Coming home around the holidays, it’s been hard not to focus on the holidays themselves. These are always emotional times, driven by nostalgia, and I have disadvantage on Nostalgia (WIS) saves. But there is one thing that has stuck out this year against other years: usually by this time of year, I am sick and tired of Christmas music.
We arrived in Dublin on Monday, and I went almost straight to work, and then on to the pub. Within 24 hours of arriving home, I’d heard the entire Irish Christmas playlist. I knew every word of every song. Each one made me smile. And I wondered why I hadn’t heard them before now.
I don’t seek holiday music out, I find it in public places. “Maybe I just haven’t been out in public?” I thought. It turns out that there’s a much larger ouevre of Christmas music in the US, and a much broader range of songs. We were staying in a hotel for our last couple of nights before coming home, and in the hotel bar, there were jazz, R’n’B, and a much broader range of pop Christmas songs playing.
In Ireland, the closest that we come to the twee version of Ireland that people expect is at Christmas. We are very traditional in our celebration of Christmas – even those who are not religious get together with their families and feel the warmth of the season. Part of that is that limited Christmas playlist. Thinking about it, most of these songs are at least a little problematic — from The Fairytale of New York’s employment of homophobic slurs and the abusive relationship it describes, to Band Aid’s assumption that everyone in Africa needs to know it’s Christmas, to the fact that Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmas time is just plain shit — but they are firmly ingrained in my soul. Someone was playing Fairytale of New York in the office the other day, and I teared up; it may have been nostalgia, it may have been a hangover, but that unique combination meant that I knew it was Christmas.
I actually like that the US has a broader, less grating list of Christmas songs. It draws from a broader range of cultural background and musical styles, and that diversity softens the temptation to be a humbugging grumpus. I was excited to hear the songs that I knew, because I hadn’t heard them yet.
If you’re interested, here’s my list of “10 Christmas Songs that you’d be sick of by now, if you were in Ireland”:
Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody
Wizzard – I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day
The Pogues and Kirsty McColl – Fairytale of New York
Band Aid – Do They Know it’s Christmas
Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmas Time
John Lennon – Happy Xmas (War is Over)
Cliff Richard – Christmas Time (Miseltoe and Wine)
Bing Crosby – White Christmas
Chris Rea – Driving Home for Christmas
Jona Lewis – Stop the Cavalry
P.S. I had never listened to the lyrics to Wonderful Christmas Time until I heard it this year. I firmly believe that Paul McCartney is one of the best songwriters of all time, and this is one of the worst songs that I’ve ever heard. “The children sing their song: ding dong ding dong ding dong“. What, did he see that Lennon was releasing a song, and rushed this unpolished turd out the door? HUMBUG!