Saturday, December 01, 2007

Making Christmas

Happy December!
I've been thinking about Christmas. It's a holiday rich in traditions and celebration, and like most other people I love it. I love the music. I love to plan, select, make, wrap and give gifts. I love the smells of gingerbread and pine. And I love to quietly stare at a nativity scene in the glow of Christmas tree lights and imagine the miraculous night the Savior was born. This leads to considering His divine mission and life, and how He truly was the greatest gift ever given.

And now that I'm the Mom around here I've been thinking about how I want to lead my family in celebrating Christmas - what traditions should we continue or begin? How can we enjoy the magic of the season while keeping our thoughts on Christ? I've already decided my kids will always know Santa isn't real. We can still enjoy the legend but there's another, more important, real person who loves children that I prefer to focus on. Beyond that, I'm still thinking about how we want to celebrate it as a family.

So in December there will be a "Making Christmas" series here on DMTotW, touching on different aspects of seasonal celebration. I beg you to chime in, sharing your own thoughts, ideas, activities and hopes on each topic. I'm curious what other people do, and looking for ideas to steal. So please, if you read, post.

Making Christmas: Music

Christmas is a multisensory experience. It's the combinations of sensory input that make it so enjoyable for most of us. "Silent Night" plus hot cocoa? Nice. How about "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" in candlelight outside in the cold?

My favorite lite rock station in Denver plays continuous Christmas music from Thanksgiving until Christmas, and amazingly I don't get sick of it (though there are a few songs that make me change stations, like Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree!) It made my commute so fun for that month. When we lived in Boulder I used to go to Barnes & Noble and listen to lots and lots of holiday CD's, choosing one each year to add to my collection. Christmas is the one time I really badly wish I had a 5-disc CD player. I get tired of each cd fast, but if they were all on shuffle it would be a festive acoustic delight. A few years ago I downloaded a bunch of good holiday songs from iTunes and made a Christmas mix of my favorites. Since then I revise the mix each year, keeping the best and adding new ones.

Here are the Christmas CD's I have:

A New Age Christmas - Carol of the Drums
A Windham Hill Collection - A Celtic Christmas
Harry Connick, Jr. - When My Heart Finds Christmas
Jake White - Christmas
James Taylor - At Christmas
Jim Brickman - Peace
Loreena McKennett - A Winter Garden
Maybe This Christmas (compilation)
Rankin Sisters - Do You Hear...
The Chieftans - The Bells of Dublin
The Roches - We Three Kings
Voice Male - Jingles 2

And here are the songs on my mix this year:

Deck the Halls - Aly & AJ
Who Comes this Night - James Taylor
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Jack Johnson
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan
I Pray on Christmas - Harry Connick, Jr.
Go Tell it On the Mountain - James Taylor
The First Noel - Leigh Nash
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - Jim Brickman
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring - BYU Men's Chorus
Wassail Song - Liz Story
Baby, It's Cold Outside - James Taylor & Natalie Cole
For Unto Us a Child is Born - The Roches
Carol of the Bells - Voice Male
Do You Hear What I Hear - Rankin Sisters
Joy to the World - Aly & AJ
O Holy Night - Tracy Chapman
Song for a Winter's Night - Sarah McLachlan

My favorite Christmas hymn in the church hymnbook is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." (Though the version on the church website could stand a little jazzing up.) I love the tune's rise and fall but even more is that I love how the words are in first person. It's a personal internal journey in 5 short verses. And I've always loved the phrase, "A voice, a chime, a chant sublime..." in the last verse. I just love it.

So, what are your favorite holiday CD's and songs? What do you recommend I add to my collection this year? Any other thoughts about holiday music? (Like, Caroling: is it still done?)

15 comments:

Wyanne said...

Wow...you already listed all the great Christmas CD's I have. I love this time of year too. Have a wonderful holiday season with your family!

Geary said...

Obviously, you need to put all your Christmas music on an ipod so you can shuffle not just five CDs at a time, but ALL your CDs at a time. Hmmmmm .... gives me an idea.

dave said...

I sent your copy of my Christmas mix this year to you THIS MORNING!! With a box of peppermint Jo-Jo's to eat while listening. So there's one more for your collection!

(Don't worry, Maren & Tona, yours are on the way too)

Michelle said...

We are with you on the Santa thing. We have never pretended Santa is real for Hilde and it really hasn't made a bit of difference. We still have fun telling stories, and enjoying the season. For our FHEs this month we focus on Christmas stories and do a Christmas activity. The lesson is spiritual (as much as one can be with kids this age) but the activity will often be more secular. Tomorrow we are making a gingerbread house. However, we have the Nativity sets out and talk about the story, the people, etc. often.

I have often wanted to limit the gift giving to a really small amount, like 4-5 gifts total, but I know that will never fly in my house. Dave really loves the gift giving process and making his family feel special and frankly we like receiving his thoughtful gifts. But I do worry about the commercialism overpowering the purpose of the celebration so I look forward to reading and thinking about future posts.

Disco Mom said...

Now, now, Michelle, I appreciate the enthusiasm but you're getting ahead of us! Activities and gifting will be separate topics.

Maren said...

Ok, I have a lot to say on this subject. The music is one of the first things I pul oout of the box and one of the last to go back in. I try to add to my collection each year as well, and this year I liked what I added very much.

Here are some of my favorties that you didn't list:
HC Jr.- Harry for the Holidays
Amy Grant- A Christmas Album, Home for Christmas (which I only have on cassette- time to update)
Mel Torme- Christmas Songs

This year I added Chris Isaak Christmas, which is super! I love it, especially the duet with Stevie Nicks.

I also received a great mix from some friends a few years ago which contained the following:

Maybe this Christmas by Ron Sexsmith
The Christmas Song by the Ravonettes
All I Want for Christmas by Toby Keith
Song for a Winter's Night by Sarah McLachlan
Silent Night by the Hooters
Christmas by Loena Naess
Lonely this Christmas by Mick Jagger
Frosty the Snowman by Fiona Apple
Holiday Road by Nat'l Lampoon's Vacation
Disgruntled Elf's Lament by BNL
Christmas Song by Jethro Tull (not my favorite)
River by Travis
I've been a good girl by Macy Gray
Christmas for Cowboys by Jars of Clay (sometimes skip it)
Midnight Clear by Sixpence None the Richer
Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant
Make it Christmas Day by Jann Arden
Santa's List by Cliff Richard
Merry Christmas by Gotthard
The Bells by Metallica/Trans-Siberian Orchestra (skip)
Christmas Time Again by Extreme

So it's not a perfect mix, but offers some good ones. It also has many secular tunes, but those are part of a good mix, too. Last year I made a "soft" mix with more MoTab/Afterglow/etc, and a "happy" mix with more of the upbeat stuff. Mixes are fun.

Tona said...

Caroling... totally still done. Go back to some of the houses where you got a warm welcome on Halloween and I bet there will be some holiday magic. Or at an old folks home. The best. BTW I'm sure food will be its own post but I'm with Dave on the peppermint Jo-Jos, we just discovered them, and where have I been?

We got out the Christmas music this weekend. I like them cheesy... Herb Alpert made a great album... but I couldn't bring myself to buy this year's Barry Manilow Christmas album at Hallmark. Too much. Still, I think Elvis Blue Christmas is one of the best albums ever. Jon Schmidt is great too, spare and instrumental in a Windham Hill kinda way.
Today I was doing the dishes and listening to Garth Brooks Beyond the Season album (corny, but some of the songs are genius) and his "Nightingale's Song" comes on... a Mexican folk tale with guitar accompaniment, about a poor orphan who finds an injured bird, nurses it to health, and gives it to the Christ child statue in the church at midnight, where he accepts her gift and it becomes the nightingale. Sounds so dry when I say it like that, but I love the song, it's so beautiful and I started crying over the dishes. H (7) was shocked. "What's the matter Mom?" How can you explain? Some songs just GET you RIGHT THERE. It's magical. Had a similar experience with a rendition of Bring a Torch Jeannette Isabella (all time one of the greats) last year, sitting at a stoplight and bawling in my car.

Mia said...

I am with you on Santa. I never believed he was real and it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the holiday. I truly believe that the spirit of giving is from Christ. We will however get a gift from santa, just won't be the focus of our holiday. OK back on topic... like all things musical I am behind! I rely on the radio way too much. But now that I have an ipod with the magnificent shuffle Geary was talking about I am starting to collect that as well. The only CD I have picked up this year is the Sufjan Stevens christmas album. Mostly because he sang Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing which is my all time favorite song, but the rest is preyy good as well.

Mia said...

PS the 2 free downloads on itunes this week are Christmas songs.

kat said...

hey - i just have to say that your christmas mixes are my favorite christmas music. they even top Christmas with the Ray Coniff singers!

Disco Mom said...

OK, after thinking about this post some more I went hunting around iTunes and totally revamped my mix this year. I bought Aly & AJ's Christmas album, but on iTunes so I don't have to look at their glammed-up teeny-bopper cover, and just enjoy their singing, which I do on these Christmas songs. I also forgot to mention my absolute PASSION for "O, Holy Night" and my constant search for the perfect rendition, with just the right voice NAILING the big climax at the end - gives me chills. Celine Dion does a good job but I think my latest favorite is Josh Groban - I think he would be hard to beat on this.

Maren said...

Hey, I just downloaded a pretty version of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Jars of Clay. It's not the rousing rendition we sing at church, but a slow, thoughtful take on the song. I downloaded a bunch, actually, but especailly recommend Away in a Manger by Emmylou Harris. It's one of my favorite Christmas songs, and she does it beautifully.

Jenifuz said...

So, Christmas Music. Definitely Travis' favorite part of Christmas. He gets it out at least once during the summer and then it starts to come out in November. We have soooo many different cd's that I can't even name them. If I have a lot of time, I sit down and listen to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I know they have more than one cd but I can't think of them. The one I like to listen to is a story about an angel and going home for Christmas and forgiving your family and friends. You have to read the words in the booklet but it's a great story and I love the music so much more once I realized there was a story to it. A few others that I listen to all the time are Harry Connick Jr., Amy Grant, Bing Crosby, Josh Groban, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Jewel. Ok, I can't think of any others but I know I listen to them all! It's the best way to get into the Christmas spirit!

Disco Mom said...

Maren - OH YEAH, thank you! I love JoC's "I heard the bells" - it's wonderful. I'm putting it as the last track on my mix since it has an extended ending. Great addition - that's exactly why I'm doing this series!

dave said...

Did you get your cookies & mixxy?

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