I have such a complicated relationship with this song. I can think of no holiday tune that's more thoroughly American, like an aural Norman Rockwell painting, with equal parts ebullience and vapidity that make it so easy to hum along to without worrying about any of the more grisly (birth of a tortured martyr), reverent (birth of a presumed savior), or more complicated elements (believing neither of these but still calling it Christmas) common to many songs of the season. My first memory of this song is hearing some muzak version on a used car commercial most years of my early childhood that sounded a lot like the Les Baxter version here, and getting that warm feeling that's so complicated to parse as an adult. In college I used to entertain my roommate Amanda by singing and dancing along to Debbie Gibson's version once a month or so throughout the year. It's still my favorite holiday standard, and I'll give any version a listen; two other favorites are the Squirrel Nut Zippers' and Los Straitjackets' versions. So of course I'm including all of them here.

AuthorJohn Proctor