Anybody who knows me knows that I am a big, fat Christmas whore. Not because I like to celebrate the advent of Christ’s coming to earth–neither I nor my family are religious–but because of the music, cooking, decorating, and, perhaps most of all, the seasonal postmarks, which are still honoured by pagans everywhere as “yule”, or the “wheel” of the year. Recognizing the seasonal cycle was important for pre-industrial peoples, who used them to determine when to sow, when to harvest, when to ration, etc. Winter solstice, co-opted by Christians, marks the dark night of the year–the beginning of the return of light. At this, the shortest day of the year, there is a unique tension between a supreme darkness and a creeping luminescence. I still like to recognize the cycles created by these forces, since they keep me grounded in nature.
Because of all of this suspense, Christmas is an exciting time of the year. Perhaps the funnest part of the Christmas season (which begins with Advent–itself beginning four Sundays before Christmas–and ends with Twelfth Night, in January) is the music. I don’t mean Mariah Carey’s latest Christmas album–I mean the golden age of popular Christmas music, which extends roughly from 1940 to 1971, and includes every genre from jazz to pop to motown. For some reason, the Christmas music recorded during this period has a melodic, magical warmth that is almost haunting. It is filled with chimes, bells, soft drums, gingerly-strummed guitars, and rich, resonant solos backed by sweet, Disney-esque choirs. None of it is ever over-wrought.
It also brings back memories (and I am not nostalgic). The selections in the following list of Christmas tunes (which range from ca. 1942 to 1971) were all recorded before I was born, but they were recorded largely, although not exclusively, by my grandmother on a cassette tape in 1979 (the year after I was born) as a Christmas present, and I have attempted for the past two Christmases to collect the very same tracks from the Internet in digital audio format. Serendipitously, I have found not only the majority of these Christmas relics, but also a smattering of other magical-sounding mid-century tracks which should warm the heart as well as any hot toddy.
I think the following list of songs should provide the most adorably kitschy and memorable soundtrack to Christmas for any child or adult. Unfortunately, try as I could, I couldn’t find a pleasingly retrospective rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. I wanted to find one, because I know I’ve heard it before, but, alas, I came up empty-handed. I entreat any one of you to present me with a truly retro version of that sacred tune.
But that is just splitting hairs. Let us focus on what we have. Right now, I have enough to make anybody want to drink a glass of spiked egg-nog in a poodle skirt next to her vintage record-player as she stokes the fire and the snow coats the window panes.
32) Twelve Days Of Christmas – Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters
31) The Christmas Song – Nat “King” Cole
30) White Christmas – Bing Crosby
29) Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Frank Sinatra
28) Christmas Dream – Perry Como
27) Yingle Bells – Harry Stewart (as Yogi Yorgesson)
26) Mary’s Boy Child – Harry Belafonte
25) Silver Bells – Brenda Lee
24) The Christmas Party – Harry Stewart (as Yogi Yorgesson)
23) Tell Me A Story – Frankie Laine
22) Sleigh Ride – The Ronettes
21) I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas – Harry Stewart (as Yogi Yorgesson)
20) Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt
19) Silent Night – Nat “King” Cole
18) Winter Wonderland – Connie Francis
17) Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
16) Do You Hear What I Hear – Andy Williams
15) The Happiest Christmas Tree – Nat ‘”King”‘ Cole
14) All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth – Spike Jones
13) Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley
12) Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Tony Bennett
11) Mrs Santa Claus – Nat “King” Cole
10) Jolly Old St Nicholas – Eddy Arnold
9) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry
8 ) ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas – Steve Lawrence (husband of Eydie Gormé)
7) I Saw Three Ships – Nat “King” Cole
6) O Holy Night – Perry Como
5) Toyland – Doris Day
4) Be Kind to the Street Corner Santa Claus – Harry Stewart (as Yogi Yorgesson)
3) The Little Drummer Boy – Harry Simeone Chorale
2) Frosty the Snowman – Nat “King” Cole
1) Up on the Housetop – Eddy Arnold