Joyful and Triumphant

The dreaded month of December has arrived, and with it...

Well, no, not "with it," as they've been blabbing about Christmas since mid-October on the teevee.

But now that it's actually Xmastime, I don't find all the Xmas stuff nearly so offensive. Still, there are things that get to me. The advertising, mostly. If I ever in real life actually witness some insufferable douchebag present his wife with a giant-bow-betopped Lexus, I won't be able to stop myself from punching him.

It's funny - you make a single ill-tempered comment about the holiday, and everybody's calling you a Scrooge or a Grinch. But both the esteemed Mr. Dickens and the good Doctor who created those iconic holiday figures were commenting about Christmas becoming meaningless and over-comercialized. In 1843, Dickens felt Christmas was over-commercialized. I can't imagine what he'd think were he alive today.*

Of course, even learning a Heartwarming Lesson About the True Meaning of Christmas has become cliche. Everyone from Charlie Brown to Bill Murray to Arnold Schwarzenegger has learned a Heartwarming Lesson About the True Meaning of Christmas. I'm sure that Mattew Broderick and Danny DeVito will learn some Heartwarming Lessons about the True Meaning of Christmas in this year's Deck the Halls, as will Lewis Black, The Guy Who Played Fez, The Kid Who Plays Chris on "Everybody Hates Chris" and the rest of the cast of Unacompanied Minors (which, while it looks pretty awful does at least have the merit of not being lazily named after a line in a familiar Christmas carol, and was directed by Paul "Freaks & Geeks" Feig, so it can't be all bad).

Another thing that gets to me is the music. There's very little good Christmas music in the world. A good chunk of it is on the Xmas mixes that Eek has sent out over the years. A bit of Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra or Der Bingle singing "Jingle Bells" or somesuch is okay (I know it is in itself kind of trite at this point, but the Crosby/Bowie Xmas duet where Bing croons out "Little Drummer Boy" while Bowie sings "Peace on Earth" is, in fact, wikid cool). Can't go wrong with Vince Guaraldi's "Charlie Brown Christmas" stuff, either. The rest of it? Yecch. I could go the rest of my life without hearing Mariah fucking Carey warble her way through "Santa, Baby" or do that horrifying warbly/belty vibrato-ish thing she does where she makes that sound that's like a Tarzan yell if Tarzan was a castrato that she thinks proves what a great singer she is, which is in pretty much all of her songs, but especially in that pinnacle of Xmas music craptacularity, "All I Want For Christmas Is You." Or "Wonderful Christmastime." Or that crappy one where there's a pretty bad children's choir singing, "Don't you wish it could be Christmas every day?" Or "Silver Bells." Maybe my least favorite is "Jingle Bell Rock." Unless it's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

My parents, posessors of the lamest musical taste ever, are champions of awful Christmas music. Among the discs that get heavy rotation in their house every December is Jimmy Buffet's Xmas album, which features a variety of skull-crushingly awful tunes, not worst of which is Buffet's terrible rendition of John Lennon's "Merry Christmas (War is Over)." Worse than that, they own and love Kenny G's Xmas album. Burned into my memory is a Christmas Eve where my Dad turned off a Coltrane album my brother was playing in order to play Kenny G's psuedo-jazz stylings of "Winter Wonderland." Ugh.

Today, I went out and acquired some real, worthwhile Christmas music. Oddly, even though I'm not even remotely a Christian, it's the old-school really religious stuff that I really dig the most. Handel's Messiah, Bach's Christmas Oratorio...that's where it's at, man. What I really like about it is that it really is, to borrow a phrase, joyful and triumphant. It's not about making a buck like so much modern Christmas music (although Handel was, in fact, quite wealthy when he died, largely based on the success of the Messiah). It was music that was created with feeling and passion. It is a musical expression of the sheer joy of the birth of the savior. Like I said, funny, because I couldn't really care less ultimately about the birth of the savior. But, unlike a baffling number of people out there who can't wait for "Now That's What I Call Christmas! Vol. 47," I respond much more strongly to something with real meaning than to yet another idiotic rendition of "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer."

* After, "I hope someone lets me out of this coffin," of course.