Let me start by saying that I observe December 25 with Chinese food and a movie. But that doesn’t mean I am immune to the Christmas spirit. In fact, I seem to be quite susceptible to it lately. One reason may be that I bake cupcakes, and the cupcake community promotes seasonal offerings. For example, I made mini “candy cane” cupcakes this year. Another way I have succumbed to the most wonderful time of the year is by really noticing, for the first time, its omnipresent music.
Although I know the season’s songs are often as maligned as its fruitcake, I find myself getting pulled into the idyllic scenes they draw. For example, I want to take a sleigh ride together with you and then rock around the Christmas tree, have the corn you’ve brought for poppin’, and conspire as we dream by the fire. Our troubles will be miles away! (Although I have a terrible feeling that Frosty the Snowman will not be back again someday. The sun was hot that day . . .)
I am on the outside of Christmas, and maybe that’s the best distance from which to enjoy its soundtrack. I have read enough Dear Prudence to know that the actual celebration of the holiday is frequently far from perfect. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, the incidence of depression is greatest at Christmastime. I can’t help but wonder if these sentimental ballads foster expectations for festivity straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, which can never be met—resulting in inevitable disappointment.
On the other hand, perhaps they are simply love songs, wooing the perfect Christmas—which remains sweetly out of reach. And I feel swept up in the romance. In that vein, the holidays represent ideals—such as brotherhood, home, peace, love, and joy—to which we aspire. I think I respond emotionally to the depiction of these themes. I can’t hear (Bing Crosby’s rendition of) “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” written from the point of view of an overseas soldier during World War II, without getting a tear in my eye. Its melancholy twist (“If only in my dreams”) highlights our separation from cherished ideals.
Or maybe I just have Christmas envy. Fa la la la la, la la la la.