Sunday, December 24, 2023

Here We Come A'Caroling, like it or not!


The year is 2023.  On television, a choir is performing a very entertaining version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. I am smiling at their wonderful voices and song-related pantomime. Then, they get into the troublesome part of the song. The part where the number of drummers, pipers, and lords-a-leaping get mixed up. This version was different from the version I grew up with.  “Bah Humbug!” I thought. And then, I reminded myself of this, written when my children were young. I don’t even want to know what they are singing with their own kids this year.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Here we Come A’ Caroling

 After one endures the trauma and turmoil of divorce, it is hoped that certain life lessons are learned. Lessons that one vows to never repeat, never tolerate, or never live through again. Unfortunately, one makes the mistake of thinking that these lessons are related to huge issues such as trust, money, in-laws and leaving up the toilet seat. And we vow to discuss these things before ever entering another serious relationship. However, I am here to tell you that there are other, more subtle areas of discussion. One of the most important is Christmas Music.

Most of us think of Christmas music as that group of “ho ho ho,” and “fa la la,” songs that permeate the air from the Fourth of July through January. Pleasant enough, a bit repetitive, and mostly undistinguished. We hear it on the radio, in the mall, and in the background of every television commercial – no matter what the product. It seems that “Christmas Music” is something everyone can agree on – especially in the home. The Christmas Music stand-off was not a cause of the divorce (or was it?) but it hung over my head as our children grew up.

I never discussed Christmas music before I got married – he never told me about his, and I never told him about mine. As we arranged our combined music collection in our newlywed apartment, we took turns laughing at some of the ridiculous selections we had. Somehow, we each assumed that those “silly” selections (both his and mine – although secretly I didn’t think any of my choices were silly) would never be heard again. We should have been warned: in our now-huge assortment of music, there were no duplicates. My classical music stood rigidly on the shelf next to his acid rock. John Denver and Mick Jagger eyed each other suspiciously inside the cabinet. It was a minor annoyance for months, until our first Christmas arrived.

For me, the holiday is not complete without songs performed by Perry Como and Johnny Mathis, as well as several renditions of the Nutcracker. Growing up, I truly believed that the only “real” Christmas music was on the three albums my mother dusted off every year and played on her “hi-fi.” In church, I belted out all the English and Latin verses to “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” without even glancing in the hymnal. Years later, I realized that there were a multitude of recordings available, but by then they just didn’t sound “right.”

However, I soon found out, just the mention of my favorites would make my husband’s blood pressure rise. Older than me, he was a true devotee of classic rock and roll. While I was playing big band classics in my high school jazz band, he was grooving with the flower children. I should have realized that a Rolling Stones fan would have a different concept of holiday music, but soon the sound of Yoko Ono warbling in the house made me want to crush the stereo.

Although we had met during the disco era, and had sentimental feeling about most of that music, the worst thing forced on me during Christmas was my husband’s collection of obnoxious disco “medley” recordings. With titles like “High on Christmas,” they featured holiday songs homogenized into one long-playing disco beat monstrosity.  It was fun to hustle with John Travolta and sing “YMCA” with the Village People, but hearing “Joy to the World” a la Disco Fever was unbearable.

Imagine my surprise to find records by Mario Lanza! The majestic sound of his voice does justice to any carol. I thought, finally, my husband was coming to his senses, accepting the “right sound.” Actually, Mario was a throwback to my husband’s own childhood and his Italian heritage. I never could get him to admit that Lanza beats Springsteen any day in the Christmas music department. Unfortunately, Bruce, Yoko and the disco queens serenaded our holidays for many years.

Of course, once we had children, I vowed to raise them on my holiday music. For years, their father and I raced to the stereo to make sure they were hearing “real” Christmas music. Of course, the kids were not listening at all. They were in their rooms, playing “Rainbow Brite Sings Christmas Favorites.” (Where did that come from?) I’ve already made a note to have a heart-to-heart talk with their future spouses.


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