Category Archives: Christmas

My Favorite Christmas Songs

It’s Holiday again.

I mean, it’s Christmas time again. For the purposes of this blog I can call a ceasefire to my part of the War on Christmas and acknowledge the holiday that occurs every December 25th. Actually, there really isn’t a war on Christmas. I know, Bill O’Reilly is turning in his grave hearing me say that. (Is he dead?) But, seriously. The majority of Americans still celebrate it. We still get the day off of work and school. The specials still run on television. So retailers are opting to be more inclusive when giving Season’s Greetings to their customers. Big deal. Is that a war?

Be that as it may, I thought I’d list five of my favorite Christmas songs. As always, this is my list. Your results may vary.

In no particular order, here they are:

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Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt (1953)
Oh, yeah, it’s cheesy and the string breaks get a little annoying, but Kitt’s sultry gold-digging is quite enjoyable. It would be difficult for Santa to deny her requests when put the way she does it. Others have covered this song, but this version is the best. And the “boom-boom, boom-boom’s” are a nice touch.

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Snoopy’s Christmas – The Royal Guardsmen (1967)
This Christmas song was The Royal Guardsmen’s follow-up to their Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron hit from the year before. In fact, musically the two songs are virtually identical. I had to do quite a bit of digging through YouTube to find the first hit from 1966. Many people seem to think Snoopy’s Christmas is titled Snoopy Vs The Red Baron, but they are different songs. Apparently, this band had a thing for Snoopy.

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It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year – Andy Williams (1963)
Yes, I know. This song is almost cliche, but I have to include it. It reminds me of all those Christmas specials that would play on TV in the lead up to the big holiday. Those specials helped mark of the days until Santa came and, at the same time, ramped up the anticipation of the arrival of that generous and jolly old fella. Andy Williams also came up with the only version of Twelve Days of Christmas, normally an incredibly tedious song, that I like. (I’ve linked to it as a bonus.)

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A Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives (1964)
I first heard this one the way I’m sure most of the rest of you have: From The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas Television Special. Yes, plenty has been said in recent years about what a terrible message that special taught American television-viewing audiences in the mid-60s and beyond. The message was if you’re different you’re a freak and unwanted, even by Santa! And that only when that difference can be exploited are you then worthy of inclusion. Well, despite the horrible treatment of misfits, the song is quite rousing.

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Christmas Time Is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio (1965)
This might just be my favorite Christmas song. As with most of the others, this one comes from a television holiday special – the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas. I think the music for this program is what makes it so darn good. The Vince Guaraldi Trio really did something special here. In fact, the entire soundtrack is fantastic!

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Packing Peanuts!

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“Daddy’s Gonna Kill Ralphie!”

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Christmas is coming again, so I thought I’d reminisce a little about one of my favorite holiday movies: A Christmas Story (1983).

I didn’t see this movie until many, many years after it was released. It was in the mid to late 90s, when I was listening to a couple of talk radio show hosts praising this now holiday classic, that it first time it came to my attention. My curiosity peaked, I sought it out. Finding it wasn’t too difficult, because by that time television had turned it into a holiday programming staple.

“Oh, did you miss it? Change the channel. Someone else will be playing it.”

Television was great at taking modestly successfully theatrical releases and turning them into required viewing classics. It’s A Wonderful Life and The Wizard of Oz are two fine examples of television’s influence. A Christmas Story may be the most recent film to have television help it along in that way.

The story is set in pre-World War II Indiana and is viewed from young Ralphie Parker’s perspective as he attempts to influence his parents, terrifically portrayed by Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin, into giving him a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. But Mrs. Parker insists they are dangerous and that he’ll shoot his eye out. That’s a recurring phrase in the film. Adults were so worried about kids losing their eyes.

The movie is based on semi-autobiographical stories written by Jean Shepherd. Shepherd is the film’s narrator as the adult version of Ralphie relating this story of his youth. And he is wonderful. There’s a twinkle in the man’s eye, which you can clearly hear in his voice. The man can tell a story!

Although I grew up in a different era than what is shown in the film, the universality of the story – anticipating Christmas, coveted gift items, loving (if somewhat scary) parents, school, teachers, weird gifts from relatives, bullies, friends, and flagpoles –  appeals to my nostalgic feelings for my days as a kid. The way Ralphie feels about Christmas reflects the way I felt. And Ralphie’s fantasies, although silly and over-the-top, are good fun.

By far, my favorite character is Old Man Parker. He makes the film. McGavin is just so good as Ralphie’s furnace-fighting, foul-mouthed, major award-winning, gruff, but loving and lovable dad. Old Man Parker is the key to this movie, if he’s wrong the movie just doesn’t make it. And McGavin nails it.

His gruffness is all just bluster. He loves his wife and his boys. We see it in his reaction to the wife and kids bellowing out Jingle Bells on the drive home from getting their Christmas tree. Sure, he rolls his eyes, but there is love in there. We see it in Old Man Parker’s subtle smirk as he sends his oldest son back into the car after an unsuccessful attempt to help change a tire. An attempt that had young Ralphie accidentally drop an F bomb in front of his father for the first time. Hence the smirk. We also see it as the old man is almost as excited as Ralphie when… Oh, but that would be a spoiler.

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“Oh, wow!”

And, of course, there is the leg lamp!

I just love this movie. I watch it every year and remember all those wonderful Christmases from my youth.

Hard to believe the director of this classic, Bob Clark, also directed Porky’s.

Packing Peanuts!

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