Sweating to the Christmas Tunes

Yes, yes: I know. Horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies ‘glow.’ Let’s just say that we’re not even officially in our southern hemisphere summer and I am–well–glowing rather profusely, even while sitting still.

I always felt bad for people who lived places where snow never fell, especially around the holidays. (And then, when I lived places where the snow fell WAY TOO MUCH and TOO OFTEN, I felt jealous of them.) I will say that it still feels very odd to me to reflect that, yes, it is December and, yes, we are in Advent.

(Sometimes–not every night, but a few times a week–we go around the table to say what we’re grateful for. After I’m done cooking dinner, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘fans.’ Apparently I have said, “I’m grateful for fans” enough times that my children laugh and tease me about it. But what can I say? I’m grateful for those fans. I’d probably be even more grateful for some carbon-spewing air conditioning, but let’s not go there.)

Anyway, all that to say that it doesn’t feel December-ish right about now. And that’s oddly disorienting. One of my favorite things about living in Germany, strange to say, was the distinct sense of FOUR different seasons, each with its own lovely qualities of light, color, smell, and sound.

I can’t do much about most of that, but for me, for now, listening to some holiday music is more important than usual. Here are three of my favorites. What are some of yours?

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 2.12.01 PMJoyful and triumphant! My husband and older son no longer groan when I play this one! (My younger son has never objected to anything I listen to.) It’s quirky, not for everyone, but some of the tracks, particularly the hymns, not all of which are usually associated with Christmas, are simply not to be missed.

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 2.00.10 PMJennifer Knapp and Margaret Becker’s Hymns of Christmas came out last year. It’s lovely. Why is ‘Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming’ sung so infrequently? Perhaps because it is almost too beautiful.

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 2.01.57 PMI count Elizabeth Mitchell among the (very) few musicians recording for children that don’t make me want to stick sharpened pencils into my eardrums, and this new album from Smithsonian Folkways is really something special–a “a spirited collection of folk carols drawn from Ruth Crawford Seeger (stepmom of Pete Seeger)’s 1953 songbook American Folk Songs for Christmas.”

(Download “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” for FREE here.)

7 thoughts on “Sweating to the Christmas Tunes

  1. I have a number of album’s I love, but my absolute favorite is Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song”.

    Mel Torme supposedly has said that Nat’s version is the only time he’s ever thought someone else did one of his song’s better than he could do it himself.

  2. Here we go again, as this album is a favorite of mine as well! We played the grooves off of mom’s LP back in the day, I later bought it on cassette & then CD, and it’s now on my iPod.

    NO ONE could EVER sing that song like Nat Cole did.

    And as long as we’re hopelessly dating ourselves here, I have always loved “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “The Little Drummer Boy” as sung by the Harry Simone Choir. Those two recordings meant Christmas when I was a boy.

    I love the theology of the drummer boy– a poor boy playing his best for another poor boy who is also the King.

  3. I love Over the Rhine’s Christmas music (and since we’re in hipster-ville, squarely) I love the Civil War’s Christmas song “Tracks in the Snow.”

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