I have sort of a universalist view on Christmas. I was raised in a household with stockings hung by the chimney with care, but these days I spend the holidays more with the family I chose than the one I was born into, and my friends’ holiday traditions run the gamut. So I have warm memories of evergreen trees and candy canes, but the season, for me, isn’t really about any particular religious associations anymore. I love that so many different cultures choose this time of year to reflect and celebrate. I love that so many of our traditions – like feasting and gift-giving and wassailing (that’s your word of the day) – keep outliving the belief systems they get associated with. The “War on Christmas” crowd should breathe a sigh of relief – history would suggest that Christmas will go on long after even Christianity ends (although that may be exactly what they’re afraid of). If humanity makes it another ten thousand years, precedent says that regardless of what (if any) spiritual philosophies are en vogue, we’ll still be getting together with loved ones to eat, drink, and be merry sometime around the homeworld’s winter solstice. And that’s what I celebrate now – time with the people I love, another trip around the sun on this weird little rock with the rest of the earthlings. Remembering to be grateful for those I’ve lost and looking forward to another year with those who remain. It’s the season I find it easiest to embrace my shared humanity with everyone, everywhere; differences seem so much smaller during this time of intercultural revelry. Peace on earth and goodwill towards men, indeed. At least as long as I don’t have to go to the mall.
With that in mind, I approach the real topic, Christmas music. I do enjoy listening to some familiar favorites this time of year, but just like this blog entry, I sort of vacillate between a reverent nostalgia and a tongue-in-cheek flippancy about it. A lot of songs I like I’m not sure if I’m appreciating earnestly or ironically. Some of them start out as one and end up the other. It makes Christmas playlists and radio kind of a minefield for me – a lot of popular selections and old-time favorites make me grit my teeth – it’s easy to push into territory that’s too religious, too sentimental, or just too saccharine. Over the years, though, I’ve gradually assembled a collection that jingles my bells without roasting my chestnuts. I’ve decided to share it, just in case anybody needs to ruin a Christmas party or get rid of unwanted holiday guests. I present Yule Be Sorry, exactly the playlist you’d expect from the people that mailed this out as a Christmas card.