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?


  • Album? No. But here’s the playlist I put together for my holiday party. You’ll find some fun & funky stuff in there:
    God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/ We Three Kings (Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlin)
    Santa Baby (Eartha Kitt)
    Winter Wonderland (Eurythmics)
    Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) U2
    Carol of the Bells (Manheim Steamroller)
    Let it Snow (Michael Bluble)
    The Christmas Song (Vince Guaraldi Trio)
    Sleigh Ride (Ella Fitzgerald)
    Angels We Have Heard on High (Reliant K)
    The First Noel (Josh Groban & Faith Hill)
    This Christmas (Chris Brown)
    Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies (Harry Connick Jr)
    Feels Like Christmas (Al Green)
    All That I Want (The Weepies)
    Gabriel’s Message (Sting)
    What Child is This (Alison Krauss)
    Frosty the Snowman (Cocteau Twins)
    Carol of the Bells (The Bird and The Bee)
    Little Drummer Boy (The Dandy Warhols)
    Mr. Heatmiser (Big Bad Voodoo Daddy)
    Last Christmas (Jimmy Eat World)
    O Holy Night (DeNetria Champ)
    Happy Xmas (War is Over) (John Lennon)
    Father Christmas (The Kinks)
    Let it Snow (The Brian Setzer Orchestra)
    Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (Mary J. Blige & Sheryl Crow)
    It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas (Harry Connick Jr)
    Angels We Have Heard on High (Josh Groban & Brian McKnight)
    Handel’s Messiah (Reliant K)
    Boogie Woogie Santa Claus (The Brian Setzer Orchestra)
    Merry Christmas Baby (Aaron Neville)
    Santa Claus is Back in Town (My Morning Jacket)
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (Martha Wainwright)
    Holly Jolly Christmas (The Format)
    Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Local H)
    I Believe in Father Christmas (Emerson Lake & Palmer)
    Santa Baby (Everclear)
    Silver Bells (Reliant K)
    ‘Zat You Santa Claus (Louis Armstrong)

  • http://falalalala.com/ — free holiday mp3s from old vinyl records, lovingly restored by the blogger, who does a sort of Advent calendar of free music every December. You can download past collections, for free, too!

  • Anonymous

    For good sappy Christmas music, I loved the Carpenters. They had a couple of Christmas albums released. Or how about Phil Spector’s Christmas Album? It’s got Darlene Love singing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” — one of my favorites

  • Angela

    Jimmy Buffett’s Christmas album. With lyrics like “HO HO HO and a bottle of rum, Santa’s run of to the Carribean” you can’t go wrong!

  • jaja

    In case the Boney M album isn’t your style (but how could it not be? It’s awesome!) Here’s some other songs you may or may not know:

    Badly Drawn Boy – Donna and Blitzen (lovely)
    Payolas – Christmas is Coming
    Band-Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas (a classic)
    Raveonettes – Christmas Song (very pretty)
    Billy Squier – Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You
    Ramones – Merry Christmas (I don’t want to fight tonight)
    the Pogues – Fairytale of New York
    Sting – Gabriel’s Message (that voice!)
    Joni Mitchell – River (too sad?)
    Dave Matthews Band – Christmas Song (also kind of a downer)
    Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody
    Tom Waits – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis (amusing)
    The Darkness – Christmas Time

  • I have to agree with another commenter that “A Rat Pack Christmas” is excellent, but you must also try Merry Axemas. It is all Christmas, all guitar, all wonderful. I think there are two or three editions out now an they’re great!

  • Johnny Mathis is THE classic holiday music in my family. His version of Carol of the Bells is gorgeous, I could listen to just that track on repeat for many hours.

    The Carpenter’s christmas album is also a family staple.

    Also highly recommended is Dan Fogelberg’s holiday album “First Christmas Morning” – original songs mostly, very classical sounding and beautiful.

  • Oh man… I am going to spend $6,000 on itunes when I get home from work thanks to the comments on here!

  • Jen

    Christmas Comedy Classics vol. 2
    Yah Das Ist Ein Christmas Tree by Mel Blanc
    Christmas at Ground Zero (pre 9-11) by Weird Al
    The Twelve Days of Christmas by Bob and Doug McKenzie…but instead of a partridge in a pear tree, the first day’s gift is a beer.

    Classic.

  • Jenny K

    I too, was going to suggest Sufjan Stevens’ album, but it looks like a few people beat me to it. It’s great, as is all of his stuff.

    Then I saw the New Kids on the Block suggestion and to that i say: DO IT! NOW!

  • Margie

    John Denver and the Muppetts… Got started on that when my kid was little . .

    Johnny Mathis and Elvis Xmas albums . . Grew up with them

    Josh Groban – Noel . . I LOVE his voice.

  • Valerie

    Mercy Me – yes, they are a Christian Rock band but they do fabulous rock-tinged interpretations of classic Christmas songs (including a great version of Christmastime is Here from A Charlie Brown Christmas).

    And of course, the Muppets with John Denver.

  • Jane Williams

    Every Christmas we must break out the Elvis Christmas album. Last year we had moved everything to our computer and for whatever lame ass reason I didn’t download it and I stopped Christmas until it was found. It’s just a great one from the king himself. Enjoy!

  • Wow, the girl is from Memphis and there’s no mention of Elvis? His version of Silver Bells brought me to tears while Christmas baking last weekend! I never feel like it’s Christmas until I’ve heard his Merry Christmas Baby & Blue Christmas. Always the crowd favourite at my house growing up – my mom & older sister are huge fans.

    But my new favourite is Christmas with Dino by Dean Martin which my mom gave me last year but we didn’t listen to until this weekend – so much more than just Baby It’s Cold Outside! I also second Sarah Mclachlan’s Winter Songs. And Madeline Peyroux’s album Half the Perfect World isn’t entirely Christmas, but it has a Christmas-y feel. And she does do Greensleeves.

    I usually load up my iPod and hook it up to the speakers for the annual company Christmas party, so I’m always looking for ‘cool’ and not-so-Christmasy Christmas music. I’ll be checking out some of these suggestions, as well!

  • Maria

    I have to jump on the John Denver & the Muppets A Christmas Together. We had this on a record when I was growing up and my mom rationed the number of times we were allowed to listen to it because my three sisters and I LOVED it and my Mom LOATHED it. Somewhere along the line I found it on a cassette tape and gave it to her as a joke. I’m pretty sure it was broken within minutes.

  • Cybil

    Squirrel nut zippers X-mas album is a real treat.

  • Apparently the Christmas season starts the day after Halloween. Just about anything by Manheim Steamroller is good.

  • Jen

    I second (third, fourth, whatever) “I Wanna Hippopotamus for Christmas”. I also like the Muppet Christmas movie soundtracks. “Emmett Otter”, “Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Muppet Family Christmas” are favorites, with songs ranging from silly to serious.

    When I was little we always used to listen to the Chipmunks too… and I still have the record. Now all we need is a turntable!

  • Haven’t found an entire nutty album. But, do have one very nutty song that is a staple in my house during Christmastime….are you ready?

    “I farted on Santa’s lap”…that’s the title of the song! Funny stuff, the kids love it.

    Here’s a link to my blog post about this yuletide carol!!!

    http://bullockpartyof5.blogspot.com/2008/12/christmas-is-gonna-stink-for-me.html

  • Lori

    The Muppets with John Denver, hands down the best Christmas memory-maker.

  • Terroni

    On a sort of (which is to say, not really) related note…are you familiar with David Sedaris’ 6 to 8 Black Men? If not, you must go find this reading for yourself. Immediately.

  • Amanda

    “The Polar Express” soundtrack is really fun, and has some peppy, wacky songs (Hot Chocolate).
    Love it.

  • Andrea

    BareNaked for the Holidays from BareNaked Ladies!

  • Karo

    Oh, I meant to add that it might be more of an adult album than for the kiddies…

  • We listen to Roger Whittaker’s Christmas album. If you google him, you’ll find to his credits that not only is he probably the hokiest person I have ever beheld, but he is also an avid “whistler”. Sounds like Christmas to me.

    http://www.rogerwhittaker.com/

  • Kate

    Click on pandora.com and create your own streaming holiday mix. It’s free and it’s fabulous.

  • During college, I had a short stint working at Dillards and had to listen to the Chipmunks Christmas Album all day long for 3 months straight. I felt like I was going absolutely mental and besides the fact that it sucks to peddle bedding and towels, it’s fair to say I quit solely because of that album.

    Aside from that… I’m partial to Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, which I realize makes me sound like a total geriatric, but I grew up listening to it on vinyl every year, and it wouldn’t feel like Christmas without him crooning in the background.

    That said, I’m definitely going to have to check out Sufjan Stevens. :_

  • M.R.

    I really like John Denver’s Rocky Mountain Christmas.

  • Emily

    Mannheim Steamroller!! Maybe it sounds a little 80s, but it is the ideal background Christmas music (for tree-decorating, cookie-baking, drowning out childrens’ yelling, etc.).

  • Not nutty, but Sarah Mclachlan’s Christmas album is lovely, as is anything by Harry Connick, jr. Of course, that’s just because he evokes the good ole days and all of the classic rat pack stuff. I never liked Charlie Brown.

    And, if you don’t have the Chipmunks album from the recent movie, there’s always that. It’s playing on a continuous loop in our car right now and includes some non-christmas nuttiness; like my personal favorite – Funkytown. Yeah, watch Leta pronounce that! C’mon, it’ll be fun.

  • Shelly

    I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of Hawksley Workman, but he’s a Canadian musician who’s pretty well-known for his well-written lyrics, stage presense and quirkiness. From what I’ve read you’re into good music and, well, I think you’d like Mr. Workman.

    His Christmas album is called “Almost A Full Moon” – it’s funny, just the right amount of Holiday-ish without being unlistenable and it’s awesome – and REALLY fun to sing along too.

    http://www.hawksleyworkman.com/music/discography/cd/HW_AlbumDetails.aspx?albumid=984bcc81-13b2-4944-b1c4-850c1c80abce

  • Meredith

    Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas! Also, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller stuff is entertaining.

  • Melissa

    How in the world did I not know that Over the Rhine had a Christmas album? Thank you, commenters!

  • http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/keen-robert-earl/merry-christmas-from-the-family-11767.html
    Robert Earl Keen
    Merry Christmas from the family- I know you will appreciate it.

  • Heather

    John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain Christmas.” This IS Christmas for me.

    Lessee. On my mixed CD:

    “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” from “The Nightmare before Christmas”
    Bob and Doug McKenzie’s “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Because everyone deserves a beer in a tree.
    “Step into Christmas,” Elton John
    The one by Band Aid. Transports me to high school every time.
    Bruce Springsteen, “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”
    Paul McCartney, “Wonderful Christmas Time”
    John Lennon, “So This is Christmas”
    Adam Sandler, “The Hanukkah Song”

    Anything by Diana Krall. And I LURVE the Charlie Brown Christmas. But only half of it.

  • leah

    i have to echo the jingle cats sentiment. that’s a quirky family tradition i’ve loved since i was a fourth-grader. i’m sure by now (15-ish years later) my parents would love to retire the album, but secretly they love it just as much as my brother and i do. 🙂 the music is actually pretty good, even if you don’t dig the meowing.

    seriously . . . jingle cats- meowy christmas. you’ll thank us later.

  • EmilyG

    I have to say my favorites as a kid were the Holiday Singalong with Mitch Miller and even nuttier, Once Upon a Christmas by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. I still like them now, sometimes you just need cheesy holiday music!

    p.s.-does Leta have the Free to Be, You and Me cd yet? I hope so!

  • I am 31 years old and to this day, the album I treasure the most from my childhood is “John Denver & The Muppets – A Christmas Together.” I cannot remember a Christmas where my mother was not playing that record as we put up the tree. I would sit in the dark looking at the lit tree and listen to the album. Of course, nowadays I have switched to the ipod version…(although I sometimes miss the vinyl scratchy sound). You should have this for Christmas. For sure.

  • Linny

    A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector is the BEST Christmas album ever. And let’s face it, Phil Spector is more than a little nutty…

  • I vote for Acid Christmas. Similar to what you were saying, remixes of the classics, but its really fun. We bought it way back in college so I’m not even sure where to find it, but if you do I’d definitely get it.

  • Josh Groban, Mannheim Steamroller, and one weird corny old-fashioned one!

  • erin6464

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue2Cvr8p-3k

    Gayla Peevey

    I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

  • Boney M. nothing like the 1978 song “Mary’s Boy Child” to shake your groove thang too.

  • Boney M. nothing like the 1978 song “Mary’s Boy Child” to shake your groove thang too.

  • nikwit

    My favorites growing up were my Mom’s Barbara Streisand Christmas album (amazing jazzed-up renditions of “Jingle Bells,” “My Favorite Things,” and my personal favorite “I Wonder as I Wander”) and her Julie Andrews Christmas Album (also amazing if a little more traditional-sounding!)! I think both are from the ’70’s. Maybe you could find them on e-bay? I actually made tape recordings of those so I could have them with me after I left home. Now I don’t have a functioning tape player so those tapes are just sitting around deteriorating.

    Just fair warning, some folks may have an adverse reaction to Barbara Streisand singing Christmas songs, like one of my Catholic friends – “Why is SHE singing Christmas songs? She’s Jewish!” I’d never thought of that before, because, well, being Unitarian lots of people could ask the same question of me. Hey, if you’re going to have the majority religion and make everyone celebrate it, guess what, everyone’s going to celebrate it for what it may mean to them, not necessarily what it means to you. Deal with it. Still the best Christmas album I ever ever listened to. Sung by a Jewish lady. Yeah!!

  • Jen

    Another vote for the Phil Spector Christmas album. It used to be really hard to find, but I think that may have been before the internet happened.

    Not only is this album fun and interesting and ballsy, but it manages to not seem to contrived or packaged, I think because it is a bit nutty in parts. It’s a hit!

  • A Very Special Xmas from MTV features many 80s stars. I also like the single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. Gotta love Duran Duran.

  • Pearl

    moe. >> seasons greetings from moe.
    Linus and Lucy
    We’re a couple of misfits
    the worlds best!! Carol of the bells
    and a few originals

    Check it out at moe.org

  • Robert Boner

    Why waste money on a Christmas CD that you will listen to once a year?

    Turn on DirecTV and go to the holiday channel and listen to the crap they play.

  • Linda_M

    John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together