Why Is Christmas Music So Popular?

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like Christmas music. Oh, there might be a few Grinches out there somewhere, but I’ve yet to meet them. Of course some folks favor one type of Christmas music over another. Personally I cringe at some modern secular songs that have little to do with the holiday except some passing reference to snow or cold or love. But almost everyone loves Christmas music.
That explains perhaps why some radio stations start playing Christmas music earlier each year. (I recall a friend who said that he was always glad to hear Christmas music because it meant that Halloween was just around the corner!) And perhaps it also explains why last year, in the heart of the pandemic lockdown, some resorted to Christmas music – while also putting up decorations – to buoy their sinking spirits.
But, why is Christmas music so popular? I can think of three reasons.
The first is that Christmas music conveys favorite traditions and warm memories of the past. Remember the school-sponsored Christmas pageants that always ended with doe-eyed little kids singing “Silent Night?” I recall standing in the choir loft of St. Teresa Church in Pittsburgh at Midnight Mass singing the beautiful hymn, Gesu Bambino: “When blossoms flowered ‘mid the snows . . .” And sitting on the floor at home in front of the stereo, singing along with Gene Autry, “Here comes Santa Claus.” Christmas music magically transports us back to simpler, happier times; back to our families, homes and churches.
Second, Christmas music is often joyful, silly even, but it makes us smile. Alvin and the Chipmunks chirping their Christmas song, or “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” (about as racy as music got back in the day), will do that to me. And there’s nothing wrong with having the joy of Christmas interrupt the anxiety of the times, even for a few minutes.
Third, Christmas music, especially religious Christmas carols, often conveys timeless lessons of faith and salvation. “O Holy Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” speak of the true meaning of Christmas: that Jesus is Emmanuel, the God who is with us, always; that Jesus was born so that “man no more may die” and thus “the weary world rejoices.” It seems to me that even non-believers can appreciate the positive themes of Christmas–peace and joy and hope to all!
In this Christmas Season, may you enjoy once again the great songs of Christmas. Go ahead, sing along!
Something to think about: What’s your favorite Christmas song?