It’s been said music has the power to soothe the savage beast. So, adding the joy of the holidays can create one fantastic stress reliever! After all, whose heart isn’t warmed at the sound of carolers on a cold winter’s night? Who doesn’t enjoy decking the halls and drinking egg nog to Elvis Presley and Burl Ives singing yuletide classics? Even the Grinch sang “Welcome Christmas” with Cindy Lou Who once all was sang and done.
The original meaning of the word “caro”l meant to dance to something. It also means a song of praise and joy. Carols were historically chanted to celebrate throughout the year. Early Christians took these pagan songs and patterned them exclusively for Christmas. These conversions fell under the scrutiny of the early church, which sparked the proliferation of the first hymns. Most of these were highly unpopular and resulted in a 13th century reform led by Saint Francis of Assisi. He is credited with allowing songs to be sung in languages other than Latin. This gave way to a more mainstream approach, deviating from an established and sacred tradition.
Another roadblock came at the hands of the Puritans, who did not believe in any type of Christmas song, religious or otherwise. The mute button would be engaged for another two centuries until a volume of Christmas carols was finally published in England.
Hymns like “What Child Is This?” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” would later pave the way for secular selections like “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland”. More popular versions emerged by way of film and radio. Country western and rock and roll continued the trend with hits like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Blue Christmas”.
Regardless of history, most carols are crafted to mirror the genuine glee we all should be experiencing during the final month of the year. The website, www.powertochange.com breaks the idea down even further by asking listeners for details of the many popular carols. For instance, in “We Three Kings”, how did the wise men find baby Jesus? Or what were the roles the angels played in “O Holy Night”? While these are fun trivia, the health contributions attributed to Christmas music is unprecedented. It manifests an unparalleled emotion. It is capable of sending us back in time, help recall specific events or strike our senses in a special way.
In addition to lyrics, Christmas music offers soothing tones and harmonies. Frequencies and vibrations can also be attributed to the way a person feels or acts. Christmas music provides these accolades, increasing our energy levels and promoting mental stability.
Cell phone technology has allowed many of us to customize our seasonal playlists. Downloads of covers performed Mariah Carey, Clay Aiken and even Jimmy Buffett can be referenced with a single keystroke. Of course, they are simply taking cues from past generations of recording artists – Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra to name a few. According to Women’s Day magazine, here are the all-time top 25 classic Christmas albums:
- Frank Sinatra, Christmas
- Elvis Presley, Elvis’ Christmas Album
- Beach Boys, Christmas with the Beach Boys
- Carpenters, Christmas Collection
- The Vince Gauraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas
- Mariah Carey, Merry Christmas
- The Chipmunks, Merry Christmas from the Chipmunks
- Jackson 5, 20th Century Masters-The Christmas Collection: The Best of Jackson 5
- Barbara Streisand, A Christmas Album
- Ray Charles, The Spirit of Christmas
- Stevie Wonder, 20th Century Masters-The Christmas Collection: The Best Stevie Wonder
- Luciano Pavarotti, O Holy Night
- Nat King Cole, Merry Christmas
- Amy Grant, A Christmas Album
- Michael W. Smith, Christmas
- Harry Connick, Jr., When My Heart Finds Christmas
- James Taylor, At Christmas
- Bing Crosby, White Christmas
- Frank Sinatra, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra
- The Temptations, Give Love at Christmas
- Phil Spector, A Christmas Gift for You
- Johnny Mathis, Merry Christmas
- Kenny G., Miracles: The Holiday Album
- Josh Groban, Noel
- Celine Dion, These Are Special Times
But the popularity of Christmas music can cut both ways. Retail outlets have been known to manipulate tunes to increase profits. Studies show slower renditions keep shoppers in the store longer, ultimately purchasing more. Conversely, faster melodies move consumers through shops at a quicker pace, minimizing sales. There was reported backlash when retailers begin celebrating too early. Radio stations have also caught the bug, playing otherwise appropriate holiday music more than a month before the designated holiday. Internet stations like www.kringleradio.com play Christmas music 365 days of the year while counting down to the exact day of Santa’s yearly visit.
Still another reason for the genre’s longevity is a lack of competition. No other holiday set list comes even close. That’s not for a lack of trying. “Jingle Bells” was first written for Thanksgiving, while Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus was written with Easter in mind. Both would be later compromised as Christmas holiday classics.
Many different countries share the tradition of Christmas music. Another website, www.europeanmama.com offers a variety of cultural caroling. The website also offers some interesting tidbits including, carols are known as parrandas in Puerto Rico; “Silent Night” a.k.a. “Stille Nacht” was composed in Germany; “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” is also known as “Adeste Fideles.”
In all, Christmas and holiday music help bind us together at an important and much anticipated time of year. It reinforces the idea we are more alike than different – and it proves human kindness can be truly obtained for a song.
Feliz Navidad. And to all a good night!