The Epic Christmas Playlist

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Hear ye, hear ye. Let it be declared that I’m officially calling it holiday season here on the blog which means the floodgates have opened. And if you’re new here, be forewarned: This time of year? I don’t do subtle. I mean I figure the jig was up a long time ago, but maybe you were giving me the benefit of the doubt. For reference, may I suggest reading about how I dressed like Kristi Yamuguchi in Christmas on Ice while carrying a stack of holiday magazines, and it was just a regular day. Also, I feel I need to confess that I basically told my dad and Gary if they want to fit in with the family this year, they will order the Christmas fair isle sweater links I researched and sent them, wear them through the holidays, and THEY WILL LIKE IT.

The decorating has begun with Phase 1: Twinkle lights, linens and “light tchotchke.” We will proceed through levels 2-5 over the course of the week, ramp it up over the weekend and reach full Griswold status Thanksgiving weekend.

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The kids have been having so much fun with the annual Target Toy Catalogue, also known as THE BEST BABYSITTER EVER.

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Now on to the important things…the Holiday Playlist, proper noun indeed.

I have big feelings about Christmas music, and apparently you do too because I polled the audience on Instagram stories about how to organize this playlist and got a passionate response. The race for “categorized song lists” (for those of you who don’t like your eggs touching your waffles) vs. “one big epic playlist” was so close, I decided to do both. You also need to know that this playlist comes with careful deliberation and much research. Here’s how we’re going to do this.

The One Big Epic Playlist is at the end, and it’s simply a collection of my favorite Christmas songs of all times–the ones that move me and make me really feel the holidays. Naturally, it’s going to include a lot of old Christmas classics because those are the ones I’m drawn to most this time of year, but it also includes some favorite indie holiday music, Christmas movie themes, etc.

As for the categorized Christmas playlists, here’s what we have:

OLD SCHOOL CHRISTMAS: This is the Holy Grail, folks. The original makers of the classics. I mean, Nat King Cole is basically Father Christmas, and can anyone top Bing for White Christmas? Say yes, and you’re dead to me. I could live off this playlist. It’s the bottom of the food pyramid, the Christmas calories that feed our souls. Sinatra, Bing, Nat, Lena, Louis…this is it. 
INDIE & FOLK CHRISTMAS:
As much as my holiday loyalty lies with the classic crooners, I’ve developed a nice appetite for Indie Christmas tunes as well, thanks to She & Him and Sufjan Stevens. These are cabin-in-the-woods songs, wear-your-buffalo-plaid-and-drink-espresso songs, grow-a-beard-and-move-to-the-Northwest songs. I’m not growing a beard, but I do like this list a whole lot. My guess is you haven’t heard many of these, but you will fall in love once you do. 
CHRISTMAS JAZZ & PIANO:
Great for holiday cocktail parties, this list possesses the classic charm of the old school one but presented by a bit more recent musicians. It’s smooth and easy. You’ll get Diana Krall, Michael Buble, Harry Connick Jr., Beegie Adair piano, Chris Botti, Dave Koz and more. 
CHRISTMAS FOR THE KIDS:
All the kids’ favorites here from Alvin and the Chipmunks to Jimmy Durante’s animated version of Frosty the Snowman. There’s Rudolph, the Grinch and Polar Express, and the last two songs on the playlists are beautiful readings of two classic Christmas tales (play them at bedtime…you’ll love them).
MODERN CHRISTMAS:
 I’m not really a fan of contemporary Christmas music and basically scoff at the idea of pop stars trying to remake a classic or invent a new one, but sometimes they pull it off. Leslie Odom Jr. pulls it off brilliantly because he’s not really a pop star. And no one can say they’re not moved by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” And though I was very hesitant at letting Pentatonix in, I can’t pretend not to kind of like them now. And then, of course, there’s Wham, Mariah Carey (begrudgingly), James Taylor, Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen. 
CHRISTMAS PAST:
a hodge lodge collection of leftover Christmas songs from my childhood that didn’t really belong on the other lists. Lots of Carpenters and Amy Grant for the 80’s church kids.

ARE YOU READY? CAN YOU HANDLE IT?

Dive in.

Old School Christmas

Indie & Folk Christmas

Christmas Jazz & Piano

Christmas for the Kids

Modern Christmas

Christmas Past

And finally…

The Epic Christmas Playlist of Favorites

Have a holy Christmas memory associated with a particular holiday song? Tell me about it.

Mine? Every Christmas season, some night after the kids are asleep, I look at pictures of our Christmas pasts while listening to Nat King Cole’s “Cradle in Bethlehem” and I ugly cry–it’s a happy, grateful motherhood-is-beautiful cry, but still. Ugly. And the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s “Lo How Arose ‘Er Blooming” is hauntingly beautiful and reminds me of a choir rendition my mom directed in our church when I was a teen. That holiday nostalgia gets me every time, and the songs of the past go right for the jugular.

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Let the holiday music commence.

2017 Holiday Bucket List

2017 Holiday Bucket List

Hear ye, hear ye. I know it’s only November 8, but Thanksgiving is officially two weeks away and you know how I suffer from PDHE.

I’m trying to keep it together…

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But, you know how things go…

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For the record, did you see all those pumpkins? So many pumpkins! Let’s focus on the harvest pumpkins, okay?

We’ve officially finished everything on our Fall Bucket List (first time we’ve ever crossed them all off, but we had fun simple things, so it was easy), so we are ready to start our holiday bucket list soon. I shared one I was working on on Instagram Stories, and so many of you said you wanted it, so here you are. Here’s a link to the printable you can download and print at home if you wish. We start ours in late November because one month can’t have all the fun, and we like to get a little head start on planning a few things so we don’t feel rushed in December.
2017 Holiday Bucket List

So consider this simple prep. Good stuff is coming.

Box of Leaves: 10 Years

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Our box of Michigan leaves arrived yesterday.

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My cousin Joann has been sending them to us every fall for ten years now. She waits for the perfect conditions–peak colors and dry weather–and always texts me on the day she gathers: “Today’s the day.” Every leaf is hand-picked and vacuum-packed into a box that she pays a pretty penny to ship…just to make us smile. We were expecting the box to arrive Saturday, but it didn’t make it which sent my cousin in a tizzy because she was afraid with the extra day of sitting at the post office, the leaves might lose their color or dry up or get moldy, but they were as perfect as ever.

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What began as a thoughtful gesture to give my kids a taste of a northern fall has turned into a deep-rooted ritual that connects us to home, each other and reminds us how happy something as simple as a box of leaves can make us.

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One of my favorite books I often return to is Simple Abundance, a collection of essays for every day that foster a gratitude practice and celebrate finding sacred in the ordinary from Autumn leaves to an afternoon cup of tea. That book is the foundation of my “Enjoying the Small Things” celebrations, and ever since my sister and I toted copies of it in the 90’s like the dorks we were and consequently started “comfort boxes” to stash our favorite little things that made us happy, I refer back to it often and think of it in moments like geeking out over our box of leaves. I recently bought a follow-up children’s book by the same author, Sara ban Breathnach, called The Best Part of the Day and love this quote in the author’s introduction: “Gratitude is often thought of as an intellectual concept, when really Gratitude is a small seed planted in the heart that is nurtured and nourished through acknowledging all the good that surrounds us. Good that can be discovered through the reassuring comfort of family customs, rituals, and traditions and restoring a sense of rhythm in our daily round and through the changing seasons.”

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This tradition, these leaves, the way we run to the woods to do the same thing we do every year with them–toss them into the air and drink up their earthy scent and pile them up to make little pillows where we lay for pictures…

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The way my kids all look at me while we do this, anticipating my happiness…following my lead…
The way they’ve come to look forward to them and enjoy them as much as I do…

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It’s a small seed of gratitude that has grown into a sturdy ritual that grounds us and reminds us that no matter how challenging life gets, there is an abundance of little pleasures around us that can bring us back home.

My kids may not know a Northern Autumn, but they know the joy that comes from its treasures.

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(Dash copied Lainey in the above picture, said “Look!” and we all lost it.)

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(I didn’t notice until I was editing that Lainey is clutching the Sophie necklace my niece sent her)

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We melted a pan of beeswax and dipped a good 30 leaves or so in it last night so we can enjoy our leaves a little longer and make a garland that will get us through Thanksgiving.

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Until next year’s box…sending vibrant Autumn happies your way today.

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