During the holiday season, I love creating an atmosphere to celebrate. The décor in my house becomes festive, with baskets of red ornaments on the dining room table and a wreath on the front door. I bring out the pine needle and cinnamon candles as well. As someone who celebrates Christmas, the traditional stockings make an appearance on my mantle as well as a small nativity scene. The final piece in creating my holiday atmosphere, includes playing “All I Want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey on full blast. This song has become one of my favorite Christmas songs. My friends and I always get together for the holidays and sing at the top of our lungs, like Mariah Carey, but severely off-key. The song has become a tradition to play every year at my friend gatherings; it wouldn’t be the holidays to me, without it. Everywhere I hear it, in the grocery store, at the mall, or on the radio, I can’t help but smile.
Music has been a key role in holidays for centuries. Every genre of music has songs for the holidays, and some radio stations will only play holiday songs during the season. As a firm believer that music completes a holiday atmosphere, I wanted to know what songs others traditionally played around the holidays. As a student of a diverse school, I asked students at The Ohio State University what songs they traditionally played and why.
William Rouse relates his favorite holiday song to his family. He explains “I like the song Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives. I remember my dad playing his [Ives] Christmas album when I was really young.” Rouse spends most of his holiday season reconnecting with his family and nostalgic moments. “My favorite album is A Charlie Brown Christmas, though. We always play it our family holiday party so I guess that has a special meaning.” Rouse explains that although he is not the one to listen to holiday music on the radio, he has no problem hearing the music around his family as it is tradition in his household.
Not only is music associated with family gatherings, but also personal experiences. Melanie Tomal explains that her religious background shaped the holiday music she listens too. “My go to holiday song is Silent Night. I was in a private choir from 4th grade until I graduated high school, and we would sing all three versions of Silent Night to end the concerts. So to me, it screams Christmas. It always was the song that kicked off the Christmas season. We normally sing it at Christmas mass every year too. It’s a song that they’ll play almost every year in some way; a reflective moment in between prayer, or during a slideshow or acting out the nativity story.” Tomal’s personal experience with the song helped her remember her childhood memories as she has always been able to relate Silent Night to those times.
Eric Leightmen combines his childhood and family memories, to his Jewish heritage. “My family really wanted me to understand the Jewish culture. I had to memorize many traditional Hanukkah blessings and poems but I didn’t particularly enjoy them. Honestly, I enjoyed being with my cousins on Hanukkah and playing Dreidel and singing the song. It’s a traditional song that goes with a game. It helped us learn Hebrew when we were children but we really played it to win the candy not to learn.” Leightmen explained that even though he is older he still plays Dreidel with his cousins, but now for money, not candy. “I can’t wait to teach my kids this game and song though. Whether or not I have my kids grow up Jewish, I’m going to teach them Dreidel anyways. It [song] was easy and fun.” Leightmen enjoys the light heartedness of the song rather than the religious connection. Kenzie Gallagher also had a similar approach to her favorite holiday song. “My favorite holiday song is Carol of the Bells by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I’ve heard Carol of the Bells performed by many other people, but I only like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version. I could listen to it on repeat and never get tired of it. I know it’s a Christmas song, but I like the way they play the music rather than the lyrics.” Leightmen and Gallagher both expressed that their song choices were based on the song themselves and the way they memorized the rhythm and pattern of the music.
Not only is the holiday season based on religious celebrations, but also a change in season and the new year approaching. Maddie Tork says her favorite songs during the holiday seasons are “Let it Snow” and “Frosty the Snowman”. “My favorite season is winter and I love the snow. I love snowball fights and making snow forts with my brothers. I love waking up Christmas morning with a blanket of snow on my front lawn. To me, the holidays mean winter. I don’t really like Christmas music, so I enjoy singing “Let it Snow” around this time of year. I watched Frosty the Snowman over Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer on T.V. as a kid.” Tork focuses her holidays on the season. Dion Manuel has a similar reaction. “I really like the song “The Christmas Song” because the line ‘Jack Frost nipping at your nose’ reminds me of walking to school in the winter. My nose would always be cold and only that line was always stuck in my head. Every time I hear that song and lyric I would go ‘yup, that’s true’.”
Whatever the reason may be, every holiday song is someone’s favorite. Every holiday song is able to complete the festive atmosphere. This holiday season, celebrate together, make memories together, and as a tradition, sing your favorite holiday song in your best Mariah Carey voice, together.