GUEST COLUMN: Christmas songs magically transport us back in space and time  

Nadine Wark

The sounds of the season have returned. They started on the radio and in stores and can now be heard in so many places.

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without both traditional carols and commercial and novelty tunes. So much Christmas music reconnects us to our past, and memories can surface with the first bars of a favourite song.

Thinking back to 1958, my brother, then just a toddler, would beg me to put a certain 45 on the turntable as he said over and over, “Play it again. Play it again.”

It was David Seville’s ‘The Chipmunk Song.’ That record got a workout that resulted in plenty of scratches, but it played a big part in our Christmas music for many years. Whenever that song gets airplay I am transported back to my much younger days and brother’s plea.

With repetition over the years certain songs can now just about drive me bonkers. When I’m out shopping and hear ‘Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer’ or ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ I have to grit my teeth. If it’s really loud, I’m ready to run out the door and forget the shopping!

It’s noteworthy that Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ is the biggest selling Christmas single of all time. Another one that never grows old is Nat King Cole’s ‘The Christmas Song’ (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire).

My preference is actually for the old traditional carols I grew up with, which never go out of style. Caroling (or wassailing) is a custom in Great Britain that goes back to the Middle Ages, when beggars would wander the streets seeking food, drink or money.

Carols tell the story of Christmas, with lyrics and melodies that are timeless.

As a girl and through much of my adult life I sang in choirs, and learned to appreciate the harmonies taught by a qualified director. There is something special about attending a Christmas Eve service in a church with good acoustics and a polished choir as their voices soar with the breathtaking ‘Handel’s Messiah.’

The carol ‘Silent Night’ was written in 1818 and is still a staple that’s been translated into more than 300 languages, and was commonly sung on the battlefield. ‘Joy to the World’ is a rousing carol that is a finale favourite of a pageant.

It’s more difficult to hear the old traditional carols on the airwaves these days, but thankfully new technology keeps them within reach. We can also attend seasonal presentations at theatres, schools and churches. Two I highly recommend are the Nightingale Chorus at the Imperial Theatre, and Starbright Christmas at VPP in Petrolia.

Nadine Wark is a retired office administrator and freelance writer who resides in Sarnia