There will always be the traditional Christmas songs: “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Joy to the World,” “O Holy Night” and the like. But what about those other Christmas songs that don’t have hymnals as relatives, and whose basis is not praising the overtly holy aspects of this holiday? Though Christmas has a history rich with religion it has become more worldly. What was once the baby Jesus in his manger crib has become an image of hands spread across space in an embrace of peace. One common thread among modern Christmas songs is love, and for good reason. One third of this world is Christian. Only one-third. The other two-thirds are divided into varying religions or personal beliefs. But Christmas is one of the most recognized holidays and one of the most celebrated, even in countries where Christianity is by far the least recognized faith. It has been through this divide that we have received some of the greatest holiday songs: “The Christmas Song,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “Last Christmas,” and more. They are songs that speak to people on an intimate level, and not about faith and praising the Lord, but about the spiritual experiences between two people. Those moments are a drop in the ocean, but without them, there would be no ocean. With that said, I introduce my first Christmas song recommendation:
“Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. This song is found on The Hotel Cafe Presents Winter Songs album. Both artists are exceptional singer/songwriters. The instrumentation on this track is simple, with piano, ukulele, glockenspiel, and an assortment of strings. The primary focus is the vocals, but more importantly, their words. They take winter and create a parallel to a relationship, making December the long, cold lonely month when two lovers are apart. Sara sings, “They say that things just cannot grow, beneath the winter snow, or so I have been told. They say we’re buried far, just like a distant star, I simply cannot hold.” Throughout the track, both women ask, “Is love alive?” as if pondering whether it can grow in these dismal moments, like a fledging flower in the winter ground. The song culminates with this absolutely beautiful moment when the music crescendos along with vocals as they create a canon and repeat, “Is love alive?” The last notes of the song, however, are Sara and Ingrid, without instrumentation, as they ask if love is alive.