Holiday music: with or without Christmas


I’m a sucker for Christmas music.

I say “Christmas” unabashedly, because that’s what my Southern Baptist family celebrated. I think I was in high school before I realized that the only reason my Jewish classmates were happy about the holidays was, well, the holidays. (Soon after, I noticed that they got extra holidays, and I contemplated a conversion. At least until my parents found out.) Around the same time, I learned that rather than be offended by Christmas, the Jewish community found it to be a great source of humor.

One of my favorite parts of the season was going with my Daddy to the Firestone store for the latest Firestone Christmas album. (We got the Goodyear albums, too, but Firestone had lyrics on the back. Firestone also had Julie Andrews.)

Apparently I’m not alone — at least one person makes a living from selling the albums and transferring them to CD. One thing that can’t be duplicated is the smell of a freshly opened album. Sorry, Generations X, Y & Z.

Happily, several sites are devoted to reliving those high-fidelity holiday moments. On a few, albums from the voices of Christmas past “have been lovingly recorded, declicked, decrackled and dehissed,” as Hi-Fi Holiday puts it, and are available for online streaming or download, depending on the site. One of my favorites,, includes liner notes for many of the LPs. Ernie (Not Bert) is not exclusively a holiday music site, but it devotes most of December to sharing favorite tracks. This site is about all things Christmas and features music posts based on its own unique criteria.

I even have some background music to accompany your search for your favorites — a custom-made Christmas mix. I made this without regard to political correctness, so if you’re not a Christmas person, skip ahead. I didn’t forget you.

For music lovers who prefer less Christmas in their holidays, the pickings are a bit slim. You can find general winter and holiday songs at the Christmas music sites, but you have to work at it. AccuRadio offers a few channels with non-traditional holiday music, but Christmas songs do pop up. Of course, if your goal is to drive the person in the next cube insane, AccuRadio is perfect. Select “The Jingle Channel,” turn it up and go to lunch. You didn’t hear that from me.

The one source we always can count on to present alternatives is NPR. And the network’s music site does not disappoint. You can stream Paul Winter‘s 28th annual Winter Solstice Celebration — two hours’ worth — here. Each year, Winter assembles an incredible group of musicians from around the world at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine for this concert. Yes, you’ll hear some religious melodies, but if you’ll just let the music flow over you, I doubt you’ll mind.

In light of the dearth of non-Christmas holiday music available for free download, plus the fact that Spot DJ seems to be having server overload issues, making a Seasonal mix was something of a challenge. I ended up with a sort of winter-holiday, feel-good, peace-on-earth mix. Let me know what you think.

What are your favorite holiday classics? Do you secretly look forward to the Handel’s Messiah sing-along? Do you fill your iPod with Christmas tunes this time of year? Or are you tired of hearing the sad tale of Frosty’s watery demise? What’s on your holiday mix tape? If you make one, be sure to post the link.

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