As we near most everyone’s favorite time of year, I wanted to look into what makes this holiday so special for me in particular. I think what I enjoy most about Christmastime are the traditions that my family and I adhere to without fail every December.
While there is, of course, a lot more to our Christmases than this, I wanted to focus on the music and movies that complete our yuletide celebration. Over these next few weeks leading up to Christmas, I want to name some music and movies that, for me at least, make Christmas Christmas.
Let’s begin with the music!
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” soundtrack
While there may be many people unfamiliar with Guaraldi’s name, I’m sure those same people would recognize his tunes in a heartbeat. Guaraldi is famous for composing the soundtrack for many of Charles Shultz’s Peanuts cartoons, including “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
The score of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is as heartfelt and nuanced as the cartoon it accompanies. Just as the cartoon artfully touches on themes of consumerism, religion, and simply fitting in among one’s peers, Guaraldi brings the listeners classic, traditional Christmas songs as well as jazzy, delicious piano riffs.
A favorite track of mine is “O Tannenbaum,” in which Guaraldi smoothly transitions from the steady, almost melancholy melody to an easy jazz break and then back again.
Peanuts cartoons are famous for using actual child actors to lend their voices to Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the rest of the gang. Guaraldi carries this trend into his music through the use of child singers. Whether it’s soft, lilting vocalizations, as in “My Little Drum”, or unabashedly raucous bursts of joy, as in “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” these songs are intrinsically childlike in their innocence.
My family and I like to listen to this album while doing our Christmas cookie baking. We pop the cassette into our beat-up old radio/cassette player that sits on our kitchen counter and let the warm, laid-back melodies accompany our mixing, baking and icing.
And that’s part one of the Christmas music I just can’t live without. Up next is part two: George Winston!