Same Old Lang Syne – Dan Fogelberg
Singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg weaves a touching story in a song that isn’t about the spirit of Christmas, the chance meeting simply occurs on Christmas Eve. While home for the holidays, he runs into an old girlfriend at the grocery store. They talk about their unfulfilled dreams and mundane lives, and it turns sadder when they say goodbye as the snow turns into rain, a gut-wrenching last line that’s enough to make anyone cry. The song touches us because we can all relate to it in some way. However, it doesn’t make you want to deck the halls with boughs of holly.
River – Joni Mitchell
In “River”, Joni Mitchell shares another love story gone wrong. Sad stuff, but why the play at Christmas, and why do many artists cover it on their Christmas albums? Sure, it’s a great song, and the first line indicates, “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees,” but that’s it. Mitchell wishes she had a river to skate away on in this song, to escape the sadness that has set in since she screwed things up with her lover. Sad situations occur year round unfortunately, but they are not typically the subject of the jolly Christmas tunes.
It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way – Jim Croce
“Snowy nights and Christmas lights, icy window panes, make me wish that we could be together again.” Are you starting to see a pattern here? Jim Croce’s sad little ballad is the third love gone wrong song on this list. Believing this is a Christmas tune is like believing “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie because it takes place on Christmas Eve. I suppose the Christmas season at times magnifies what is missing in your life, but let’s wait until January to obsess about heart-break. Christmas songs should be about joy and peace.
My Favorite Things – Various Artists
This song, from “The Sound of Music” is nice enough, but doesn’t remotely relate to Christmas, or even occur during the season like those above. If Christmas is one of the songwriter’s favorite things, he doesn’t mention it. Warm woolen mittens and brown paper packages tied up with string could be considered Christmassy if you stretch it, but it is not a holiday song, no matter how many artists record it on their Christmas albums. Julie Andrews, who is most associated with this song, didn’t include it on her Christmas recording. She knew better.
Any song about the cold weather – Various Artists
“Frosty the Snowman”, “Let it Snow”, “Winter Wonderland”, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, and even “Jingle Bells” may be associated with Christmas and played throughout the season, but they have more to do with cold weather and snow than the holiday. In the Northern Hemisphere it makes sense. We associate cold and snowy weather with Christmas because it is cold and snowy in December. What about the folks in the Southern Hemisphere? Many celebrate Christmas in these countries, where it’s summer in December. Makes you wonder if they include “Catch a Wave” or “Surfer Girl” in their Christmas song repertoire.