Sunday, December 3, 2017

Jingle Jangle Jingle

I’m just going to admit it: Christmas can be tough.

As an adult with no kids and a cultural but not necessarily spiritual connection to this holiday, it’s one of the ones I have some trouble getting the hang of how to celebrate.  Halloween was easy, expectations were low.  Thanksgiving was a little tougher, but I managed.  Christmas is still a harder nut to crack.  Never mind the fact that the cultural expectations, early sunsets and cold weather (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) can kind of conflict with the “merry” attitude that’s expected.
But it’s other things too.  Like how sometimes the message of the holiday and the trappings of it don’t quite match up.  Or they match on the outside but not the inside.

Take Christmas music for instance.  Christmas music can be weird.

Despite Christmas music’s reputation of being all warm, toasty songs about joy, giving and peace on Earth, some of them are decidedly not.  Take “Santa Baby” for instance.  It’s a song in which some gold digging adult makes exorbitant demands of a mythical figure who normally caters to children.  Some Christmas songs aren’t even about Christmas, they’re about winter (which must make absolutely zero sense to people in the Southern Hemisphere where Christmas happens during the summer).  There’s “Frosty the Snowman”, “Winter Wonderland” and “Sleigh Ride”, for example.  Some songs aren’t even all that positive about the winter experience.  Once you get past the first verse of “Jingle Bells”, it turns into a novelty song about how sleighing and just going out in the cold weather is kind of a pain in the butt.  I’ve heard some modern Christmas songs that just seem to list ephemera associated with the holiday (examples escape me).  And don’t even get me started on “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”!

You know what one of my favorite Christmas song is?  “Better Days” by The Goo Goo Dolls.

No, really.  Give it a listen and pay extra careful attention to the lyrics:

You ask me what I want this year.  I try to make this calm but clear.  Just a chance that we’ll have better days.”

Sure sounds like it’s about Christmas.  Heck, it’s a message of hope during the holidays.  There’s even a reference to spiritual side of Christmas with the line about “one poor child who saved this world.”

But most people wouldn’t realize it’s a Christmas song because it doesn’t use the word “Christmas” and it sounds like a regular rock ballad.  You see, people like their Christmas songs to sound “Christmassy”.  What makes a song sound Christmassy?  Would you believe there are certain chords and progressions that result in that Christmassy sound?

Here’s another video.  It specifically uses Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” as an example, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it could apply to a lot of other songs too:

So, what point am I trying to make here?  Maybe that not everyone is going to get into that Christmas feeling the same way.  Some people may love the typical Christmas songs.  Others may think they ring a bit hollow unless they actually communicate a positive message to associate with the holiday.  Some may love Christmas displays with lots of lights, others may find them garish.  Some people may find that the spirit of the holiday is just in staying at home with family.  Others may have the need to go out and give to the less fortunate.

The point is that not everyone is going to keep a holiday that’s become such a major cultural phenomenon in the same way.  They shouldn’t have to.

So remember that and be good to each other.  Happy Holidays everyone!