Holiday Music

I did this post last year. It is still applicable this year, so I feel like repeating it.

During this time of year, we are normally innudated with Christmas music. Now, if you happen to like Christmas music, that’s great. If you don’t (or if you’re not Christian), turning on the radio on December 1st is a moment you dread. Yet, this post is about Christmas (and holiday) music… specifically, the kind of music that you do not hear on the radio.

The question: What are your three favorite holiday songs or recordings that do not get commercial airplay or publicity? Provide the lyrics if you can (behind a cut)

Here are mine:

1. Christmas Dinner (Noel Paul Stookey 1969)
Although I’m not Christian, to me, this song embodies what I feel should be the spirit of the holiday. Alas, perhaps for that reason, I’ve never heard it played commercially.
[Originally recorded on the album Peter, Paul, and Mommy]

And it came to pass on a Christmas evening
While all the doors were shuttered tight
Outside standing, a lonely boy-child
Cold and shivering in the night.

On the street every window
Save but one was gleaming bright
And to this window walked the boy-child
Peeking in saw candlelight.

Through other windows he had looked at turkeys
And ducks and geese and cherry pies
But through this window saw a gray-haired lady
Table bare and tears in her eyes.

Into his coat reached the boy-child
Knowing well there was little there
He took from his pocket his own Christmas dinner
A bit of cheese, some bread to share.

His outstretched hands held the food and they trembled
As the door it opened wide
Said he “Would you share with me Christmas dinner?”
And gently said she “Come inside.”

The gray-haired lady brought forth to the table
Some glasses to their last drop of wine
Said she “Here’s a toast to everyone’s Christmas,
And especially yours and mine!”

And it came to pass on that Christmas evening
While all the doors were shuttered tight
That in that town the happiest Christmas
Was shared by candlelight.

2. Light One Candle (Peter Yarrow 1983)
This song, to me, really captures the true spirit of the holiday in a manner that is contemporary.
[Recorded on a number albums, sometimes insipidly (especially the NFTY version), but the best version is on the album No Easy Walk To Freedom by Peter, Paul, and Mary.]

Light one candle for the Maccabee children
With thanks that their light didn’t die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker’s time is at hand

Don’t let the light go out!
It’s lasted for so many years!
Don’t let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears.

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts


What is the memory that’s valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What’s the commitment to those who have died
That we cry out they’ve not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise
This is why we will not fail!


Don’t let the light go out!
Don’t let the light go out!
Don’t let the light go out!

3. Green Chri$tma$ (Stan Freberg 1956).
Remember how I said that Christmas Dinner expressed what the spirit of Christmas should be (as I understand it). Alas, this song captures best how Christmas is actually practiced today. A good song, in a similar vein, by the Austin Lounge Lizards (with animation even) is “It’s Always Christmas Time (For Visa)“.
[Available on The Very Best of Stan Freberg]

SCROOGE: (SINGING) Bah, humbug, everybody.
CHORUS: Good morning, Mr. Scrooge!
SCROOGE: Well, the meeting will come to order, if you please. Are all the advertising people represented here?
CHORUS: Everyone except Amalgamated Cheese!

SCROOGE: Well, if they’re not here for the Christmas pitch, I can’t help them find new ways of tying their product in to Christmas. That’s why I’m chairman of this board! Let’s hear it for me!
CHORUS: Hear, hear!
SCROOGE: All right, Abercrombie, what are your people up to?
ABERCROMBIE: Ahhh, same thing as every year. Fifty thousand billboards showing Santa Claus pausing to refresh himself with our product.
SCROOGE: Mmmmm, hmmm, well, I think the public has come to expect that and . . .
ABERCROMBIE: That’s right. It’s become tradition!
SCROOGE: You there, Crass, uhh, I suppose your company’s running the usual magazine ads showing cartons of your cigarettes peeking out of the top of Santa’s sack?
CRASS: Better than that! This year we have him smoking one.
SCROOGE: Um-hmmm…
CRASS: Yes. We’ve got Santa a little more rugged, too. Both sleeves rolled up and a tattoo on each arm. One of ’em says “Merry Christmas.”
SCROOGE: What does the other one say?
CRASS: “Less tar!”
SCROOGE: Great stuff!
CRATCHET: But Mr.Scrooge…
SCROOGE: What? Who are you?
CRATCHET: Bob Cratchet, sir. I’ve got a little spice company over in East Orange, New Jersey. Do I have to tie my product in to Christmas?
SCROOGE: What do you mean?
CRATCHET: Well, I was just going to send cards out showing the three wise men following the Star of Bethlehem…
SCROOGE: I get it! And they’re bearing your spices. Now that’s perfect.
CRATCHET: No, no… no product in it. I was just going to say, “Peace on Earth… Good Will Toward Men.”
MAN: Well, that’s a peculiar slogan!
SCROOGE: Old hat, Cratchet! That went out with button shoes! You’re a businessman . . . Christmas is something to take advantage of!
SCROOGE: A red and green bandwagon to jump on!
SCROOGE: A sentimental shot in the arm for sales! Listen!

CHORUS: Deck the halls with advertising,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
While you can be enterprising,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
On the fourth day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me
Four bars of soap,
Three cans of peas,
Two breakfast foods,
And some toothpaste on a pear tree!
On the fifth day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me. . .

SCROOGE: Five tube-less tires!
CHORUS: Fo-ur quarts of gin,
Three ci-gars,
Two cig-ar-ettes,
And some hair tonic on a pear tree!

Chest-nuts roasting. . .
ANNOUNCER: Sayyyy, Mother, as sure as there’s an X in Christmas, you can be sure those are Tiny Tim Chestnuts roasting. Tin-y Tim Chestnuts are full-bodied . . . longer lasting! This visible shell . . .
ANNOUNCER: …protects the nut! Now with X-K 29 added, for people who can’t roast after every meal.
GIRL TRIO: Tin-ee Tim! Tin-ee Tim! Chest-nuts all the way!
ANNOUNCER: Tin-y Tim’s roast hot… like a chestnut ought! And.. . they are
(ECHO) mild, mild, mild, mild.

CHORUS: Deck the halls with advertising,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
‘Tis the time for merchandising,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Profit never needs a reason,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Get the money, it’s the season,
Fa la la la la la la la la.

SCROOGE: Words to live by, Cratchet!
CRATCHET: For you, maybe. Can’t you just wish someone merry Christmas, for the pure joy of doing it?
SCROOGE: Why? What’s the percentage in that? Let me show you how to make Christmas work for you!

CHORUS: We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
And please buy our beer!

SCROOGE: There you go, Cratchet! That’s Christmas with a purpose.
CRATCHET: I know, but wait a minute. Don’t you guys make enough profit the other eleven months? Christmas comes but once a year.
SCROOGE: Humph! Funny thing you should bring that up. That’s exactly the point I was about to make. Hit it, boys!

SCROOGE: Christmas comes but once a year,
So you better make hay while the snow is falling,
That’s opportunity calling you!

CHORUS: Rub your hands, December’s here,
What a wonderful time to be Glad and merry!

SCROOGE: Just so you’re mercenary too!
CHORUS: Buy an ad and show all the toys,
Show all the toys up on the shelf

SCROOGE: Just make sure that you get a plug,
You get a plug, In for yourself!

Christmas comes but once a year,
So you better cash in,
While the spirit lingers,
It’s slipping through your fingers,
Boy! Don’t you realize
Christmas can be such a
Monetary joy!

CRATCHET: Well, I guess you fellows will never change.
SCROOGE: Why should we? Christmas has two s’s in it, and they’re both dollar signs.
CRATCHET: Yeah, but they weren’t there to begin with.
CRATCHET: The people keep hoping you’ll remember. But you never do.
SCROOGE: Remember what?

CRATCHET: Whose birthday we’re celebrating.
SCROOGE: Well, ……. don’t get me wrong. The story of Christmas, in its simplicity, is a good thing – I’ll buy that. It’s just that we know a good thing when we see it.
CRATCHET: But don’t you realize Christmas has a significance, a meaning.
SCROOGE: A sales curve! Wake up, Cratchet, it’s later than you think.
CRATCHET: I know, Mr. Scrooge, I know.
CHORUS: On the first day of Christmas,
The advertising’s there, with
Newspaper ads,
Billboards too,
Business Christmas cards,
And commercials on a pear tree. . .
Jingles here, jingles there,
Jingles all the way.
Dashing through the snow,
In a fifty-foot coup-e
O’er the fields we go,
Selling all the way. . .
Deck the halls with advertising,
What’s the use of compromising,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


So, what are your choices?