The 12+ Songs of Christmas

So this is Christmas, or at least it will be.    To help you celebrate, here are 12 songs (give or take half-a-dozen) that should, if applied correctly, assist in putting you in the Christmas spirit.

  1. Sufjan Stevens - Royal David's City. I know it has become somewhat cliche to like Sufjan Stevens. That's neither here nor there to me: I wish to decide on the merits of the case, and you simply won't find a better late-model Christmas album (or albums) than his Songs for Christmas EP collection. I dare you to listen to this song twice and stop there:

    No one can eat just one, so here are three more samples from that collection to choose from:

    Sufjan Stevens - Lo! How A Rose E'er Blooming.

    Sufjan Stevens - Holy, Holy, Holy.

    Sufjan Stevens - Joy To The World.

  2. Elizabeth Poston - Jesus Christ the Apple Tree. As near as I can remember, this is an American (late colonial) poem that got set to music late last century, and somehow became associated with Christmas, especially in the U.K. Most recordings of it that I've found are exceedingly boring, but when done right (as below) it is something to see. When they break into parts at the start of the second verse, well, the Grinch's heart starts its upsizing.

  3. Age of Faith - That Winter's Night. I like this song. This recording is not quite as good as the album version, but it was available. The song sort of looks at the Nativity through a picture window, stopping on the question of what the singer might have done or felt, had he been there that winter's night...

  4. Ralph Stanley - Children, Go Where I Send Thee. Even at this late date, I'm not sure I can pick out all of the numbered groups and identify where exactly they appear in the Bible. It doesn't really matter, though, as Dr. Stanley always brings it back to One.

  5. Vince Guaraldi Trio - Christmas Time Is Here. You mean the Charlie Brown song? Yes. The Charlie Brown song. Jazz and Christmas are sort of like canned tuna and marshmallow cream: you wouldn't think they'd go together, but somehow, it works out.

  6. Andrew Peterson - Matthew's Begats. As two astute social commentators claimed recently, the Indians always used every part of the firework. Likewise, Mr. Peterson sees no reason why the scraps and unused corners of the Christmas story should go to waste.

  7. Heather Dale - The Huron Carol. "Jesous Ahatonhia" (Jesus is born) is, if I understand rightly, a kind of cultural translation of the Christmas story into the Huron Indian language done sometime in the 1600s. That makes it, I'd imagine, the earliest North American Christmas song.

  8. The Innocence Mission - In The Bleak Midwinter. Searched around for decent version of this carol. I finally settled on this one. It's so quiet, empty, and cold, but by the end, the icicles are starting to drip a bit.

  9. Jars of Clay - Christmas for Cowboys. Why have I never heard this before? Jars of Clay covers John Denver. A lonesome song that doesn't take a day off for Christmas.

  10. The California Raisins - Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. No, America, it won't do to deny it any longer. This happened, and we know it happened. And the sooner we admit that it happened, the sooner the healing can begin. Seriously, though, why is this not available, remastered on DVD?

    Still not willing to come to terms with it? Exhibit B, if it please the court:

    Claymation Christmas - Here We Come A-Waffling.

  11. Muppets - It Feels Like Christmas. I'm still confused on this point: of all of the adaptations of A Christmas Carol that have been produced over the years, why does the one billing itself as a children's comedy seem to be the most moving? Come in, and know this clip better, man!

  12. David Francey - Good Christian Men, Rejoice. Like stepping out into a cold winter morning. This rendition gets your blood moving, and makes you want to get up and take up the song. Now ye hear of endless bliss: Jesus Christ was born for this!

And, as an added bonus, I present (after long searching), a reading of the "Cajun Night Before Christmas", true to the version I heard as a child on a cassette tape of some big Christmas production at my cousin's church in Louisiana. Laissez le bon Noël rouler! (or something to that effect)

  • Trosclair - Cajun Night Before Christmas.

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"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." — Proverbs 18:2