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The numbers of Christmas

Published 11:51am Sunday, December 15, 2013

I must admit, I feel a little bit like Charlie Brown this year: I’m struggling to get excited about the season and the seasonal music.

Most years, I thoroughly enjoy Christmas music as a respite from the typical normal music, but I’ve had trouble truly enjoying the holiday music stations this year. A big part of the problem is there are so many Christmas songs pitched across the airwaves these days.

Here are a few numbers to ponder when thinking about Christmas music:


Turn on a Christmas radio station or the latest TV special, and a lot of what you hear is the latest songs from so-and-so off “The Voice” or “American Idol” or some other reality show.

It’s a subtle reminder that liking Christmas music doesn’t mean liking all Christmas music. Like all other music, there’s a lot of it people aren’t going to like — largely depending on preference.

But, the unique thing about Christmas music is that there are countless versions of the same songs and not all of them are good. “White Christmas,” written by Irving Berlin, was made famous by Bing Crosby in the 1940s. But according to various Internet sources, it’s the most-recorded Christmas song, being covered more than 500 times. Likewise, “Silent Night” is believed to be one of the most recorded Christmas carols, though there’s no count of how many times it’s been recorded. Judging from reports it has been translated into anywhere from 100 to 300 languages and dialects. You can assume it’s pretty high.

It’s safe to assume not every version of these songs is created equal; in fact, many versions are probably pretty forgettable.

That led me to a key realization: There are a lot of mediocre — even bad — Christmas songs out there. Moral of the story: Listen what you consider the best; skip the rest.

$400,000 to $600,000

Every year, Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” is one of the most distinctive Christmas songs around, with its synth riffs. Personally, it’s a song I enjoy in moderation, but it seems to play every time I turn on a holiday station. That’s something Sir Paul certainly doesn’t oppose.

Since McCartney recorded all the parts himself, he gets a hefty royalty check each year for the song — $400,000 to $600,000 a year, according to Forbes in 2010.

It’s a good reminder of why so many artists and TV personalities — including the cast of “Duck Dynasty” this year — decide to release Christmas albums: It can be incredibly lucrative.


Most communities or regions have a holiday station that plays continuous Christmas tunes from Black Friday through Christmas. This year, that means a minimum of 27 days of continuous Christmas music. By the end, many of us may be ready to set the holiday aside for 11 months.


From what I can tell, jazz musician Vince Guaraldi only put out one album of original Christmas music: The soundtrack to “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The songs have been used on many compilation albums since. The soundtrack is his most well-known work, and chances are it contains the only Guaraldi songs many people hear in a year.

Still, it’s commendable that Gauraldi only recorded one Christmas album. Many other musicians would have taken the success as a sign to record countless more holiday albums.

Moderation isn’t a bad thing, and that’s something we can all remember during the holidays. Don’t try to force your way into the spirit by listening to more music; listen to the music you like the most, and try to keep it a special treat about one month out of the year.

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