Susanna Fraser was scheduled to post today but she is in deep deadline frenzy, making sure her new book, A Dream Defiant (coming in July, 2013) is the best it can be before delivering to her editor. Apparently, no one told her the world was ending today.

Just in case we are all still here, I’m sharing a little holiday rant.

I am sick of hearing “Carol of the Bells” used to sell stuff. I have heard it sung in different variations with banal commercial lyrics, barked by dogs, honked with car horns, hammered and buzzed with power tools.  I used to like it but now I think I need a very long break before I can hear it again without gritting my teeth.  For me, it has come to embody the commercialism of the season: the message that you can buy happiness and that Christmas is wonderful for everyone, when we all know there are people for whom it is a difficult time.

When holidays get too stressful or commercial for me, I listen to early Christmas music.  It takes me into an earlier time and to a more peaceful place in my soul.  This is music that doesn’t deny that there is suffering in the world but instead offers a sense of enduring beauty and goodness.

So yesterday, I happily spent some time searching around YouTube for some examples to share.

The first is from one of my favorites: the renowned women’s a capella group, Anonymous 4. It’s the Alleluia: “A Nywe Werke” (15th century English).

The next is a version of “Gaudete” performed by a youth choir from Harrogate, England. It’s very sweet and lovingly done.

I first heard “Riu riu chiu”, a 16th century Spanish villancico (a type of popular song), performed by the local Madrigal Choir of Binghamton. When I searched for this carol on YouTube I discovered that the Monkees had performed it in 1967! I clicked on it and, well, see for yourself.

So how about you?  If you need to de-stress during the holidays, how do you do it?  What is your favorite holiday music?  Does anyone else think we need a break from “Carol of the Bells”?