Written by Emily
Growing up, our house was overflowing with holiday spirit, which often meant ducking under sagging garlands — gluttonous and showy in their winter finery. I may have sustained a few scrapes from a rogue holly branch or two. But some surface wounds are totally worth it in the name of a Merry Christmas.
My mother wrapped the entire season with a bow and handed it to my brother and me. We met her enthusiasm and raised her by indulging whole-heartedly in the magic. I believed in Santa long after my friends did, long after my classmates assaulted me with the gross suggestion that the jolly fat man was a myth. I liked believing. I still like believing.
Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!–Sufjan Stevens
This is my happy song. I hear it, and I’m just a little girl decorating sugar cookies at my grandmother’s house. I’ve got one hand in sprinkles and another in glittery sugar. My eyes are getting heavy because the oven in her little half-double has been going for hours. It’s at least 80 degrees in there. My stomach is full from taste-testing. Everything is covered in batter and glistening with sugar…just like my memory.
It won’t be long until we’re bundled up in the backseat with blankets over us until the heat kicks in and we can’t take it. And then we’ll sleep.
The Little Drummer Boy–Bing Crosby and David Bowie
I love everything about this: the awkward banter that’s a nod to bizarre exchanges with family you haven’t seen in too long, the mix of old and new. It all works.
Isn’t Bing Crosby quintessential Christmas?
Silent Night All Day Long–John Prine
“As if Christmas was invented for you and for me.” That’s just how I felt at Christmas.
John Prine and I hold hands for my walks down memory lane, so when I discovered his Christmas songs I nearly imploded from emotional overload. When I listen to this song, the world turns the sepia color of old photographs.
Dzisiaj W Betlejem/Today in Bethlehem
After dinner at a table that stretched from the dining room into the living room; after waiting for what seemed like an eternity for my grandfather to call our names for our gifts; after wading through piles of wrapping paper, we walk in the cold to the church just two blocks away. It’s almost midnight. My tights are rolled at my ankles.
The church is warm and glowing. The pew is smooth under my hand. Leaning against my dad, I want nothing more than to close my eyes and wake to Santa’s treasures, but then the choir sings. There’s a woman whose voice is sharp. It’s someone’s grandmother up there. I don’t understand the words. But my dad is singing, too. I know because my head is moving up and down on his chest. The rest of my family shoulder to shoulder filling several pews, they sing–some know the words, some, like me, do not. I mouth along and let tradition wash over me. My eyes burn, but they’re open.
All I Want for Christmas is You–Mariah Carey
I can’t help it. I love this song. I love it. And when I hear it, I love Mariah Carey (for 3 minutes and 56 seconds–and for the 4 minutes and 17 seconds it takes her to sing Always be my Baby–dang it. But that’s a different tape.) Instead of Mariah’s video, though, I’m thinking about Love, Actually and the little concert that brings everyone together. Now I love everyone. *sigh* Christmas.
When Christmas rolls around, I’m little again. I’m walking to Midnight Mass with my whole family. I’m searching the skies. I’m listening for the bells. I’m falling in love. It’s so good.