Let the carols begin

Not sure exactly how I managed to pull it off, although I suspect staying out of shopping malls helped, but I managed to make it to Thanksgiving without hearing a single Christmas carol. And then, the first Christmas music I heard was the Charlie Brown’s Christmas soundtrack by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, which I think I’d like to make a Christmas tradition. Perfect way to jumpstart my holiday spirit.
Inspired by my daughter who every year says she places a moratorium on Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving, I decided I would do the same. To turn Black Friday into Red and Green Friday was my unspoken goal.
But my hopes were not high. I was pretty sure a carol would blindside me sometime between mid-October, the “official” start of the holiday season, and now. But, happily, I was wrong.
Underscore the word happily.
Imagine waking up this morning, the day after Thanksgiving, looking forward to Christmas music.
As I write, the duo Haley & Michaels, whom I’ve never heard of, is performing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” on The Today Show and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. So much better than rolling my eyes and reaching for the remote as I may have done in years past, when even carols I love would start to grate on my nerves.
Carols I love, since you asked, begin with “Good King Wenceslas.”
A beautiful narrative set to music, it opens with the good king looking out of his castle window and seeing a poor man trudging through the snow. He asks his page if he knows this man and the page says he does, he lives a good distance away and is probably foraging for firewood.
With that, Good King Wencelas swings into action, as the lyrics explain:

“Bring me flesh, and bring me wine,
bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I shall see him dine,
when we bear them thither. ”

Page and monarch, forth they went,
forth they went together;
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
and the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now,
and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how;
I can go no longer.”

“Mark my footsteps, good my page.
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod,
where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
which the saint had printed.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
shall yourselves find blessing.

I have yet to hear this song this year, except in my head, but rest assured I will be playing it aplenty.
Close behind on my list of favorite holiday tunes is the duet of Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing “Little Drummer Boy” interspersed with “Peace on Earth.” I heard this the very first time it was performed on a Bing Crosby Christmas special in 1977 and feel in love with it instantly.
What an odd combination it was to see the not just young, but wildly, let’s say “different” Bowie with the legendary crooner. I later read Bowie said he agreed to do it because “my mother loved him.”
Bowie, by the way, along with a few collaborators, wrote the “Peace on Earth” part of the song.
I won’t bore you with my entire list but I will mention two others.
First, the Johnny Mahis version of “What Child is This?” If I get to Heaven and God asks if I would like to sing in the Christmas program, I am going to answer, “Only if I can sing ‘What Child is This?’ exactly like Johnny Mathis.”
The second is a carol I know few of you have ever heard. “Out of the East,” written by Harry Noble is positively beautiful. You can find it on You Tube. No need to thank me, but I know you’ll want to.

Ed Ackerman