MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

You like Christmas songs? Sure, you do. Everybody likes Christmas songs whether they want to admit it or not, because whether some of us want to admit it or not, we all love the Christmas and holiday season.

Since I was in college, I have always considered the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season to be the first time I hear the live performance of Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.”

It is the song, more than any other, that fills me with the spirit and the joy of the season. The performance is so alive with the E. Street Band sound, particularly the legendary sax play of the great Clarence Clemons, aka The Big Man, not to mention his deep, rich “Ho, ho, ho’s” of Santa that has Springsteen cracking up through the performance.

You just feel so darn good and hopeful when you hear this version of the song and you find yourself feeling that way for some time after hearing it.

For instance, I was minding my own business one afternoon last week in a public house when a woman came into the place to pick up a carryout order. While she was waiting, the Springsteen “Santa” began to play on the Christmas cycle of music that plays in this particular establishment and the lady, I have no idea who she is, began to sing along with it; and then she began to dance. That’s how real and effective the song and the spirit of the song, not to mention Springsteen’s brilliance, truly are.

Any version of “Silver Bells,” preferably Bing Crosby’s, really puts me in the spirit of the season as well. You can see and feel the season in this song, regardless of the performer, and I can literally feel and visualize downtown Cumberland in the 1960s and early ‘70s when I was growing up.

One of my very favorites is “Happy Christmas (War is Over),” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, which was originally meant to be a war protest song, but has become a big part of the musical vernacular each season.

Naturally, you can’t go wrong with “White Christmas,” written by Irving Berlin and performed by Bing Crosby, which, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is not only the best-selling Christmas/holiday single in the United States, but also the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” was written by lyricist Kim Gannon and composer Walter Kent and was recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943, who made it a top-10 hit one year after doing so with “White Christmas.” Originally written to honor soldiers overseas who longed to be home at Christmas time, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” has since gone on to become a standard, for regardless of where you are when you hear it for the first time each season, it applies.

“Christmas Canon,” by the TransSiberian Orchestra, is set to the tune of Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major” with new lyrics added. The Canon in D is perhaps one of the most well-known songs used during wedding ceremonies, which is why it fits for Christmas as well, as it offers hope and reminds us, to paraphrase Terrence Mann, of all that was once good, and could be again.

I’m a sucker for all Christmas and holiday songs, beginning with the traditional songs such as “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.” I love them all except for anything by the Chipmunks, as I have not been able to stand the blasted Chipmunks since I was a kid.

(With this in mind, My Favorite Things” has somehow worked its way into the rotation here, and I don’t know how or why. A perfectly wonderful song otherwise, there is nothing about it that makes it a Christmas song … There was no Christmas tree in the room when Julie Andrews introduced the song to those von Trapp brats … A package is mentioned in the song, yes, but a brown paper package tied up with string. Maybe it’s a UPS song, but this is not a Christmas song. Thank you.)

Now, holiday songs in excess? It can be just that – excessive, particularly to servers, bartenders and all restaurant workers who hear Christmas songs playing 24/7 while they work. I get that. And we don’t need the Christmas songs playing around Halloween. The day after Thanksgiving is perfectly suitable, thank you, particularly, I suppose, if you’re shopping that day.

But the key is to not fight them. Enjoy them. Take them in. Feel them. Feel and relish their spirit. Appreciate the words and the sentiments of each of these wonderful songs of the most wonderful and beautiful season there is.

Heed the lessons of Ebenezer Scrooge, particularly if you feel as though you are alone in life; because you know something? You’re really not.

Love the season; embrace it. Love your family and friends and embrace them.

They love you.

And who knows? Maybe Santa’ll bring you a new saxophone, right?

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT