“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” Bing Crosby serenades you as you enjoy your mug of hot cocoa by the Christmas tree. It’s that time of year again: you’re surrounded by holiday cheer, stores begin to decorate festively, the city streets become threaded with lights, carolers sing, and the great Christmas artists – Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Michael Buble etc, start to take over your radio. You sing along to every word but you ask yourself, what is it about this music that fills everyone with such cheer?
The tradition of Christmas music is rooted in religious songs and celebrations, much like many other styles of music. Composers of the Middle Age based their music on the messiah (Jesus), celebrating his day of birth, December 25, and churchgoers would gather at a place of worship to join in the festivities. What began as a religious gathering and commemoration, however, quickly changed; Christmas became commercialized and was celebrated by people from different religious backgrounds.
As Christmas evolved, the music did too. The idea of the celebration of Jesus’ birth dissipated and composers began to focus their music more on the traditions which celebrated the broader Christmas season. Today, these songs tend to discuss snow and hot cocoa, warm fires, gifts, and Santa Clause, while referencing family values and the coming together of different people. Both the music and the lyrics of holiday music entices audiences by providing desirable imagery of warmth, comfort, and acceptance – the basic values of Christmas!
Modern musicians like Michael Buble have taken advantage of these Christmas values to sell albums.They re-master and cover pre-existing holiday songs, taking their careers to new heights. Michael Buble’s album, Christmas, includes mostly remakes of classic Christmas songs, and earned him a high place in the holiday charts in the U.S. and Canada. While the motives of these artists are all different, they give the audience what they want, enjoyable music to ring in the Christmas season with! But in the end, the motive behind the making of Christmas music doesn’t really matter; what does matter is that it keeps the spirit of Christmas alive. From the early religious composers to Bing Crosby, and Michael Buble, holiday music has evolved, but Christmas cheer has remained constant.
It’s as you finish your mug of hot cocoa and head to your kitchen that the impact of Christmas music is at its strongest. You find yourself humming ‘The Christmas Song’ even after it’s ended, and it’s hard to believe how one song could make such an impact on your mood. It seems that the warmth, comfort, and acceptance portrayed in the Christmas music transfers to you, and thus the meaning of Christmas becomes apparent. Through instruments, vocals, and lyrics, the idea of love is relayed. The holidays are about expressing the love you have for your family and friends and nothing shows that love better than Christmas music.