In no particular order:
1. O Holy Night– Give me a junior high music teacher playing this one with gusto on the church piano, and all is right with the world.
2. Little Drummer Boy– “I have no gift to bring pa-rum-pa-pum-pum/ To lay before the king pa-rum-pa-pum-pum, rum-pa-pum-pum, rum-pa-pum-pum….” Fugghetaboutit.
3. Do You Hear What I Hear– This song starts small and finishes big. The night wind told the little lamb, the lamb told the shepherd, the shepherd told the king, and the king told the people everywhere: “Listen to what I say! Pray for peace people everywhere! The child sleeping in the night will bring us goodness and light!”
4. Here We Come A Wassailing– This one is (or was) in the Morehouse College Glee Club’s repertoire. Wassailing is essentially caroling–going around to houses singing. Back when I was a kid and there were white people in my parents’ neighborhood in Detroit, we went from house to house singing at Christmas, and people let us in for hot chocolate and cookies. Do people still go caroling? Don’t see a whole lot of that in my part of New York City.
5. Good King Wenceslaus– That Wenceslaus, he was generous, brave, and apparently possessed supernatural powers. Really leaves you feeling the Christmas spirit.
6. We Wish You A Merry Christmas– Besides maybe “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night,” this is the flagship Christmas carol. How many television commercials have you seen with a group of smiling men and women singing this one? Maybe they change the words slightly so it applies to lottery tickets or a grocery store. Maybe it’s just the instrumental version, with a thoughtful spokesman talking over it.
7. This Christmas– many artists have recorded this one, but Donnie Hathaway has the most popular cover. Shake a hand now.
8. Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto– James Brown + Christmas. `Nuff said.
9. The Twelve Days of Christmas– Without this song, I never would have known there were 12 days of Christmas. Twelfth Night happens to fall on my birthday every year. Yet another untapped party theme.
10. The Hallelujah Chorus– Also popular in marketing circles, but we can look deeper than the tune to the message: “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.” Do you know what that means? It means that with Jesus, heaven has come to earth and is available to whoever wants some. Again, I ask, do you know what that means?