For the past couple of years, our family has been taking little weekend trips during Thanksgiving. Our extended family is scattered throughout the United States so we typically focus the rest of our holidays and travel efforts on visits with them. This Thanksgiving, we spent some time at Legoland in San Diego. While we were waiting on line for the 4D Legends of Chima movie, we met a family who has been coming to Legoland every Thanksgiving for the past 12 years. Chuckling, as he was talking about family holiday plans, the dad said “I know we’re crazy but we love it. It’s just what we do.” What he said didn’t strike me as crazy, though.
Family traditions are special and memorable, and quickly become beloved habits. They form bonds, are reliable, and give children a sense of ownership and something to look forward to. It made me happy to think that traveling with just my husband and my daughter could turn into a special holiday tradition for us.
Our family celebrates both Chanukah and Christmas. Chanukah brings songs of peace and celebration as we light the menorah. With regard to Christmas, we prep in our own home by playing the CD A Charlie Brown Christmas as soon as our tree is up. No decorating takes place until the music is playing. It’s simply something that sets the tone, and gets us in the mood for the holidays. We also visit with our extended family for Christmas, and watch as Em wakes up to find filled stockings and gifts under the tree. In the evening, we launch into a post-dinner dance party battle. It’s a rager and it’s so fun! No surprise that music is the centerpiece of our holiday celebrations.
Sharing stories of tradition and hearing from the family during our Legoland trip, added a feeling of connection and another element of joy for me this holiday season. It was a nice reminder that amidst the hustle and bustle of it all, there are sweet, sentimental moments to be grateful for. Besides, it’s always fun to hear other people’s stories.
As an addition to holiday music posts, today’s post features friends and artists sharing their holiday traditions from their own childhood, things they do with their families now, and of course some music. Continue reading →
I was decorating our tree with my daughter Emily the other night and when I heard her singing along with “Frosty the Snowman” it seemed like everything was quiet in that moment. Music is such a significant part of the holiday season and it never goes out of style. This year brings another great bunch of variety to add to your classics. They also make excellent holiday gifts/stocking stuffers! Giving the gift of music is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Enjoy!
Rocknoceros comes forth with a rock solid collection of holiday jams. Happy Holidayscontains 9 tracks that start from Halloween and end with New Years. What I love most are the combination of musical styles and the creative approach this Virignina-based trio takes towards traditional tunes. In many ways they remind me of They Might Be Giants. “Christmas Brie,” for example, features some punny dialogue around the words “Christmas Tree” and is layered over some Vince Guaraldi-esque jazz. The Peanuts quality of this song goes well with the album cover which also reminds me a bit of scenes from the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. “The Dreidel Song” honors a traditional Chanukah game and “Wenceslas” echoes all the gratitude, love and giving of the season with a memorable story set to the toll of beloved holiday bells. Happy Holidays will help you glide through the last quarter of the year and send you happily sailing into the coming new year.
A huge part of Jewish tradition is centered around music – song, and especially dance. Each one significantly contributes to the practice of traditions and observance. So the fact that Josh and the Jamtones, known for their high energy kindie jams, put out an album that promises to be a “Holiday Xxplosion” (double X for Xtra Large fun!) just makes sense, and is awesome. Though there are plenty of songs for Jewish families out there, the Jamtones bring a hip, cohesive alternative to the fold.Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 is a collection of 14 songs in both English and Hebrew. The prayer for peace, “Oseh Shalom” sounds even more on point backed by some equally harmonious reggae rhythm, while the more secular “Amen,” a Bluegrassy/Big Band track encourages gratitude in a bold way. “Amen” is such a joyful song, there’s no doubt you’ll find yourself engaged with this song while clapping along. Chanukah specific songs include a rollicking ska-drenched version of “Oh Chanukah” – super danceable for those ready to turn their living room into a mad Horah dance party – and a swingin’ version of “Dreidle.” Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 offers families a one-stop destination ready for a happy set of celebrations throughout the year. We are a family that celebrates both Christmas and Jewish holidays and having an album with popular Jewish songs all in one place has been an especially welcome convenience.
Andrew & Polly– Other Days
Representing the West Coast is the wonderfully warm duo of Andrew & Polly. They are offering up a sweet little gift of 4 songs celebrating tradition and family. As a bonus gift, the duo teamed up with master collaborator Mista Cookie Jar in “L.A. Christmas” which delights with festively mellow sun and sand style. Together they remind us that regardless of whether you’ve got pine trees or palm trees (or are rockin’ a Hawaiian shirt), this is simply the season to fill up on love and just sway together. The beauty of Other Days is that it truly can persist beyond the holiday season. Though half of the songs include holiday specific references, “Thank You for the Box” and “A Mapmaker’s Song” go beyond the boundaries of this time of year, and feature what makes Andrew & Polly so lovable – a little whimsy and a whole lotta charm. Ending with “A Mapmaker’s Song,” families will relate to the sentiment that home truly is where the heart is.
Greg Page, otherwise known as The Yellow Wiggle, has embarked on a solo path with a new production group called Yellow Entertainment and a children’s program called Butterscotch’s Playground (available through DVD ). Just in time for the holidays, Page has produced a holiday album full of original and traditional songs which display vocal chops that easily put him in even footing with some of the holiday’s best crooners. Page’s voice, like Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, and even Ol’ Blue Eyes, is full of the same smooth characteristics that have made the aforementioned notables significant voices of the season. Here Comes Christmas! will be nostalgic for adults reminiscing on their own childhood traditions while gleefully making new memories with little ones to reflect back upon when they are grown. Beloved tunes such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “White Christmas,” “Silver Bells,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” among other favorites found in this collection are why music has become such a staple for invoking the holiday spirit. The arrangements are preserved to the tee for the most part, although “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gets wild and wooly as it features guinea pigs, goldfish and puppy dogs with a bonus of goat’s milk (which is made into…well, you’ll have to listen to find out! No holiday spoilers here!). Among the aforementioned albums in this post Here Comes Christmas! is a comforting and familiar place to return to, just like coming in from the cold and being handed a warm mug of cocoa and some freshly baked cookies. This is definitely an album you can just spin while gleefully trimming your Christmas tree. Every now and then you might just catch yourself singing along and then smiling as you look around and see your little ones joining you in the chorus.
Here Comes Christmas! also contains 4 bonus songs from Butterscotch’s Playground and is available from iTunes and the official Butterscotch TV website.
One of the most iconic soundtracks of the season is The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s lush orchestration is truly prized and unforgettable.
Adapted and conducted by Stephen Simon and narrated by Jim Weiss, Maestro Classics presents music (performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra) that tells the story of this enchanting ballet.
This retelling of The Nutcracker is punctuated by the majestic sounds of the ballet in the background. Jim is a master storyteller and his enthusiastic narration will adorn children’s imaginations with lavish scenes full of wonder featuring Clara, her Nutcracker Prince, the battle with the Mouse King, and the dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The Nutcracker will always conjure up feelings of Christmas and this album is truly an excellent gift of the season. Maestro Classics is dedicated to fostering a love of classical music and their storytelling series will help children pair important works with time honored soundtracks, thereby identifying with the music (independent of the story) later on. Combining a story with the music also serves as a great resource for children who may not already be familiar with or who may not prefer classical music or songs without words.
Each CD set comes with an activity booklet which includes bite-sized educational features such as The History of Ballet, a few lines of music for “Overture to The Nutcracker,” information about the Harp, a brief bio of Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, and some word games. In addition to The Nutcracker, Maestro Classics offers other timeless pieces as part of their Stories in Music series which brings the magic of theater, classical music and storytelling into a very accessible space for families, whether you are listening at home, or traveling in the car.
The following songs are from one of our favorite holiday albums, A Laurie Berkner Christmas, which features a mix of Christmas, Chanukah and seasonal songs. “Candle Chase” has a nice rhythm similar to the beat found in many Jewish songs. Perfect for celebrating around the brilliant glow of your menorah.
Laurie recently came out with a new video for “Children Go Where I send Thee” which also features 2-time Grammy nom Brady Rymer. It’s such an infectious version of this classic song which is featured on an equally heartwarming and upbeat album. You’ll love it. “Children Go Where I Send Thee” is featured on both A Laurie Berkner Christmas andLaurie’s recently releasedLaurie Berkner’s Favorite Classic Kids’ Songs.
Read my previous review of A Laurie Berkner Christmashere.
As a native of New Jersey, and a resident of California, the sounds of this song, and seeing Santa give the shaka (aka “hang ten”) sign makes me smile. Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam’s new holiday track, “Summertime Santa” rings with jingle bells and some good ol’ Jersey Rock n’ Roll. So what does Santa do in the summertime? He hangs up his big red winter coat, and heads down the shore to unwind, basking in the glory of all that the boardwalk has to offer. Didner and the crew conjure up some classic Springsteen sounds with this happy holiday number. Check it.
A good blend of original and traditional tunes keeps the music of this season feeling fresh. Each one of the albums and videos mentioned in this post, as well as those from previous years, is guaranteed to fill you up over the coming holi-days!
Happy holidays everyone! I previously published a post recommending some holiday albums that were worthy of bringing cheer to your ear(s). I also promised to post a Part 2 with the hope of getting it out before Christmas. And even though that day has come (where does the time go?) for many of us, there are others that are still celebrating. So, in the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas, other ongoing holiday celebrations, or to add even more joy to the season, below are a few more suggestions that we’ve been enjoying and know you will too.
Big Bang Boom – The Holidays Are Here
Coming off their most recent release, Because I Said So, the North Carolina trio managed to whip up a batch of some original holiday tunes just in time for, well, the holidays! The 5-song EP contains all original tracks done in Big Bang Boom’s signature style which always carries an honest-to-goodness message or two worth a few smiles and giggles. Even though Christmas Day is here, it feels especially nice to be reminded that “the spirit of the holidays doesn’t have to happen once a year,” as the song “It’s the Holiday Season” suggests. It’s a short song that suggests activities like going ice skating, big hill sledding and sharing a meal as ways to keep up the momentum of the holiday spirit throughout the year. Even Santa gets his own theme song in “That’s Just Christmas,” a fiddle ridden funk hoedown number with a bit of soul. Yes, all of that! The Holidays Are Here is a great album to take with you throughout the year. You can listen to the album at Big Bang Boom’s official site and then download it along with their other albums at CDBaby.
The Jimmies– Mama Said Nog You Out
Mama Said Nog You Out is a 13-song collection of rockin’ holiday jams. Ashley Albert, the frontwoman and crafty songstress for The Jimmies, sings songs in the spirit of the entire holiday season. Each song has a ton of character with catchy hooks that will have you reciting lyrics well after your kids have gone to bed. In particular, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” a novelty back in the day, once again sounds fresh as it’s sung for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. There’s even a song for those that celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, dubbed “Chrismukaah.” I particularly enjoy listening to the light and fluffy sweetness of Albert’s voice in the dreamy sounding “It’s a Marshmallow World.” Heavily endorsed by the Fruitcake Defense League (as noted on the album’s cover), Mama Said Nog You Out is sure to fill you with all kinds of delight. Available for digital download through Amazon, as well as, other media retailers.
Todd McHatton – ChristmasSongs
Todd McHatton, known for his psychedelic kindie pop, offers fans an ever-growing list of holiday tunes. The list was started in 2009 with a new song added in 2010 and 4 new songs added in 2011. This year’s track, “I Think I’m a Christmas Bunny,” is an adaptation of McHatton’s wildly popular single “I Think I’m a Bunny,” featuring Marvy Monstone (our favorite furry purple monster who thinks he’s a bunny). Although the majority of songs are related to Christmas, “Put The Star On Top,” mentions the fact that some people celebrate Hanukkah, as McHatton’s daughter informs Marvy while she is drawing a Menorah. McHatton’s gentle voice accompanied by thoughtful lyrics and groovy sounds brings lots of charm to this holiday mix. The 11-song collection can be sampled and purchased for $1.99 through the Bandcamp widget below.
Now that we are past Thanksgiving, the holiday season is officially underway. Usually, we break out classic holiday CDs while stringing up lights around the house (and on my daughter’s dollhouse) and taking in the scents of our special candles. I’ve always loved the comfort of Ella Fitzgerald and Brenda Lee. Even Frank Sinatra and some instrumental holiday jazz have warmed our hearts on those cold nights. But for the past few years, we’ve added some variety to our music collection as some very talented kindie artists have released holiday albums containing both originals tunes and renditions of the season’s most beloved classics. The suggestions below are based on what we are listening to the most right now and those that we think your family will enjoy just as much. But, this is just the first list! There’s more to come so stay tuned for part 2!
You will find a YouTube playlist corresponding with the list of albums in this post, as well as the sample track “Jingle Bells” from Renee & Jeremy’s Sunny Christmas,” at the end of this post. Enjoy!
Laurie Berkner – A Laurie Berkner Christmas
We have been devoted Laurie fans for several years now and getting to hear Laurie’s very first Christmas album, A Laurie Berkner Christmas, means this holiday season just got a whole lot sweeter. Coupled with her infectious charm, the songs are catchy and ready for some holiday sing-alongs. The album features 15 traditional holiday and seasonal songs, three of which were originally written by Laurie: “Santa’s Coming To My House Tonight,” “Candy Cane Jane,” originally featured on her 2008 release Rocketship Run, and “Christmas Lights.” Joining Laurie on the album is Brady Rymer in the spirited “Children Go Where I Send Thee (below).” Elizabeth Mitchell also joins in on the beautiful, folksy rendition of “Silent Night.”Kids will enjoy wiggling around, kicking their feet and laughing like they’re Santa Claus in “Santa’s Coming to My House Tonight,” spelling along with Laurie in “Jingle Bells” and learning about Gumdrop Joe, Candy Cane Jane and her horse with the candy cane mane in “Candy Cane Jane.”
A Laurie Berkner Christmas is truly delightful and one that should definitely be opened before Christmas. The album and the single “Candle Chase,” recorded especially for those who celebrate Chanukah, is available for purchase and digital download through Berkner’s site, Amazon, and other media outlets.
Renee & Jeremy – Sunny Christmas
Expanding on their 2011 single “Sunny Christmas,” Renee & Jeremy recently released a 6-song EP of the same name just in time for the holidays. Like other recordings from the Los Angeles duo, Sunny Christmas is like comfort food for your soul. The album opens with a sentimental greeting in “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” and you will instantly want to add your voice to the harmonious vocals and your hands to the rhythmic clapping. The title track, “Sunny Christmas,” is a bouncy pop tune that reminds us that the true gift of the season is spreading peace, love and happiness to those around us. It’s hard not to feel cozy and warm while listening to anything by Renee & Jeremy and Sunny Christmas is certainly no exception. So, as you string up your tinsel and mistletoe or sip a cup of hot cocoa, let Renee & Jeremy fill the room with joy as they wish you and your family good tidings. Sunny Christmas can be sampled and purchased through Renee & Jeremy’s site and Amazon, as well as other regular media outlets. And be sure to listen to “Jingle Bells” at the bottom of the post.
Mama Doni – Chanukah Fever
Doni Zasloff, aka Mama Doni has Chanukah FEVER! brings us a quirky compilation of Chanukah songs that is sure to shine like a brightly lit menorah amidst the plethora of Christmas albums on the shelves or maybe even in your living room. Expanding on her 2008 EP, I Love Chanukah, Mama Doni’s Chanukah Fever celebrates the historical and traditional aspects of the holiday through a variety of musical styles, including disco, reggae, rock and ’80s freestyle rap. The 14-song album includes original tracks such as “The Funky Gold Menorah,” “Latke Man” and “La Vida Dreidel.” Even Hanukah Harry gets a personal note. Mama Doni’s songwriting skills and knack for Jewish humor is sure to bring your family to tears with laughter this holiday season.
Bonus: Mama Doni’s cookbook, Get Cooking, was just released, and it includes some fine family recipes and a 29-song CD. Grab it while it’s hot!
2013 UPDATE: Check out for Mama Doni’s new releases, Mama Doni’s Jewish Holiday Party(DVD) and Mama Doni: The Acoustic Jewish Holiday Collection (CD), available beginning November 12 at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, iTunes, FYE Stores, See of Sound, and directly through Mama Doni’s website. This collection of Chanukah themed songs is set to acoustic and bluegrass sounds creating a warm, sentimental vibe. Highly recommended. See YouTube video playlist below to check out some of these sweet sounds for songs like “A Chanukah Love Song, ‘Eight,'” “Honey This Ain’t Money,” and “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” which contains Hebrew and English verses.
The Hipwaders – A Kindie Christmas
A Kindie Christmas by Bay Area band The Hipwaders is a holiday classic and offers a unique take on holiday jams. The album features 10 original songs filled with a diverse array of sounds ranging from funk in “It’s Wintertime” to country rock in “Santa’s Train,” which features Santa coming down the tracks in a red hopper car full of toys, and the R.E.M.-like sound of “Wake Up.” Other songs include “Tinsel & Lights,” a nostalgic ode to festive traditions, and “Christmas Vicuna,” a humorous tale about a South American camel who dreams of flying like a reindeer.
A 2010 Honors Award winner from the National Parenting Publication Association (NAPPA), A Kindie Christmas is the perfect alternative to the classic carols of the season and will have your family rockin’ around the Christmas tree and beyond.
Dan Zanes – Christmas in Concord Dan Zanes‘ fans will have another reason to celebrate the upcoming holiday season with the re-release of Christmas in Concord. The mini-album which celebrates the old Christian tunes that have been a part of Christmases in Zanes’ hometown of Concord, NH, for generations also has two new songs which feature Pulitzer Prize winning author Suzan-Lori Parks. Parks brings rich, soulful accompaniment in my favorite song, “Rise Up Shepherd and Follow.” The song was initially performed at a legendary local venue for people in need, known as the Friendly Kitchen. During a road trip, Zanes and Parks wrote “I’m Counting the Days Until Christmas” while reminiscing about their fathers’ experiences in the military. As with most of Zanes’ work, there is a feeling of joy in being surrounded by, creating and sharing music. Christmas in Concord carries the same feeling. Coupled with a nostalgic backstory, a well chosen collaboration and Zanes’ soft rasp, classics like “Joy To the World,” “Deck the Halls” and “Silent Night,” are sure to warm your heart as you snuggle and share your own stories with your loved ones. Christmas in Concord can be heard and purchased through Dan Zanes’ official site and Amazon, as well as other regular media outlets.
Ben Rudnick – It’s Santa Claus! It’s Santa Claus! by Ben Rudnick & Friends contains renditions of traditional holiday tunes that don’t stray too far from the sounds of the originals but certainly showcase the group’s signature folksy rock style. The title track, “It’s Santa Claus,” an original on the album, is a bouncy tune that is just as jolly as the man in the red suit.
The album is made up of catchy arrangements filled with the instrumental stylings of the many “Friends” who play along with Rudnick. “Jingle Bells” is jazzy with saxophonic accents, and even “Greensleeves,” a song I obsessively played on the piano in my earlier days, gets a jumpstart with some fast-paced finger picking and accordion before it slows down toward the end.
It’s Santa Claus will provide your family with a fresh festive twist on holiday classics. You can hear samples and purchase It’s Santa Claus! through Rudnick’s site, Amazon and other media outlets. Learn about the inspiration for and the making of the album on Rudnick’s blog.