes, for some, asylum time. How about Burl Ives’ raspy rendition of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” for a stomach-turner? And then there is the solemnity of “The Little Drummer Boy.”
Give me a break.
Some of us only experience the “joy” of carols when we are on hold during a call to a hospital or a rental car agency. For those folks, the refrain from “I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing by on Christmas Day” or “Joy to the World” can help connect them to the holiday season. Sure, it may be a tentative and slim tether, but some of us are bah Humbug-ers who need something, anything, to get us into the gift-giving spirit.
And let’s face it, that is what the barrage of Christmas music is really all about, isn’t it? That is why we have entire playlists at radio stations devoted Christmas music around the clock – so we get into the spirit of skating past the manger on our way to the mega-mall and spilling our coin and plastic so the retail sales figures show an uptick.
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The only Christmas music that resonates with me are the Vince Guaraldi jazz piano pieces recorded in the mid-1960s to accompany the ever-terrific holiday classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The chorus of “Christmas Time is Here” always gets me. It may be because I have a soft spot for Linus Van Pelt’s description of exactly what Christmas is.
When the show was first produced, the suits at CBS who had commissioned the show from Peanuts creator Charles Schultz were apoplectic that a cartoon could deliver such a wholesome Christmas message. But the show, punctuated by Linus’ monologue, remains one of the most poignant Christmas traditions for millions of Americans:
“And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid … And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ, the Lord.’
“And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
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