In Ode to the Christmas Carol
Ella Lee discusses the annual Christmas classics
Whether you share the opinion that “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” or not, you know its Christmas when you walk into Tesco to do your weekly food shop and find yourself walking with a slight swing in your step, to the familiar voices of Mariah Carey and Wham! Christmas songs are inevitable as the calendar year comes to an end, and the many levels of Christmas carollers emerge, from the mid-November soloists to those who take “Silent Night” too far. You may be hopeful and “Dreaming of a White Christmas” or reminiscing on “Last Christmas”, but when it comes to songs at Christmas, are you a grinch or a Cindy-Lou Who?
Earlier this year, actor Hugh Grant expressed his distaste for Christmas decoration and music in November in a tweet saying “It doesn’t make us merry or spend more. It makes us GNASH.” Perhaps this is surprising coming from a man known and loved as the Prime Minister in Richard Curtis’ Christmas film Love, Actually, but there has always been great discrepancy between the acceptance and disapproval of playing Christmas songs before December, one which to me seems rather odd. The increasingly early playing of Christmas songs in supermarkets may have something to do with the construction of ‘grinch’ characters in the lead up to Christmas. The early commencement of Christmas songs easily turns anyone who wishes to save the playlist for December into a Christmas scrooge, against Christmas entirely. Though this is not the case, perhaps today the song “War is Over” is more applicable to the first of December when one and all unite in singing Christmas songs together.
Nevertheless, every year a few of us break that rule and yell “Alexa play Christmas Hits” as early as the beginning of November. Though Christmas songs are repetitive and the Spotify playlist rarely changes, they are a genre of music that brings people together to share in the joy that the lead up to Christmas provides. Somehow, we, as a national collective, enjoy the same-old songs, year on year, and don’t complain when a chorus of ill-gifted family members start belting out the lyrics, in fact, we most probably join in. Indeed, 2020 has perhaps encouraged this festive sentiment, but is this really negative? With Christmas decorations starting around the mid-November mark this year, it is clear that Christmas cheer has not been dimmed by coronavirus, nor have Christmas songs taken a back seat.
So, as we are deep into December, what are the songs we most like to hear? It seems that Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is the UK’s firm favourite, followed by Wham’s “Last Christmas”. My personal favourite has taken a few years to climb to top position, but “Underneath the Tree” by Kelly Clarkson has proven to be the perfect balance of energetic and non-skippable. It’s the ideal dancing-down-the-chocolate-aisle-at-Tesco (or Waitrose) song. Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe” takes a close second, bringing universal hope for under the mistletoe at Christmas, or at least giving the sleigh bells the ultimate musical breakthrough. “Feliz Navidad” often gets passed by but is another personal favourite, and contrary to popular opinion, I would readily play it alongside a Bublé classic. It encompasses the festive feeling perfectly, with simple lyrics and a jolly tune. Now, after discussing top tier Christmas songs, wherever you call ‘home’ and whichever tier you find yourself in this festive season, I wish you a very Merry Christmas.