Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

Baby, it’s cold outside

This weekend we finally carved out several hours to set up Christmas decorations, and I am not at all exaggerating when I refer to that time in hours. I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea to buy 25 boxes of round ornaments, or why I thought the tree would have enough branches to hold that many, but we hadn’t been hanging ornaments for thirty minutes before Leta announced she was bored. There were still 17 or 18 boxes of ornaments waiting patiently for a place on the tree, 17 or 18 boxes that I did not have the heart to send back up into that freezing attic space, and I suddenly remembered having this exact conversation with my own mother. I always got tired of helping her hang ornaments and would wander off to play with a box of Barbies, leaving her to do the bulk of the work. And since my mother was too generous to say what she was thinking, I went ahead told Leta what my mother should have said to me all those years: SUCK IT, KID.

You’re welcome, Mom.

We’d been watching episode after episode of Spongebob all morning, and as Jon twisted a section of the artificial tree into place (he’s allergic to real ones) he suggested I turn on some festive holiday music. And as I walked back to my computer to sift through our music collection I realized we don’t have much to choose from. In fact, in the years that Jon and I have been together we’ve purchased only one album of Christmas music, A Charlie Brown Christmas, which has to be the most depressing Christmas music of all time. If you weren’t on Prozac before you listened to that album, you’ll be begging your therapist for a prescription by song two. That little bald kid cannot catch a break, and the whole album sounds like someone just beat him up and stole his lunch money. If the album were a Christmas card it would say, “I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas despite my raging insecurities and social awkwardness.” Basically, a sentence out of my diary in college.

After doing a quick search on iTunes, I realized I had no idea what I was looking for. Because whatever we play during this season is going to form lasting memories for Leta. I can appreciate the classics by Nat King Cole and Dean Martin, but my most fond memories of Christmas are always to the soundtrack of a kooky Osmond Family holiday album, or Alvin and the Chipmunks. I want to find something as equally nutty because, come on. THIS HOLIDAY IS NUTTY. Think about it. We’re telling our four and five-year-olds that a fat man breaks into the house by sliding down the chimney. AND WE DON’T SHOOT HIM. We’re asking them to believe that deer can fly. Seriously. This is not much different than telling them that once a year millions of people across the world strip naked and hop into a bathtub full of mustard. Why? Because Christ was born!

Noel!

The one album I did find that looked interesting is called Merry Mixmas, basically all the holiday classics remixed by DJ’s in a thoroughly modern way. It’s fantastic, very catchy, and I downloaded the entire album from iTunes within minutes. But nutty it is not.

So I’m looking for suggestions, even though the answer may be to stick with The Chipmunks. Do you know of a Christmas album we should not live without?


  • katie

    Stan and Doug Yust Go Nuts at Christmas. My family had this record when I was a kid, and i LOVED it. and it is nuts, or at least it was to me when i was a kid. And even now, just thinking about it, I’d dying of laughter and wondering why the hell I don’t own it.

  • Mannhiem Steamroller Orhcestra is a classic. We have a few homemade CD’s that friends gave us and I don’t for the life of me know who signs what songs.

    Norman Rockwell: Favorite Christmas Songs–a good mix of artists.

    My mom use to make us all leave the house when she would do the tree–she’s a bit of a control freak and would never let 15 ornaments on one branch. She had a spot for everything.

  • Lindy

    John Fahey Christmas Guitar–instrumental, but amazing.

  • Molly

    Stephen Colbert’s “A Colbert Christmas” has really kept me in a good mood this year. My two favorites off this album are “Another Christmas Song” and “There Are Worse Things to Believe In.”

    Lots of people have mentioned Sufjan’s Christmas music. It’s beautiful and just the right mix between traditional and non-traditional. I love it!

    Putamayo’s Christmas albums are really fun, too.

  • Shellie

    The Bare Naked Ladies have a great holiday cd. Although, when I heard my 5 year old say “lets listen to the naked ladies song” I stopped in my tracks for a second.

    Anyway – it is equal parts good and nutty.

  • Kerri

    gene autry — in honor of your southern roots, “when santa claus gets your letter” can’t be beat

    and mitch miller’s holiday sing-a-long

    http://music.barnesandnoble.com/search/product.asp?r=1&EAN=74646597323&ourl=Holiday-Sing-Along-with-Mitch-Miller%2FMitch-Miller-the-Sing-Along-Gang

    “must be santa” = best christmas song ever

  • I agree with many above, John Denver and the Muppets deserves a place in any crazy but kid friendly holiday rotation. Somehow Kermit’s voice singing carols burns a hole in your permanent memory of the holidays!

  • Three that I love this year:

    This Warm December : Brushfire records artist compilation.
    Winter Songs : Hotel Cafe artist compilation.
    Snow Angels: Over the Rhine (also pick up their album Ohio for the rest of the year)

    This one proved a good album for the past two years:
    Barenaked for the Holidays : Barenaked Ladies

  • Laird Nelson

    64 comments and not ONE reference to Christmas with Conniff?

    http://tinyurl.com/5zvy5r

    Featuring the lyric:

    Just a sprinkle of reindeer dust
    A sprig of mistletoe
    And the sound of his laughter
    As he flies above the snow

    (from Christmas Bride)

    Oh, and:

    What is the meaning of Christmas?
    It is the celebration
    Of the birth of the
    Christ Child
    {bong}
    This we must never forget
    O this we must never forget
    {pause}
    But there are other little things too

    …straight on into an ode to Santa Claus. Go 1950s materialism!

    The women sing in the left speaker; the men in the right. Delicious cheese-o-rama reverb everywhere. Chuck will love it.

  • lpp

    John Denver and the Muppets…. you will laugh, cry and then play it all over again

  • Christmas in Hollis – Run DMC

    🙂

  • Becky

    SUFJAN STEVENS.
    You won’t regret it.
    Do it do it do it do it.
    (it’s the only christmas album I have and I LOVE IT)

  • Another vote for John Denver & the Muppets.

  • Meegan

    I’m fond of the Home Alone soundtrack and any of Robert Goulet’s christmas albums.

    (Sidenote: I witnessed Robert Goulet sing “Happy Birthday” at full booming volume to an old lady in a Thai restaurant once and I’ve loved him ever since. RIP Mr. Goulet)

  • I’ve found the “NOW! That’s What I Call Christmas!” mixes to be pretty good. I have the first 3, and they just released a new one this year. They have the Dean Martin/Perry Como/Frank Sinatra favorites in addition to Burl Ives singing songs from those terrible claymation Christmas movies and pop stars reinventing the traditional songs. I even have “You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch.”

    (I also tend to really like South Park’s “Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics,” but she’s probably still a bit young for that)

  • Elizabeth

    This has probably been said, but for Kooky, I would have to recommend Dr. Dimento’s Christmas album, it has all the classic kooky songs. But I’m also quite fond of The Muppets Christmas carol and some random Disney Christmas album I had as a kid. At least once in each album the muppets/disney characters go completely bonkers and their laughing/crashing/screaming totally drowns out the carol that is playing. Classic.

  • Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass’s Christmas Album. TRUST.

  • Heather

    -Sufjan Stevens;
    -Motown Christmas;
    -Nicole C Mullens Christmas in Black and White (some great kids sing and dance along songs)
    -Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas CD is melancholy but lovely.

  • I know others have already suggested this, but my husband and I both grew up with and love John Denver and the Muppets’ Christmas album. There are some great nutty moments as well as some beautiful and poignant songs. To me, it’s not Christmas without this album. And to my husband, it’s not Christmas without a real tree… unfortunate for me, since (like Jon) I am allergic to them. 😛

  • My family insists that it’s nutty – but I’m not sure it’s exactly what you’re looking for. My very favorite Christmas album is A Christmas Album by Amy Grant (recorded in 1983). I hate the one part where she yells “Yoo Hoo” on Sleigh Ride, but I love the rest of it.

    Then again, my iPod is full of such ridiculousness that no one ever wants to listen to it but me. Except my eight year old brother. He always wants to hear Mississipi Squirrel Revival and the Devil Went Down to Georgia. Kookiness runs in my family, I suppose.

  • 1. The Chipmunks are a timeless classic. Yesterday, Today, Forever!
    2. I second, third, forth and fifth comments for: John Denver and The Muppets.
    3. Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family.” Because that song IS my ex-husband’s family. God love ’em.

  • Sheila

    Not sure if you’re willing to do this yourself, but I just gather all my favorite Christmas songs and make my own CD. Some of my favorites:

    1. Wham! / Last Christmas
    2. Waitresses / Christmas Wrapping
    3. Band-Aid / Do They Know It’s Christmas
    4. U2’s (also Death Cab covers it) / Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
    5. Madonna / Santa Baby
    6. Rufus Wainwright / Spotlight on Christmas
    7. No Doubt / Oi to the World

    I can go on and on…

  • tracy

    my faves: A Rat Pack Christmas, Ray Charles’ Christmas album (can’t remember the title), Transiberian Orchastra & Manheim Steamroller, Chipmunks (have to buy this one still), Time Life Christmas collection has all the classics (just don’t order it through Time-Life or they’ll ever stop calling you), Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Elvis, and of course, Harry Connick Jr.

  • Diane

    What about the sountrack from Love Actually? We always watch that movie around Christmas time and it is plenty quirky at times. Some good/some silly music in that movie. Another good one is A Very Special Christmas, Vol. 2!

  • Red

    HOLY BALLS, has no one listed the Grinch Original Movie Soundtrack?? Ben Folds, the Eels, and Smash Mouth grace the album, and it’s pretty awesome.

    Also, Crystal Lewis who is some sort of PROTESTANT 🙂 has a kick-ass funky jazz album called Holiday! that will make you shake your butt all over the house. At least, that’s what I do. Naked. And alone. Maybe not the best for families, then…

  • Tara

    I second the reco for BONEY M. It is just not xmas without it.

  • jenn

    def. sufjan stevens

    have yourself a very indie christmas

    song titles?
    all that i want – the weepies
    sister winter – sufjan stevens
    only at christmas time – sufjan stevens
    the christmas song- the raveonettes
    christmas song – mogwai
    have yourself a merry little christmas – coldplay
    christmas is going to the dogs – eels
    this christmas – loius xiv
    no christmas while i’m talkin – the walkmen
    christmas at the zoo – flaming lips
    baby please come home – deathcab for cutie
    do you hear what i hear? – copeland
    maybe this christmas – ron sexsmith
    blue christmas – bright eyes
    25th december – everything but the girl
    **the first song- band of horses** best ever!

    i dont know, i’m tired of typing.. i made a playlist on playlist.com of the seriously most kickass christmas music..

    http://www.playlist.com/staygolden

    brian setzer has some good chrimmus tunes also.

  • Jen

    The nutty stuff my family listened to while decorating the tree were:

    Alvin and the Chipmunks holiday album
    PacMan Holiday album (don’t ask)
    Some Sesame Street album. It wasn’t a holiday album but I do remember it had the rubber ducky song.

  • Stacie

    1 word: Pandora

  • Francine Clement

    McGarrigle sisters Christmas Hour (or a title resembling that). With a few songs by Rufus and Martha Wainwright. Beautiful music.

  • I am allergic to Christmas music. They start playing it so damn early that by the time it’s actually Christmas, I’m ready to gouge my own eyes out at the mere mention of the next greatest celebrity crooning some old classic. I say that you should make the impressionable Leta stand out in a crowd in her later years. Make her Christmas soundtrack something original… how about The Pouges? “Fantasy of New York should be everyone’s holiday favorite!!!!

  • Cassie

    The first holiday cd we listen to every year is Neil Diamond’s Christmas. Mostly because every year my husband says “A Jewish man singing Christmas songs… that’s awesome” Every. Year.

    My fav Christmas music is Jon Schmidt’s Christmas cd. It makes me all happy inside.

  • Reid

    Not so crazy… but I LOVE LOVE LOVE me some Bing Crosby over the holidays (think Big Crosby’s White Christmas)… a fun album for Leta would be Target’s “All Wrapped Up!” album that features Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, the Jonas Brothers, etc. singing holiday songs. It’s good stuff!

  • Weird Al, who is probably on the Dr. Demento compilations: The Night Santa Went Crazy and Christmas at Ground Zero 🙂

  • Either of the Alligator Records Christmas collections
    Only seasonal music you’ll ever need,and yes- the grownups will like it too

  • Anonymous

    Sesame Street Christmas. Bert and Ernie’s version of A Gift of the Magi and Oscar’s “I Hate Christmas” are two of the memories that I have from hanging those ornaments as a kid.

    And another vote for John Denver and the Muppets.

    Put these two albums together and you have muppet delight for hours.

  • A

    Christmas with Willie Nelson. My mom has the record and we still listen to it. To hear the twang in “Pretty paper” – it’s priceless. I’m not a huge country music fan, but it just isn’t Christmas without Mr. Nelson.

  • kellyS

    Can’t think of any but the classics either. And few of them appeal. There was a mix done with Annie Lennox a few years ago that I like.

    however,
    your story of mustard made me think of Bill Hicks and his comment on xmas as a hilarious concept. He mentioned a kid saying to his mom “the goldfish jumped out of the bowl and put a lincoln log in his sock drawer–and his mom saying that is the story of christmas!”

  • Karo

    I love any Bob Rivers Christmas album… here’s one that has the angel song, one of the best.

  • Susan

    Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a John Denver fan. That being said, my all-time favorite Christmas album (and that of my entire family) is John Denver & The Muppets – A Christmas Together. Growing up, my parents had the album (vinyl – gasp!) and we listened to it SO MANY times. It eventually developed a scratch, causing it to skip during one of the songs and today, when I listen to it on CD, I still anticipate that skip.

  • April

    Go to WOXY.com or SOMAFM.com and listed to their streaming Christmas radio.

    I have all the “classics”, but these stations give me Sufjan, Calexico, Arcade Fire, Mogwai, and other non-traditional Christmas tunes without having to buy five million albums. It’s like a free, never-ending Christmas mix of awesome.

  • I recommend checking out Esquivel’s Christmas album, “Merry Xmas From the Space-Age Bachelor Pad.”

    http://www.amazon.com/Merry-Xmas-Space-Age-Bachelor-Pad/dp/B0000048EZ/

    All the “zips” and “zoo-ahs” are great!

  • ecs
  • Beth

    Two suggestions: The Roches We Three Kings http://www.roches.com/discography/wethreekings.html (odd yet beautiful renderings of some traditional Christmas music)

    Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, American Noel http://www.signaturesounds.com/onlinestore/moreinfo.cfm?Product_ID=351&CFID=2880125&CFTOKEN=76567123 or http://www.tracygrammer.com/html/merch.html
    A couple traditional songs, but some written by Dave Carter, an amazing songwriter. How could you miss with “giddyup said Santa Claus, Dasher get your mittens ’cause it’s getting mighty cold outside”?!

  • It’s not nutty, but I love the Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas albums, and my two-year-old is having a fantastic time bouncing around the house to them.

    I actually need to find myself a Boston Pops Christmas album, because it is the music that reminds me of decorating and baking when I was a kid.

  • So they aren’t nutty, but a fun blend of music:
    Any of the “A Very Special Christmas” CDs, I think they have upwards of 10 volumes now? My favorite one which I had on cassette and have since made into a CD was A Very Special Christmas Volume 4. Don’t ask me why. Just is.

  • Seriously, the Sufjan Stevens one is fantastic and even a touch nutty. Also, I don’t think it’s out on CD but I really love A Muppet Christmas Carol. It’s really brilliant. Also, the Home Alone 2 soundtrack. Not 1. 2. Lost in New York. Way better than the first one.

  • Ajah

    Our family cannot make it through the holidays without John Denver & the Muppets Muppet Christmas….the best

  • My family and I have been listening to the Sesame Street Christmas (try to get your hands on the 1975 Elmo-free version) – it has rap, salsa, and two nerdy little plays involving Bert and Ernie where they end up singing xmas songs, plus a sesame-ized version of 12 Days of Christmas, so Leta might just like it, too.
    That said, Nat King Cole is a must in our house, but I’d recommend anything with Ella and/or Louis Armstrong if you don’t hate them because that’s good stuff.

  • OK, I’m too lazy to sift through the comments to see if you got this one already, so here’s my suggestion: The Muppet’s Christmas with John Denver. My girls LOVE it! I will say that they skip past the sappy Denver songs, and only listen to the ones sung by or with Muppets, so given a chance to do it over, I’d only download those songs.