Time to jam to holiday tunes

I grew up in a household that was particular about when and where holiday music could be played: from after Thanksgiving Day to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Because of this, I am always excited about the season in which I can listen to some of my favorite carols and holiday tunes without being scorned by my parents. Each holiday album and song reminds me of December memories throughout the years, and gives me that semi-awkward wistful look that always looks beautiful in movies, but is weird to see on people’s faces in real life.

Here are some of my favorite things to listen to on the days when the days are short and all you want to do is drink your weight in hot cocoa, snuggle, watch Love Actually multiple times, and eat mashed potatoes at any given opportunity.

Pentatonix’s That’s Christmas To Me
It could be my enduring love for Kevin Olusola, this a cappella group’s beatboxer, but 2014’s best-selling Christmas album was super popular for a reason. As much as I love solo renditions of the classics, the small chamber vocal arrangements on this album are refreshing to the ears. Having been used to choral arrangements of church carols, and the mellow timbre of the likes of Michael Bublé for the poppier tunes, Pentatonix offers an interesting halfway point between the two common types. I love their “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and their “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” but they also have a mushy gushy original tune, “That’s Christmas To Me,” which I love.

Last year my parents bought me the album as an early Christmas present, and also to fuel my — and their — obsession with Kevin Olusola. We listened to it multiple times on our annual cross country car trip to my grandparents’ house. If you didn’t have the chance to hear this last year, or weren’t paying attention as it played constantly in the background during long Barnes & Noble shopping trips, it is totally worth rocking out to this year.

A Taste of Chanukah
I listen to this album once a year. Growing up as a demi-Jew (half-Jewish), my winter holidays tend to be an amalgamation of the two holidays. One of my favorite traditions in my family is listening to this variety album of Chanukah tunes while decorating the family Christmas tree, complete with the Star of David perched on the top. Being a Boston native as well, this Boston-centric album is a wonderful taste — no pun intended — of various Chanukah traditions. Featuring ensembles from New England Conservatory and around Boston, songs are sung in various languages with different styles and vibes. The album opens with “Oy Chanukah,” an English and Yiddish take on the classic. Throughout the album there are more classic songs, like “Ikh Bin a Kleyner Dreydl,” (a German variant of “I have a little dreydl”), as well as psalms, and a comedic latke cooking demonstration. Chanukah is the celebration of a miracle, and the comic energy and general lightheartedness make this album a great addition to the holiday celebrations.

Josh Groban’s Noël
Josh Groban has the wonderful talent of being at once humorous, and also soothing. Though by no means a favorite singer of mine, Josh Groban’s Christmas album Noël is a great sing-along opportunity, if you are into belting loudly and dramatically with friends and family. To me, singing carols and other songs with friends is a wonderful and relaxing way to spend an evening, particularly if you’re stuck together in a small space — a car for instance — traversing slowly through a semi-scary snow storm and trying very hard not to skid on the ice. Be very careful though, as it is important to pay attention to others in the car when engaging in a sing-a-long, because there is nothing less fun than being stuck in a place where there is a sing-a-long happening that you are not into. And Christmas is no time to start fights.

Ella Fitzgerald’s Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas
One of the great vocalists of her time, this album from 1960 is still one of my favorite holiday music choices. Her renditions of songs such as “The Christmas Song” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” add just enough embellishment and jazzy calmness to make them interesting and joy-inducing. I think her voice is extraordinarily beautiful, and I’d basically choose to listen to it all the time, if I could. For whatever the reason, I seem to have a mental block when it comes to memorizing the lyrics to multiple verses of Christmas carols, whereas I can unwillingly recite all the lyrics to Katy Perry’s “Firework.” Fitzgerald’s album is a great place to re-learn some of those words you forgot, so you don’t embarrass yourself in front of all your cousins when you gather ‘round the piano’ later.

Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
To be honest, I’ve never listened to the album that this classic holiday song came off of in 1994. It’s called Merry Christmas, and I’m going to try to make a point of listening to it over break this year. However, almost everyone loves this song. In high school, my friend David Julien listened to this song every day starting from the beginning of October until March, conservatively, which was pretty weird. But because of that, this song makes me quite nostalgic and is also a good song to dance to. I personally don’t find this song amazing, but it just wouldn’t be Christmas without Mariah Carey crooning in the back of my mind.

Regardless of what you choose to listen to this Christmas, I hope that the holidays are very fun. For those who prefer instrumental Christmas music, there is a wealth of beautiful options. If you prefer to listen to get your holiday groove on to the impassioned and tortured vocals of Three Days Grace or Green Day, feel free, as long as you are happy.