Updated: Oct 1, 2022
It's time for a little chestnut roasting.
On October 25th, before Halloween, Sirius XM switched its Love station to the Hallmark Channel. The satellite radio company swapped adult contemporary soft rock love songs (think, “Muskrat Love” by Captain & Tennille) for timeless Christmas music and carols hosted by various Hallmark Channel “Countdown to Christmas” actors, such as Candace Cameron Bure. Then SiriusXM launched twelve more holiday music channels on November 1st. What they were waiting for? Time to get caroling!
As a nice Jewish girl, I love Christmas carols. I like to drive with the radio at high volume singing at the top of my lungs, much to the chagrin of any passengers I might have. I don’t have a good voice. I can’t melodiously harmonize. I don’t even know all the words. But I warble along, nonetheless. If I were an Uber driver, I would have zero stars.
Right now, I’ve got four holiday stations programmed: the Hallmark Channel, Holly, for contemporary holiday hits, Country Christmas, and WELJ, 104.7, out of Montauk. WELJ, normally an easy listening station (think, “The Piña Colada Song”), only started its carols the week of Thanksgiving.
As soon as one of these stations plays a carol I don’t like, I switch. I will not waste my precious singing time on Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” the Ray Conniff Singers’ “Little Drummer Boy,” or anything by Guy Lombardo. I prefer more recent recordings like Michael Bublé’s “Holly Jolly Christmas.”
I’m a ruthless radio station changer. This makes Mr. Hockey (my current husband) insane. Since I’m airing our marital pet peeves here: I don’t enjoy NHL radio. It’s simply impossible to make hockey interesting twenty-four hours a day. Pet peeve-wise, I’d say Mr. Hockey and I are even, and I won’t apologize for not tolerating unacceptable music on my car radio. Good luck sorting through the string of negatives in that last sentence.
My absolute favorite holiday songs are “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” If SiriusXM had a Have Yourself a Chestnut channel that alternated the hundreds of versions of those songs, I wouldn’t have to change radio stations.
I also love “White Christmas” (by Irving Berlin) and “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn) maybe because they were written by three nice Jewish boys. In fact, many of our yuletide favorites have Jewish songwriters, including “Rudolph” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”
But I don’t solely listen to the music of my people. I also go for the really Christian stuff: “Silent Night,” “The First Noel,” “O Holy Night,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” There’s nothing like careening down the Long Island Expressway belting out oh ni-ight diviiiiine! It’s cathartic. You should try it.
Those hymns take me back to Mrs. Sluiter’s choir at Birchwood Elementary School in Niskayuna, NY; back when I could carry a tune. At the Christmas concert, we sang those oldies with verve and joy, perhaps because Mrs. Sluiter handed out caramel flavored Kraft Fudgies after the show. The Fudgies were her way of teaching us the notes on a g clef staff: Every Good Boy Deserves Fudgies. There was no musical mention as to when a girl might deserve a Fudgie, but this was in the early days of Title IX when girls were still an afterthought and holiday concerts were still called Christmas concerts. I’ll note that Mrs. Sluiter was an equal opportunity Fudgie dispenser.
The elephant in the room of holiday tunes is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” There has certainly been robust discussion of this song over the past few years and I have to agree that it has a date rape feel to it – or as the song says, “at least there will be plenty implied.” Yet there have been around sixty recordings of this song, half of which were made in the last decade, when we should have known better.
Despite its cringey vibe, I sing along to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” My favorite is Dean Martin’s 1959 version. He sings with an unnamed female chorus, not anyone famous. In 1959, girls were even more of an afterthought.
John Legend and Kelly Clarkson released a delightful and woke adaptation this year. In it, there’s mention of consent and John even calls Kelly an Uber. I won’t tell you how it ends, because it’s none of our business. Let’s just say Murray the Uber driver gives Kelly zero stars for cancelling the trip.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” isn’t a true Christmas carol. It doesn’t mention any holidays. Neither does “My Favorite Things,” which gets a lot of air play this time of year. If they want to play a seasonal song from The Sound of Music, it should be “Edelweiss,” which is about an alpine plant.
And what of my Jewish heritage? Do I ever sing those songs? This year, I can. SiriusXM is streaming Radio Hanukkah from December 20th. I’m guessing it will be “I Have a Little Dreidel” on repeat. Perhaps they’ll sprinkle in Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song.” Or it might be a podcast about the correct spelling of Hanukkah.
If I don’t like it, I’ll just switch stations, with the hope of crooning hang a shi-ning star upon the high-est booouuugh, with verve and joy.
Happy holidays, from Mr. Hockey, the little puckers, GJ & me!
Published in The East Hampton Press, December 11, 2019