Christmas music, movies lighten holiday

Now that Thanksgiving (also known as Christmas Part I) is over, the holiday season has officially begun. There are a lot of pros and cons to the holiday season, especially with Christmas. If we can’t accept that there are problems with the Christmas season, we can’t enjoy it to its fullest.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind with Christmas is getting together with family. Everyone brings a ton of food and spends the whole day eating and, of course, giving each other stuff. That does sound a little materialistic, but it’s true. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that family appreciation goes up when they give you presents. It’s human nature.

Movies are also an important part of Christmas. Everyone loves "It’s a Wonderful Life," and for good reason. It has one of Jimmy Stewart’s best performances and arguably the greatest ending in the history of American movies. It’s amazing that this movie became so popular because it was a critical and financial disaster when it came out in 1946. But my favorite Christmas movie is 1988’s "Scrooged," starring Bill Murray. It’s a modern retelling of "A Christmas Carol" with Murray as an evil TV producer who meets the obligatory three ghosts and learns the meaning of Christmas. "It’s a Wonderful Life" is great, but "Scrooged" has Carol Kane beating Murray over the head with a toaster and Bobcat Goldthwait losing his mind and going on a shooting rampage. It’s heartwarming stuff.

Unfortunately, some Christmas movies aren’t as good. "The Polar Express" is cinematic torture. The motion-capture computer animation makes all the characters look like zombies and listening to any of the songs can be categorized as masochistic behavior. My parents love "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby, but since it’s a musical, the only cinematic genre I have trouble giving its day in court, I try to avoid it at all costs.

Also, Ron Howard and Jim Carrey should have been arrested after they made the live-action "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" No holiday is immune from having bad movies made about it.

Music also quickly comes to mind with Christmas. It’s the only holiday that has radio stations play songs dedicated to it a month before the day. The best Christmas songs are "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" by John Lennon, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love and best of all, "The Night Santa Went Crazy" by Weird Al Yankovic. That title says it all. At it’s best, Christmas music is a perfect distillation of what the season represents. I would know, because my parents are insane and start playing it the first week of October.

The only real problem with Christmas music, other than the songs I don’t like, is that a lot of stations only play a small sample of it. WARM 101.3, the soft rock station in Rochester, plays it non-stop from the week of Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve, but they play the same 50 songs every single year. It gets so repetitive that whenever someone says the word ‘Christmas’ to me, I immediately hear "Last Christmas" by Wham! in my head. This is not a good thing. I just hope that they learn to expand their catalog before I finally snap and go after George Michael just to make it stop.

There are so many elements to the Christmas experience in this country that it is impossible to cover all of its foibles. But that’s what makes, not just Christmas, but the entire holiday experience so interesting. It’s always interesting to see how the holidays impact our culture. The holiday spirit manifests itself in so many ways that, for better or worse, it’s inescapable. Happy holidays everyone.