Merry Christmas 2023

Every valley shall be exhalted

Merry Christmas 2023. Peace on earth: that would be nice. Goodwill to all: an admirable goal. 

Gloria by John Rutter. Our choir performed this a few years ago.

The Dream Isaiah Saw by Glenn Rudolph, text by Thomas Troeger. I’ve used this before. The choir has sung this as well. 

Little Drummer Boy (African Tribal Version) – Alex Boye’ ft. Genesis Choir

Every Valley – Handel’s Messiah, A Soulful Celebration

Handel’s Messiah – the Christmas portion. The New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Theoretically, these should play in order. The last piece is Hallelujah, traditionally more of an Easter piece, but I’m no purist.  I’ve had the joy of singing this at least four times. 

Sunday Stealing: it’s almost Christmas


waiting.christmasThe topic for Sunday Stealing is the December 25 holiday, probably because it’s almost Christmas. I note there are 12 questions, one for the drummers, one for the pipers…

1. What is the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
It might have been a subscription to Billboard magazine that my then-girlfriend, now late friend, bought for me in the 1980s. It was rather pricey, and it was not really of great interest to her, but she loved me. When I was in high school, I was a  library page. I read the magazine before putting it away in the basement.

Or maybe it was the first Hess truck that my wife bought for me in the early 2000s and every year since. I am almost encircled by them right now.


2. What is the worst Christmas gift you’ve ever received?

At work, we had a gift exchange. One bozo filled up a container with random screws and nails.


3. Do you have a favorite Christmas song?

I have LOTS of favorite Christmas songs. Check my upcoming posts and yesterday’s. I’ll pick What Christmas Means To Me by Stevie Wonder or Coventry Carol by Alison Moyet. But I have many holiday albums, religious and secular.


4. Does your family have any favorite holiday traditions?

It has morphed over time. We used to go to my in-laws. It seems recently, and certainly since COVID, it’s been rather haphazard. This is also true, BTW, of Thanksgiving.


5. What is your favorite Christmas snack?

Eggnog and amaretto.


6. Did you believe in Santa growing up?

I believe in Santa now, more than ever.


7. How early do you start decorating?

Once again, it is haphazard. It can be from early December to a day or two before Christmas Eve.


8. Are you an early or last-minute shopper?

In years past, I was ahead of the curve. There was a medieval faire in October, and I always bought something for my wife, but it’s defunct. So, this year, WAY behind.


9. Would you rather give or receive gifts?
With that duality, then receive because I tend to agonize over the correct gift to give. That said, this is a lovely story of giving. There was also a local item about a guy paying for the $2,000 for the Toys for Tots that a local charity had been collecting.
10. What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

I’m not sure I have one. It’s A Wonderful Life is a lot better than I thought it would be. Scrooged was interesting in parts. I’ve recorded Elf because I’ve never seen it. Rotten Tomatoes has made a list of the best movies, and they have The Holdovers on it. I’ll say that. Of the old-time ones, possibly Miracle on 34th Street, because I’m a sucker for a courtroom drama.


11. What is one of your Christmas memories?

I wrote about a few of them here. 1966: Christmas was on a Sunday. I delivered the paper six evenings a week, back in the olden days when there WERE afternoon papers, and then on Sunday morning, back in Binghamton, NY. My father, who NEVER helped me with my route because it was MY job, not his – not that I ever asked him – got up (or maybe stayed up) to help me deliver that thick newspaper to my customers on Clinton Street, Front Street, and McDonald Avenue. That meant a lot to me, but I doubt I ever said so.

12. Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?

A Very Special Christmas

Special Olympics

Back when I was buying vinyl, and later with CDs, I was a sucker for music associated with a good cause: No Nukes, a Cambodian refugee cause, USA for Africa, and so many more. And not just the We Are The World single but the whole album.

So, I have several CDs in the A Very Special Christmas series, in fact, the first seven (The live album is the fourth, and the acoustic album is the sixth.). The funds go to the Special Olympics, as noted here. If you have Spotify, which I do, you can hear the whole set of albums. If not, you get the 30-second tease. For those of you in the latter category, my list of some of the songs I like.

The original and still the best (1987)

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – the Pointer Sisters. They seem to be having such fun.

Winter Wonderland – Eurythmics. Annie Lennox’s great voice shines through.

Do You Hear What I Hear? – Whitney Houston

Merry Christmas, Baby -Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Prime Boss

Gabriel’s Message -Sting. This is in our church hymnal.

Christmas in Hollis – Run-D.M.C. I’ll admit that it took me a moment to embrace it, but now I like it a lot. The last time I took the Long Island Railroad, I noticed the Hollis, Queens stop.

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2 -It’s not Darlene Love, as heard on A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, but what is?

Santa Baby -Madonna. I’ve heard lots of complaints that it’s not as good as Eartha Kitt, but I heard this first, so I have an odd affection for it.

The Coventry Carol – Alison Moyet. My favorite song in the entire series.

Volume 2 (1992)

Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. This song always makes my Christmas playlist on the blog.

Merry Christmas, Baby – Charles Brown, Bonnie Raitt. Bonnie had both Charles Brown and Ruth Brown on her subsequent tour.

What Child Is This – Vanessa Williams. That Carol of the Bells intro oddly works here.

Volume 3 (1997)

Children Go Where I Send Theee – Natalie Merchant. I loved this song growing up, and this take is fun.

We Three Kings – Patti Smith. This, by comparison, is particularly dark, which I also enjoy.

The Live album (1999)? There are too many covers of the previous iterations. Volume 5 (2001)? Some OK pieces.

Acoustic (2003)

This is primarily a country/bluegrass album.

Even Santa Claus Gets The Blues -Marty Stuart. It has a great guitar intro.

Christmas Is Near – Ralph Stanley. I love the harmony.

The subsequent album, the 7th volume (2009), is fine, though it covers many of the same songs that I heard before, and the earlier ones are usually better.

After that, 25 Years Bringing Joy to the World and 25 Years of Bringing Peace on Earth (both 2012) I haven’t heard yet. The latter features “Today’s Top Christian Artists.”

Finally, the ICON album (2013) is an odd mix of songs previously on albums from the series (Sting, Aretha, Bon Jovi, Underwood, Petty, Crow), older songs (Lennon, Presley, Wham!), and new songs by Rod Stewart and Josh Groban. You can still purchase these if you’re so inclined.

The 10 Most Streamed Christmas Songs on Spotify

plus Bing/Bowie; Stax; Bob & Doug

There’s a 2022 article, The Most Streamed Christmas Songs on Spotify:

  1. All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey (1) – I continue to find her proclamation and trademark claim that she’s the Queen of Christmas gagworthy. As this article notes, Elizabeth Chan “said that Christmas is not something that a person can claim ownership or a title over. ‘That’s just not the right thing to do. Christmas is for everyone. It’s meant to be shared; it’s not meant to be owned.”
  2. Last Christmas by Wham! (7)
  3. Santa Tell Me by Ariana Grande (9)
  4. It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas by Michael Bublé (6)
  5. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee (2); also #9 on the 1955-2004 list
  6. Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms (3); also #2 on the 1955-2004 list
  7. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year by Andy Williams (5); I associate this more with a series of back-to-school ads
  8. Mistletoe by Justin Bieber
  9. Snowman by Sia
  10. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – 1984 Version by Band Aid;  also #2 on the 1955-2004 list. Well-meaning but terrible song.

I’ll admit that I’d never heard the Grande, Bieber, or Sia songs before.

Interestingly, there was a 2017 roster that had some overlap. (The parenthetical numbers were their 2017 rankings.)

The songs falling out of the Top Ten

4. White Christmas — Bing Crosby, John Scott Trotter & His Orchestra, Ken Darby Singers

8. The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You) — Nat King Cole

10. Feliz Navidad — Jose Feliciano

Other songs

Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth – Bing Crosby and David Bowie. As I’ve mentioned, Bing Crosby died of a heart attack on October 14, 1977. The TV special Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas, on which this appeared, was recorded on September 11 of that year but didn’t air until November 30. I watched it because Bing Crosby has Ziggy Stardust and Twiggy on his show? Here’s the version with the intro.

12 Gifts of Christmas – Allan Sherman. When I was a kid, this was uproariously funny.

Take Off – Bob and Doug McKenzie with Geddy Lee of Rush

12 Days Of Christmas – Bob and Doug McKenzie. Yes, I have the album, The Great White North, on vinyl.

Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses. I have this on an EP.

Fairytale of New York -The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl.  The Pogues’ Shane MaGowan died recently. “Rob Tannenbaum (a journalist with a very appropriate name for this purpose) published a fascinating piece about the making of the song and the push to send it to the top of the charts in the United Kingdom.” 

And here’s some Stax, which, of course, I have.

All I Want For Christmas Is You – Carla Thomas. 

Gee Whiz It’s Christmas – Carla Thomas. 

Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday – William Bell. This went #33 RB in 1968 

The Mistletoe And Me – Isaac Hayes.

Jingle Bells (James Lord Pierpont) – Booker T. and The MG’s

Winter Snow (Isaac Hayes) – Booker T. and The MG’s


More Hot 100 Xmas Hits, 1955-2004


Here are some more Hot 100 Xmas hits. These ones are far less familiar to me. Some of the songs I know, but by different artists.

Please Come Home For Christmas – The Eagles, #18 in 1978. I prefer the Charles Brown version that came out in 1960 and topped the Christmas charts in 1972.

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) – Christina Aguilera, #18 in 1999

Santo Natale (Merry Christmas) – David Whitfield with Stanley Black and his orchestra, #19 in 1955. I am used to unfamiliarity with the newer songs, but I don’t know this one either.

Nuttin for Xmas – Joe Ward, orchestra conducted by Dave Terry, #20 in 1955. What is it about 1955 that allowed three versions of this song to reach the Top 30? And no consistency in the spelling of the title.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – The Chipmunks, #20 in 1960

Pre- and post-Twist

Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker, #21 in 1961. This is the period between when The Twist by Chubby Checker was #1 in 1960 and The Twist by Chubby Checker was #1 in 1962 and namechecked some of Checker’s other songs.

(I’m Gettin) Nuttin’ for Christmas – Ricky Zahnd and The Blue Jeaners, with the Tony Mottola Orchestra, #21 in 1955

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – The 4 Seasons, arranged and conducted by Sid Bass, #23 in 1962. It’s your standard Bob Crewe production for the group. I wrote a whole blog post about naughty and nice in April 2019.

Baby’s First Christmas – Connie Francis, orchestra and chorus conducted by Don Costa, #26 in 1961

If We Make It Through December – Merle Haggard, #28 in 1973, written by the artist. This is a downbeat and not particularly Christmasy track, which may be why I like it. The New York Times reported: “This one might be a Christmas song because it appears on a Christmas album (‘Merle Haggard’s Christmas Present’; please note the cover art), but Merle Haggard only decided to cut that album after the success of this stand-alone single — the biggest pop crossover hit of his entire career. There’s mention of gifts under the tree (or rather, a lack thereof), but the true subject of this melancholy tune is the plight of the down-and-out working man, meaning it is, first and foremost, a Merle Haggard song.” 

A bonus from fillyjonk which you of a certain vintage will likely recall: Attention Kmart Shoppers – 8 hours of vintage department store Christmas music (Customusic tapes)

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