A grudging appreciation of Christmas music

by Terry B on December 20, 2017

Electric Christmas

The holidays are upon us, and we are once again beset by Christmas music. Everywhere you turn, it is there—grocery stores, building lobbies, fast food places, leaking out of retail storefronts, invading my various radio stations and streaming services… even being hummed or whistled by colleagues. All of which brings out my curmudgeonly side.

Turns out I’m not alone. An online friend in Brooklyn recently reported on Facebook, “Just lost the little drummer boy game here in the supermarket and as soon as I heard it, I actually said ‘ah really bad word rhyming with duck‘ right out loud in the pasta aisle.” (The edit is mine, not hers.) I’m assuming the game involves avoiding that song. I lost it a few days later, possibly in a hardware store.

As my colleagues will tell you, I share my curmudgeonliness freely. It actually led one of them, John, to ask if I hated all Christmas music. At first, I said yes, but then amended that to hating its pervasiveness. I don’t mind a little—I just don’t need it everywhere, all the time.

But John’s question got me thinking about Christmas music I do like. Marion and I both have fond memories of carols sung in school. Some vintage pop songs make me smile.

And some years ago, Ronin, a smart, violent Robert DeNiro thriller set in France, introduced me to a traditional French carol, “Il Est Né, Le Divin Enfant” (“He is Born, the Divine Child”). It is most often performed by children’s choirs, achieving an ethereal, angelic quality. In looking for one of those to share with John, I came across this surprising performance by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Amazing and poignant in its own way.

Happy holidays, all. We’ll be back to cooking soon.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

John/Kitchen Riffs December 20, 2017 at 8:36 am

Good post! I’ve come to really dislike most Christmas music — or rather, the endless, early playing of Christmas music (it starts in October!). Happy Holidays! :-)

Dani H December 20, 2017 at 8:48 pm

Love the video! My daughter and granddaughter will be in Paris three days starting the day after Christmas.

There is one Christmas song I can never get too much of. I adore “Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt.

Wishing you and Marion the happiest of holidays.

Kate December 20, 2017 at 11:35 pm

After years and years of the “standards”, I’m finally tired of most. But the “Twisted Christmas” music by Bob Rivers Comedy group makes me laugh!

Terry B December 22, 2017 at 9:46 am

Happy holidays to you too, John! Besides starting too soon, it drags on too long. I feel that at 12:01am December 26, it should be switched off. Only Boxing Day music should be allowed on that day—all Canadian music. Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bachman Turner Overdrive…

That is a good one, Dani. Happy holidays to you too!

Kate, I hadn’t heard of this! I also like Bob and Doug McKenzie’s Twelve Days of Christmas.

John Hobson December 30, 2017 at 7:42 am

My real problem with Christmas music in shops is that they play the same dozen or so songs over and over again. There are so many more that they could play. For example, do any of you know “The Moon of Wintertime”?


Or if they must give us the standards, how about a Klezmer version of “Jingle Bells” (I particularly like the song sung in Yiddish — I have told my [Catholic] wife that Klezmer is Jewish soul music)


Terry B December 30, 2017 at 10:56 am

John, the Klezmer version of Jingle Bells is priceless!

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