Janice’s Christmas Picks

Janice’s Christmas Picks

Happy Holidays, folks!  Kara & I are back for the Christmas season, and we have come bearing gifts of music lists (of course).

So…here’s my list.



Okay, all through, thanks!


All right, all right, here’s a more diverse list though I will be honest — it contains much of the above soundtrack.  But seriously, Vince Guaraldi Trio *swoon*.  I have to listen to this album every holiday season.

While our objective was for a top ten list of favorite Christmas songs, I decided to divvy this up into secular(-ish)/nonsecular.


10.  “Skating” – Vince Guaraldi Trio

Can’t you just see Snoopy skating around gleefully?  The major keys and running-up-and-down chords remind me of the hustle and bustle of the season…and it’s just so happy.  I may have spun around in circles around my living room listening to this song when I was younger; I mean, I was younger yesterday compared to today, right?

9.  “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

Just thinking about this song conjures up a group of carolers traveling door-to-door in harmony.  This song is on the list mainly for nostalgia — it is reminiscent of the elementary school years and the thrill of countdowns and emphatically singing “FIVE GOLDEN RINGS!”  And now…I would like some onion rings, please.

8.  “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – Zooey Deschanel & Leon Russell version

Let’s be honest — the lyrics of this song are a little creepy…but if you don’t analyze it all too much, it can be enjoyable.  I’m a bit picky about duets, but I enjoy the call-and-answer, internal-debate-externalized whole thing.  Musically, I enjoy the lingering long notes.

7.  “Christmas Time Is Here” – Vince Guaraldi Trio (instrumental (>) vocal?)

I’m torn — although I enjoy both versions, I enjoy the simplicity of no voices at times.  Words make things more complicated (alludes to other aspects of life…I digress).  That being said, the lyrical message here remains unencumbered with the complexities of life.  I relish the tranquility of this song and its unabashed use of the maj7 chords.

6.  “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” – Vince Guaraldi Trio version, Nat King Cole version

*waits for all the audience groans to fade*  Yes, I know it is, among many other songs, overplayed, but I still like the scene that it sets.  Also one of my favorite pieces to play on the piano annually…and maybe also in July.  I enjoy the change in scale types within the song as well.


5.  “The First Noel”

Ah, a song that does not technically contain the actual word “Christmas.” Pretty sure I spent many years belting out “No Well!” and singing along with the building swells of the “Noels.”

4.  “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

I find this song to be best performed a cappella in low lighting. Which means I make a strong association between it and midnight mass. Notable for being in a minor key as well.

3.  “Silent Night”

So this one brings me back to the days of elementary/junior high school choir and the days of learning the lyrics in German for the performance.

2.  “Angels We Have Heard on High”

One word:  “GLO-OHHH-OHHHH-OHHHH-OHHHH-OHHHH-OHHH-RIA.” Kind of fun as a kid…still fun now. Also strongly associated with childhood.

1.  “O Holy Night”

This one is near and dear as it is a certain family favorite. Also, to me, it feels like more of a story unfolding while sung than other songs of the season. The complexity and range of the melody are also notable.


Holiday Food Item:

I will admit that I don’t really have a standard, but over recent years, the pumpkin roll is making its mark, perhaps because it is a well-seated traditional dessert that is made by someone who has helped to shape me.

…oh, and it contains cream cheese and walnuts.

These are from aforementioned someone’s social media.


That’s all for now. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas now. (Sneaking in #11 there.)

Kara’s Christmas Faves

Kara’s Christmas Faves

AAAAND WE’RE BACK IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING! It’s that Holidays time of year, so naturally it’s time for correspondingly themed posts. Since I’m the Baby Jesus Celebrant variety of human, here’s my selection of Christmas favorites.


These are in alphabetical order, because heck if I’m going to CHOOSE choose.

“All I Want For Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey
I mean, duh. So simultaneously beloved and hated by the mainstream Christmas populace because it is so dang catchy. A memory from a VERY long time ago came back to me while I was making this list: at Wash U’s annual Engineering School rave, Vertigo (v. 2007), it was the last song the DJ played. I immediately ran onto the light up dance floor with my friends, OBVI.

“Angels We Have Heard On High” – Bayside
Yes, yes, Y E S. The chord progression/structure of this classic does it for me. It’s ecstatic, it’s regal, it makes me want to sing along at the top of my lungs. I’ve been known to play this rendition by Bayside on repeat.

“Christmas Is Coming” – Vince Guaraldi Trio
Once this one comes on, instant Peanuts-style dancing commences. Picking which Vince Guaraldi Christmas song to include was extremely difficult, by the way, but I decided this one was best since it’s an original as opposed to a cover, and it’s more Yuletide-y than “Skating”. (FUN TO PLAY.)

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Relient K
OKAY I LIED ABOUT NOT REALLY CHOOSING. I can safely say this song is my #1 favorite Xmas jam. Probably something to do with the melancholy-twinged optimism infused into the lyrics and melody. (I wish bands would quit skipping the “muddle through somehow” line, though!) This version is lovely, but I don’t have a favorite arrangement. Anyone from Judy Garland to She & Him could sing it and I would love it just as much.

“Let It Snow” – Frank Sinatra
So cozy, so mid-20th century classic. The first visual that pops into my head is usually a 1980’s Disney animated montage of various animals getting snuggly and ice skating and smooching, from a VHS I watched every Christmas when I was a kid. This song is the sound of giant, fluffy snowflakes floating down from the sky.

“Little Saint Nick” – Hanson
There was a point in time where Christmas wasn’t official until I had popped Snowed In into my stereo, and this cover intrigued me because of Isaac’s vocals (the best of the three Hansons, if you ask me) and Zac’s drumming patterns, which I spent lots of time trying to figure out. PS. They recorded the entire album in 2 weeks. Whaaaat.

“¿Mamacita, Dónde Está Santa Claus?” – Guster
I found this one back in the Limewire/Napster days and it’s been a standard on my Christmas song list for at least the last decade.

“Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” – *NSync
Unquestionably the modern “so cozy, so classic” in my rotation. A happy, glowing warmth fills me up the moment I hear the opening chords. It has this effect even if I hear it in a non-holiday context. I scramble to play it when the holiday season rolls around, because it’s so dang gleeful, like a festive bear hug for my auditory canal.

“Sleigh Ride” – Leroy Anderson
I looked forward so much to playing this song in my high school orchestra’s annual Christmas concert. We pulled out all the stops by bringing in some winds and  temple blocks and slapstick for the horse clop and whip effects. But my favorite line of all is the 1940’s Broadway-esque bass line (~1:50ish) that went to the cellos in our arrangement – I was always so jealous I didn’t get to play it!

“Wonderful Christmas Time” – Wings
Another polarizing radio play I love to death, despite the horrible 80’s synth I’d otherwise hate in any other song. But I used to be a huge Wings fan, so it makes sense.

Bonus Tracks:
Yeah yeah, I know I’m cheating but I DO WHAT I WANT.

“Little Drummer Boy” – Family Force 5
Ancillary because I just LOVE this cover, but I find the actual carol repetitive and annoying.

“Christmas Bells”- RENT
My favorite line is sung by the policemen. FA LALA LALA YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT NIGHT HOLY NIGHT.


My mother bakes all sorts of magic that I associate with fond memories from childhood, and one of them is her infamous Cranberry Cheesecake Tart. Which is not a tart at all?! This year I did the baking, minus the Pillsbury premade pie crust that is oh-so-delectable but oh-so-hydrogenated-oil-filled.


Peep that perfection! Not as perfect as my mom’s creations, but I’ve come to accept mothers have an uncanny ability to do all sorts of thing with impossible precision. My perfect bite requires a precise icing to cheesecake to whole-cranberry ratio. It’s always tragic when the whole pie is gone.