Saturday, December 25, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 25

Okay, so you know this song, but maybe not in this langugage and this version.

The Bruce Cockburn Christmas album is just so, so, terrific.  If I could, I'd buy copies and mail them to every one of you. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 24

Children sleeping, snow is softly falling
Dreams are calling like bells in the distance
We were dreamers not so long ago
But one by one we all had to grow up
When it seems the magic's slipped away
We find it all again on Christmas day

Tonight, at midnight, after everyone else in my house has gone to bed, I'll sneak outside in the dark and the cold. Bare feet, probably.  In one hand, a leather strap with sleigh bells.  1, 2, 3, I'll shake them with a flourish, like the bells on Santa's sleigh.

Perhaps someone will hear them -- half asleep? -- and decide it was a dream.

I believe in Christmas magic.

And I believe in my power to make Christmas magic.

A very happy Christmas Eve to you.

Josh Groban

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 23

Okay.  You totally know this song. In fact, you're probably sick of it, it's so overplayed on the radio.

But overplayed doesn't mean bad.

Last December 23, The Husband and I looked at each other and faced something potentially devastating. Little Wren's eyes were crossing. The cancer might be back, and in her brain. We made the decision to not say anything to anyone until after Christmas.

Privately, we couldn't help the thought ... what if this is the last one with all of us?

I know that there are others out there, carrying fear through Christmas. Sometimes, it's just unavoidable. That's life.

If you must have fear this Christmas, I pray that it may turn out to be nothing significant, as ours did.

If it is significant, I pray that you may have people to support you and give you their strength when yours wearies.

But most of all, I hope you have a good one, without any fear.

And please God, may war be over.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 22

Today's is for A. L., S. B., and others who are hurting.

Sometimes all you want for Christmas ... is for it to be over.  It magnifies every hurt. Can I just sleep through it, this year? you muse.

I love those churches that do a "Blue Christmas" service a few days before Christmas. Sometimes, misery does love company.

Even when we're not having a sad Christmas, even when things are happy, sometimes we need to shed a few tears.  A few tears for sad memories, a few tears acknowledging that there will be other Christmases that are not so merry.

Joni Mitchell wrote this song. There are lots of great versions (I really like the Robert Downey version, too), and I just found this one. It's simple, clean, sad, and lovely.

Allison Crowe

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 21

Most remakes of A Christmas Carol are pretty bad.  The latest, Christmas Cupid, completely stripped away any message of interdependence and responsibility to fellow man, making it a shallow show all about how a woman shouldn't just have a career, she should also love a hunky guy.  O the humanity. 

But Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.  Ahhh.  A classic in its own right.

How can you not love the Cratchits?  Though poor, they “are cheerful because they cannot help it, and because they all love one another.” 

I don't know what razzleberry dressing is. I probably wouldn't like it.  But this song makes me giggle and feel happy inside.

May you have a Christmas more glorious than grand.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 20

I like the real.

Even though my parents don't get drunk.  Well, Mama might get a wee bit tipsy with champagne, but only on Christmas Eve. And she still maintains her dignity.

But I'm pretty sure I have kinfolk in Harlingen, though I'm not exactly sure how we're related.

And football is often on during the holidays, except this year, since my 'Horns didn't make a bowl.

And someone always has to run to the convenience store for this or that. And then at least 5 voices add something to his list.

And I like margaritas.

And if you don't have some of these characters in your family ... well, your family just can't be very big.

Merry Christmas from the Family

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 19

I believe in Santa Claus, I know he exists, and I absolutely love it when I get to be Santa Claus.  It is a big rite of passage when our children are able to become "Level Two" Santas.  Deep crinkles appear between their eyebrows as they work their brains, trying to decide who they'll Santa and how.

You can, too.  Consider it a gift to yourself.  Be like my hero, Larry Stewart, and be someone's really secret Santa.  Take a bill -- a little more than you can afford -- and look for the right person.  Perhaps it's someone in the dollar store, trying to stretch their paycheck.  Or someone at the bus station.  Pretend to pick up something by them.  Hand them the bill and say, "I think you dropped something."  Give them a wink and a smile.  And disappear quickly.

Or something less dramatic.  An outrageously large tip to someone.  We usually stop by Sonic and pick up drinks for our trip driving around looking at Christmas lights.  A teenager working Dec. 23rd will be really happy for a $20 tip.  Or more.

You don't have to judge whether the person "deserves" it.  This is a gift for you.  You get to be Santa Claus.

Shake Hands with Santa Claus
Louis Prima

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 18

Do you allow room for magic in your Christmas?

I believe in Christmas magic and can't be talked out of it.  I've seen too much evidence for it -- impossible snowfalls, things falling into place "just so" that long-for dreams can come true.

I love acapella music, especially at the holidays, and I think this is a wonderful combination of two songs.

Pure Imagination/White Christmas
The Blenders

Friday, December 17, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 17

Baby, It's Cold Outside
Ray Charles & Betty Carter

Best Version Ever.

Smooth.  Rich.  Sometimes being tempted to naughtiness is sooo delicious.  sigh.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 16

This was on one of those Very Special Christmas albums.  I remember people saying, "Why the heck is that song on a Christmas album?"

I understood.  That guiding star they say the Magi followed ... what is your guiding star?  What would you believe in, even if it meant your friends forsaking you, getting ridiculed, meeting failure again and again?

What sustains you?

I Believe in You
Sinead O'Connor

I believe in you even though I be outnumbered.
Oh, though the earth may shake me
Oh, though my friends forsake me
Oh, even that couldn't make me go back.

Don't let me change my heart,
Keep me set apart
From all the plans they do pursue.
And I, I don't mind the pain
Don't mind the driving rain
I know I will sustain
'Cause I believe in you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 15

Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)
The Ramones

Hey, I gotta put some classics on here.  And I'm really, really hoping someone will do a mashup of this song + The Carpenters "Merry Christmas, Darling."

That would be awesome.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 14

Driving Home for Christmas
Chris Rea

I don't drive home for Christmas anymore, and haven't for years. For one thing, my childhood home was sold years ago.  And once we began having kids, it got more and more challenging. We're the only ones on either side of the family with kids, so we just let everyone know that they're welcome to come to our house.  Family in all its forms land on our front porch.

But I remember that feeling ... stuffing the car with suitcases and presents, playing Christmas songs on the car stereo.  Passing drivers on the interstate, their cars similarly loaded.  Knowing that we're all driving home for Christmas.

I take look at the driver next to me
He's just the same
Just the same

And that moment of getting there -- walking into the warm house, seeing the tree, smelling good food, and the crush of hugs and greetings.  Now, we're the ones with the warm house, tree, food, and hugs.  Both sides of that equation are good.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 13

The year is ... um, 1980-something.  My family has saved up their pennies all year so that we could take a trip together for Christmas.  No gifts this year, other than the gift of being with each other.

My siblings are grown, and I'm on my way, almost college age.  My brother is going through a painful divorce.

We arrive on a small island in the Bahamas.  Nothing touristy here.  There are two places to eat, plus the kitchenette in my parents room.  Groceries are expensive here, so my mother packed a baggie full of flour in her suitcase for frying the fish she was confident we'd catch.  Yes, customs saw it.  Yes, they pulled her aside.  Yes, we teased her unmercilessly, and still do, to this day.

The island is so small, we walk everywhere, no cars.  Because of that, and the general holiday spirit, and the tastiness of Rum Punch, the adults are imbibing a little more freely than normal.

Christmas Eve, a boat full of Haitian refugees is docked at the island because of a storm. They aren't allowed off the boat.  My brother, who has had some of that Rum Punch, or perhaps a couple of Bahama Mamas, feels sorry for them.  I can still see him -- out in the balmy air, he stretches his arms out and serenades them with our family favorite, "Children Go Where I Send Thee," all 12 verses.

Children Go Where I Send Thee

We always listened to the version by Odetta, and sang it with those verses, but as the years went by, different versions crawled in, changing this verse or that one.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

CPE and Full Circle moments

We interrupt your holiday music schedule to share this "Full Circle Moment" with you.

I'll be doing my CPE -- Clinical Pastoral Education -- this summer. Originally, under the advice of a mentor, I'd looked for one in mental health, but the certified CPEs are all hospital-connected here. I wanted a place that treated both kids and adults. Under advice of other seminarians and new ministers, I wanted a supportive CPE program.

When Little Wren was being treated, we had to go to another hospital for her outpatient radiation. The people at this place touched me, impressed me, both with their medical expertise and their spiritual care.

I really hoped I could CPE there.

Got my letter today.  This is where I'll be this summer.  A spiral moment.

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 11

Il est NĂ© le Divin Enfant

I had a French professor in college who taught me this traditional carol.  He was from France, and quite laid-back.  He would roll his eyes at conjugating and such, and declare that if the school really wanted us to learn French, they would simply let him take us all to Paris for 6 months, where he would make sure we weren't hanging out with any other americaines, and at the end of it, we'd be fluent.  He was a kick.

The song reflects the joy and celebration about the birth of the Christ child.  Combined with our belief that "Every night a child is born is a holy night," it bring to my mind a gorgeous picture -- Now is born a divine child!  Play the musette, play the tuneful oboe!

I couldn't resist putting in two versions.  One by the great Edith Piaf, and then I happened to find one -- and a fine one! -- by Siouxie and the Banshees.  C'est bon.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 10

What is it about toy trains that just says "Christmas" to so many of us?  For some, it was a train 'round the Christmas tree.  Or the memory of putting one together Christmas Eve night.  Or coming downstairs to find one Christmas morning.

My little boy is a big ole high schooler now.  But every time I hear this, I blink and am back to the Christmases when he was a roly-poly little scamp, his eyes lit up with the magic at it all, gleefully bouncing up and down at seeing a new wooden train set.

Old Toy Trains
Roger Miller

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 9

1) Because Punk fans like Christmas, too.
2) Because I'm a mom, and I can understand Santa finally reaching the point where he loses his mind.
3) Because how can you not love a song that screeches "Oatmeal Cookies???  Oatmeal Cookies???"

Oh No It's Santa
Jingle Punx

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 8

Hey, I'm a Unitarian Universalist, and some stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason.  It just wouldn't be a UU holiday song list without a Peter, Paul, and Mary song.

But as far as I'm concerned, this song transcends it's PPM origin.  It even transcends the fact that it's in our hymnal.  And I didn't just choose it because it's a Chanukah song.

Light One Candle
Peter, Paul, and Mary

For the rest of my life, this song will take me back to the holiday season of 2001.  3 months after 9/11, we were already seeing Fear turning us into what we didn't want to be.

I'm not comfortable singing in front of people.  But for this, I was willing.  My Canadian friend "Buzz" and I did a duet, singing with full hearts and teary eyes.

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe;
Light one candle for those who are suff'ring
The pain that we learned long ago;
Light one candle for all we believe in,
That anger not tear us apart;
And light one candle to bind us together
With peace as the song in our heart!

What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died?
We cry out "they've not died in vain,"
We have come this far, always believing
That justice will somehow prevail;
This is the burden and This is the promise,
This is why we will not fail!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 7

Thank God It's Christmas

There are some people who just hold on through all kinds of garbage and pain the rest of the year, because something inside them wants to get to Christmas. And Christmas can be magic, and it can be love, and right after that it's a brand new year, and this year, please God, it will be better.

I know.  Because I've been one of those people.  Twice.

Oh my love we've had our share of tears
Oh my friend we've had our hopes and fears
Oh my friends it's been a long hard year
But now it's Christmas
Yes it's Christmas
Thank God it's Christmas

Monday, December 06, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 6

Christine Lavin and the Mistletones
A Christmas/Kwanzaa/Solstice/Chanukah/Ramadan/Boxing Day Song

It's an acapella round that gets in all the holidays.  It's cute, fun, and my church has replicated it.  For a deliberately pluralist faith, it's perfect.  

Edit: I had a link up to a "free download" that makes me nervous - sends you to an .exe file.

So, here's the link to it on Amazon. You can play the sample for free and if you like it, download it for .99.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 5

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is one of those songs that most people know exists, but they've never really listened to it.  It's the filler song on the Christmas album, just wasting space between Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire and Silent Night.

I think it fair to say that its writer, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was broken.  He had lost his first wife and the baby she was carrying. His second wife had died from a tragic accident with fire. His son had been wounded in battle.  The Civil War raged.

Christmas comes, and when we have been hurt, ripped up, all those sweet songs are like salt in our wounds.  So false.  So artificial.  "Give me a freakin' break," we mutter.  The first Christmas after his second wife's death, Longfellow wrote, "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays."

That discord between our pain and the joy around us ... it's like a magnifying glass for our pain.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It doesn't compute. It doesn't make sense. Reality intrudes and we reject the pretty words, melodies, ideas.

And in despair I bow'd my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

But if we are lucky, if we have just the teeniest little opening, we may find that hope manages to squeeze in there. Hope that we'll survive. Hope that there is a greater meaning. Hope that the world will get better.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

There's many versions of this song, but I think my favorite is that of Johnny Cash. His voice, gravelly, a little flat in places, seems more attune to the story than other versions. Now if I could just find a naked version that strips "the Nashville sound" out of the background. A pox on Chet Atkins.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 4

Today is Mama Lizard Eater's 80th birthday. Don't let her know I told you -- a lady is supposed to only get press on her birth, marriage, and death, you know.

Her favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night, which I kinda assume you've heard. But this is one of the other top contenders. Being the wife and mother of a bunch of Christmas-grinches kinda wore down her enthusiasm over the years, but a few days before Christmas -- especially if family was coming in -- she'd play this and even sing along with it. And Mama doesn't sing. But she couldn't resist and when she thought no one was around, her voice would peal out, "Cantcha hear them bells, ringin', ringin', joy, joy, hear them singin' ..."

Every time I hear this song, I hear her voice on that chorus. I hope I always do.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Holiday Music Bonus

Before you start your weekend ...

Lots of indie holiday music -- FREE.  I've downloaded all three albums and can confirm there's some good stuff here.  A few faves:

THe BAcksliders - "That's How We Do Christmas" 

Here Comes Everybody - "Snow" (Nice kind of Elvis-Costello -y vibe.)

Master Slash Slave- "All I Want For Christmas" (How can you not like a song that says "All I want for Christmas is to get the band back together ...?)

Jessie Torrisi - "Christmas Don't Be Late" (for we Gen-Xers who grew up on that know-it-all mouse in "Twas the Night Before Christmas."  Don't you just know he's a UU?)

Piney Gir - "Snow Snow, Beautiful Snow"

Other good stuff, too.  There's a couple of dogs, but for the most part, good originals and covers.  

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 3

Sometimes, you just need FUN.  If you don't have a bit of just silly fun mixed in your holidays, I humbly contend that you're missing a crucial ingredient.  Like salt.

And it's a Gen X thing.  For a generation of us, it's just not the holidays til we hear this.  Memories of parachute pants, skinny headbands, giant earrings, and gargantuan shoulder pads.  Ahh.  Good times.

Christmas Wrapping
The Waitresses

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 2

I love Christmas.  I love the idea of transformation.  Scrooge, George Bailey, Grinch -- they ring true in my heart. Hope triumphing over cynicism.

That's why one of my favorite Christmas songs is a little known one -- Christmas, by Blues Traveler.  It's honest and it's real, and I can see it laid out and performed as a one-song opera.  Do you ever do that?  Do you ever hear a song and you can just see it performed, stage musical style?

If I had a church of my own and a corral of talented, willing folks, here's what I'd do:

Singer 1: cynical, disillusioned
Singer 2: the teacher

Blues Traveler 
Words by J. Popper Music by T. Anastasio and J. Popper

Singer 1:
Comes the time for Christmas
And I really have to ask
If this is feeling merry
How much longer must it last

I wish a one horse open sleigh
Would come carry me away
But I've been waiting here all day
And one just hasn't come my way

Now excuse me if I'm not being reverent
But I was hoping for a miracle to hold me, wash me
Save me from my righteous doubt as I watch helpless
And everybody sings

Choir (with joy):
If it's Chanukah or Kwanza
Solstice, harvest or December twenty-fifth
Peace on earth to everyone
And abundance to everyone you're with
Laha da da da da da
Da da da da da da da da da da da
La da da da da da da da
La da da da da da da da da
Laha da da da da
Laha da da da da

Singer 2 detaches herself from choir and crosses to Singer 1, singing:

Comes the time for Christmas
And as you raise your Yuletide flask
There's like this feeling that you carry
As if from every Christmas past

It's as if each year it grows
It's like you feel it in your toes
And on and on your carol goes
Harvesting love among your woes

Singer 1, singing to Singer 2:
I want to buy into the benevolent
And I was hoping for a miracle to hold me, wash me
Make me know what it's about
As the longing in me makes me want to sing

Singer 2 and Choir:
Noel or Navidad
Season celebration or just the end of the year
Christmas can mean anything
And I mean to keep its hope forever near
Laha da da da da da
Da da da da da da da da da da da
La da da da da da da da da
La da da da da da da da da da
Laha da da da da
Laha da da da da

Singer 1:
As if a cold and frozen soul is warm to love
By love's own hand

Singer 2:
So goes the prayer if for a day peace on earth
And good will to man

Singer 1:
At twenty below the winter storm it billows

Singer 2:
But the fire is so warm inside
And the children while nestled in their pillows
Dream of St. Nicholas's ride

And how the next day they'll get up and they will play
In the still falling Christmas snow
And together we'll celebrate forever

Singer 1, interrupting:
In defiance of the winds that blow

My god in heaven now I feel like I'm seven
And spirit calls to me as well
As if Christmas had made the winter warmer
Made a paradise from what was hell

Both Singers:
As if a cold and frozen soul is warm to love
By love's own hand

Choir Crosses to Singers, singing with them:
So goes the prayer if for a day peace on earth
And good will to man.......

 (Rounds of the song, sung over each other by all)

Singer 1, (all by himself, smiling)
I wish a one horse open sleigh would come carry me away
And I'll keep waiting through next May
Until Christmas comes my way

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Great Holiday Songs You May Not Know - Day 1

Latke Clan - the Lee Vees

It's funny but not mocking, it manages to pull together the homey feeling without having that manufactured sound.  It's sweet.