Some Christmas songs just hit you like wham

I’m one of those folks who gets irritated when they see Christmas decorations in early November or hear Christmas songs on the radio weeks before Thanksgiving — especially those stations that switch to an all-Christmas format somewhere around November 1. I know a lot of folks fret about some “War on Christmas,” but if you’re one of those who defended Christmas from the evil-doers, you should be happy — you won!

There’s only one time I want to hear Christmas music, and it’s during this week. Christmas music at Christmastime … what a concept!

Still, there’s a lot of Christmas music out there that I can do without — such as “Jingle Bells.”

I like the version by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters well enough, but I can’t stand the 12,764 versions of the song done since then. You’d think that with so many failed attempts over the decades to make a better version that folks would give up. They haven’t yet, so I think we need some sort of law: No more versions of “Jingle Bells” unless it’s by some preschool kids performing for their families — which, in those cases, are the best-ever performances of “Jingle Bells.” Sorry, Bing.

My favorite Christmas song that with vocals is “Christmastime is Here” from the “Peanuts” specials and even remakes, such as the one by Diana Krall. It’s weird because I don’t like “Peanuts” or even peanuts as specials or snacks. Yet, I love all the music of Vince Guaraldi, the jazz pianist and composer who made those memorable “Peanuts” soundtracks. They don’t really remind me of a time or a person. I just love the music.

But we all have Christmas songs that take us back in time or bring a person to mind. Before I married my wife, she sent me on a wild goose chase to find one of her favorite Christmas songs — “Christmas in Hollis by the Beastie Boys,” she said. I’d never heard of it and couldn’t figure out why those three Jewish kids from one of my favorite groups when I was a teenager would have made a Christmas song. It was a mighty long wild goose chase before I eventually discovered it was by Run-DMC.

“My bad,” she said.

I suspect most Christmas songs that are important to each of us remind us of someone. If you’re younger, it might make you think of a parent, a grandparent or a family member whose presence on Earth is dearly missed. For most parents, I bet the Christmas songs that most touch their hearts are the ones that make them remind them of their children.

This is the second year my son, Saylor, will be away for Christmas. Far, far away. Not like a “Star Wars” galaxy far, far away, but a continent Down Under. A couple years ago, he spent the holidays at his university in Scotland. This year, he’s continuing his studies in Australia, where summer is just beginning. Christmastime ain’t exactly chilly around here these days, but it’s downright hot in Brisbane.

He’s 21 now and will very soon be 22. Fortunately, I’ve got a couple of grandboys ages 2 and 5 to see Christmas through a kid’s eyes and hear it through their ears.

But you never forget your own child’s early Christmases. Like when Dasher went a little wild and broke his air hockey table before Santa could even assemble it. But mostly I remember the songs a certain little 3-year-old loved to sing from his car seat. His second-favorite was “Feliz Navidad.” or “Fleas la-dee-da” as he knew it.

His very favorite, though, for whatever reason, was Wham’s “Last Christmas.” And he knew all the words and would belt out “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you gave it away …” as loud as he could. I’m not sure why he preferred Wham over Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman, but he most certainly did.

I’m sure everyone has one Christmas song that grabs your heartstrings and yanks them like a runaway horse, but I suspect I’m one of the few for whom that song is “Last Christmas.” I can’t hear that song without tearing up.

I usually like to hear the original versions of Christmas songs, but in the case of “Last Christmas,” I prefer a certain 3-year-old’s rendition.

And I always will.


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