Bing Crosby is Slowly Killing Me (Did I Say That Out Loud?)

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…just like the ones I used to know….”  Bing Crosby, singer & actor

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?  Exactly.

One of my favorite aspects of the Christmas season is the music.   Growing up, I recall the local radio station playing Christmas music solely on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  That meant that we had to get out our little boom box and cassette tapes and record as much of it as possible.  This served as “seed” music for the following Christmas.  And boy did we wear those cassette tapes out!  Today, it’s a different story.  Often times I hear Christmas music playing way before Thanksgiving…and I’m not the DJ orchestrating this holiday magic!  In shopping centers, restaurants, and even on the radio, the Christmas tunes are cranked up loud and proud early in the season.  I don’t mind really…and then again, maybe I do.

I mind because it seems that every year (without fail) one song seems to capture the season for me.  A Christmas song brain worm if you will.  On good years the song is something fun and light-hearted…a sweet ditty sung by Michael Buble, Mariah Carey or even that little cutie, Justin Beiber.  Other years, though, the song is something that stirs up a completely different (less cheery) feeling.  I don’t necessarily want to call it darker or deeper or even more soulful (yes, I know I’m talking about music and not coffee!) There’s just something about that one song that touches the most tender part of my heart…a melody that evokes such profound emotion that it almost always manifests itself in near tears (ok, occasionally one leaks out.)

In the past, these “other” songs were always familiar Christmas tunes…but for whatever reason, they took on a new flavor.  For example, a few years ago Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” could completely kill my yuletide joy.  Still, that makes sense, although I love, love Elvis, the title is “Blue Christmas.”  Other songs on this glum list include “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Josh Groban with its added military personnel audio (oh, the tears,) Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” with its resounding sad tale of lost love (more tears,) and need I say ANYTHING about those stupid “Christmas Shoes” by New Song?  Boo hoo hoo.  And then there’s the overwhelming “whoa” of “Please Come Home for Christmas” by Charles Brown…just to name a few. During these years, I can’t decide whether to avoid the song completely or just play it on repeat until the feelings subside (which doesn’t work by the way.)

Today, with the onset of digital music streaming, we can customize our own playlists in a matter of minutes.  This is awesome because who doesn’t like personalized stuff?  A “just-for-me” anything speaks to the most narcissistic part of our brains and makes us feel important and special.  I’m all down for that…I have a zillion custom playlists.  So basically, my game plan is to just avoid the song altogether.  (Avoidance is one of my favorite psychological strategies.)  Still, there are algorithms. And try as we might, people, we cannot escape them!  Now that Pandora (such a fitting name by the way) knows ALL of my Christmas music favorites (thanks to the thumbs-up-thumbs-down buttons) I am at her mercy and this year’s song has been a doozy!  A Christmas classic, a favorite among favorites, such a BASIC Christmas song that it is altogether inescapable…no matter where I turn.  I’m talking about the beloved holiday staple, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”  Yes, that’s the one breaking my heart this year (can I say that out loud?)

Who doesn’t love “White Christmas?”  I mean, I absolutely adore it!  It’s the best-selling Christmas song of all time!  But this year, whenever I hear it a sadness ensues.  It’s like I’m hearing this familiar tune with new ears.  I remember the song from childhood, fell in love with it AND Bing Crosby while watching the old black & white version of Holiday Inn…and the song was further impressed upon my heart when I discovered the movie of the same title a few years later.  Bing sings the song so effortlessly.  As I write this I can picture him at his piano…the debonair crooner drawing us in with this perfect song.  His voice so melodic and rich…all the casual sophistication of an American icon just pouring out of every single note.  Did I mention that I adore this song?  One can only imagine how surprised I was to find that this song, this tried and true favorite could cause me such grief.  It was like walking into a door…and I never saw it coming!

Turns out that I shouldn’t be surprised at all with the heartbreaking aspect of “White Christmas.”  It’s nostalgic.  Wistful.  There’s a sense of longing…and hope.  A wartime favorite, “White Christmas” was the song American soldiers clung to following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It was a staple on Armed Forces Radio as soldiers tuned in while stationed overseas during World War II.  For many, on the war front and at home, the lyrics told of bygone days and easier times…a reminder of a “normal” that they hoped to reclaim.  For the songwriter, Irving Berlin, the lyrics were much deeper as many believe he wrote the song during a bout of extreme homesickness.  Still, other music historians claim the song was actually written to memorialize Berlin’s infant son who is said to have died on Christmas Day. Given this history, the song certainly takes on a different significance and gains a depth that I wasn’t aware of before.

For these reasons (and so many more) Bing Crosby is slowly killing me…at least he is this Christmas.  And while at first this slow, figurative death was limited to “White Christmas” it has moved far beyond.  Now, it’s EVERY Bing Crosby Christmas song…and there’s no way to avoid it.  I immediately recognize his voice and something just gets caught in my throat.  My heart sinks a little.  My eyes get damp in the corners.  I can’t explain it.  I’ve been jokingly (and seriously) blaming everything on hormones lately, but really I know it’s something more.  It’s me.  It’s today.  It’s nostalgia.  It’s dreaming.  It’s gratitude.  It’s a brokenness.  It’s hope.  It’s this present time and place.  It’s perfect and imperfect all at the same time.  It’s Christmas…just listen.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

 

 

 

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Anna Claus Holiday Must Haves

When you stop believing in Santa you get underwear.  –unknown

Okay, so I’m not really a member of the official Santa Claus family, but Christmas is my FAVORITE time of the year!  I am well versed in all the songs of the season, know the “Code of Elves” verbatim and I’ve successfully completed several Christmas-themed Buzzfeed quizzes.  So OBVIOUSLY I’m practically an adopted member of the Claus household 🙂 and as a self-appointed Christmas authority I feel obligated to share these 12 little goodies with the planet to ensure you and yours experience your best Christmas yet!  In no particular order, I present to you Anna Claus Holiday Must Haves….

  • Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.  I read this collection of short, satirical (and politically incorrect) stories every December for many, many reasons.  Mostly because who doesn’t love the escapades of a grown man parading around Macy’s as an Elf, the unlikeliest Christmas Eve houseguest EVER and the snarkiest review of children’s Christmas pageants you’ll ever read?  Nothing gets me in the holiday mood quite like this fun (and funny) book.  Complete brain candy, it is good for continuous laughs.
  • Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas  If you love jazzy, upbeat Christmas music this album is for you!  The 60s style jazz offerings are traditional yet they possess that special “zing.”  CAUTION:  The “cool cat” vibe this album induces may cause scatting!  Wonderful background music for doing just about anything holiday related.
  • Candy Canes  Nothing says Christmas like candy canes.  Sweet and pepperminty I try to consume as many as possible.  Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s it’s not unusual to find these tasty treats (and their tiny crumbs) in my purse, in my pockets or in my mouth!
  • IMG_2064Pandora’s Swingin’ Christmas Radio Station  This is the ONLY internet radio station I listen to during the holidays.  On the computer and on my phone this is my go-to background music for the holiday season.  Here you’ll find everything from the Rat Pack Christmas album and Louis Armstrong offerings to Michael Buble and everyone in between.
  • Santa Hat (Reindeer Antlers optional)  My all time hat of choice, the Santa hat comes out right after Thanksgiving and lives among the coats all Christmas season long.  This year I’ve decided to add reindeer antlers to the list of approved December head-gear.  Very festive!
  • Starbucks Christmas Blend and Peet’s Holiday Blend Warm, sweet and spicy…this is what Christmas tastes like!  For a coffee lover like myself this is a terrific blend that gets the day going…also serves as the perfect addition to an evening dessert.  Would I like another cup?  Of course!
  • Nativity  Nativities set the scene for a Christ-centered holiday.  Our family nativity is my all-time favorite and I love to share the story about how we acquired such a unique set.  I also love visiting the homes of family and friends and seeing their nativity displays.  Most times it leads to another wonderful story as well.
  • Cookie Baking  I am probably guilty of too much cookie baking during this time of the year, but I love it!!!  I wish we could live off Christmas cookies, but I’m afraid of what we might look like if I got my wish.  Too many favorite cookies to name, I especially love making treats to give away to family and friends.
  • Holiday Movies  The Christmas season would not be complete without holiday movies.  My all time favorite is It’s a Wonderful Life.  Watching the Charlie Brown Christmas is a must.  I also like to sprinkle in a little Christmas with the Kranks, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story and Elf among others.
  • Christmas Cards  I love the tradition of Christmas Cards, but I’ve noticed that this tradition is fading.  Sigh.  As someone who has lived in several states and many cities (towns) over the years, this is one of the best ways I know of to catch up with far away friends and family.  Be sure to throw in a zany family photo or funny Christmas letter!
  • Christmas Lights Tour This is a tradition that goes way, way back for me.  I can remember piling up in the car as a child and checking out the Christmas lights in my little hometown.  Today, my husband and I continue to take (drag) our children out to look at the lights.  This year we cranked our adventure up a notch with a Holiday Lights Scavenger Hunt.  Great fun!
  • Snow Never a guarantee, but snow really makes it all perfect.  It seems that whenever it snows the world seems to slow down a bit…offering us a moment to take in and savor everything around us.  The holidays typically fly by…I need a little snow to take it all in.

A few honorable mentions to my list:  cocoa, caroling and Christmas parades!  They don’t call it the most wonderful time of the year for nothing.  Wishing you the Merriest Christmas!