Discourse on Christmas Music

It’s quite interesting to me that the Christmas season has surpassed just being a Christian holiday and ingrained itself into mainstream culture. More interesting to me is that the season has its own genre of music. Today, I will seek to define what is and what is not Christmas music, as well as scold those who misuse the term.

A general search for “Christmas music” on the Internet informs us that Christmas Music is usually performed and heard around Christmastime, or relates lyrically to Christ’s birth, or the topics of being merry and giving gifts. Since this is such a broad definition, it opens itself up to being exploited. The notion that songs like “Give A Little Bit” by Supertramp are Christmas songs just because they are about giving is absurd. Therefore, this definition is far too wide.

But why is it so important to have a more precise definition of the genre? Why do I care so much about preserving the truth of Christmas music? Well, you could call me a musical snob (which might be true), but really I just care about preserving the season. 

You see, Christmas music (to many people and to me) brings a nostalgic, comforting feeling to mind. It reminds people of “Christmases long, long ago.” It is the cheerful sound of the season. A season that is about family, whether it celebrates the Holy Family or your own.

You can to see why the Christmas season has its own music. The holiday became a reason to get together, reminisce, and enjoy the gathering of families and friends. Of course, much of the actual music comes from church songs which were sung during the season and covered, remixed, and eventually morphed into contemporary songs and jingles.

You can also, I hope, see why I am so protective of the genre. Hence, we need a strict definition of Christmas Music. Without an appropriate definition of the genre, we begin to let songs like “Give A Little Bit” in to places where they shouldn’t be. 

My definition of the Christmas music genre is: music centering around the ideas of (1) the birth of Christ and (2) Christmas/winter celebrations, including the exchange of gifts. My third condition is that it can only be listened to after Thanksgiving. 

This will anger some people, but I think that the Christmas season is long enough without confusing it with Thanksgiving. It is healthy for our culture to have a season dedicated to warm, cozy, music centered around giving gifts and reminiscing. But what does it say about us when we long for this season to come before it should? Is life really so bad that we need to retreat into the warm and fuzzy sense of Christmas before it has truly begun? It distorts the meaning of Christmas to jump in too early. The absence of merry music for the rest of the year only makes the Christmas season more special. If we were to have hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies all year round, we would surely become sick of them.

So there you have it, “Give A Little Bit” is not a Christmas tune, you can start listening to Christmas music after Thanksgiving, and Christmas music is music that provides warmth and sentiment while talking about the birth of Christ, winter celebrations, family, and being merry. So while he is no Charlie Watts (RIP), the Little Drummer Boy counts as Christmas music.