Originally published in chewy newspapers on September 3, 2009
Nine hours and thirty seven minutes worth. That's how much new music I loaded onto my iPod on Tuesday - music about snow, bells, stars, and mangers. This has become a rite of passage for me each September 1st, my way of ringing in the first day of the 'ber months. SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER, and DecemBER have their own special vibe. School is in full-swing, weekends are filled with soccer and football, and three of the most fun-filled holidays - Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are on the calendar. I'm a bit of a holiday-music hypocrite. While I don't want to hear even a single jingle bell from the grocery store sound system before Thanksgiving, I'll joyfully sing along to "Good King Wenceslas" while running to the store for Labor Day picnic supplies.
My holiday music collection is eclectic with a good mix of old and new, sacred and secular. I grew up with the sounds of Perry Como and Bing Crosby echoing from the family HiFi. They remain favorites. I discovered the Rat Pack somewhere along the way so Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. round out my collection of classics. My older sisters were fans of The Carpenters and it doesn’t really feel like Christmas until I hear Karen’s achingly beautiful “Merry Christmas, Darling.”
I have another set of favorites from my college years. I matriculated in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and was there when Amy Grant put out her first Christmas album with “Tender Tennessee Christmas” on it. Hearing that one takes me right back to that beautiful place. College was also where I was introduced to the majesty of choral music. We had a top-notch music program at my school, with several choirs including the all-male one of which I was a member. One year for Christmas, all the choirs combined to sing Handle’s “Messiah.” I remember belting out every single “halleluiah” with heart-felt thanksgiving for both the birth of our Lord and the chance to sing with girls.
Speaking of girls, I met my wife during the ‘ber months. We had our first date in October, got engaged a year later in November, and were married a year after that in December. In the years we were dating, we spent those Christmases apart, each of us with our respective families. A whole new genre of Christmas songs took on new meaning. The pit-of-my-stomach longing while being separated from my wife-to-be gave me a first-hand understanding of what a “Blue Christmas” was all about.
As a child of the 60’s and 70’s the Chipmunk’s were a part of my Christmas-music upbringing. I guess Alvin never got that Hoola Hoop because he’s still asking for one nearly 50 years later. Now my own children and I get to enjoy that one together. Having children brought back a whole new set of Christmas songs into my life - all the ditties that tell the tales of Frosty, Rudolph, and Santa.
I usually jump the gun a bit in the kitchen too. I’ve been known to make a pot of chili or a pumpkin pie when the temperatures can still get up into the 90s and I’m already thinking ahead about our menus for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I’m sure listening to holiday this early isn’t for everyone and that’s just fine with me. You can have your 12 days of Christmas. As for me, I’m going to be enjoying about ten times that many. So for the next few months, if you see me with my headphones on while taking a brisk walk down my street or doing cardio at the gym, or maybe singing in the car when you pull up next to me at a red light, I might just wish you a Merry Christmas and if you invite me to a Labor Day cookout I might bring eggnog.