My Collection: Christmas songs

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On paper, Christmas can sometimes be a bit of a drag. Cambridge prevents the ‘vacation’ from being a real break. It won’t snow properly until late January. I never know what to buy as presents, or what I want bought for me. Since turning vegetarian, I can’t even look forward to pigs-in-blankets! Yet there’s one thing which always makes Christmas worthwhile: the glorious tradition that is the classic Christmas playlist. Here are some of my favourites:

Santa Claus is Coming to Town (first recorded 1934; my favourite version, Frank Sinatra)

I used to have a dancing Santa decoration which sang this song; it must have been played ten times a day for the whole of December. No other song gets as close to the child-like wonder and delight which Christmas used to conjure, and which we as adults can sometimes forget.

Santa Baby (Eartha Kitt, 1953)

The party favourite, it has stunning potential for absolutely outrageous karaoke, if you dare. I’m not saying you should drag-up, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t, either... In any case, this provides the embodiment of the communal spirit of sing-a-long Christmas songs, and the chance to let your hair down.

Driving Home for Christmas (Chris Rea, 1988)

Ultimately, Christmas is all about going home and spending time with the family; a feeling which this song captures better than any other. Extra credit for the meta-level recognition of the power Christmas songs have to invoke such feelings. It’s more mellow than the others in this collection, but heart-warming.

A Fairytale of New York (The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl, 1987)

Consistently voted the nation’s favourite Christmas song and beloved by young and old despite – or perhaps because of – the unconventional lyrics, it’s the perfect Boxing Day antidote to excessive sentimentality. MacGowan and MacColl complement (but don’t compliment!) each other brilliantly. Nobody’s quite sure why but, undoubtedly, the song works.

Auld Lang Syne (trad. Scots; words by Robert Burns)

The country united in one magical moment. The countdown, the fireworks, the flood of text messages, and then this: the song that stretches Christmas out for another week and ushers in the New Year. Also a great excuse to read some of the other wonderful poems of Robbie Burns.

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