Why We Love Christmas Music

The Inside Track 
Why does Christmas and Holiday music always seem so magical?
The easy answer is….it’s traditional. It’s something we look forward to, something we expect, a tradition with which we are all totally familiar. And now, of course, there are more channels for Christmas music than ever before–from CDs, radio, satellite radio, streaming internet sites, TV music channels, even the music beds for commercials (Coke does a great job of breaking new Christmas songs via TV commercial).
If you want to hear some Christmas music, you have a lot of options, starting in early November and running through New Year’s.
Christmas music comes out of the box once a year and when it does, one resonates with the sounds of holiday seasons past, stirring warm memories, and it’s all good. And Christmas itself is tied to your past memories. During the Christmas season, the events of the past year pile up like leaves on a just raked fall lawn, just in time for holiday retrospection and New Year’s resolutions. And, of course, Christmas itself is something of a depository of your entire life history and that of your  family. It’s where great memories from the past are remembered and retold again and new memories for the future are created. And it all needs a sound track.
Music is very good at that—bringing back memories. Five bars into “My Girl” by the Temptations and suddenly you’re back in the fraternity house at a post-game party, squeezing someone tight with one hand and holding a drink in the other.
But the resonance of music with memories may not really be the impetus behind our affection for holiday music.
Perhaps the real reason is that Christmas/holiday music is a known commodity—my goodness, we’ve been listening to the stuff since we were old enough to recognize sounds—and each year we hear a huge group of new interpretations of Christmas music (every hot recording artist puts out a Christmas album, shamelessly promoted by artist and record company alike) which serves to both enlighten us about the potential of individual expression and to make old songs new. “New water over old rocks” a mountaineering friend of mine calls it and I think that sums up the situation pretty well.
The tradition builds on itself every year, as new favorites emerge, new interpretations shake up the Christmas music landscape, time passes and the meaning and affection for the season evolves and changes.  And, Christmas music cuts across a lot of demographic lines: young, old, rich, poor, white, black, urban, suburban, country. It’s a unifying soundtrack for a unifying season and even when you know the song, you may still be surprised at the rendition, interpretation, or production.
The re-casting of traditional songs combined with the influx of new soon-to-be favorites produces a warm and memory-filled soundscape for the season.
So turn it on, play it loud, enjoy the memories and build some new ones.
It’s Christmas music–one of our very best traditions.

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