Speaking of Christmas: Movies and Music

Speaking of Christmas (which I was just doing). (Okay, not speaking; writing): I am a sucker for Christmas movies and music. Annual must-watch movies: “A Christmas Carol” (I rotate between the Alistair Sim and George C. Scott versions) “White Christmas” (I confess: it’s my holiday highlight. Well, except for the cinnamon rolls) “It’s A Wonderful Life” “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” (the animated version from 1966) “Miracle on 34th Street” (black-and-white only, please!)

And I love the music, especially the standard stuff: Doris Day singing “Toyland”; Johnny Mathis and “The Christmas Song.” (Although I can do without “Away in the Manger.”) We always listen to Handel’s “Messiah.” On Christmas eve, my husband puts on Eartha Kitt signing “Santa Baby.” (When my son-in-law is there, it’s fun to watch him try not to swoon.)

On Christmas morning, hubby rolls out of bed, trots out to the living room, puts on Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and turns up the volume.(*1) Loud. That’s the signal to everyone else: up and at ’em. Cinnamon rolls await.

In recent years, I’ve also developed a fondness for some new “classics.”

— The Chieftains, “The Bells of Dublin.”

— Linda Ronstadt, “A Merry Little Christmas.” It’s half sacred music, half secular. Totally worth it for her version of “River” and “Xicochi, Xicochi,” as well as her “White Christmas” duet with the late, great Rosemary Clooney. (*2)

— Chanticleer and guest singer Dawn Upshaw: “Christmas With Chanticleer.” Hands-down the best version ever of “Coventry Carol.” (Every year I listen to it and think “how the hell do they DO that?” You have to hear it to know what I mean.) It also includes a stunning sacred harp (aka shape notes) song called “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.”

So: what are your aural and visual end-of-year traditions? (Please don’t tell me I’m the only one who indulges in this stuff every year.)

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*1: I’ve included a link to a fairly recent YouTube version. The one we listen to was recorded years ago — we listen on a 45, if you can believe it!

*2: Clooney also stars in the film “White Christmas,” and every year I’m amazed all over again by the scene in which she sings “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me.” Oh that dress!!

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