And My Memories
Besides Christmas itself and all it means for us, one of the best parts about the holiday is the music leading up to one of our favorite days of the year. Christmas music can bring such wonderful joy not just for the music and message but because of the memories the music returns to us.
As children we listen to the cheerful music and enjoy seeing how it puts our parents in a different mood when one of those joyful songs plays over the radio or mall sound system. As adults, we hear Christmas music and know what it was that made our parents so happy each year. The music surrounding this special holiday brings back fond memories of our childhood and spending time with our families.
Record, Radio, Cassette and CD
When I was young I used to dig through my parents records with my two brothers to see what strange music they listened to. I don't remember seeing many Christmas records in the racks, but there were a few. One that we used to listen to over and over had The Little Drummer Boy on it. I remember going over to the neighbor's house on 34th street to listen to this record. No, the 34th street I am referring to is not where the miracle happened, but where I grew up in Texas. I don't know if it was because they had a better sound system than we did but I vividly remember playing that record at their house. We moved out of that house when I was 7 or 8 years old. It is amazing that I can even remember so clearly listening to that record.
Before I had my cassette/CD/MP3 collection, we used to listen to the radio all the time. It was fun to hear the occasional Christmas song play on the radio between whatever else was on at the time. Mostly my family listened to Country music when I was growing up. I, however, was the rebel. I listened to classical music and big band music from the 30s and 40s. Traditional church-type Christmas music seemed to fit on the radio with the other music.
As much as I like Christmas music on the radio, there are times when stations go too far. One of the towns I have lived in off and on has a radio station I enjoy most of the time. During the holidays though they play only Christmas music from the day after Thanksgiving until the end of the year. Sometimes I have to switch stations just to get the extra syrupy sound out of my ears.
My cassette collection grew in my high school and college years. I had the traditional Bing Crosby classics along with a few instrumental Christmas collections. My favorite cassette though was one by the Carpenters. I didn't have a girlfriend when I owned this tape, but I always imagined that I would love singing Merry Christmas Darling to a special girl some day (and I do even though we have never been apart for Christmas since we started dating).
When I married my lovely wife I also married a nice CD collection. Two of the compact discs she brought to the marriage were the craziest things I had ever heard. My wife was not a lover of classical music (and I can't get enough of it). She had two CDs by the Hampton String Quartet from their series What if Mozart Wrote. These were What if Mozart Wrote Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and What if Mozart Wrote I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause. These two CDs have been our favorite pieces of music for almost 20 years. Our kids have grown up listening to them without the slightest clue that they are a musical joke. They think that is the way some Christmas music was written. It is hard to listen to Mozart today without grinning at the stereotypical things he did with his music which I was taught by listening to these CDs.
In high school we had a choir director who made us struggle through various songs from Handel's Messiah. We did not have a big choir with lots of strong voices, but we managed to pull off a few good presentations of individual songs from The Messiah.
Since those days of attempting such advanced music, my mom and I have enjoyed each chance we have to hear The Messiah performed live. Every year she looks for some local church or orchestra performance of this classical work. It has not been such a passion of mine to make it to a performance every year as it is for Mom, but I enjoy hearing her tell me over the phone how the choir did each time she makes it to a performance. Some years she has not been able to find a local presentation and resorts to playing her 2-CD set by the London Philharmonic Orchestra that we bought her as a Christmas gift many years ago.
MP3 and Pandora
Today our musical tastes really haven't changed. However, the way we consume our music has. My family almost never listens to the radio any more. We are each plugged into our own MP3 players. When we get in the car we sometimes plug one of the players or cell phones into the stereo system of the car and enjoy the music together. Because of a move we recently unearthed an old CD player. Maybe this year we will listen to the Mozartian Christmas music in this old format.
For our group listening we recently have turned on Pandora Internet Radio on our Roku and listened to Christmas music through the TV's sound system. If you are so inclined to find Christmas music this way you can search for "Bing Crosby Holiday" and build a station base on that. There are probably plenty of other ways to build a Pandora station you will enjoy, but this one satisfies our Christmas music craving.
Your Christmas Music Traditions
What memories do Christmas songs bring to your mind? Are there traditions that you and your family enjoy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Whatever your style of music and memories associated with it, I hope you enjoy this Christmas season with your family and friends while you build new memories for the future.
Enjoy this video with Karen Carpenter singing Merry Christmas Darling.