Music helps make holidays memorable

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2006

Music: it's an integral part of the holiday season. Whether it's the strains of Christmas tunes playing over the intercom in stores, cantatas practiced by local church choirs, holiday musicals at school, or CDs spinning &#8220Rudolph” and &#8220Frosty” for the kids on car trips, Christmas music creates some of our most vivid memories and helps set the stage for our celebrations.

Some of our readers and staff members shared their own musical favorites from the holidays and what these tunes mean to them. Enjoy their memories, delight in your own. Merry Christmas!

The reason for the season

Several readers, including  Kimberly Kirby (Miss Greater Greenville), Sue Arnold, Leigh Ann Myrick and Starla Jones said one particular song stood out for them each Christmas season: the 150-year-old French carol &#8220Cantique de Noel,” better known to us as &#8220O Holy Night.”

For twenty-something Myrick, the song is a reminder of the true reason for the season.

&#8220I haven't forgotten about Santa or the elves or those reindeer as I've gotten older. But I have turned my focus on the real meaning of Christmas,” she says.

&#8220Jesus's birth, his arrival, just an infant in the arms of a teenage mother and inside a stable - a dirty, smelly stable. That's why I love ‘O Holy Night,' but I think it is much more than holy. There are words even deeper than ‘holy' to describe that night our savior arrived.”

The much-loved song was originally quite controversial in France, where church leaders initially condemned the song as &#8220lacking in musical taste and religious spirit,” according to the author of &#8220The Christmas Encyclopedia,” William Crump.

&#8220Joy to the World is my favorite; if it had not been for that miracle birth, there would not be much joy in the world today,” Kathy Atchison of the Butler County Education and Community Center says.

Lisa Bowlan, advertising representative for The Luverne Journal, cites three carols as her favorites: &#8220Silent Night,” &#8220Joy to the World,” and &#8220Away in a Manger.”

&#8220I picked these three songs because they show the true meaning of Christmas. Sometimes we lose sight of what Christmas is all about because it has become so commercialized,” Bowlan says.

&#8220We worry too much about the presents, decorations, food, cleaning house and the chaos that comes with shopping. It's the day our savior, Jesus Christ, was born. This is what we should be celebrating, not who got what.”

Bowlan can take comfort is learning &#8220Silent Night” is now considered one of Austria's national treasures, with the country providing strict protection against commercialism of the carol. By tradition, &#8220Silent Night” is not sung, played or broadcast in any form until Christmas Eve in the nation where it was written.

Traditional English carols also rank highly with readers like Priscilla Davis and Annabel Markle, including &#8220The Holly and the Ivy,” &#8220What Child is This?” (sung to the tune of &#8220Greensleeves”) and &#8220Watts Christmas Carol.”

&#8220The Holly and the Ivy” goes back to medieval days, when carols giving the pagan symbols of holly and ivy a new Christian meaning first became popular.

White holly blossoms represent the purity of the Mary and Jesus; the red berries, Christ's blood; the sharp thorns, Mary's pain in childbirth and Christ's crown of thorns, and the bitter bark, His suffering at the Crucifixion.

For Regina Grayson, editor of The Luverne Journal, an unlikely duet by singers Bring Crosby and David Bowie, &#8220Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy” is a standout of the season.

&#8220It's great - it's just a classic,” she says.

Contemporary Christmas songs celebrating the Nativity such as &#8220Mary, Did You Know?” (Priscilla Davis) and &#8220Jesus, What a Wonderful Child” (Dr. Tera Simmons) were also mentioned as reader favorites.

Let it snow!

In addition to celebrating the religious meaning of the season, tunes that bring nostalgic, sentimental feelings to the forefront are much loved. They make folks want to celebrate all things merry and bright, it seems. A little of the white stuff wouldn't be amiss this time of year, either.

&#8220I love the orchestral version of ‘Sleigh Ride.' Its powerful jingle makes me wish my husband Morgan and I could have a sleigh ride in the snow - have to keep dreaming about the snow, huh,” says Meredith Mann of Greenville.

&#8220I love the song ‘White Christmas.' I'm always dreaming of one because we've never had one yet,” Grayson agrees.

Nancy Idland, director of Greenville Main Street, loves the tune &#8220Winter Wonderland.”

&#8220Sleigh bells ring, are ya listening, in the lane, snow is glistening'Šit's one I always enjoy hearing. It's a happy tune and makes you want to sing along,” Idland says.

The light-hearted tune &#8220Baby, It's Cold Outside” is a favorite for GHS teacher Stacey Edwards. &#8220I'm not sure what it has to do with Christmas, but I love it!”

Sentimental journey

Christmas songs bring back happy, nostalgic memories.

&#8220I love ‘It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.' My grandfather used to sing it every year when we decorated for Christmas,” Greenville native Lindsey Benedict says.

Benedict also likes the fun of Brenda Lee's &#8220Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree” and the poignant &#8220Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” from the Judy Garland film, &#8220Meet Me in St. Louis.”

&#8220In its original form, the song's lyrics sing ‘through the years we will all be together, if the Lord allows.' Unfortunately it was changed to ‘if the fates allow,' but I believe the spirit of Christmas (Christ) shines through in that song even if the words were changed,” Benedict says.

Old movie fan Erica Knight of McKenzie also loves the Judy Garland classic, calling it &#8220my all-time favorite Christmas song.”

&#8220I remember how my high school class always wanted to hear ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.' I also love ‘River' by Joni Mitchell, even though it's not a traditional Christmas song,” Knight adds.

Shannon Franklin of Birmingham, whose mom, Debbie Stafford, grew up near Greenville, has loved &#8220Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” ever since singing it in her kindergarten Christmas play.

Sue Arnold has lots of modern favorites that put her in a Christmas mood.

&#8220I love ‘Blue Christmas' (Elvis's version, of course), ‘Santa Baby' by Madonna, ‘Hard Candy Christmas' by Dolly Parton and the Carpenters' ‘Merry Christmas, Darling.' If you want to get in the Christmas spirit, go buy Aaron Neville's CD with &#8220Louisiana Christmas Day.' Your family will love it,” Arnold says.

And everyone, it seems, loves the tune and the TV special that celebrates one outcast little reindeer with a big red nose who becomes a hero.

Stacey Edwards says the reindeer's uplifting story &#8220just makes it feel like the holidays.”

&#8220Rudolph is certainly one of my favorites. I always felt sorry for him getting picked on by the others,” Grayson says.

Kathy Atchison remembers watching the show as a child on her family's very first television. &#8220When my children, Rebecca and Jennifer, were small, we started watching it together and today we always watch for Rudolph commercials to see when the classic will air. The girls are now grown and I am growing older; the magic of Rudolph still has a special place in our hearts.”