It starts around Halloween. We heard Christmas Carols on the radio – way to early. Did you know that it is estimated that there are more than 5,000 holiday songs? At this point I can bet that you feel as if you’ve heard every one over and over as they have poured out of every known speaker in the world – in stores, elevators, hotel bars and even dare I say your home sound system!
But it’s a good thing. I like it. Music transports us back to a different place, a different time – nostalgic memories mostly. It’s the old stuff too that is more special, then let’s say Paul McCartney’s Christmastime Song which by my own account is cheesy, (just saying). When I hear Nat King Cole’s Christmas Song I go back to a long walk that I took with my Aunt Maryanne. It is 1967 and it was snowing – hard. We walked through the streets of Drexel Hill, from Penn and Bond Avenues, up to Burmont Road, down Fairway, cross over Townshipline to Pilgrim Gardens Shopping Center. In the center of the parking lot there was a set up for Christmas trees and wreaths – playing on the speakers was the Christmas Song. It is a beautiful memory for me – a peaceful walk in the quiet snow, seeing my breath while flakes drifted slowly around us.Oh and then there is my favorite Christmas Movie with lots of holiday tunes – White Christmas. My brother hates this movie, probably because I tortured him as a kid and made him watch it with me. We’d sit on the floor in front of our new 1967 console color tv that my dad just bought for my mom for Christmas. I was mesmerized, he was bored. That was our usual outlook on life.
Christmas music is a holiday must have no matter how many times we hear the oldies. Jingle Bell Rock always brings a smile as I go back to 1968 at my grandmother Caroline’s house in South Philly. All the adults were in the kitchen sitting around the oversized table (of course, we’re Italian) while my cousin Caroline (there is a pattern here with our names) and I made up a dance to coordinate with Jingle Bell Rock. We also changed the words, but if I told you, you wouldn’t get it (it was special to our family.) Every holiday no matter where I am when I hear it for the first time of the season I call her and we giggle about it. Our reason is silly little girl stuff that we created so many years ago, but it doesn’t matter – it’s our memory of Christmas past. A tradition so to speak.
We all have a holiday tradition and for almost all of us, it is accompanied by music. Why do I love “Charlie Brown’s Christmas?” The music, the memories of growing up in Drexel Hill, going to St. Bernadette’s, the excitement of the class Pollyanna’s, Miss Brattini bringing in her record player and playing, “The Red Baron, Hang On Snoopy, and a playlist that was truly the ‘60s. We were 9 or 10 and life was simple – no worries, no cares, and the shear fact that we were completely uninhibited while we danced around the classroom, we definitely had our game on in 3rd grade!
Hallelujah was always my mom’s favorite – not to embarrass her but after the holiday season was over she’d sing it out loud and proud that we were going back to school. I am sure that her performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” was not to represent the epitome of the Christmas splendor, but to represent her joy – we were going back to school and the mad rush of the season was over. “Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”