Monday, December 15, 2008


Here are two very different Christmas songs--in fact, they probably couldn't be more different. The first is a traditional English Christmas carol, The Holly and the Ivy. This old Yuletide carol is lightly Christianized paganism--holly and ivy being familiar Druidic ceremonial plants, though they have been used as Christmas decoration since at least the fifteenth century. This carol has been sung by choirs since the end of the medieval era, and it sounds like it. The beautiful harmonies of "The Holly and the Ivy" never fail to put me in the holiday spirits. How about you? Let's raise a flagon of mead to these sonorous lads.

The holly and the ivy when they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown
Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir

Bruce Springsteen goes in and out of style but he and the E Streeters are always guaranteed to raise a smile. Here, Bruce and the band (and about seventy-five best friends) rock a tune from the Phil Spector Christmas Album originally recorded by the great Darlene Love, "Christmas! (Baby Please Come Home)," one of the very best Christmas tunes anywhere. Here, the sacred and the profane don't just mingle, they make out under the mistletoe. About halfway through the song, the wheels come off and the whole thing veers toward the snowy ditch but the Boss grabs the wheel and saves everyone from disaster.

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