Mrs. C says: Music plays such a crucial role at Christmas, probably more than at any other time of the year. It feels like the lifeblood of the season. Some traditionalists like me still proudly own a Christmas CD collection. Heck, there will still be those of you with vinyl collections, especially since its ‘retro trend’ re-emergence. We may also own many a festive tune that we’ve downloaded via iTunes, Amazon or Google Play. Well, now’s the time to pull all your favourites together in playlist genres.
Ed Elf: This is basically like making a mix tape, right?
Mrs. C: Except it’s now all about the mix and nothing to do with tape.
Ed Elf: I made a mix tape for a girlfriend one time. She dumped me that night.
Mrs. C: Oh, bless you. Why was that?
Ed Elf: She wasn’t a Metallica fan, apparently.
Mrs. C: Indeed! Moving on…You could, of course, stream your playlists. You won’t own the tracks, but that might not be of any great importance to you as long as you create the perfect playlist for each festive occasion.
Ed Elf: That’s a great way to go if you have internet access. You can use wi-fi or mobile data. Just stream and listen. I do enjoy my Spotify.
Collate all the classics as presented on our Popular Carols & Collections page. You might want to group them in a way that has the more joyful, resounding carols in one sequence and the more mellow, contemplative songs in another sequence. Carols are perfect for almost any festive occasion and they are certain to be playing in my house all Christmas morning, most definitely while presents are being unwrapped and the dinner is being prepared.
Greet your guests with background music that is cheerful and uplifting without being overpowering. Don’t peak too soon. Have a sequence suitable to cover the period when people will be eating and chatting, then build to the kind of songs that might entice your guests to get up and dance – if that’s in your party plan, of course. It is always a good idea to end with something of an anthem: songs that may lend themselves to a group rendition, like “Fairytale of New York”. If it is group dancing – that arm-in-arm in a circle kind of finish – you are hoping for, then Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody” invariably gets an airing. But if that, for you, is akin to fingernails down a chalkboard then an even older pop hit like “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee might have the same effect. Finally, to give your guests a hint it may be time to leave, turn the volume down and mellow things out with such classics as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Silver Bells”. Don’t go all-out Christmas if you don’t want to: mix in some non-festive dance favourites and current chart hits.
Christmas Dinner Party
Start with some golden Christmas oldies that will immediately give your guests that sense of warmth, comfort and familiarity on arrival. A selection of carols and lilting Christmas classical tunes are always pleasant during dinner itself. Festive but unobtrusive is the key: keep the volume at bay so people can happily chat away. Take things up a notch as the wine flows and the dessert is dished up, with such tunes as Mariah Carrey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” and Darlene Love’s “Winter Wonderland”. Coffee and after-dinner drinks are the cue for more hushed tones, such as “There is No Rose” and John Williams’ “Christmas Star”. If stubborn guests are staying beyond their welcome, have Chris Rea’s “Driving Home For Christmas” on standby.
Decorating the Tree
You can turn this selection into an annual tradition for yourself, your family or your friends simply by keeping the same playlist to accompany your tree-decorating year upon year. I have two albums of music I play every year when decorating my tree (“The Nat King Cole Christmas Album” and “A Christmas Gift for You – From Phil Spector”), before turning to a wider selection of festive tunes. And every year, this familiar music hits me at my very core and I remember all those wonderful times past when the decorating of the Christmas tree truly signalled the arrival of Christmas. Treasured baubles and decorations conjure up memories, too, but the traditional music adds another layer.
Fabulous concertos, favourites from the John Rutter collection and spine tingling operatic wonders like Luciano Pavarotti and Dame Kiri te Kanawa. The classical choice is huge if only because all choral carol works can fall under this umbrella. You can also include a few of your non-Christmas classical favourites on this playlist. For example, I can’t go too long without hearing Beethoven’s “Emperor” or Nigel Hess’s “Ladies in Lavender” – whatever the time of year. I believe this kind of selection can work for all manner of occasions and activities. It’s wonderful for a lazy Sunday morning with the papers, but equally for getting stuck in with the housework. And I like to wrap presents to my classical favourites. Alternatively, you could simply listen to Classic FM throughout December. It will serve a very similar purpose.
This is for you and you alone: your absolute Christmas favourites, whatever the genre. This playlist is for no particular occasion or event – just one that you know you can turn to at any time and receive instant festive gratification. I like to collate a tranquil selection of Christmas melodies that I can play at the end of a long day and relax me for a good night’s sleep.
There might be a selection of tunes you want your children to learn and love, so why not make a playlist especially for them. “Little Donkey” has to make its way on to this collection, surely.
New Year’s Eve
Follow the afore-mentioned Christmas Party suggestions and you won’t go too far wrong – although rein in the Christmas music now and go more neutral. A decent version of “Auld Lang Syne” is an absolute must.