Striking the right chord at Christmas

Just like chocolates, over-indulgence in festive songs can leave you bloated and queasy. Don’t do it – play these classics when the time is right and you’ll be rockin’ around the Christmas tree in no time

Christmas songs are a bit like those tantalising chocolates in the advent calendar. Fun and festive if you pace yourself and indulge at the appropriate times.

Overdo them, however, and they can leave you feeling bloated and queasy.

At their best, they can open a portal to a fantasy funderland and allow you to delude yourself that Christmas really is the glow of the Rockefeller tree, the shiny floors of FAO Schwarz – where everyone has the time, the money and the soft furnishings to sit beside an open fire, swaddled in sheepskin, sipping hot chocolate, contemplating life.

And then someone has to ruin it all by overplaying them and making you sick of Fairytale of New York by the middle of November.


Here is list of Christmas tunes and their appropriate place in the festivities:

December 1st: Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas is You

December 1st is usually when someone on the radio or otherwise will attempt to play Mariah's All I Want for Christmas is You and you are legally allowed to slap them.

All I Want for Christmas is the last truly great, original Christmas song. It is a work of Spector-sized genius. It is sacred. It should be savoured. It should be heard on a loudspeaker under the sparkling decorations on a deserted Grafton Street at 2am when you kiss someone new for the first time. It should be reserved for when work is over and the holidays begin in earnest, when you're in the local wrapped in tinsel and get put into a headlock by an over-excited neighbour you barely know.

It shouldn’t be heard when you’re over-heated in the M&S food hall pricing some “bits” or on the way to the office on an anonymous drizzly Wednesday. It should not be played as the first Christmas song of the month of December because we have not earned it. Give Mariah the respect she deserves.

December 9th: Mike Oldfield

– In Dulci Jubilo

What a difference a week can make. There are only 15 shopping days left and things are taking a turn for the weird.

The elongated event that is Christmas can make it feel as surreal as a David Lynch film, a never-ending stretch of consumerism coupled with the willingness to "meet up" with people you never normally see, trying to cram in a drink or five every weeknight, and not just any old beverage – no at Christmas you must drink special stuff. Crack open the Baileys, mix up an eggnog, throw in some schnapps or a fancy sparkling wine, sure have a few shots, it's Christmas!

Mike Oldfield’s bizarrely demonic elf-jig is the soundtrack to the devilish gaiety that possesses us in the festive season, that makes us believe we are invincible and that we’ll definitely still make that meeting first thing in the morning after moonwalking our way out of a lock-in with some person you used to be in senior infants with.

December 14th: The Pogues

and Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York

It's Christmas party time! And remember, you are neither Dawn nor Tim so you are not going to find the love of your life at the photocopier whilst Yazoo's Only You plays– you are more than likely going to end up in a sticky-floored nightclub wishing you hadn't said that thing to the new HR girl who hasn't had a drink since the meal.

This is around the time where you can easily become seasonally maudlin, over-tired, overworked and over-anxious. Christmas, like a bad bout of food poisoning, can make us obsess over our worst choices and bring them right back up to greet us.

It's okay to dissolve into tears in the back of a taxi when Shane MacGowan tells Kirsty MacColl he built his dreams around her as Fairytale of New York swells to its heart-bursting conclusion. You deserve this cry. It's been a long year.

December 21st-24th: Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmas Time ; Wham – Last Christmas

We’re almost there and even those who have a crystallised piece of coal lodged in their chest cavity where their heart should be could not fail to melt into something resembling “cheer” when the initial wonky keyboards of Macca’s Christmas ode whirrs into life.

Yes, John and Yoko may have told us all that War is Over, but, y'know, it's hard to sing "So this is Christmas and what have you done?" to your frazzled mam who is contemplating sticking her head in the oven along with the turkey.

Best go with McCartney and his woozy masterpiece – after all isn’t “we’re here tonight and that’s enough” the true essence of Christmas? It’s the everything is grand/this will have to do mantra of the weary, as everyone collapses on the couch in a zombified state.

Last Christmas is the star on top of the tree. A melodramatic love story deceptively wrapped in chiming bells under a layer of crisp torment. It is the ghost of every Christmas past booming from the speakers – from your first Walkman to the background fuzz of festive Top of the Pops. Its evergreen spirit is the only song that can get you through a day of endlessly high emotions, juggling family, friends and the irrepressible need to just lie down and watch telly. George is with us all the way. A true constant that injects a dose of bittersweet realism into the romanticism of the day.