Roger Rosenblatt on Christmas Music

December 22, 2005 at 12:00 AM EDT


PAUL McCARTNEY SINGING: Simply having a wonderful Christmastime — simply having a wonderful Christmastime —

ROGER ROSENBLATT: Am I alone in this or are you too going nuts because of the music of the season? Relentless, ubiquity is, ruinous endless.

BURL IVES SINGING: Have a holly, jolly Christmas. It’s the best time of the year —

ROGER ROSENBLATT: Burl Ives is long dead but his “Holly Jolly Christmas” lives forever.

GENE AUTRY SINGING: Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer —

ROGER ROSENBLATT: As does Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”-

JUDY GARLAND SINGING: Have yourself a merry little Christmas —

ROGER ROSENBLATT: As does Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” as does Bing and Rosemary Clooney —

BING CROSBY AND ROSEMARY CLOONEY SINGING: I’m dreaming of a white Christmas —

CHIPMUNKS SINGING: Dashing through the snow —

ROGER ROSENBLATT: And the Chipmunks. Now that I think of it, most of those who originally brought us these songs are long at peace.

I assume that the Chipmunks are at peace as well. Blissfully they lie beyond the reach of their own joyful noises, aye, as yet enough — and the beat goes on, and on, everywhere — in restaurants.

PAUL McCARTNEY SINGING: The mood is right —

ROGER ROSENBLATT: In gas stations. In malls —

PAUL McCARTNEY SINGING: We’re here tonight.

ROGER ROSENBLATT: On the radio. On TV —

PAUL McCARTNEY SINGING: Simply having a wonderful Christmastime —

ROGER ROSENBLATT: I was at a rest stop on the New Jersey turnpike when Paul McCartney’s “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime” was piped into the men’s room.

People on the New Jersey turnpike are on edge as it is. I’m on edge myself.

Everyone seems to have cut a holiday album.

BING CROSBY SINGING: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire —

ROGER ROSENBLATT: Last night I dreamed that Donald Rumsfeld had recorded his yuletide favorite. Dick Cheney was singing, “Dreidel, Dreidel.”

And the senator from Massachusetts crooned, “Have yourself a Kerry little Christmas” —

I told you I was losing it.

CHIPMUNKS SING: Christmas, Christmastime is near —

ROGER ROSENBLATT: How many times a day can one here “Rocking around the Christmas Tree” without wanting to roast the Chipmunks on an open fire?

SINGING: Here comes Santa Claus —

ROGER ROSENBLATT: How often can one tolerate lyrics about Santa. Santa sells. Santa, trees — Santa, and Santa; it’s not the songs themselves, well, not entirely. It’s the insistent repetition.

SINGING: Frosty the snowman was alive as he could be —

ROGER ROSENBLATT: I assume that long ago some focus groups decided that the eternal playing of “Frosty the Snowman” encouraged shoppers.

Thank you, focus group.

The other day an ordinarily serene and gentle friend of mine said that she wanted to shoot Rudolph in flight. They don’t sing songs like that in other seasons, she said.

That is true. Other seasons have perfectly lovely songs.

SINGING: Summertime — autumn in New York

SINGING: Spring is here .

ROGER ROSENBLATT: Then comes winter.

CHIPMUNKS SING: Here comes Santa Claus here comes Santa Claus right down —

ROGER ROSENBLATT: Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane.

(Gunshot sound)

ROGER ROSENBLATT: Of course this is a bootless rant. The songs of the holiday season will go on long after we are all at peace.

And to be sure, there are a few sublime moments every winter when one is reminded of what real music sounds like and faith and beauty sound like as well.


ROGER ROSENBLATT: If I still had my marbles, I would say that the soaring magnificence of Handel’s “Messiah” was enough to make up for the Chipmunks simply having a wonderful Christmastime — but it isn’t enough —

— and I don’t have my marbles.

CHOIR SINGING: Hallelujah!

ROGER ROSENBLATT: Have a holly jolly Christmas.

I’m Roger Rosenblatt.