Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas cheer, holiday spirits, and all the fa la la

Years of working retail has left me with little appreciation for contemporary holiday music. Christmas carols and hymns traditionally sung in December still make me smile. I adore the Nutcracker, and the Peanuts song.

However, there are a slew of songs that the department stores where I worked ruined for me. See, the last place I worked had a loop 107 minutes long. On a nine or ten hour shift, that's a lot of the same songs over and over. In fact, we used to tell time by Feliz Navidad. It was roughly the half-way point. Though in a loop you should be able to start counting anywhere, there was a brief pause at the end (or beginning) of the loop. 30 beautiful seconds of quiet that meant we were 107 minutes closer to freedom. Then Wonderful Christmas Time would start up, and we'd trudge on with armfulls of discarded sweaters to start the countdown again.

Certain songs still make me cringe just upon hearing a few notes. Most notably, The Snow Song from White Christmas... oh, how I detest that song. The wailing, the repetition. Wash your hands and face in snow? Really? Have you ever had to shovel a driveway full of snow? Twice, because by the time you got to the end, the top was full again, and you had to start in the dark just to be done in time to get to work on time? What's romantic and lovely about that? Or the grey piles of dirty snow that sit on corners for months looking dingy and foul because it's too cold to melt them and too cold for fresh snow to fall. And I know that dear friends of mine adore the song, adore the movie, the memories it evokes, all that. For me, the memories it evokes are of endless hours of drudgery, in the cold, in the store, piles of snow to be shoveled, piles of clothing to be folded and hung, sore feet, cold hands, cranky workers and cranky shoppers and a cranky me.

Retail wasn't all bad--not that I ever want to go back. Still, there were a few moments each year of light and kindness in all the sale-frenzy from Black Friday to New Years Day. Once, I saw a mother show her daughter how to fold a shirt back up & put it back where she found it. I still had to refold it, because that mom didn't know our super-secret formula to perfectly fluffy display sweaters, but the thought alone warmed my heart.

And there were gems that kept me going in that 107 minutes of music. Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) by U2 always made me smile because... well... it's my favorite band, being silly, singing Christmas songs. I never seem to get tired of Santa Baby. Even Feliz Navidad still makes me smile, perhaps because of it's prominent position as half-way marker. I would sing and sway along to What Are You Doing New Year's Eve. I actually adore that whole album... so I suppose I never really did get 100% Scrooged on Christmas music.

Now-a-days, I sing Christmas Carols in frilly Victorian clothing in the cold... for fun! I've learned a number of new carols that I'd never before heard, and get to sing old favorites, like the Ukranian Bell Carol, We Three Kings, and O Come Emmanuel.

So, I took some time to un-scroogify and find my joy in music by creating Our Pandora Christmas Station. It's mostly traditional, mostly religious, and so far, full of songs that don't make me shudder with horrible memories of retail years gone by. If you care to take a listen, you can join me in my Christmas spirit.

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