'Tis the season for festive favourites

Joel van der Veen
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Look who’s coming round the bend

It’s Santa and his reindeer friends

With a ho, ho, ho and a hey, hey, hey

It’s Santa’s super sleigh

Santa’s Super Sleigh, from About A Boy

When the subject of inane Christmas music comes up, I’m reminded of the above, a fictional example taken from Nick Hornby’s terrific novel About A Boy and the decent film adaptation starring Hugh Grant.

The novel and film tell the story of bachelor Will Freeman, who coasts through life, funded by royalties from the aforementioned song, a blockbuster novelty hit composed by his father.

The song represents the epitome of commercialized holiday music, the bane of shoppers, DJs and retail employees alike.

Even though the song’s success allows Will to maintain his commitment-free lifestyle, he despises it passionately and dreads hearing it each year.

Many have expressed a bitter, almost venomous aversion to this sort of festive flapdoodle, but for various reasons I’ve never fallen into line with that crowd.

I’m not a frequent radio listener, so I avoid having holiday songs drummed into my head day after day. I’m also rather efficient when it comes to Christmas shopping, planning each purchase in advance and spending a minimal amount of time in stores. Thus, I manage to avoid that residual exposure.

But perhaps most important of all is this: I simply can’t object to music that’s joyous, pleasant and associated with fond memories of Christmases past.

After leaving home, I’ve become more aware of how special Christmas is, and holiday songs reinforce that feeling. Whenever I hear traditional songs like O Come All Ye Faithful or Silent Night, I’m transported back in time.

My mind is flooded with images: singing the songs in church or at the piano at home, gathering with family to open presents and enjoy a turkey dinner, and other treasured Christmas activities we shared.

Who can deny the awe and majesty of ancient songs like Of The Father’s Love Begotten, O Come O Come Emmanuel, or God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen?

There was also Ere Zij God, a Dutch favourite we sang each year. The title was translated as Glory to God and the hymnal had the words in both languages. Even though we couldn’t speak Dutch, we’d sing it in Dutch, since we’d pretty well memorized it and it was more fun that way.

I also have my pop favourites. There’s Little Saint Nick by the Beach Boys, proving that Brian Wilson could conjure up images of a rocket sled in the frozen north and scenes of surfing and California girls with comparable ease.

For some reason I also fondly remember Pat Boone’s rendition of Hark The Herald Angels Sing. If there was ever a male singer with a more wholesome voice, I’d like to know.

The former Beatles each turned out their own holiday efforts. Paul McCartney had Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime and John Lennon had Happy Xmas (War is Over). Both are highly commercial songs, even if Paul’s is predictably bouncier.

(Less known is George Harrison’s Ding Dong, Ding Dong, better suited to New Year’s festivities. Lesson to be learned: don’t attempt to record a holiday song while you’re suffering from laryngitis.)

Moose Javians will have lots of opportunities to enjoy Christmas favourites, including the Rotary Club carol festival, happening from Dec. 10 through 12 at Zion United Church, kicking off each night at 7 p.m.

For those who dread holiday music, you have my sympathy. For those who can’t get enough, enjoy it while you can ... ‘tis the season!

Joel van der Veen can be reached at 691-1256.

Organizations: Beach Boys, Rotary Club, Zion United Church

Geographic location: California

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