COLUMN: Trying to find joy in sad holiday music

The InnisfilToday writer looks at his favorite holiday songs and wonders what it says about the season and society

I have good news for you: today is the last day you have to listen to Christmas music for another 11 months.

If you want to continue like this, please do so. I’m not here to take away your joy.

But pretty soon, that clock will strike 12, and the carriage that is your holiday playlist on Spotify will turn into a pumpkin filled with only New Year’s Eve party tunes. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra will return to Siberia. Michael Bublé will return to hawking soda. Mariah Carey will return to hibernation, only to be unleashed as Godzilla on unsuspecting audiences next November 1st.

And that’s good. For most of us, 50 days of holiday songs is enough for a year.

I’d say part of the reason is that so many are depressing at their core. Take “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” It’s happened at the wrong time of day and you’re reaching for a box of tissues.

My three favorite Christmas songs are probably “Blue Christmas,” “Please Come Home For Christmas,” and “Merry Christmas Darling” (by Elvis, Charles Brown, and The Carpenters, respectively). These are the songs that make therapy bills.

To paraphrase Rob Gordon, was I listening to Christmas music because I was unhappy or was I unhappy because I was listening to Christmas music?

I thought of that Thursday as I headed to the Alan’s Lunch Christmas show, staged at the New Roads Theater in Newmarket. Surely this collection of Canadian folk songs would give us about 90 minutes of upbeat tunes to sing along to and enjoy.

Some of that happened and it was a wonderful show. But hands down, my favorite song of the night was “Sober at Christmas,” where Mark Jordan does his best Tom Waits and tries to convince his partner, God, and the world at large that he’s not going to screw up again. if you take it back for the holidays.

Sigh. It can’t be just me, can it?

These thoughts are not new. Not only am I not the first person to think critically about how tragic Christmas music can be, but I’ve written about it before ( High accuracy little was mined verbatim from a decades-old column).

So is this piece because I think it fits.

The unfortunate truth is that so many Christmas carols are sad or sad because this time of year isn’t always the merry celebration of joy that we want it to be. Maybe it’s the first Christmas without someone close to you; perhaps your first solo holiday in several years; perhaps this is your children’s first time in the county away from the homestead.

This time of year can bring long-simmering issues to the surface. Sometimes when we are surrounded by people having fun and enjoying the holiday season, we can lose sight of what we have and focus on what is missing. And perhaps the best way to know you’re not alone is to press play on any number of slow, tragic numbers that simply trigger the birth of Christ somewhere in the narrative.

Even Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” a perennial number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 every December, isn’t really as happy and joyous as it sounds. It’s just another song for someone lonely and sad during the holidays.

But there is hope.

For a short period of time this year, the Queen of Christmas was dethroned by a new young upstart named Brenda Lee who is… check notes… 79 years old.

Yes, Brenda Lee hit number one on the Hot 100 this year for the first time since the 1960s with a song she recorded when she was 13 years old. And it’s full of all the enthusiasm and wonder of the season you’d expect from a 13-year-old (even if Generation Zers on TikTok were crushed by the fact that a 13-year-old recorded this song).

Perhaps this is the turning point. Maybe we’ll start turning our attention to Christmas carols that not only sound jolly, but are happy.

Like “Last Christmas”.

Or “Santa Bring My Baby Back.”

Okay, maybe I’ll just give up while I’m behind and accept that the Swifties will take over next year and we’ll hear nothing but “Christmas Tree Farm” for six weeks. That’s a compromise I can live with.

I treat Christmas music the way I treat music the rest of the year: it’s there when I need to turn everything else off. So even if the season doesn’t materialize the way we hope – thanks to a canceled flight, a duplicate gift or an unnecessary discussion about who your uncle thinks should be the next prime minister – I hope we have the music to sing along to. let’s return.

But let’s hope we have each other.

There’s a lot more pain than we care to admit that goes on this time of year and when someone’s hurting, the words aren’t always easy to say – which is why we turn to music in so many aspects of our lives, I’d argue . But the simple act of being there to show support is what can mean everything and make all the difference.

The tragic side of the holiday season has affected us all at one point or another. Traditions have ended, people have passed on, relationships have ended. And at no other time of the year do loneliness and joy merge with such ferocity. But joy can always overtake us if we allow the spirit of the greater holiday season and the teachings of the different cultures celebrating this time of year to enter into our lives.

If there is anyone who needs a hand this year, I hope you can lend a hand if you are able to do so.

And if you’re the one who needs a friend, here you are.

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