Non-Christmas Songs

It’s that time of year again. Days are shorter, there’s a chill in the air (usually, although this year it’s moved back into Spring type weather-what’s that about?), and we’re starting the countdown to the big day. Yep, it’s Christmas time.

I am what is commonly known as a “Christmas Guy”. I am a geek about the holiday and have no regrets or embarrassment about the fact. The next few weeks of blogs will reflect that, but I promise not to get too wacky about it, (I am a “Christmas Guy” but not a crazy one!) and those of you who don’t quite share my enthusiasm should still find something to like and/or relate to. Otherwise, see you in January I guess.

For this week’s topic, let’s talk about Christmas music. Look, I know a lot of people don’t like it much, except for maybe a few days before the main event, and even then only in short bursts. Then there are those who love it, and start humming the tunes in July-and they’d only just stopped singing them in April. Some only like the old traditional songs, some like modern versions and some won’t acknowledge anything but hymns. So there’s a lot to unpack about the whole Christmas music issue on both an emotional and technical level.


What I’d like to discuss today though, is the phenomenon of the “non-Christmas” Christmas song, perhaps better referred to as “Holiday” music. These are songs that carry no religious significance, nor do they mention the Christmas holiday in any way. Yet they are only listened to or performed in conjunction with Christmas and the holiday season. Many of these songs could still be appropriately sung throughout the entire Winter. In fact, most of them are a celebration of Winter itself.

Yet, we lock them away come December 26th and leave them be until the next year. Why? Why can we not have classic Winter songs? There are songs we associate with Summer time, and sing them for months so why don’t we do the same with these songs? Perhaps because we have so closely associated Winter time and Christmas together that it feels strange to sing about one without the other. Maybe after the celebration of Christmas these songs just begin to lose their spark. After all, once the holidays are over Winter can become quite tough in many areas and carefree songs might not fit the bill anymore.

Whatever the reason I always felt it a bit unfair that these songs don’t get their due in the way they were intended. Still, they get plenty of attention for a month or so and we shine the spotlight on them yearly as part of our National traditions, and that’s more than can be said for most songs so it all works out I suppose.

Now here’s a list of my favorite “Non-Christmas” Christmas Songs. In an effort to keep things brief (too late!) this list will be focusing on tried and true classics. I’ve also included a few thoughts about each. Told you I was a geek. Anyway, here we go.

JINGLE BELLS
-Probably the grand daddy of all the songs on this list. It has been suggested that this was written as a Thanksgiving song, but wound up gaining popularity as a Christmas song instead. Poor Thanksgiving, passed over again! Considering the time frame of the publication of this song and Thanksgiving being recognized as a holiday this story is questionable, but not entirely unlikely. This was originally published in 1857 as “The One Horse Open Sleigh”, Thanksgiving would not become an official holiday until 1870, although President George Washington began the practice as early as 1789.

Legend also has it that this was originally meant to be a drinking song, which is not quite as interesting a story, but just as good.

SLEIGH RIDE
Basically Jingle Bells only more modern. The maddening thing is that the song is nearly there. If only it were a Christmas party at the home of Farmer Grey as opposed to a birthday party, we’d have ourselves a Christmas song! Yet it was not meant to be. So it is not a Christmas song, but it does give you that Christmas feeling which is why it is so beloved. It’s one of my favorites too.

It is also my go-to anytime someone complains that they have a song in their head and they can’t get it out. I will straight up sing the first two lines of this song at them in the jolliest, most committed way I possibly can. Any time of year. You have been warned!

MY FAVORITE THINGS
This one’s kind of borderline. This Sound Of Music number is a classic to be sure but is it a Christmas song? Well, not really.

It makes some sense to think of it that way though, with lyrics about “snowflakes”, “sleigh bells”, “silver white winters” and “brown paper packages tied up with strings”, but the lyrics stop short of mentioning any holidays by name. It was first used as a Christmas song in 1961 on a Christmas special (sung by Julie Andrews, no less), and first recorded as such in 1964 by Jack Jones. Okay, so it was really just used an excuse to get a hit song in advance for the upcoming Sound Of Music movie, but it worked. Still does.

IT’S A MARSHMALLOW WORLD
Perhaps a bit lesser known than the others on this list but still a staple this time of year. This is definitely one that should have it’s place all Winter long. Both the Darlene Love and Dean Martin versions are fantastic, by the way. Go give ’em a listen. Especially Dino’s, it slaps as the kids say.

LET IT SNOW
Not about Christmas. Just about snow and cuddling up with yer honey until it’s over. That’s it. Sorry.

WINTER WONDERLAND
Okay, see, here’s another one that’s just about how much the songwriter loves Winter and, um, going for walks apparently. Still, it does put you in the jingle mood pretty much instantaneously so it’s a win.

FROSTY THE SNOWMAN
While a favorite song of many a child in December, and a beloved character to all classic cartoon lovers, there is not one word about Christmas or holidays or anything. Yet Frosty is always mentioned with Rudolph and Santa as though they are all hanging out at the North Pole together. That’s a fun idea, but an inaccurate one. Sure, in the television special Frosty does say that he’ll be back on Christmas Day but it is not in the original song.

THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S
Written in the early 1900s, this song was a hit at the time that, once again, had nothing to do with Christmas. It even mentions the “red leaves” of Autumn. The song became associated with Christmas when used in a scene of the film by the same name, featuring a Christmas pageant. Since then it has become a minor, but often present addition to many a Christmas album, most notably by “Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans” on Phil Spector’s Christmas record.

I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM
Another one set in December, but not about Christmas, just the warm feeling of a Winter romance. Best listened to when sung by Francis Albert late at night, fire going, and drink in hand.

There are more, but we will leave it here for now. Thanks for reading. More Christmas stuff next week.

P.S. If you’re looking to make a playlist, this would be a good start…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s