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The Jewish Joy of Christmas Music

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
On Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, while others are busy rushing around trying to get bargains on sweaters and toys, I take out my ever-burgeoning collection of Christmas music to be listened to over the ensuing few weeks. My collection, which has been amassed with the aid of two gentile friends (one religious and one not), grows each year as we jointly enjoy one of the great aspects of being an American.

The collection includes a wide range of music from classical to pop to rock to country to folk to soul to blues and even punk rock. When you become a fan of Christmas music, you find that just about every major artist (and most minor ones) has a Christmas album. Of course, one must have Frank, Dino and Sammy, not to mention A Rat Pack Christmas. A must is to include the King (Elvis) and Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You, not to mention the All-American group – The Beach Boys. One could just go on forever.

How did this Jewish boy become so enamored with Christmas music? It started back in elementary school which in itself is a little strange. That is because I grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, made up of about 85% Jews, 10% Italians, and the rest were mutts. We had a Christmas pageant every year where all the kids participated in a chorus performing classic Christmas music for our families. I cannot imagine something like that going on today with the culture war in our country. After a few years of singing Silent Night, Deck the Halls, Silver Bells, and The Twelve Days of Christmas, the music gets stuck in your head and you cannot wait for the next Thanksgiving to start listening again.

So my friends and I decided we cannot depend on the radio station; we wanted on our own music. We had to have the classics like The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Eugene Ormandy conducting the great Philadelphia Orchestra and Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. Then you fill in with modern classical like Mannheim Streamroller. You need to get the must haves like Nat King Cole and of course Vince Guaraldi (Charlie Brown) and Mel Torme'. From there you just start going crazy because you must have all those classic artists like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

This contagion does not stop with me, but has spread throughout my entire household. My wife and kids love the music just as much as I do. “Hey, Honey let’s listen to Karen (Carpenter) or “Daughter, you want to listen to my man, Cee Lo’s Christmas Album”? Or my son tells me how he got Dave (the new king of Christmas) Koz’s Smooth Jazz Christmas. Then #1 son arranges for us to go see Koz’s Christmas show with his all-star friends.

The collecting never stops as great albums come out every year. Rockin’ Rodney (Stewart) just released his interpretation of Christmas music and so did Michael Buble'. Or you go back and get long-time Christmas all-stars like Andy Williams. Then there is even fascinating takes like Beatmas which is The Rubber Band singing classic Christmas songs to Beatle music -- you have to love it.

Christmas has a very special meaning to people. It is a deeply religious holiday and as Jews we would never want to infringe on that in any way. And many of us are peeved that some people want to tone down the religious aspect of Christmas in this country. The holiday will not survive as a secular celebration. Though we will never share the religious aspect of what Christmas stands for, we can certainly share the joy of the time and the music.

This in its way is a thank you to the Christian majority of this country. Sure there have been challenges and some bad times and some bad people over American history. But there has never been a country in the history of the Jews that ever accepted Jews in such a full and complete way as America. The only other country where we have ever been so accepted, appreciated, and actually honored is Israel. It is a tribute to the humanity of the Christians of this country who in a unique way accepted the teachings of Jesus.

Merry Christmas to you all! Now, I have to go listen to Darlene Love sing Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) -- which must be listened to at least twice -- and pre-order my Chinese food for Christmas (Yes, it is true – it is a Christmas tradition for Jews.) God Bless.

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