Seeking Holiday Tunes
December 22, 2014 12:36 PM   Subscribe

I would like to build up a large playlist of songs celebrating Yuletide, Solstice, and winter in general, but leaving out Jesus and the Christian god. Can you help?

My SO, their family, and my own family are almost entirely some variety of Christian. This time of year, I am hearing a lot of songs celebrating the birth of Jesus and singing the praises of a Christian god. While many of these songs are beautiful and I do enjoy them, they sometimes (not all the time) provoke some negative feelings for me thanks to my own background struggling with belief and nonbelief and blah blah blah.

The point is, I would like to hear songs that celebrate Yuletide, Beltane, etcetera, and also songs that are just an artistic celebration of winter in general. I am more interested in upbeat tunes than "bleak midwinter" songs at the moment, but I will no doubt use more melancholy suggestions in later playlists as well. Vague mentions of a god that are not especially Christian are welcome. Very early Christian folk songs from before the religion was heavily divorced from paganism are also of interest. When in doubt about whether I'd like it, go ahead and make the suggestion.

I have been through this thread already, and have taken many of the suggestions there.

Thanks very much!
posted by Urban Winter to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Are "Secular Christmas" songs OK? I'm thinking of songs that reference Christmas or Christmas-adjacent things, like Santa, reindeer, gift giving, etc. without being specifically religious. Something like "Toy Jackpot" by Blackalicious?
posted by Rock Steady at 12:50 PM on December 22, 2014

Jethro Tull - Ring Solstice Bells
posted by usonian at 1:20 PM on December 22, 2014

I am fond of The Christians and the Pagans by Dar Williams.
posted by joycehealy at 1:21 PM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

A lot of songs sung at Christmas are perfectly secular:

Jingle Bells
Winter Wonderland
Baby its Cold Outside (it's not rapey, it's of its time)
My Favorite Things

Some that mention Christmas but not deities:

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas
The Christmas Song, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
Santa Baby
12 Days of Christmas
White Christmas (written by a Jewish guy!)

And all the ones that have been co-opted for marketing:

Frosty the Snowman
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:15 PM on December 22, 2014

Thriving Ivory - Our December
posted by rhapsodie at 2:22 PM on December 22, 2014

The Eurythmics cover of Winter Wonderland deserves to be on everyone's playlist. Here's a link to the mp3 if you like it enough to buy it.'

Also, 2,000 Miles by the Pretenders is clearly a winter holiday song but very much not a carol. Here's the mp3 link.
posted by janey47 at 2:36 PM on December 22, 2014

This recent thread Pop Songs About Winter should have some good ones.
posted by jabes at 2:45 PM on December 22, 2014

Winter by Tori Amos is a metaphor more than about winter itself, but it's beautiful and it might fit.
posted by corvine at 3:11 PM on December 22, 2014

I feel much the way you do and have difficulty not tuning out the lyrics of holiday songs. I took a different approach some time ago and put together a playlist of songs that are not in my mother-tongue, English. Here's my query about French-language holiday music. Of course, there's Latin to look at as well, which has a nice gravitas but I can't understand enough of to get hung up on the message. My current favorite is Gaudete by Erasure (that whole album is good, I think).
posted by Morrigan at 3:58 PM on December 22, 2014

Tea Party's Winter Solstice (instrumental)
posted by mannequito at 5:10 PM on December 22, 2014

Is medieval "early Christian" enough? If so, Anonymous 4, a 4-woman a cappella group, might be just the ticket. They have several albums of Christmas music in languages you probably don't understand which therefore won't bother you. (I find even the "English Ladymass" all but unintelligible, except for maybe one or 2 songs.)
posted by Quietgal at 5:21 PM on December 22, 2014

If you like Celtic music I really like the album "In the Fields of Frost and Snow" by the Chris Norman Ensemble. One or two songs have overtly religious lyrics, often in French, but most are instrumentals and they are more winter songs than Christmas.

I can only find previews online to link to. It's on spotify but I don't know if it will play if you don't have an account.
posted by interplanetjanet at 6:36 PM on December 22, 2014

Gordon Lightfoot's Song for a Winter's Night Is simple, upbeat, and lovely. Completely secular.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:23 AM on December 23, 2014

"Deck the Halls" may have some obscure verses that refer to Christ, but the ones most commonly sung don't.

The "Gower Wassail" ("A wassail, a wassail throughout all this town") exists in a variety of versions, some of which may mention Christianity, but the ones I have heard are completely or almost completely secular. Wassail, IIRC, is a pre-Christian tradition, so any song mentioning it might be a good bet.

I've heard several people complain that "The Holly and the Ivy" was originally a pagan song that was "stolen" by Christians (like that isn't how 90% of human culture works). If anyone can discover (or invent) a pre-Christian version of the lyrics, I guess that would fit the bill.

Since you mentioned that early Christian stuff is OK, you might be interested in "The Cherry Tree Carol," which relates a legend from the apocryphal gospel of Pseudo-Matthew that has not been an official part of Christian belief for a very long time.

Is it OK to sing about Santa if you don't believe in him? If so, any song mentioning him, his reindeer or other accomplices should work. Santa and Jesus seem to have a gentlemen's agreement to stay out of each other's songs.

Ruthless Bunny had some excellent suggestions, to which I would add "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow." If you're worried about "rapey" implications in "Baby, It's Cold Outside," try Louis Armstrong and Velma Middleton's version, which erases any creepiness with humour ("My father will be pacing the floor." "When he's gotta go, he's gotta go.")

Can't forget Tom Lehrer - "A Christmas Carol" and "(I'm Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica."
posted by Perodicticus potto at 1:41 AM on December 23, 2014

Also, you could get Yo-Yo Ma's Songs of Joy and Peace album and rip all the tracks except "The Wexford Carol."
posted by Perodicticus potto at 1:51 AM on December 23, 2014

« Older How to print an envelope or two on the Mac?   |   What restaurant for a large gathering of 35+... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.