Growing up, it always felt like the holidays arrived in Los Angeles like any other city. Except they didn’t. In this almost seasonless town, we have to work to make the change of season apparent. Fortunately, this place enjoys a little dramatic flair and has no issues with a bit of cosmetic work.
There will be ice rinks when it is is 80 degrees. There will be snow falling while you’re holiday shopping. There will be halls decked and trees trimmed. All in Tinseltown will be calm and all will be bright.
From the time I was a little girl, the season was marked with certain traditions. The tree went up on the Capitol Records building. The fake snow (magical, wonderful, horrible, plasticky stuff) fell from the top of the Regent Beverly Wilshire when we went for Christmas carols and high tea. And at home, the holiday music played from just after Thanksgiving until New Year’s.
The Reg Bev Wil has changed owners, but the Capitol Records tree still shines bright. And the music, to this very day, the music just does something spectacular. And it gets better with time.
When I hear The Beach Boys “The Man With All The Toys,” I’m eight years old again, in the passenger seat of my dad’s little Alfa Romeo. It was more of a weekend car, what my sister and I would jokingly call a selfish car because only one other person could be with him in it. Oh, how we fought for that passenger seat. It made my mother nuts. He got a four seater Mustang soon after.
Driving down Wilshire – Beverly Hills bedecked and bedazzled for the holidays – the Alfa’s top down and the sun shining, and me, dad and The Beach Boys singing in harmony? That’s the holidays. There would be snow come actual Christmas, as we headed up to the mountains, but for the majority of the holiday season as I lived it, it was about 68 degrees with clear skies. And the music was always fabulous.
Like a family recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing, for each of us there is a version of a classic Christmas song that we hold dear. One that feels like home. One that sounds like the holidays. For me, “White Christmas” has to be by Otis Redding. And “Winter Wonderland”? Aretha. Totally. And sometimes we make room for new recipes. For years I loved the Harry Connick, Jr. version of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”, but now I’m pretty smitten with Rufus Wainwright’s take on it. And I’ve been listening to Sarah MacLachlan’s version of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas.”
When asked what my top FIVE holiday songs were, these came to mind, though I have another dozen that didn’t make the cut. And then there are the ones I simply like. It’s a lot of music in one short month, I tell ya.
Since it’s the season for sharing, press play (below) and enjoy a few of my favorite things. Grab some tea/cocoa/wine and cookies and enjoy. (If you don’t already have a Spotify account, a basic one is free – check it out.)
But first, five great things someone else said about the power of music:
Sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time. – Nick Hornby
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. – Plato
There is no feeling, except the extremes of fear and grief, that does not find relief in music. – George Eliot
No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious & charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful. – Kurt Vonnegut
If you cannot teach me to fly, teach me to sing. – J.M. Barrie