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Around the bend: Christmas tunes bring cheer – really

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen — sure, they’re the most popular baby names of 2012. But they’re also the names of the flying reindeer made famous in that classic Christmas poem — and song. I love that song.
Actually, I love all Christmas music, and I’ve already started listening. It feels like ages since I heard about wassailing, figgy pudding, French hens and other things that don’t really exist.
Usually I don’t like starting the holidays too early. I’m the first to complain in late July when stores break out their Christmas decorations. And this year, when I came across a showing of “The Grinch” three days before Thanksgiving, I swore it was a sure sign of the apocalypse.
But last Sunday I was reminded of how much joy I get from holiday music. I was returning from Burlington with a carful of friends in an SUV, and we spontaneously broke out into Christmas songs. And, wow, were we good.
I don’t mean “good” in that we could carry a tune. Or sing in unison. Or even remember all the words. But you couldn’t beat our enthusiasm.
And I learned some things:
1.      When it comes to singing Christmas songs, singing on key is less important than singing with earnestness.
2.      It’s impossible to be grouchy when you are one of eight people singing a different part (or two) in the “The 12 Days of Christmas.” I killed “seven swans a-swimming,” if I do say so.
3.      When belting out “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” our group effort still couldn’t cover even half of Mariah Carey’s octave range. But we outdid her in volume.
Ever since that day, I’ve been playing Christmas music every chance I get. What a difference it’s made in my mood. This is one of only two times a year people are expected to be merry. It’s a piece of cake during the merry month of May. But at Christmas people are struggling with money worries, too little time and the self-imposed pressure to create — and enjoy — the perfect holiday. Thank goodness there are cookies to take the edge off.
Luckily, all it takes is the sound of bells, as in “Sleigh Ride,” to remind me that Santa is coming, and immediately I’m a kid again. How soothing to recall a December when I wasn’t pasting a holly jolly grin over my gritted teeth while mangling gingerbread men and searching fruitlessly for the Scotch tape (they aren’t kidding when they call it invisible).
I love all Christmas music: choral versions of true carols, rock and pop renditions, Celtic instrumentals, anything from “The Nutcracker Suite” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and AT&T hold music. I’m not fussy.
There are only a few songs I just can’t take. The repetition in “The Little Drummer Boy” wears me down as the weeks go by, so that by mid-December whenever it comes on I have to stick candy canes in my ears to block the sound. This draws stares when I’m in line at the drugstore, but it has saved me from more than one pa-rum-pa-pum-pum-induced seizure.
“All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” has that lisp that raises my holiday hackles, but not quite as fiercely as “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (although the Boston Pops version is lovely).
And I’m a little conflicted that one of my favorite songs, though not specifically a Christmas tune, is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” At first it sounds like a playful duet, but on closer inspection it’s downright sinister. A man repeatedly tries to coerce a woman not to leave, until she asks, “Say, what’s in this drink?” Fun fact: The original recording had an extra verse that included the words “restraining order.”
By and large, however, Christmas music is a crucial stress reliever; to me it means the difference between delighting in the energy of the holiday season, and laughing maniacally while chugging eggnog straight from the punchbowl.
So in the countdown to Dec. 25 I’ve got every device in the house and car tuned to holiday music, and I’m singing along with gusto. I feel great.
If you start to crack under the pressure this month, give it a try. And trust me: Musical talent is not required.
If you can’t sing well, sing loud.

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