Christmas songs are a tricky one for a lot of Catholics. There is always a twinge of guilt for most who are jamming to "Jingle Bells" on November 25th when the Church is saying "Watch," "Wait," "Listen," "Be Still."
I think most don't want to take the time to sort through it all and decide what they can listen to and what they can't (and that is understandable). Therefore, I present to you my obsessive leg work on what songs are okay and when. This is not Canon Law, and I'd appreciate feedback/suggestions/your favorites!!!
I made four playlists on my Ipod the day after Thanksgiving this year.
1) Advent Church Music and Carols
2) Carols and Songs for the run-up to Christmas
3) Christmas Church Music
4) Christmas Songs
How to construct the first playlist:
1) Buy St. Meinrad's Advent CD (click here to purchase)
2) Get some other Advent music. Here are some suggestions
O Come O Come Emmanuel
Ave Maria (both because of Dec. 8th being in Advent, and because Marian hymns are also "Adventish", especially Marian hymns that celebrate the visitation of the Angel to the Blessed Virgin.) Here is a WONDERFUL version of the Ave Maria worth the download!
Holy is Your Name (Mary's response when the Angel visits her)
Veni Redemptor Gentium
2) This is the trickiest of the playlists. People want to listen to something Christmassy in the run-up to Christmas. The Church is cool with this after December 17th when we begin the second half of Advent - the anticipation of the FIRST coming of Jesus in Bethlehem (the first half of Advent is preparation for the 2nd coming). So what "Christmas" songs would be acceptable in the run-up to Christmas?
First of all, you have the "Christmas" songs that you could listen to right now because they are simply a celebration of winter. Those songs that are "okay right now":
Let It Snow
Jingle Bell Rock
The Holly and the Ivy
O Christmas Tree (it's just about a tree - although if you think it's wrong to put up your tree until Christmas day, then this song would be banned from this list)
It's the Most Wonderful Time of Year
Deck the Halls
Frosty the Snowman
The most subjective part of all of this is whether or not there are songs that one could listen to BEFORE Christmas that nonetheless still MENTION Christmas. I say yes - but I have criteria. The song has to get me thinking about what happened in Bethlehem without being overly celebratory about it happening just yet. Also, since I'd be listening to these songs from December 17th on into Christmas, a big requirement for me is that they still be kind of quiet/peaceful/in the spirit of prayerfulness that ought to still be present in the last 8 days of Advent. Again, this is all subjective.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
I'll Be Home for Christmas
Please Come Home for Christmas
The Little Drummer Boy
3) This is the list of Christmas songs you might encounter at a Mass during the Christmas season. Of course, the St. Meinrad CD has some lovely renditions of Christmas Mass music on there as well. In addition, here are some of the more common Church songs during Christmas:
O Come All Ye Faithful
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Oh Holy Night
The First Noel
Joy to the World
O Come Let Us Adore Him
Away in a Manger
O Little Town of Bethlehem
What Child Is This?
Angels We Have Heard On High
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
4) This is basically everything that I believe you ought to hold off for until December 25th. That, again, is up to you.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town/Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer/etc. - you may have issues with these. Understandable. Last year I did a post about whether or not Santa Claus = the Antichrist. You can go there by clicking here. The comments that follow the initial post are helpful I think.
The Christmas Song ("Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire...")
Christmas Time Is Here (Charlie Brown TV Show)
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
On Christmas Night
Carol of the Bells
Do You Hear What I Hear
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Holly Jolly Christmas
12 Days of Christmas
These lists are a little obsessive, obviously, but I do think putting a little time into it actually helps make Christmas even more blessed and enjoyable. Putting SOME limit on our music selections these next four weeks is really a type of fasting - we make the decision to not simply unleash the entire arsenal of our Christmas musical catalog on Black Friday, but instead are called to a gradual and measured approach to December 25th.
Okay, so what did I get wrong? Further suggestions? Favorite versions of songs?