Christmas Special Two-Pack

5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! – 1966

Chuck Jones of Warner Bros. and Bugs Bunny fame animated this fantastic tale of Christmas redemption. Thurl Ravenscroft, the original voice of Tony the Tiger (and totally uncredited), performed the theme song, You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch, and one of my favorite actors of all time, horror master Boris Karloff, narrated Dr. Seuss’ loose version of A Christmas Carol.

The Whos of Whoville love Christmas and the Grinch, a vile, furry green creature whose heart was two sizes two small, hated it. He hated everything to do with it. One year, he gets the awful idea to try to keep Christmas from coming. How does he attempt to do this? By stealing it of course. And he steals everything, I mean everything. He even convinces Cindy Lou Who that he is Santa Claus and that he has to take her Christmas tree to the North Pole for repairs.

Come morning the Whos don’t need trees, decorations or presents, Christmas comes anyway, the Whos starting singing and the Grinch realizes the true meaning of Christmas. He decides to return everything, and I mean everything. And the Whos even let the Grinch carve the roast beast at the annual feast.

I don’t have any real personal attachment to this other than the fact that I just love all things Dr. Seuss, I love books and I love stories. I just like this. The music is fun, Karloff is great as the narrator and Ravenscroft’s rendition of the theme has become synonymous with the Grinch character. For the record, I can’t stand the Jim Carrey live action film. Carrey is more Jim Carrey than he is the Grinch and a 30-minute cartoon was unnecessarily stretched out to a two-hour feature.

This is the only traditional 2D animation that makes my list. There’s a reason for that.

The title of the next film on the countdown of my favorite Christmas movies/specials speaks for itself.

4. A Christmas Story

Peter Billinglsey stars as Ralphie, Darren McGavin of Kolchak – The Nightstalker fame – plays his father, and Melinda Dillon (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) his mom. You may not know that Zack Ward, who plays bully Scut Farkus, went on to play an Umbrella Corporation mercenary in one of the Resident Evil movies.

Jean Shepherd’s tale of childhood Christmas has become a cult classic thanks to TBS bringing it back as a Christmas day marathon several years ago. The story is set in Indiana in the late 1940s and was actually filmed in Cleveland. You can visit the actual house as it has been transformed into a museum in recent years.

This may be set 20 some odd years before I was born but I swear it’s my childhood Christmas brought to life on screen. We’re not talking parallels here, we’re talking direct correlations.

Now, I could give you the synopsis for the film but I’d rather explain how this movie relates to me or how I relate to it.

First of all – the furnace. Darren McGavin spends a lot of time in the basement battling the wonky furnace while shrouded in a cloud of black smoke. Now, we didn’t have furnace issues but I lived in a duplex for much of my childhood, age 5-14 if I remember correctly, and we had oil heat. As I have mentioned in previous posts, we were poor for a good number of years. We didn’t always have money for oil and I remember my dad borrowing oil from the neighbor and transferring the noxious, black fluid via used milk cartons.

I remember what seemed to be the slow build up to Christmas while suffering through endless days in the classroom. Trips to see the department Santa Claus were a highlight of the season, not quite the nightmare Ralphie encountered. In my hometown of Rochester, N.Y., Midtown Plaza downtown was the place to go at Christmastime. It was always decked out for the season and the monorail was a must-ride attraction. It’s been dismantled and put away in storage. Sad.

The scene where Ralphie’s father plugs in the Christmas tree lights or the leg lamp or whatever it was into the multiple plug adapter cracks me up every time. I remember such adapters as a kid. We also had those 4,000-candlepower Christmas tree lights too. It’s a wonder we didn’t burn the damn house down. My father hated all things electric. He wouldn’t touch the house wiring, ever. After my electronics training in the Navy, he’d wait until I came home for a visit and ask me to install a light fixture or a ceiling fan. The house he bought when I was 14 still had the original 1920s wiring, complete with fuse box. I’ll never forget visiting my parents one time when dad had the microwave plugged into the wall with a three-prong to two-prong adapter. He had the coffee maker, toaster and the miniature nuclear reactor we used to cook food all going at the same time. He smoke-checked that adapter and I had to pull two feet of burnt wire out of the wall so I could install the three-prong outlets he had sitting in the drawer for six months.

Dad never won a major award in the form of a leg lamp but I do remember the weatherproofing we had to do every winter with plastic covering the windows and foam in the air gaps under the doors.

We didn’t have the neighbors dogs barge into our house and steal our turkey, but I did get not one, but two BB/pellet guns for Christmas. We won’t discuss what I did with the second one when I was a freshman in high school. I didn’t shoot my eye out but let’s just say the cops were involved.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the movie for me is the rush of opening presents on Christmas day. The thrill of coming down the stairs, or entering the living room (I did live in a duplex on one floor) and seeing that Santa had in fact been there was the stuff dreams were made of. As an only child, I always made out like a bandit, money or no money.

When it comes to A Christmas Story, the late 1940s weren’t much different than the 1970s when it came to the Yuletide season. Jean Shepherd’s childhood Christmases and mine weren’t all that dissimilar and every time I watch it, I feel like I am home for Christmas.

This is a must-watch but I’ll only watch it on Christmas day, and I’ll watch it all the way through uninterrupted at least once.

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Christmas Special Triple Play

My countdown of my 11 favorite Christmas specials continues with a three-pack.

  1. The Year Without a Santa Claus – 1974

Mickey Rooney reprises his role as Santa after his turn in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Shirley Booth jumps in as Mrs. Claus and our narrator. Santa wakes up and isn’t quite feeling right. Mrs. Claus summons a curmudgeon of a doctor who convinces St. Nick that no one cares, nobody believes in Santa and that Christmas doesn’t matter anymore. Santa’s knee-jerk reaction is to cancel Christmas.

Santa goes back to bed and Mrs. Claus cooks up a scheme to send two elves down the populace to find some Christmas belief. Jingle and Jangle fly down with Vixen and get themselves in a spot of trouble. Vixen ends up in the pound and Santa zips down to find out what’s going on.

Eventually the mayor of Southtown, USA, makes the little boy a deal – make it snow in Southtown and he’ll declare a holiday for Santa Claus. Santa meets a young boy whose father very much believes in Christmas and eventually teaches his son to believe.

We meet and are entertained by Snow Miser and Heat Miser, as Mrs. Claus has to negotiate a little snow in Southtown. I am disturbed by the fact that many of the 20-somethings I know have never heard of Snow or Heat Miser. Eventually, Mrs. Claus has to get the Miser brother’s mother, Mother Nature, involved. You don’t mess with Mother Nature.

I enjoy this one for its innocence and message of Christmas spirit. I won’t get into my religious beliefs, or lack thereof, but I do believe in Santa Claus. These Rankin and Bass supermarionation specials conveyed the message of keeping Christmas and learning how to feel the spirit. I may have mentioned it before, but there is a sweetness to these Rankin and Bass specials.

Mickey Rooney is phenomenal as Santa Claus. And Snow and Heat Miser are highly entertaining.

Jack Frost is okay, Rudolph’s Shiny New Year is crap, and Frosty the Snowman is the first Rankin and Bass special done in traditional 2D animation. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and The Year Without a Santa Claus are the only three that matter, and as I am fond of saying, they are “filmed in Supermarionation.”

So far my favorites have been “animated” in one form or another. I have one or two more of those on the list; you’ll just have to log on to find out. And when I tell you about tonight’s entry you might say, “But Jerry isn’t this A Christmas Carol?” You would be correct. However, I think this one stands alone and appears on the list separately for a few reasons.

  1. Scrooged – 1988

Today’s Bill Murray can pretty much do what he wants thanks in part to the work he did in the 1980s with Ghostbusters, Caddyshack and well, Scrooged (among other things). This film features an all-star cast and serves as a passable treatment of Charles Dickens’ classic tale of Christmas redemption.

Instead of Ebenezer Scrooge, Murray plays bitter, mean, abrasive TV executive Frank Cross. His former boss, played with aplomb by John Forsythe, takes the place of Jacob Marley and foretells the visitation by the three spirits. Ha, spirits. I’ve never seen Tab (for those of you who remember Tab cola) used as a mixer except by Frank Cross with his vodka.

It’s groovy watching Cross transform from one of the meanest Scrooge-like characters into the generous reformed. While at his nasty best he actually suggests a stagehand should staple prosthetic antlers on a mouse when all other methods fail. As he tries to reconcile with an old flame, played by Karen Allen of “Indiana Jones” fame, Cross is mortified at her dedication to her charity work.

Through the Ghost of Christmas Past, a cigar chomping cab driver played by David Johansen, we see Cross as a young, aspiring, idealistic fast-climbing TV station employee. And we see how Frank chooses his career and upward mobility at the expense of his burgeoning relationship with Claire (Karen Allen). There is some hint that Frank and his brother were abused, or neglected at best, as children and learn that Christmas wasn’t a happy time for the Cross boys.

Carol Kane plays the Ghost of Christmas Present and is she ever a scene stealer. She has no tolerance for Frank’s reluctance to tag along and at one point, whips Frank’s ass with a toaster. I lose it every time I watch this scene – it is absolutely freaking hilarious. Kane’s bouncy, Tinkerbell-esque whimsy mixed with good old-fashioned Sadism are reason enough to watch this film. There is so much more. The dystopian approach to Christmas future is rather unique.

From Olympic champion gymnast Mary Lou Retton’s cameo as Tiny Tim to Murray’s hot, steamy kiss with one of the Solid Gold Dancers, Scrooged is a must-watch any time, not just at Christmas.

As always, the “Scrooge” character learns to keep Christmas and become a generous soul. Frank reunites with his long lost love; his assistant’s son has a breakthrough and delivers Tiny Tim’s iconic line.

I was born in 1969 and I was raised in the 1970s and 80s. I was 18 when Scrooged came out and I remember being a bit skeptical. I rediscovered it a few years ago when AMC did a three-night marathon airing of the movie and I got hooked.

If you haven’t seen it, give it a shot. If you have but it’s been a while, watch it again. Carol Kane kicking Bill Murray’s ass is worth it. Yes, I know I am advocating gratuitous violence, but watching the 5’2” Kane take the 6’2” Murray apart is off the hook.

Frank Cross’ revelation and redemption takes place on live television as part of a live production of A Christmas Carol – Cross’ opus. It makes for an interesting twist.

Just watch the movie, lest be Scrooged.

I submit for your approval a ghost of Christmas past – Bob Hope.

  1. Bob Hope as I remember him.
    Bob Hope as I remember him.

    Bob Hope Christmas Specials – 1968-1993

I know they predate my birth in 1969, but during the 1970s, the variety show was all the rage on television. From Sonny and Cher to Donny and Marie – singing, dancing, comedy sketches and more – the stars of the day could be found on weekly variety shows and specials. I grew up on Laugh-In reruns and the subject of this blog entry – the Bob Hope Christmas special. Many other entertainers had their Christmas specials – Bing Crosby, The Carpenters, Perry Como et al, but Hope’s was the gold standard.

Crosby and Hope were longtime pals, especially after starring together in numerous “road” pictures. Crosby, who became the voice of the Yuletide with Christmas Sing with Bing on the radio and several TV specials, including an unexpected treat with David Bowie, couldn’t hold a candle to Hope’s TV specials if you ask me.

Hope spent many a Christmas entertaining the troops overseas and became a national treasure for doing so. His USO shows were the stuff of legend and featured talents like Ursula Andress and Ann-Margret.

I particularly enjoyed the introduction of the Playboy All-American, later AP All-American, college football team. Each player was introduced and Hope would deliver a zinger with each intro.

Just as the annual Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer airing heralded the start of the Christmas season, Bob Hope’s special ushered it in with a one-liner or a patented, “This is Bob [insert sponsor or locale here] Hope…”

The show was formulaic and you put it on every year like a comfy sweater or pair of slippers. It started with a monologue of patented Hope jokes and would always feature a rendition of Silver Bells with Hope and the starlet du jour.

Eventually Hope grew old and frail and they started rolling him out on a hand truck and propping him up in the corner as his wife, Delores, took over hosting duties. I blame Hope for discovering Joey Lawrence. I wish he left him where he found him.

Several people have tried to emulate Bob Hope and recreate the magic of his Christmas specials. The one I had high hopes for was Michael Bublé but he’s managed to hose it up with guests like Justin Beiber and recent development of some vocal weirdness in both his speaking and singing voices. Larry the Cable Guy and Stephen Colbert have attempted such Christmas variety specials and have come off as caricatures of the genre.

There is an entire generation of people growing up not knowing who Bob Hope was or how he contributed to entertainment as we know it and that is a crying shame.

Last year, Time Life released a new DVD collection of ALL of Bob Hope’s televised specials, including Christmas and the USO shows entertaining the troops deployed to combat zones.

Thanks for the memories, Bob.

Christmas Special Two for One

The countdown of my favorite Christmas movies/specials continues with a story filmed in a style that would become synonymous with holiday specials. Arthur Rankin, Jr., and Jules Bass (Rankin and Bass) brought a song to life and created one of the most beloved shows to ever hit the airwaves. An annual staple, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is usually the first Christmas special to air each year – typically on Dec. 1.

Filmed in what I affectionately call super marionation (think Stingray and Thunderbirds, or um, Team America: World Police), Rudolph is one of the most endearing holiday specials ever made because of the animation style, the music, the voice performances, and the characters.

Johnny Marks originally wrote the song and Gene Autry turned it into a No. 1 hit in 1949. Burl Ives lent his voice to the TV special as Sam the Snowman and he also sings Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Silver and Gold and A Holly Jolly Christmas.

[Check out the IMDB entry]

10. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – 1964

We all know the story. Rudolph is born with a birth defect and rather than cherish his son, Donner decides to hide the affliction. Eventually Rudolph’s honker is discovered and the other reindeer proceed to discriminate against him. They bully and exclud him because he is different. Even Santa Claus is guilty here.

One doe, Clarice, accepts Rudolph for who he is but it’s not enough to keep Rudolph from striking out with Hermie, an elf who’d rather be a dentist. They end up on the Island of Misfit Toys. Eventually, they make their way back to Christmastown and Rudolph’s affliction turns out to be just what everyone needs as the storm of the century threatens to cause the cancellation of Christmas. Santa asks Rudolph to guide his sleigh through the storm.

So, the lesson here is we have no use for you if you’re different – make yourself useful and we have a place for you?!? The older I get, the more of a humanist I become. Politically, the more to the center I drift. Don’t read into that – I am no humanitarian. But you know what? We are all the same. We should all be treated equally. I think that’s the overarching message here, it’s just a little ham-handed.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the show. I watch it every year. It wouldn’t be on this list if I didn’t. The characters are endearing – Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius, Hermie, Clarice, even the Abominable Snowman. The music is wonderful and many of the songs have become beloved Christmas classics that stand on their own apart from the show.

I continue my countdown of my 10 favorite Christmas movies/specials with another supermarionation classic. Rankin and Bass finally created a cohesive North Pole world with recurring voice actors reprising their roles. That began with…

9. Santa Claus is Coming to Town – 1970

Fred Astaire plays your friendly neighborhood mail carrier and he narrates the story of Santa Claus’ origins. Mickey Rooney begins his run as Kris Kringle/St. Nicholas/Santa Claus.

[Check out the IMDB entry]

This special gives us Burgermeister Meisterburger, a despotic ruler who hates toys and fun in general. A clan of toy makers raises Kris Kringle, an orphan left on their doorstep in a basket as a baby. Eventually, Kris decides to become the deliverer of toys to the children of Somber Town, which is ruled by Burgermeister.

Kris is branded as an outlaw even as he falls in love with the local schoolmistress. The story also explains how it came to be that reindeer can fly as the Winter Warlock provides the magic feed corn for this central element to the legend.

When he was dropped off with the Kringles, he wore a name tag that said “Claus.” It was a short walk to Santa Claus.

I enjoy this one for numerous reasons. I look at it as the origin story of Santa Claus, but it also tells the tale of how Jessica, Somber Town’s school marm, became Mrs. Claus. Kris’ outlaw status drives our merry band of toy distributing fugitives all the way to the North Pole.

I don’t recall noticing any odd overtones or subtext with this other than maybe a shot at Eastern Bloc and Iron Curtain-type governments (hmmm, kind of appropriate given today’s current political climate). Of course, the Christmas classic song Santa Claus is Coming to Town is included, a great tune that has been covered and recorded more times than I can count. The song dates back to 1934, and it wouldn’t bother me any if of every copy of the Bruce Springsteen version was destroyed.

Stay tuned kiddies, more supermarionation on the way.

Christmas Blog Re-Gifting

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I am not above re-gifting, yesiree Bob, I’ll re-gift. I don’t make a habit out of it but I have no shame in doing it. A few of my readers have enjoyed the Countdown of My 100 Favorite Horror Movies, both on Facebook and here at the The Jerry Project. After putting together my favorite Christmas songs, I crafted a list of my 10…er…11…favorite Christmas specials and counted down until Christmas.

So, without further adieu, I re-gift last year’s blogs featuring my 10…er…11…favorite Christmas specials and why (updated for this year of course). Let me know what you think.

The temperature has dropped, the halls are decked and the Christmas programming on television began a few weeks ago. I do love the trappings of the Yuletide season. From the music (which I’ve written about previously) to the decorations and gift-giving, Christmas is one of my favorite things in life.

I have such fond memories of Christmas past. I spent a good part of my early childhood poor, although my parents did a wonderful job of hiding this from me. I always had good birthdays, plentiful Thanksgivings and Easters, and best of all, wonderful Christmases. Now that I am older and understand how little we could afford, I am ashamed of myself for being the selfish snot that I was as a little boy.

Santa Claus was always so good to me. I’ll tell you more about that some other time.

One of the things I do so enjoy about this time of year is the Christmas specials and movies. Since the countdown of my 100 favorite horror movies, and my Top 15 Christmas songs were met with such glee, I thought I would count down my Top 10…er…11…favorite Christmas specials/movies.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 8.17.48 PM11. A Charlie Brown Christmas – 1965

This is usually the first Christmas special I watch each year (it was the second this year) and I’ll watch it multiple times from the DVR recording before Dec. 25. Last year, a 50th Anniversary Special accompanied the annual airing. I’m not one for the Thanksgiving or Halloween specials. The Great Pumpkin doesn’t do much for me and Peppermint Patty’s presumptuous nature and bad attitude kill the Thanksgiving show for me. However, I adore the Christmas special. From the skating scene to Linus’ monologue and Charlie Brown’s tree purchase – there is so much to like.

[Check out the IMDB entry]

I remember trying to catch snowflakes on my tongue as a kid. Snowball fights. Sliding around in the snow and on the ice. Playing with my friends in the snow. So many of the activities Charlie Brown and his friends engage in remind me of my own childhood.

The one thing that stands out to me about this show is the music. Vince Guaraldi’s score has become iconic and the songs have become Christmas classics on the radio, SiriusXM and online streaming services like Pandora.

Director Bill Melendez truly captures the spirit of Charles M. Schulz’s iconic comic strip characters in this production. It has a sweetness, innocence and charm that, for me, is the perfect way to kick off the season.

It’s not particularly well-animated and the editing is a bit uneven. But it’s sweet and not heavy-handed and I enjoy it.

 

Christmas Tunes are in the Air

261421_471407609572269_662459190_nAs much as I enjoy Halloween and horror movies, I must say, I enjoy Christmas even more. I have such fond childhood memories of this time of year. When I wrote my Thanksgiving blog last year it got me thinking and feeling about those times with my parents and of Christmas past. So I crafted this list of my favorite Christmas music, and decided to re-post it for you here.

I am a traditionalist when it comes to the holidays. Meaning that you must celebrate one before you can even think about celebrating the next. Christmas creep is one phenomenon I’d like to see go away. Stores decorated for Christmas and advertising holiday sales before Halloween is obnoxious.

So, I have a bit of a rule, a tradition if you will. I will not start listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. SiriusXM’s Holiday Traditions channel started Dec. 5, and I kicked it off on Pandora with my Johnny Mathis holiday station on the day after Thanksgiving.

I usually start with the Christmas music the Friday or Monday after Thanksgiving. So, this could go from four to five weeks depending on when Thanksgiving hits. I don’t get tired of hearing the same tunes throughout the month of December. Since some of my readers enjoy the countdown of my 100 favorite horror films each year, I thought I’d present my 15 favorite Christmas songs. As I mentioned, I am a traditionalist. I only like what I consider to be the “definitive” version. I don’t care for recent or modern remakes (with very few exceptions) and I really don’t care for attempts at new Christmas compositions, with one exception.

So, without further ado, here are my 15 Favorite Christmas songs and why.

15. Jingle Bells. There is a version out there with Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. It is a rehearsal for an Armed Forces Radio broadcast and there is a very funny blooper as Crosby blows a line near the end of the song. It’s one of those rare recordings that I would’ve never heard if not for Pandora. Jingle Bells isn’t so much a Christmas song as it is a winter song. But with the use of sleigh bells, it has become associated with Christmas.

14. Baby, It’s Cold OutsideDean Martin and Marilyn Maxwell. Ah, the “roofie” Christmas song. This is one of those songs that are rare these days with two singers basically having a conversation. I am not musically inclined so I don’t know what this technique is called. There is a line in the song that suggests the lady is swigging a spiked drink as the host tries to convince her not to go out in inclement weather. I’ve always thought the host in the song engaged in innocent cajoling. Unfortunately, this song has been vilified in recent years despite new versions.

13. Rudolph the Red Nosed ReindeerGene Autry. The singing cowboy did the original and probably best version of the song, although Burl Ives gives him a run for his money in the iconic Rankin and Bass supermarionation Christmas TV special. Autry spins the tale of a misfit reindeer, who is bullied and discriminated against until he finally gets his bloody revenge. Oh wait, flashed back to Halloween for a second. Rudolph saves Christmas and goes down in…oh hell, you know the story.

12. Let it SnowMichael Bublé. There have been many versions of this song and I do like Michael Bublé’s Christmas efforts. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and countless others have recorded versions of this great tune that, like Jingle Bells, is more seasonal than holiday, but has become a Christmas standard.

11. Holly Jolly ChristmasBurl Ives. Probably my favorite song from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Ives, as Sam the talking snowman/narrator, sings this fun, festive, upbeat tune.

10. Rockin’ Around the Christmas TreeBrenda Lee. I think I danced to this song in a 4th grade production or somesuch. This is a different kind of Christmas song that incorporates the rock-a-billy style of the 1950s and the imagery of the holiday season. Her version of Jingle Bell Rock is a lot of fun too.

9. I’ll be Home for ChristmasFrank Sinatra. Bing Crosby did this originally as a bit of a tribute to the troops stationed overseas during World War II. As a former U.S. Navy sailor, I can certainly relate. I spent a few Christmases away from home. A bit melancholy, the song tells a bit of story and has a slight twist.

8. Santa BabyEartha Kitt. Only Eartha Kitt could make blatant materialism soft and sexy. The ultimate wish list, Santa gets serenaded and seduced in this wonderful Christmas favorite. Bublé tried to spin it from the male perspective and I thought it flopped. Only a girl can sing this, and Kitt’s rendition is the best ever.

7. Carol of the BellsTrans Siberian Orchestra. This is the only traditional carol I really care for, it’s haunting and rousing at the same time. It is used ad nauseum for the computerized synchronized home light show and for good reason.

6. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the YearAndy Williams. The king of Christmas in Branson, Missouri, Andy Williams delivered the best rendition of this oft-covered classic. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

5. MistletoeColbie Caillat. As I mentioned, I don’t like new Christmas compositions but I make an exception for this one. Caillat really tugs at the heart strings with this beautiful song.

4. The Christmas SongNat King Cole. Mel Torme, the “Velvet Fog,” co-wrote this wonderful ode to all things Christmas, but Nat King Cole’s version is so silky smooth and just oozes Yuletide. What I want to know though is what the hell Chet did to deserve having his nuts roasted every December?

3. Winter WonderlandJohnny Mathis. If Bing Crosby is the father of Christmas music, Johnny Mathis is its uncle. Winter Wonderland may be a seasonal tune, but is has become a Christmas classic recorded by many. But Mathis’ version resonates.

2. White ChristmasBing Crosby. The best selling single of all-time speaks to me because I grew up in Western New York and know first hand what a White Christmas is. I was stationed in Iceland for three years and really got to know it. I miss it living in California. My job doesn’t allow me to get away during the holiday season so I have to do what Bing says, dream of white Christmases like I used to know.

1. Sleigh RideJohnny Mathis. I officially begin my Christmas music listening with Johnny Mathis’ rendition of Sleigh Ride. Recorded by many over the years, there are some excellent versions, but Mathis’ is the best and my favorite Christmas song of all, even though it is more of a seasonal tune.