Since everyone is so keen on starting Christmas so soon, and re-gifting is such a thing these days, I thought I would recycle a piece I wrote a couple of years ago. I will not succumb to Christmas Creep, but the temperature has dropped, the days are getting longer, and we’re on the backside of Halloween, so I guess we can start with SEASONAL songs.
Something struck me as odd a couple of years ago. I do love Christmas music and I prefer the traditional or definitive versions … and in many cases that means the original. I also started to wonder when some of these songs were written because of the myriad musical styles represented. I was listening to Holiday Traditions on SiriusXM in December 2019 and I realized that many songs we identify as “Christmas” songs are actually seasonal and have nothing to do with Christmas. That doesn’t mean I like them any less, they just deserve their own list. So, I decided to split them up.
Here are my favorite fall/winter seasonal songs.
Winter Wonderland, written in 1934 by Felix Bernard and lyricist Richard Bernhard Smith, has been recorded by countless artists over the years. It’s a fun, upbeat song that we all know and can sing by heart. I prefer Johnny Mathis performing this one.
My Favorite Things
I am not sure how this song, most famously performed by Tony Bennett, got to be associated with Christmas. Perhaps the visuals and references place it around Christmastime. It originated in 1961 with Julie Andrews on The Garry Moore Show’s Christmas special. Andrews also performed it in The Sound of Music, both on Broadway and in the film. Written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, this has become a seasonal jazz favorite.
This is another song that is commonly associated with Christmas although it was written for a movie that encompasses all holidays. Written by Irving Berlin and performed by Bing Crosby and Martha Mears in the 1942 film Holiday Inn (and yes, the hotel chain was named after the film), this version references the holiday-themed hotel Crosby’s character opens.
This is another song that I really don’t know why it became associated with Christmas. It is my favorite fall/winter seasonal song and Johnny Mathis’ version is the one I prefer. This great tune has been recorded by countless artists as well. Written by Leroy Anderson in 1948, Sleigh Ride is considered an orchestra standard and it was first recorded by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops in 1949. Mitchell Parish added the lyrics in 1950. I usually try to listen to this one first to kick off my holiday music listening season.
There’s a theme here. I have no earthly idea how this song became associated with Christmas either. It just might be the oldest seasonal song that surfaces during the holidays. Written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857, zipping along in a one-horse open sleigh might have been the preferred method of transportation during the winter months when the song was composed, although it was supposed to be a Thanksgiving song. Numerous variations of the lyrics have been recorded over the years, including what would be considered politically incorrect (by today’s standards) references and accents regarding winter in Mexico most notably recorded by the Glenn Miller orchestra. Let’s go with Ol’ Blue Eyes.
This song was practically tossed on the scrap head of forgotten seasonal songs until SiriusXM resurrected it, and when it was recently used in a commercial. Perhaps the best version was recorded by Dean Martin. Written in 1949 by Carl Sigman and Peter DeRose, the song celebrates simply playing in the snow.
Let it Snow
Written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne in 1945, this song doesn’t exactly celebrate snow, rather extols the virtues of staying in and getting cozy. Since this list is pretty male heavy, let’s go with the great Doris Day for this one.