Music of the Nativity

Medieval sheet music

Holy family Nativity setThis year, as you put the finishing touches on your home’s outdoor Nativity set display, take a mental survey: name five of your favorite Christmas songs. Chances are, the short list would include at least a few of these seasonal favorites:

  • “Jingle Bells”
  • “White Christmas”
  • “Winter Wonderland”
  • “The Christmas Song”
  • “Baby It’s Cold Outside”
  • “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
  • “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”
  • “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”

John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” (1971) might also make the list, vying with Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” (1979). On that list there might even be The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” which in various polls has been cited as the favorite Christmas song of all time in the U.K. and Ireland!

The funny thing is this—none of these aforementioned songs has much to do with Christmas per se. Yes, these non-liturgical songs may mention Santa Claus, winter weather, romance, and longing for one’s family during the holiday season, and they may all be enjoyable and appropriate for the season; but they barely allude, if at all, to the core narrative underlying all Christmas celebrations, namely, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. In other words, the first Nativity.
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Giant Toy Soldiers and the World of Christmas

Toy soldiers

Hear them all cheering,
Now they are nearing,
There’s the captain stiff as starch.
Bayonets flashing,
Music is crashing,
As the wooden soldiers march;
Sabers a-clinking,
Soldiers a-winking,
At each pretty little maid…
Here they come! Here they come!
Here they come! Here they come!
Wooden soldiers on parade.

— English song lyrics by Ballard MacDonald
for “The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”


People “of a certain age” (and by that we mean ones who are old) and with good memories can pinpoint the exact moment and surrounding circumstances signaling the official start of the holiday season that stretches from Thanksgiving to Christmas. These clues could be visual in nature, such as the sudden appearance of life-size Nativity scenes on church lawns, colorful Christmas lights adorning trees and lamp posts, or giant toy soldiers keeping guard in front of decorated homes. Or the clues could be olfactory: the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven, the aroma of eggnog, and the fragrance of cinnamon and gingerbread permeating the house. They could be auditory as well, with sleighbells ringing and carolers singing. All of these sensations elicit the sweet, nostalgic feelings most people experience at Christmastime.

But for some older grownups, the one sure sign in yesteryear that the holiday season had officially started would be the annual broadcast of the 1934 Laurel & Hardy feature film, Babes in Toyland. In the pre-cable era, this film became a popular holiday staple, broadcast repeatedly throughout the 1960s and 1970s on numerous TV stations across the United States during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season. In the U.S., it was often shown under an alternate title: March of the Wooden Soldiers.

Many young fans of the comic duo always looked forward to this annual showing of Babes in Toyland—not only because it was fun to watch (the stop-action animated toy soldiers were a hoot, but Stan Laurel always stole the show), but because it had become a tradition that meant Christmas was just around the corner.

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Welcome to the Fun Fantasy World of Giant Candy Canes (and Other Oversized Christmas Decorations)

Candy Cane Lane with giant candy canes

Giant candy cane in a shopping mallThey start to make their appearance round about November of every year—if not earlier—and they’re hard to miss (because they’re so big): oversize holiday decorations out of scale from reality, including giant candy canes, super-sized gingerbread men, hulking snowman, toy soldiers and nutcracker figures that dwarf their surroundings, gigantic glowing snowflakes and stars of Bethlehem, and whatever else the vivid celebratory imagination can dream up. Erecting such colossal decorations seems like a lot of work—especially considering they’ll only spread their cheer for about a month.

Why bother doing it?

A Big Holiday Deserves Extra-big Decorations

And there’s your answer. Can you think of any bigger day to celebrate in all the year than Christmas? For some people, celebrating Christmas is the perfect way to round out the year, and they go all in on decorations like these. And who can blame them? They’re eye-catching and lots of fun!

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The Sensuous Appeal of Lighted Candy Canes

Lighted candy canes in snow

Does the sight of a lighted lighted candy cane on a snow-covered lawn immediately fill you with happiness and nostalgia? It should come as no surprise that for most people, it does. But why is that?

Christmastime brings much joy to all kinds of people for all kinds of different reasons. For the religious, there’s the birth of Jesus to be celebrated. For the secular-minded, age-old cultural traditions from all over Europe are revived and re-enacted. Kids love Christmas, of course, because Santa comes to make their material wishes come true. Best of all, for everybody, the Christmas season initiates one long feast for the senses. Consider:

  1. The Sights of Christmas: Though it’s close to the darkest time of the year, everywhere you look you see the exteriors of homes that are decorated to the hilt and brightly lit. Inside, poinsettias in flower pots grace tabletops, every corner is festooned with decorations, and miniature Nativity scenes remind everyone what Christmas is originally all about.
  2. The Smells of Christmas: Certain pleasant aromas have the power to evoke lovely holiday memories. Who has not experienced a moment of euphoria when catching the piney scent of a natural Christmas tree in the living room or, in the kitchen, the smell of cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.
  3. The Tastes of Christmas: So much about this holiday involves flavor. What goes best with ginger bread—mulled wine or hot chocolate? From sugar cookies to eggnog, there are so many gustatory delights to choose from!
  4. The Sounds of Christmas: Sleigh bells loudly ringing, a department store Santa’s “Ho-ho-ho,” and holiday songs, new and old, secular and religious, fill the air. If those don’t put you in a joyous mood, nothing will.
  5. The Feel of Christmas: How does a person “touch” Christmas? The funny thing is, most of the time it is Christmas that touches us in some way, and it is often a study in contrasts. Imagine the feel of cold winter air and snowflakes on your face—and then, a few minutes later, you are snuggling in front of a fire in a fireplace.

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The Origins of Santa’s Sleigh and Reindeer

Santa Claus with Sleigh and Reindeer

’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.


Without a doubt the most popular Christian holiday in the west is Christmas; and this poem by Clement C. Moore, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” is surely one of the most recognizable and beloved. The description of Santa Claus flying through the air on a sleigh drawn by eight reindeer is both fantastic and unforgettable.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave a luster of midday to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

Clement Moore: The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
A page from the 1948 Artists and Writers Guild edition of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”

But whence came such other-worldly imagery?

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Popular Christmas Ornaments

It’s never too early to begin thinking about the upcoming holiday season. As the summer months come to an end, Christmas decor will begin to appear on store shelves. An obvious staple to holiday decor is the Christmas tree. If you are someone who enjoys the tradition of decorating your tree the same annually, investing in a few new ornaments can help revitalize your tree. Inversely, if you enjoy the excitement of changing up your tree decor consider the most popular Christmas ornaments for inspiration. Monochromatic ornament color packages offer a great basis for changing your decor color scheme. If you’re looking for something to add to an existing assortment consider a classic candy cane or toy soldier ornament.

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Christmas Desserts Around The World

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without a classic array of Christmas desserts. Accompanying savory holiday meals with indulgent sweets is tradition all over the world. From the German Stollen to the American candy cane, the treats may differ, but the camaraderie that they represent stays constant. In this post I will describe to you some of the most popular holiday desserts from places across the globe; hopefully inspiring you to try something new and learn more about traditions elsewhere. If you’re passionate about holiday treats, consider translating this into your decor with lighted candy canes.

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Top Trends For 2021 Christmas Decor

santas chair

It is never too early to start planning your Christmas decorations for the upcoming season. Perhaps, you feel like every year you put out the same inflatable Santa Claus or outdoor nativity set and want to change up your routine. Christmas decor trends are the perfect place for anyone to draw inspiration. From color to proportion, the trends of the year can help guide you to decorate in a way that elevates your space while still conveying an overall sense of holiday cheer. 

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Christmas Traditions of Ireland

Christmas traditions around the world differ, however, the values that people celebrate during the holidays remain true everywhere: Family, faith, and spreading cheer. Centered around these ideals, Irish Christmas traditions are no exception. Whether it be gathering as a community to sing carols or decorating a Christmas tree with the family, every Irish holiday tradition is meant to bring light and love into the lives of others. 

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The History of the Christmas Reindeer

During Christmas time we’re surrounded by the tale of Santa and his trusted reindeer.  Stories such as, “T’was the Night Before Christmas,” and others like it have embedded Santa and his reindeer into Christmas culture. Often, children have memorized the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” by the time they’re five. We have fostered a Christmas culture heavily reliant on the concept of the Christmas reindeer, however, few know the reindeer’s true history. 

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