December 2, 2009

Have A Merry Old-School Christmas

I am hopelessly old-school when it comes to Christmas.* I tend to listen to nothing recorded after 1976 or watch anything filmed after 1960. You can keep your Lady Ga-Ga and Justin Timberlake holiday singles. Your Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens. Your Home Alone, your Santa Clause. Give me Dean and Frank and Bing. Give me the Muppets, Jimmy Stewart, claymation.

How very uncool am I when it comes to the holidays. Here's proof.

My top five Christmas albums:
- Christmas Swing (Various Artists). It's an album that was sadly but unsurprisingly discontinued. I found it in a bargain bin for $5. But it's chock full of fantastic, big-band swing versions of great holiday classics. And the artists don't play it safe or aim for pleasant. They go big. If you can find a copy, grab it.
- A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (Frank Sinatra) You can never, ever go wrong with Frank, unless you're talking about 80 year-old Frank who didn't know it was time to hang up his mic.
- White Christmas (Bing Crosby) What can I say? It's a classic.
- Christmas Collection: 20th Century Masters (Willie Nelson) I'm a Texan. One musical constant in my life growing up was Willie Nelson. So it makes sense that his Christmas songs are a staple in my house. Sadly, the album is out of print but you can still pick up the MP3 version online.
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (Vince Guaraldi) I've never really understood the appeal of the old Charlie Brown TV specials. They always seemed vaguely depressing to me. But the music? It doesn't get much better than Vince Guaraldi. And the music for the Charlie Brown Christmas special is maybe his finest work.

(Sweet baby jesus, I've already gone through five? And I didn't have a chance to mention my awesome John Denver Christmas album? What? Did I say that out loud?)

My top five Christmas movies:
- White Christmas. Yeah, I know it's cliche and schlocky but it chokes me up every time and I sincerely love it.
- The Bishop's Wife. One of the great unknown holiday movies, Cary Grant stars in this fantastic flick that would later be remade with Whitney Houston (gah). It's truly magical and wonderful and worth the $8 Amazon is asking for it.
- It's A Wonderful Life. Again, yes, cliche but you can't go wrong inviting Jimmy Stewart into your home for a couple of hours.
- Miracle on 34th Street. The 1947 classic - not the remake.
- All the stop-animation, claymation Christmas specials that seem to star Burl Ives or Bing Crosby.

I think I love these things because they were introduced to me by my parents when I was a kid. They were tradition then and I guess I'm trying to carry on that tradition now. But more importantly than that, these are the things that mean Christmas to me. Even if they are old and uncool.

What are your favorite Christmas albums and movies? And have you broken them out yet?

* And here I think I need to explain that I celebrate Christmas with the full knowledge that some of you don't. But instead of being all sensitive and politically correct and saying holidays with a capital H, I'm just going to stick with Christmas. I'm sure you understand that I'm not trying in the slightest to be religiously, holidayously insensitive.

Posted by Chris at December 2, 2009 6:51 AM

Have you heard Bob Dylan's new album, Christmas in the Heart? For people who feel suicidal at Christmas, this is just what you need to push you right over the edge.

Posted by: Marshall Karp at December 2, 2009 7:24 AM

I tend to be in the same boat (though Home Alone's pretty decent). A couple of my favorite Christmas albums are the same: I love anything Frank sang and I have a Rat Pack Christmas album that rocks. I tend to like jazzy renditions of classics or anything that Steve and Eydie sang. The old timey songs are really the best.

Posted by: Claire at December 2, 2009 8:19 AM

i am old-school when it comes to the music as well, and love all the albums you mentioned. VGT is in my car already, making every drive festive. but i have to add john fahey's acoustic guitar christmas carols to the list. my dad kept a reel-to-reel loooong after they were obsolete and we would listen to that every year as we put up and decorated the tree (not to mention christmas morning). look that one up!!

but when it comes to the movies, i can't even explain it but Elf is my favorite. "santa???!!!! i KNOW him!!!!" i could watch it a million times. :)

btw, muller grey was born monday at 5:45 pm. 8lbs, 20.5in long and perfect. muller was my grandmother's maiden name. i am snuggling him while i type this :)

Posted by: kati at December 2, 2009 8:32 AM

Wha?? How the Grinch Stole Christmas (original, of course) isn't on your list???

I love movies like Santa Clause and the very old Rudolph... but those are the ones that I grew up with.

Maybe it's very weird, but it's not Christmas until I've been the Coca Cola commercial on TV, the one with the trucks. I don't watch much TV lately and therefore don't always see it, maybe that's why I've gone kind of bah-humbug about Christmas.

Posted by: Hannah at December 2, 2009 8:35 AM

I love Christmas. It makes me insanely happy, which should be considered a Christmas miracle. I also love the stop-animation Christmas movies. I have a boxed set of them and could watch them over and over. My daughter does not feel the same way, but that's why we have two TV's. I also love Elf (with Will Ferrell). But I watch that year round. Christmas music? Pretty much love it all (some remakes are horribly cheesy and just awful), but I adore Gary Hoey. No words, just him and his electric guitar rockin' out Christmas carols. His recording of Carol of the Bells is amazing.

Posted by: js at December 2, 2009 8:43 AM

My favorite Christmas album (one loved by the whole family - we play it while we're opening packages) is A Carnegie Hall Christmas Concert. And my favorite movie? A Christmas Story. My dad and I love it. :o)

Posted by: Emily at December 2, 2009 8:44 AM

I'm right with you on everything, but there were a few omissions from my personal list.

A Christmas Carol. There are so many versions, but I particularly love the old Black & White version from the 1950s.

As for music, I also like a couple of the Beach Boys' Christmas tunes, but I don't get into any of the new stuff at all. Bing Crosby is always a holiday staple in my house.

OH...And "A Christmas Story" know. The one they play ad nauseum on TBS back in the states?

"You'll shoot your eye out, kid!!!"

Posted by: Holly Reynolds at December 2, 2009 8:44 AM

I love Christmas music but don't have much of the old stuff. I especially love religious Christmas music - the Joy to the World stuff more than the Santa coming down the chimney stuff. I do have a Bath & Body Works CD from a couple of years ago with good stuff on it. I have to go grab it now for the car!
Hubs and I were commenting last night about Christmas shows when we saw the commercial for Rudolph. I'll watch them when they're on now but don't go out of my way.
I didn't know The Preacher's Wife was a remake of The Bishop's Wife. I have to say that's one of my FAVORITE movies but only because I want to marry Denzel Washington in my next life. And the music from that is fabulous!!
Merry Christmas!

Posted by: NancyJ at December 2, 2009 8:57 AM

I agree about Christmas. Old school ALL the way.

John Denver is BY FAR by most favorite album. I do not get the new stuff... it sounds so lame next to the old school stuff!

That is an awesome list of movies but I would ahve to agree with Holly who said the B&W versions of A Christmas Carol and any of shows that I watched when I was a kid and they were actually on TV and called a "special" - you know the ones they stream 24/7 on ABC Family. I miss specials. It seems like for awhile they were not doing those but the networks seem to be getting back into that.

Posted by: Christina at December 2, 2009 8:59 AM

Wow. I don't many people who love the old movies too. I have seen the Bishop's Wife many times and LOVE it! I'm also a fan of the original Miracle on 34th street and It's a Wonderful Life. And any movie with Danny Kaye and Bing Crosy is all right with me! Isn't it something also to see Rosemary Clooney and realize she is George Clooney's aunt??

My husband introduced me to The Christmas Story (is that the name?? The one with the little boy and the bb gun and all that stuff??) It's pretty cute.

As far as music, I don't know of anyone else that has that swing album! They had an overstock sale on it about 6 yrs ago on some online store and I bought like 10 of them and have slowly been doling them out as holiday gifts. I LOVE that CD. Also a big fan of the oldies too.

I knew there was a reason why I thought you and the wife were cool!

Posted by: Varinia at December 2, 2009 9:09 AM

Definitely claymation all the way. Frosty, Rudolph, etc - gotta have 'em.

Music varies, depends on what tickles my fancy from day to day. lol

Posted by: Kris at December 2, 2009 10:07 AM

We had the John Denver Christmas album when I was growing up! Please Daddy don't get drunk this Christmas made quite an impression on me.

Like you, I prefer the classics when it comes to Christmas songs.

And yes, it just isn't Christmas until I've watched It's a Wonderful Life and cried. I love Rudolph and the Grinch as well.

Posted by: bad penguin at December 2, 2009 10:19 AM

Another vote for The Christmas Story here. My kids quote more lines from that than they do Ferris Bueller's Day Off! As far as music goes, the hubs likes the Andy Williams Christmas album. I just bought Sugarland's new holiday album Gold and Green. It is fabulous. I am also a sucker for Michael Buble'. When I tire of those, I go back to John Denver or the Muppets!

Posted by: Christy at December 2, 2009 10:35 AM

Sing Along with Mitch Miller and the Gang! Can't find this gem on CD so I'm holding onto my vinyl copy. Made my now-husband listen to it one year when he was my new boyfriend and, when he didn't run screaming from the room, I knew he was a keeper.

Posted by: rebecca at December 2, 2009 10:35 AM

My absolute favorite Christmas show is How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the original. What Jim Carey did to it ought to be a crime. I like all the older stop action specials also. The older
music is the best, my sister has an extensive collection of Christmas music and she's made me
several cds of the classics.

Posted by: Michelle at December 2, 2009 10:40 AM

You're discussing your *Christmas* favorites and Christmas-specific movies and you don't need the distinction of Holidays. I don't think. Or...something.

I have a few new-school favorites (seriously, gives me the Muppets Christmas Carol and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and I'm happy). But I really love the Christmas stuff I grew up on (and this is going to be highly embarrassing: The Carpenters, Gene Autry, the Statler Brothers, Lee Greenwood, Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, Perry Cuomo (I mean, seriously it's an amazing Christmas album), Wayne Newton. All excellent Christmas albums. I love the Rudolph with the choppy animation and Burl Ives the Snowman but can't watch the Little Drummer Boy because it freaks me out. I can't stand Frosty the Snowman, period. But Rudolph, Charlie Brown Christmas, the Claymation Christmas, Garfield Christmas, and the Grinch all hold a special place in my heart.

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at December 2, 2009 10:45 AM

Can't believe you left off LOVE, ACTUALLY. So, so good. I just love the LOVE in that movie. So good. So, so good.

Posted by: Kalisa at December 2, 2009 11:02 AM

OK, I'm pretty old school when it comes to Christmas music, too, but! knowing that your musical taste runs a little rock n' roll, may I suggest the Very Special Christmas series. These were recorded in the 90s and are Christmas classics by the artists that were big at the time. It's really heavy on the Jon Bon Jovi as VSC was a pet project, but I like him, so it's no big. U2 doing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"? "Ave Maria" by Chris Cornell? Come ON. These CDs (available on iTunes) are the foundation of my Christmas catalog. See also Classic Rock Christmas (iTunes), A Rock n' Roll Christmas (Amazon), and Billboard's Christmas (Amazon).


Posted by: Brooke at December 2, 2009 12:14 PM

i like old school stuff as well, and diana krall has a pretty nice xmas album.
love actually and ntl lampoon's xmas vacation are my must-watch movies. so excited to watch the later with my almost 8-year this year :)

Posted by: meanie at December 2, 2009 12:23 PM

I love the classics, too, especially the Muppets. But my very favorite Christmas album is by The Squirrel Nut Zippers. Seriously- you should check it out. It's called Christmas Caravan, and it's been discontinued, but you can get it used or on mp3.

Posted by: heels at December 2, 2009 12:36 PM

OMG the best Christmas music of all time is the Holiday Sing-Along with Mitch Miller. Such fun songs and easy to learn. I remember this as a child and I love hearing meant Santa was coming ;)

Posted by: Jean at December 2, 2009 12:38 PM

mmmm, I love the animated (original) Grinch & of course all the stop-motion animated Burl Ivesy specials. I also love the Muppets Christmas Carol. It's a Wonderful Life is lovely; I also have a kick-ass Christmas CD with Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole & Bing Crosby - it's my favorite.

Posted by: Carrster at December 2, 2009 12:49 PM

My favourite Christmas "album" is a compilation called "Yule Be Swingin"

Seriously, check it out if you like the Christmas Swing.

I got another favourite compilation that I think my mom got me from Eatons (Canadian fixture department store for over a century that succumbed to economic Tuberculosis). It's got some other faves like Ella and Frank.

Another one I got from a bookstore (!!) that has some classical & some kids' choirs.

It all gets heavy rotation starting... soon.

My favourite Christmas movie is, like many others here, A Christmas Story.

Not so much movies, but staples nonetheless are Rudolph ("let's get the women home" haw!!!), Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Frosty, & The Grinch. We've got them all on DVD, but for some reason, we have to stop the world when they come on TV!

Posted by: harmzie at December 2, 2009 1:03 PM

It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite Christmas movie. It reminds me why my life has been important.
Favorite song? "Wonderful Christmas Time" by Paul McCartney. It makes me smile every time I hear it.

Posted by: Maribeth at December 2, 2009 1:06 PM

I'm old school for Christmas, too. You can remake it all you like, but if Bing or Ella or Louis did it before you, I say don't bother. And Lena Horne and Eartha Kit and Leon Redbone? Oh, hell yeah. I could go on and on. There aren't very many new songs that make it onto my Christmas playlist. And I totally agree on Vincent Guaraldi. Best Christmas album ever.

Toy Story is probably about as new school as I get. I've got to get my leg lamp lights up in my office this week or people will think I'm sick or something. Our tree trimming tradition is weird, though. We watch 13th Warrior and drink hot chocolate as we put up the tree. :)

Posted by: Sara at December 2, 2009 1:09 PM

Ok, so have you not seen "A Christmas story" I think it would be right up your alley..

That is probably my favorite.. I watched "The Santa Clause" with Tim Allen for the first time last year and really liked it.. even with Tim Allen in it..

The Polar Express - Another must see.. at least at some point in your life..

Music? the Charlie Brown Album is always playing on my computer at work during Christmas .. :) Oh and An Elvis Christmas ..

Posted by: molly at December 2, 2009 1:22 PM

Great.. Now I have Blue Christmas stuck in my head.. its going to be a long day..

Posted by: molly at December 2, 2009 1:27 PM

I love the old Christmas music best, too. I haven't actually seen most of those movies, though! I will. I shall put them on my list! (And then I'll check it twice :P )

Posted by: Heather at December 2, 2009 2:02 PM

I agree with you 100% on the Peanuts seasonal specials. I could never stand them, as I always (even as a kid) walked away feeling vaguely depressed and saddened by them. I avoid them like the plague now.
And as for White Christmas... BEST MOVIE EVER (seasonal). A couple years ago my Husband found a local theater playing it on the big screen and surprised me. It was fantastic. I hope you show it to Mia and she gets to dance around and amke Owen sing the "Sisters" song with her.

Posted by: Annie at December 2, 2009 2:24 PM

Claymation rocks! Love The Little Drummer Boy. Hate Charlie Brown Christmas specials.

Posted by: Theresa at December 2, 2009 3:08 PM

The only film better than "It's a Wonderful Life" is "Harvey" - but that's not Christmas. Can you tell I'm a sucker for Jimmy ;)
The only exception I would add to the film list you gave would be "A Christmas Story"
Merry Christmas!

Posted by: laineyDid at December 2, 2009 5:16 PM

Wow, I'm right there with you...with some's not the Christmas season until I hear Bruce Springsteen's Santa Claus is Coming to Town...of course, with radio stations starting to play christmas songs 24/7 starting in MAY! (okay, slight exaggeration) I almost have to avoid it until the week after Thanksgiving! Thank goodness it's on the iPod! I also have a few rock n roll christmas song favs (U2, Bon Jovi, the Waitresses - okay not RnR, but I was a child of the 80s and Christmas Wrapping is one of my favs!) Anything newer than, say 85, Hate It! ;-)

And I'm all for the claymation - best christmas shows EVER! Am so happy they are classics so I can share with Leda! She loves them too...although I think she's a little frightened by the Burl Ives talking snowman at the beginning of Rudolph.

Posted by: cyndy at December 2, 2009 5:24 PM

I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I love the Josh Groban Christmas album.

favorite movies? A Christmas Story & National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

and I kind of dig Elf too.

Posted by: ali at December 2, 2009 9:40 PM

Albums? Nat. King. Cole. Duh. Also? John Denver and the Muppets. So badass. For films I tend to veer more towards modern. Don't hate me - I love The Santa Clause and All I Want for Christmas (Velveeta served on cheddar with a side of Kraft Singles). I've never seen It's a Wonderful Life. I know. Shoot me. I plan to rectify that problem this year. Also? I'm a sucker for Mr. Hanky. Thank you South Park for revolutionizing X-Mas.

Posted by: rougeneck at December 2, 2009 9:55 PM

Never watched Miracle on 34th Street and never even heard of The Bishop's Wife. Never been much into Christmas music. That being said, I think of Christmas music being Bing Crosby, Frank Sanatra and Nat King Cole.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at December 2, 2009 10:15 PM

Love the old Christmas music. Frank and the Rat Pack are my favorites. I also have a holiday swing CD that kicks butt.

I love all kinds of Christmas movies, but especially the cartoon and animation ones. I have never seen "Miracle on 34th Street" or "It's a Wonderful Life". And, yes, before you ask, I have been living under a rock. However, "A Christmas Story" rocks!!

Posted by: Krush at December 2, 2009 10:43 PM

Yes to the old school! I can't believe you left off The Christmas Story ("Fra-geeel-ay"). Little Drummer Boy, Rudolph and the original Grinch are always watched. New favorites are The Santa Clause and Polar Express (I like the Polar Express soundtrack too). Favorite old music would be John Denver and the Muppets and the Nutcracker Suite, and any Bing Crosby song. Favorite books are Santa's Snow Cat, The Littlest Angel, The Nutcracker pop up book and of course The Night Before Christmas. We have not started the Christmas movies yet, but we have listened to some music (and we did watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles over Thanksgiving weekend - does that count?)

Posted by: Micky at December 2, 2009 10:57 PM

It makes me happy that you love White Christmas. Best Christmas movie ever! I can't wait to break it out this season!

Posted by: Shannon at December 2, 2009 11:58 PM

I always like Gene Autrey's (sp?) Rudolph version.
And you can't forget The Chipmunks recording :)
That was one of my favorites. I have no clue when it was recorded though....

Posted by: Rose Winters at December 3, 2009 12:39 AM

Favorite album: Phil Spector's christmas album and some old cassette that my parents used to have when I was little starring slade, Abba, wham and the saddest song of all Fay lovsky's Christmas was a friend of mine.

Movie: The blues brothers or anything Monty Python, cause that's what me and my dad watch.

Posted by: mikkie at December 3, 2009 5:14 AM

I have yet to break my Christmas music out yet... because it's raining...

Not so much into the movies, although I did shed a "ain't humanity great" tear during It's a Wonderful Life.

Music, well, for some reason the Man and I have a thing for dysfunctional Christmas music.
Ben Folds, Bizarre Christmas Incident. (From a compilation called, Maybe This Christmas.)
Dwight Yoakam, Santa Can't Stay. Really.

However, for the more traditional tidings...
Eartha Kitts (NOT MADONNA's) Santa Can't Stay.
And pretty much any Christmas song involving Dean Martin. (I've got your love to keep me warm.)

Posted by: Nat at December 3, 2009 7:04 AM

Yeah, Bob Dylan's Christmas album is pretty great, I've got it on full rotation on my iPod.

Posted by: Malnurtured Snay at December 3, 2009 7:32 AM

Don't forget HOME ALONE!!! Loves that one.

Posted by: Mb at December 3, 2009 7:55 AM

I agree with you that the old school stuff tends to be better, but what about The Bloom County Christmas Special: A Wish for Wings that Work? Elvis carolling. "Penguins can't fly" jokes. Hairballs.

And yeah, gotta put Boris Karloff's Grinch on the list!

Posted by: Kat at December 3, 2009 8:45 PM

My favorite Christmas movie is Home Alone 2.

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