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Monday, December 18, 2006

A guilty seasonal tradition

Every year about this time I make some reference to a guilty little pleasure of mine... something in which I have continued to indulge since moving to Israel: 'Holiday' music.

Growing up in New England you can't really avoid being exposed to the onslaught of holiday music that pours from every radio, television and mall loudspeaker from Thanksgiving (now Halloween) on.

I wasn't even aware to what extent I had internalized these 'classics' until I was cruising around the western Pacific on a ship one December in the Early 80s and realized I didn't miss the cold... I didn't miss the snow... I didn't even really miss eggnog back then.  I missed the Xmas music!

Remember, this was before Mariah Carrie and every other 'name' started churning out Christmas albums.  I'm surprised William Shatner didn't grace us with one of his own!

Anyway, I'd been listening to the classic seasonal music for so long that it had become like the thrill of the first pick-up baseball game of spring... the taste of sweet corn in late summer... the smell of burning leaves in fall.   In short, it wasn't December without that music!

I'm not a purist by any means.  I loved quirky hits like 'Grandma got run over by a reindeer' and 'Jingle Bell Rock' every bit as much as the more traditional 'Sleigh Ride' and 'Chestnuts Roasting on an open fire'.  And this is before I realized that a lot of the Christmas music was actually written by Jews (think 'White Christmas' by Irving Berlin')!

As I write this (at 5:55AM), Zahava is still asleep next to me and I have Vince Guaraldi's 'Charlie Brown Cristmas' soundtrack playing softly on iTunes.  She's also a child of the northeast, but I don't know if she shares my soft spot for the seasonal musical saccharine.

A recent favorite of mine is by the late Wesley Willis, a former homeless schizophrenic who attained cult status back in the 90's with his peculiar brand of song-writing. 

Here it is: 'Merry Christmas', (it also has a cute animated video).

Lastly, just so you don't think I'm a total sucker for anything seasonal... here is arguably the worst Xmas song ever recorded.  It is an amateur recording of 'Oh Holy Night' (Steve, of 'The Sneeze' called it, appropriately, 'Oh Holy Crap!') Please listen to the end as each time you think it can't possibly get worse... it does.  If you need a good belly laugh, give it a listen.

Happy Hanukkah!

Posted by David Bogner on December 18, 2006 | Permalink

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Re: OHC ... It's a werry niiiice!

Yehuda

Posted by: Yehuda Berlinger | Dec 18, 2006 12:51:24 PM

I cannot relate to this AT ALL! I am so glad to be away from all of that. I still remember being angry that school at Stern College was off on December 25th - because it was considered dangerous to travel on the trains (for the commuting students). It also makes me angry when the Israelis have parties on the night of December 31st.

Posted by: westbankmama | Dec 18, 2006 1:31:20 PM

I think you'll enjoy these from one of my favorite humorists:

http://www.bookofratings.com/christmassongs.html

http://www.bookofratings.com/morechristmassongs.html

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Dec 18, 2006 2:08:02 PM

It was considered dangerous to travel on the trains in NYC on Christmas? What is this, 18th century England? No one goes on Christmas pogroms anymore!

I personally can't stand Christmas music. I was so happy when i was in Israel and wasn't constantly being bombarded with someone else's holiday.

The only Christmas music i like (except, of course, 'Grandma got run over by a reindeer'... who couldn't like that?) is that really spooky instrumental song that's (i assume) supposed to be happy but just sounds dark and mysterious.

DUM da-da-dum
DUM da-da-dum...

Posted by: Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) | Dec 18, 2006 2:53:33 PM

Yeah, me too. I've got "Holiday" music playing on loop - Bless Pandora!

And WBM: No need to be angry...People here like any excuse to party, and the world- including Israel- functions by the Gregorian calendar. What's the harm? No pagan invocations, just more money into the Israeli economy. And nb, Galgalatz runs a "Loazi" music vote at the end of December and an Israeli music vote before Rosh Hashana. Best of all worlds!

Posted by: PP | Dec 18, 2006 3:44:01 PM

Trep: I'm halfway with you. I don't have much love lost for the "traditional" Christmas songs, but as a kid I used to - pardon the expression - religiously watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and The Grinch each year. In more recent times I have come to enjoy some of the rock songs that I only hear this time of year - see my last year's post for details.

Posted by: Elie | Dec 18, 2006 4:44:10 PM

Thanks for these to "classics". Mom joins you in the Xmas music nostalgia. She loves 'em all, from "Alvin and the Chipmunks" to "Silent Night".
As for me, a few pieces of this seasonal music are welcome---the first 10 times. After that, even John Lennon gets stale.
That rendition ('rend' is the operative part of the word) of O.H.N is truly a howler. It's the worst by any measure.
Dad

Posted by: Delmar Bogner | Dec 18, 2006 5:21:55 PM

I'm with Dad... the first few days, it's nice and then I hate listening to the radio! I do have a huge soft spot for Alvin & the Chipmunks, though! ;)

Posted by: val | Dec 18, 2006 5:48:17 PM

I remember the first year that we had made aliyah, I felt like something was missing from winter. Only when my mother said how much she loved not being surrounded by Christmas did I realize that I missed it! I missed the lights, the sales, the general cheer that permeated things, and I especially missed the fancy (and pricey) festive drinks which the coffee houses would come up with! I'm with you on this one.

Posted by: Aliza | Dec 18, 2006 5:58:41 PM

Sorry, Trep - totally 180 degrees away on that one. If I ever do make aliyah, one reason on my list will be "to get away from that [email protected]#$%^& Christmas music!!!"

Posted by: Psachya | Dec 18, 2006 6:01:43 PM

I'm with Psachya on this one. Every time I hear "White Christmas" I keep thinking, "Irving! Exactly what kind of White Christmas did you 'used to know' back in the shtetl?"

Also, that [email protected]$#[email protected] drummer boy song will cause somebody to go postal in a supermarket someday, and there's not a jury in the world that would convict (also, as the father of a 1-year old restless sleeper, I can assure you that I would wring the neck of anybody playing a drum around my sleeping child).

Tom Lehrer's "Christmas Song" ("Hark the Herald Tribune sings/advertising wondrous things") and "Channukah in Santa Monica" are the only things that get me through this time o' year here.

Posted by: efrex | Dec 18, 2006 6:34:22 PM

Meh. I wouldn't be devastated if the library containing every copy of Christmas music went up in flames. Christmas music is, in my opinion, part of what makes Americans think that Christmas is an American holiday and not necessarily a Christian holiday. I'm so disappointed every time I see a house with blue lights. And yesterday I saw a "Hanukkah Bush." If one more person asks me if I am sad that I don't get a Christmas tree then I just might lose it...

Posted by: Fern R | Dec 18, 2006 7:27:46 PM

I saw Welsey Willis in concert many years ago....immediately after the show ended he ran to the exit and headbutted everyone leaving. True story. I was head butted by Welsey Willis.

Posted by: Harry | Dec 18, 2006 7:35:35 PM

ARGH! I can't believe you MISS that stuff. This being our first winter home in The Land, we are reveling in the lack of evergreens, candy-canes, santa-clauses and music--inescapable music! In the malls, in the coffee shops, in the offices, in the car.

Instead, I am getting the biggest thrill out of GIANT chanukiot on street corners, lights glimmering from little chanukiot in nearly every window and on balconies, the ubiquitous sufganiyot (a rare treat in California) and the daily exchange of "Chag Sameach!" instead of "Merry Christmas."

I miss Christmas trappings like I'd miss a root canal...

Posted by: aliyah06 | Dec 18, 2006 8:25:33 PM

After one or two listens to some of the classics (Grandma got run over by a reindeer; I'm getting nothing for Christmas; The Hat I got for Christmas is Too big; etc.) I'm done with Christmas music.

Fortunately this year XM Radio added a new channel to their lineup, Radio Hanukkah. They actually have a nice mix of good Jewish music.

Posted by: Nighthawk700 | Dec 18, 2006 8:39:16 PM

I am kind of fond to Christmas Wrapping by Save Ferris.

The lyrics are here.

The person who wrote them down made a few big mistakes. Anyway, it is kind of fun.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 18, 2006 9:09:07 PM

I have internalized a few Christmas songs. Band Aid came out when I was 12, so the next line to "It's Christmas time" is obviously "There's no need to be afraid". Brad Paisley's Christmas album got a good review, but there is no way I can bring it into the house.

Posted by: 4jkb4ia | Dec 18, 2006 9:24:17 PM

Oh, that Oh Holy Crap did strike my funny bone! At the same time, I agree with so many others who say they are just plain sick and tired of Christmas dominating every environment in the seemingly-known universe.

Maybe if everyone had to listen to "Oh, Holy Crap" often enough, it would cool down.

Ya Think? :)


Peace,

~Chani (Thailand Gal)

Posted by: Thailand Gal | Dec 18, 2006 9:36:42 PM

I was wondering if you would bring this up again this year. I too, must confess that besides Halloween, I love seasonal music. When I lived in Jerusalem, I would tune into Radio Jordan, so I could get them over the radio. And up until this past week, I would only play the 24/7 Holiday music station, when I was alone in the car. But I gave that up and decided that the kids are going to hear the music almost everywhere they go. My daughter is so funny, because, she can't believe how many different versions there are of "Jingle Bell Rock".

I wish they would continue playing them all throughout Winter. There really is something about them that helps make those very cold days cheery.

Posted by: jaime | Dec 19, 2006 12:06:06 AM

Oh, forgot to ask, in addition to the music, do you any of the tv specials, that so many of us youngins enjoyed watching as kids. I think I still cry when Frosty melts.

Posted by: jaime | Dec 19, 2006 12:08:17 AM

I recall the "Tipperary" incident here some time ago.

Let me see.....

"Puhleeese Daddy, don't get druuunk thiiiis Chrisssmaaaas, Aye don' wanna seeee maaah Mamma craaaaaaay, oh-ho-ho....."

*runs!*

Posted by: Account Deleted | Dec 19, 2006 12:48:59 AM

I really like many of the seasonal songs as well... My favorite is "Walkin' in the Winter Wonderland". I used to sing many of them in my school chorus. Althought the music in the stores can really get annoying, I'm not particularly annoyed that it's *Christmas* music. I don't view it any differently from any other type of music, especially if it has a nice tune. But then again, I may be desensitized because I frequently listen to organ music and chorales, most of which are Christian. It doesn't bother me at all, because I don't feel like I'm being attacked or there's someone deliberately trying to overwhelm me with the message.

Posted by: Irina | Dec 19, 2006 6:46:04 AM

Yehuda Berlinger... Yes, quite. :-)

westbankmama... I gotta echo a couple of others here and ask what in particular made traveling on Xmas dangerous (or at least more dangerous than usual in NYC)? As to getting angry, it does no good. You did the best thing by simply removing yourself from something you found annoying.

Dave (Balashon)... AGH, I barely have time for my regular reads and you're sending me funny stuff?! :-)

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)... You found the little drummer boy to be spooky? Remind me not to take you to see any Hitchcock films. :-)

PP... I have to look into Pandora... I've heard of it but never checked it out. Thanks.

Elie... I loved the Christmas specials on TV... especially Rudolph and Frosty. I think the Grinch is also a classic worth seeing every year.

Dad... Don't thank me... I'm a giver. :-)

Val... Remember we used to turn the record player over to 45 or 78 and make all our records into Chipmunk albums? :-)

Aliza... Festive drinks? As in featuring Eggnog??? :-)

Psachya... You're entitled to your opinion... but I think you are having trouble separating the goyim from their music. I'll bet you dislike Wagner too, right? :-)

efrex... Be honest... If Bob Fosse had choreographed a show with this music you'd be out in the local piano bar belting it out with gusto! ;-)

Fern R... I can't argue with you since we're discussing personal preferences... but I doubt it is the music that gives the American Christians their sense of entitlement.

Harry... When you and the devine Ms. Z finally grace chez trepenwitz for a shabbat 'll have to head butt you so I can have that one degree of separation. :-)

aliyah06... Give it some time. After a few years away from the stuff you may change your tune.

Nighthawk700... See, having a choice makes all the difference.

Jack... Thanks, I'll check it out.

4jkb4ia... I don't know any of the new stuff... and being here I'm not likely to get exposed to them. Oh well.

Thailand Gal... Too much of anything will be a buzz kill. Unfortunately the season gets longer and longer every year.

jaime... You are definitely in the minority here... but to each his/her own.

a. ... As usual, you send me running to the archives to figure out the reference. :-)

Irina... Yeah, Buxtehude wasn't a yid, was he. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 19, 2006 12:57:37 PM

Ooops, i was wrong.

It's not instrumental.

It's Carol of the Bells.

sooooooooo spooky.
(that's why i like it)

Posted by: Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) | Dec 19, 2006 2:30:53 PM

my mom and i used to stay up late and watch midnight mass broadcast live from st. patrick's cathedral on pbs and if we stayed up even later, live from the vatican. the music was astonishingly beautiful. you just can't beat those acoustics.

but hey -- you're talking to a girl who sat around with a former musician boyfriend discussing why it was exactly that two good jewish kids like us loved bach church music so much!

Posted by: nikki | Dec 19, 2006 6:15:44 PM

I'm with so many of the others here...I am SO HAPPY to be away from all that this year! Being in Israel on Chanukah is truly unbelievable and so special. Chanukiyot EVERYWHERE, Chanukah music playing in the streets...
A far cry from New York City! I don't miss the trees or music or craziness of the shoppers at ALL! I am loving the beautiful weather and enjoying the special chag.

Posted by: Essie | Dec 19, 2006 11:41:23 PM

Band Aid was 1984!!

Visit www.thekillersmusic.com for "A Great Big Sled", their just-released Christmas song.

Posted by: 4jkb4ia | Dec 20, 2006 1:33:07 AM

It is sad that you could not do something like Band Aid for Sudan. None of the scattered Katrina relief records have done that well in terms of sales.

Posted by: 4jkb4ia | Dec 20, 2006 1:36:07 AM

"Here it is: 'Merry Christmas', (it also has a cute animated video)."

I see that our musical tastes diverge.

Although, to be fair, son Josh did write something quite similar, after imbibing a teensy bit too much arak, and while carrying a very large fish through the streets of Jerusalem, crying "Ani iparon! [I am a pencil!]" to police officers.

So perhaps I should widen my taste-library.

[Pause.]

Nope, I don't think so. Maybe next Christmas.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Dec 20, 2006 2:46:10 PM

I didn't know about blue lights until I read FernR's post, then looked it up in google. I like all the lights on the houses, and so I went with my daughters to get a string of lights to put on ours. I showed my older daughter the pretty blue ones and the green ones. She nixed both, and made me get the rainbow colored set. Well, it's a good season, except for the 3 day recent loss of electricity in the city. Great posts :)

Posted by: Seattle | Dec 21, 2006 8:54:50 AM

Oh that song, oh bad, bad CRINGE. I was rolling on the floor.

I have to say, Christmas music I can do without gladly. I do miss all the lights decorating houses though. We used to love to ride around and look at them when I was a kid. Very cheerful in the gloomy days of winter.

Posted by: Yael | Dec 21, 2006 9:12:29 AM

Sorry, a bit of a late response (Chanukah was beyond hectic), but if you see this - It's a funny thing. I actually have no problem with Wagner (at least, not with his music). I have no problem with church music - I sang in chamber chorus in college, and sang masses, motets, etc. without a qualm. (Mozart's Requiem still sends shivers down my spine.) I don't even have a problem with honest caroling and with songs that actually touch on the religious aspects of the holiday. What I have a problem with is all the red-nosed reindeer & winter wonderlands & grinches & elves & nutcrackers & chestnuts & mistletoe & those goddam sleigh bells (ching ching ching ching ching ching ching ching ching ching ching ching), & most of all with the big fat guy (HO HO HOOOO) who keeps jumping down chimneys. And with the soundtrack to that whole sorry mess. And to the commercialism of which it was spawned. Actually, my favorite seasonal lyrics were written by the great Stan Freberg:

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And please buy our beer!

Kind of says it all, doesn't it? See, the whole seasonal obsession with certain portions of the lifeworks of Irving Berlin, John Lennon (the absolutely worst song he ever recorded) and Phil Spector (how's that for irony?) have nothing to do with honest religious feeling, and everything to do with making a quick buck and forcing all that false hearty good cheer down everyone's throat. It's the same reason that I felt mildly homicidal after spending two days at Disney World a few years ago. Anyway, sorry for the outburst. It's just that you should know that I'm not one of those culturally reclusive types who analyze the "goyishness" of all things. I don't think you have to be Jewish (much less frum) to dislike that aspect of the season. And I did think you knew me better than that.

Posted by: psachya | Dec 26, 2006 10:02:24 PM

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