Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Top 30 Christmas Songs of All Time

Christmas has always been very meaningful to me.  From my earliest memories of our family gatherings to more recent times watching Rachel cut a balsam tree down and dragging it through the snow for the family to decorate and every memory in between -- this is my favorite time of the year.  

For a few years I have been contemplating building a list of my favorite Christmas songs but it was not until this year that I took the time to put pen to paper.  What better than a global pandemic to conduct research for such an endeavor!  And thus my project of listing out the top Christmas songs of all time was born.  

But what defines a Christmas song?  It is not merely a religious song that you could hear on any given Sunday in a Catholic church.  For this list, it is defined as any song that features the word Christmas, appears in a Christmas movie, makes reference to Santa Claus or is about the a true meaning a Christmas -- the birth of Jesus!

Once I had the definition clear in my head, then I needed to figure out which Christmas songs appealed to me the most.  The basic question I kept asking myself was 'which songs could I listen to on repeat if I were 16 years old again bagging groceries at Econo Foods for a 9 hour shift in December and Christmas songs were on endless repeat?'  

That doesn't mean that the list only contains classical Christmas songs, or even those created before my grocery bagging career started in 1991.  This is an all encompassing list ranging from the 16th century until present day. 

Here is what I what I came up with.  Read on and see if you agree. 

30. Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano - This festive song is a Christmas mainstay but had it's ranking hurt by its repetitive nature.  There are only 20 unique words sang over and over for 3 minutes.  

29. Do They Know It's Christmas? by Band Aid - An often forgotten collaboration from 1984 included such stars as Phil Collins, Boy George, Sting, George Michael and others raised $24 million for starving children in Ethiopia.

28. Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town by Bruce Springsteen - The Boss recorded the live version of this Haven Gillespie song just 17 days after I was born in 1975 and still today it receives the most airplay of all renditions.

27. Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney - This original Christmas song was recorded by McCartney as part of his solo career in 1979 after the final album from Wings was released but the synthesizer 

26. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by MercyMe - Dating back to the 1700's, this song is also known as Tidings of Comfort and Joy and makes the list with a version by MercyMe from their 2005 album The Christmas Sessions, 

25. Blue Christmas by Elvis - First rerecorded in 1948, this song was made famous in 1957 when the King recorded it for his 1957 Christmas album. 

24. I'll Be Home for Christmas by Bing Crosby - Recorded in 1943, this classic Christmas song features a soldier writing a letter to his family from overseas during World War II that he will be home for Christmas, if only in his dreams.

23. Believe by Josh Groban - From the Polar Express soundtrack, this song reached the top of the Billboard adult contemporary chart and received a Grammy in 2006 for best song written for a motion picture

22. Hark the Herald Sing by Rebecca St. James - This is modern take of the song from the early 18th century appears on the Unexpected Gifts: 12 New Sounds Of Christmas album from 2006.

21. A Mad Russian's Christmas by Trans-Siberian Orchestra - This song is literally impossible to describe as it includes everything from a soft intro to a crazed paced piano and rock guitar riff with everything in between. 

The Top 20

20. Linus and Lucy by Vince Guaraldi - This song from the American jazz pianist gained popularity in 1965 as part of the Charlie Brown Christmas special. 

19. This Christmas Time by Samantha Hooey - This song was featured in a 2017 Hallmark Christmas movie entitled Christmas Next Door.

18. Mele Kalikimaka by Bing Crosby - From the Hawaiian phrase meaning "Merry Christmas," this song was recorded in 1949 and was featured prominently in a Clark Griswold dream sequence during the 1989 movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

17. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee - Recorded in 1958 by Lee when she was only 13 years old, most people today associate this song with the 1990 movie Home Alone during a scene when Kevin (McCallister) stages a holiday party to help ward off burglars. 

16. Please Come Home for Christmas by Eagles - This song from 1960 has been covered by many artists including Bon Jovi and Martina McBride but the best version was the Eagles cover in 1978,

15. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland - This song was written for the 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis and made the American Film Institute top 100 songs of the last 100 years.

14. A Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives - This song appeared in the 1964 Christmas special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that also featured Burl Ives as the narrator.

13. Mary, Did You Know? by Cimorelli - Written in 1984, this modern a cappella version is best described as haunting.

12. Christmas Eve / Sarajevo by Trans-Siberian Orchestra - This powerful and fast paced acoustic Christmas song features their take on 1914 Ukrainian folk song Carol of the Bells.

11. Joy to the World by Faith Hill - First published over 300 years ago, this song has many versions with the best coming from Faith Hill in 2008.

The Top 10

10. Angels We Have Heard on High by Chris Tomlin - This Christmas song about the birth of Jesus is sung to the hymn Gloria, with this version recorded for the 2009 album Glory in the Highest.

9. White Christmas by Bing Crosby - Released in 1942, this is the best selling single of all time (50 million), which is ahead of Elton John's Candle in the Wind 1997 by a whopping 17 million!

8. Boughs of Holly by Trans-Siberian Orchestra - This is a modern rock take of the 16th century Welsh song Deck the Halls.

7. Silent Night by Michael BublĂ© - Witten in the early 1800's in Austria, this song was made most popular by Bing Crosby as the 4th best selling single of all time, but the BublĂ© version is the rendition that makes this list. 

6. It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year by Andy Williams - From 1964, this song about typical Christmas traditions makes reference to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol with the lyrics "telling of scary ghost stories."

5. Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow by Dean Martin - Though first released in 1957 by Frank Sinatra, the (better) version that makes this list is by Dean Martin from 1959.

4. O Come, All Ye Faithful - Chris Tomlin - This song was translated into English from the original Latin lyrics in the mid 1700's and has been covered many times. 

3. Christmas Canon by Trans-Siberian Orchestra - From their 1998 album The Christmas Attic, this song features a children's choir and is one of the best selling Christmas songs of all time.  

2. Let it be Christmas by Alan Jackson - From the 2002 album of the same name, this song features lyrics promoting the notion that the feeling of the Christmas season should continue throughout the entire year. 

And the #1 Christmas Song of all Time is... 

1. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas by Perry Como - This song from 1951 celebrates a simpler time when Christmas decorations appeared in front windows of department stores.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

2020 Christmas Movie Challenge

Last year I watched a Christmas movie on November 6th.  

I immediately felt full of the Christmas spirit and wanted that feeling of joy and hope to continue.  So I watched another Christmas movie.  And another and another and so on and so forth.  Thus the 50 Christmas Movies in 50 Days Challenge was born!  The plan was to average watching a Christmas movie once a day for a span of 50 days that would culminate with watching A Christmas Story on Christmas Day.  

2020 has been a year where normal is not normal as we are living during a time of pandemic.  So many people started putting up Christmas decorations earlier than ever before because they were looking to embrace that same joyous holiday feeling during a year that has been filled mostly with despair. 

So how could I improve upon last years challenge?  Not that bigger is always better, but the definition of a challenge is that it should be, well, challenging.  Without a notion of a plan, I watched my first Christmas movie on October 27th.  Quickly I realized that it was exactly 60 days until Christmas.  And thus the 60 Christmas Movies in 60 Days challenge was born.
Last year I just one simple rule -- that I had to watch 50 Christmas movies in 50 days -- no more, no less.  This year I expanded on that with just one more rule, which is more of a guideline.  I want to try to not be more than 2 movies ahead (or behind) schedule.  The rationale was that this was not about binge watching eight or 10 movies in a weekend and lapsing until the following weekend.  This is because I want to embody the season on a daily basis, not in mass quantities and then lapse back into despondency or gloom for days at a time.

Last year I was scouring Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu and toward the end of the challenge the quality of movies was very poor.  This year the quality of movies vastly improved as I invested in the frndly app which includes the Hallmark family of channels. 

What are some observations for what comprises a Hallmark Christmas movie?  It will contain 3 or more of the following scenarios.
  • A successful business person working in the big city returns home and stays there to work
  • Someone rediscovers the Christmas spirit after having a reason to be swear it off 
  • A single parent who had shied away from love, finds it again
  • A famous country movie star returns to their home town incognito 
  • Some sort of festival, parade, fund raiser or holiday event needs to be planned and there is likely only a matter of weeks to pull it all off
  • A kiss happens between the two main characters in the final 30 seconds of the movie, though they may have attempted to kiss earlier only to be interrupted 
  • A struggling small business in financial hardship is saved just in time for Christmas
  • A young 30 something person is up for a promotion that they are far from qualified for at that age
  • There is a snow storm that forces people to remain in town for longer than planned
  • Will be filmed in Canada, but have a plot that includes New York City + (Vermont, Tennessee or Montana)
  • Will feature a former child star, a soap opera actress or someone who has appeared on How I Met Your Mother or an extra on CSI including Candace Cameron-Bure, Lacy Chabert, Sarah Lancaster, Erin Cahill, Brooke D'Orsay, Ashley Williams, Brooke Nevin, Erin Krakow,  or Rachel Boston
  • There will be plenty of hot cocoa drank and seldom will there be alcohol 
  • It will only take (as many as) 12 days to fall in love, spanning the 12 days of Christmas
  • Either a snow man or a snow angel will be made
  • There will be a Christmas tree lighting ceremony
  • There will be an inn or lodge that may be in financial hardship, be passed down in the family or have other sentimental value
  • There will be a man who looks just like Santa Claus and may even serve as Santa for the town this season and you are lead to believe he is the real Santa but will mysteriously vanish on Christmas Eve, assumedly heading back to the North Pole to deliver presents
  • Son inherits fathers company and either struggles to find himself in his fathers successful shadow or must pass a series of challenges to prove he is worthy of taking over.
  • With their relationship in the budding stage, the lead female will uncharacteristically become clumsy and fall into the arms of the lead male and create an awkward moment in which they both realize that they are falling in love with each other and should kiss, but are preempted by the females former love interest.  
Additions from collaboration with Gina DeMuro Zeafla
  • There will be a misunderstanding approximately 20 minutes before the end of the movie which pulls the two love interests apart, leaving little time for the reconciliation and falling in love at the final scene.
  • The frequent “impossibly beautiful but stubborn daughter trying to save her family’s farm or small shop from bankruptcy, only to be annoyed by the rich business man who came to most-likely develop the land.”
  • Handsome widower with permanent 5-o’clock shadow and one bitter 11 year old daughter learns to love again after perky corporate climber is forced to come to small town to sell the family bed and breakfast after the death of her estranged father.
List of Movies Watched (so far)
  1. Day 1: Oct-27 Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy
  2. Day 2: Oct-28 Christmas in Evergreen
  3. Day 3: Oct-29 Chateau Christmas
  4. Day 4: Oct-30 'Tis the Season for Love
  5. Day 5: Oct-31 Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa
  6. Day 5: Oct-31 Christmas Scavenger Hunt
  7. Day 6: Nov-01 Christmas Tree Lane
  8. Day 8: Nov-03 Nostalgic Christmas
  9. Day 8: Nov-03 A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas
  10. Day 10: Nov-05 Rocky Mountain Christmas
  11. Day 11: Nov-06 Fir Crazy
  12. Day 11: Nov-06 On the Twelfth Day of Christmas
  13. Day 12: Nov-07 It’s Christmas, Eve
  14. Day 12: Nov-07 Small Town Christmas
  15. Day 13: Nov-08 A Merry Christmas Match
  16. Day 13: Nov-08 Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater
  17. Day 14: Nov-09 Christmas in Love
  18. Day 15: Nov-10 Most Wonderful Time of the Year
  19. Day 17: Nov-12 Christmas at the Plaza
  20. Day 18: Nov-13 Christmas Connection
  21. Day 18: Nov-13 A Cookie Cutter Christmas
  22. Day 20: Nov-15 Miss Christmas
  23. Day 23: Nov-18 A Timeless Christmas
  24. Day 24: Nov-19 A Godwink Christmas
  25. Day 25: Nov-20 A Wish for Christmas
  26. Day 25: Nov-20 A Christmas in Tennessee
  27. Day 26: Nov-21 Christmas On Ice
  28. Day 26: Nov-21 Feliz NaviDAD
  29. Day 27: Nov-22 A Royal Christmas
  30. Day 27: Nov-22 Let it Snow
  31. Day 28: Nov-23 Christmas In Vienna
  32. Day 31: Nov-26 The Christmas Cure
  33. Day 33: Nov-28: Just in Time for Christmas
  34. Day 34: Nov-29: With Love, Christmas
  35. Day 34: Nov-29: Return to Christmas Creek
  36. Day 34: Nov-29: Holidate
  37. Day 35: Nov-30: Christmas Made to Order
  38. Day 37: Dec-2: Christmas Homecoming
  39. Day 38: Dec-3: Check Inn to Christmas
  40. Day 39: Dec-4: Northern Lights of Christmas
  41. Day 40: Dec-5: Sharing Christmas
  42. Day 41: Dec-6: Sleigh Bells Ring
  43. Day 42: Dec-7: Two Turtle Doves
  44. Day 44: Dec-9: A Godwink Christmas: Second Chance, First Love
  45. Day 45: Dec-10: Enchanted Christmas 
  46. Day 47: Dec-12: A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love
  47. Day 47: Dec-12: Christmas Next Door
  48. Day 48: Dec-13: Christmas On My Mind
  49. Day 48: Dec-13: Christmas Incorporated
  50. Day 48: Dec-13: Time For Us to Come Home for Christmas 
  51. Day 51: Dec-16: Unlocking Christmas 
  52. Day 52: Dec-17: Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen
  53. Day 53: Dec-18: The Sweetest Christmas 
  54. Day 54: Dec-19: Christmas Waltz
  55. Day 55: Dec-20: Christmas Land
  56. Day 57: Dec 22: The Mistletoe Secret
  57. Day 58: Dec 23: Christmas Under the Stars
  58. Day 59: Dec 24: Project Christmas Wish
  59. Day 59: Dec 24: The Family Stone
  60. Day 60: Dec-25: A Christmas Story

Monday, December 7, 2020

Topps Living Set Chicago Cubs Team

UPDATED October 6, 2021

I will be the first to admit that when they initially rolled out in 2018, I was not a fan of the Topps Living Set.  I think that stems from my overall dislike of baseball card companies these days that print cards of former (non active) players mixed into the regular issue sets.  I guess I am more of a traditionalist where the checklist was comprised of active players and maybe a  manager card from the 80's.  

While my opinion has not changed on current cards, I do also understand that the purpose of the Living Set IS to have a mix of players from all generations.  So I decided to start a PSA 10 set of my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs especially since the rookie card of Nico Hoerner was in the set and he is one of my two favorite current Cubs.

Building this set is not to get rich or to turn a profit.  It’s purely for the love of the sport and my team.  And to remind myself that collecting cards should be fun and bring joy to my life which I’ve noticed that waiting for the next Cubs player to be released has done. 

I don't have numbers for percentages of how frequently modern cards get graded as Gem Mint 10.  But for the Topps Baseball Living Set from 2018 to 2020, of the 84,716 (61,948 + 19,826 + 2,942) cards received by PSA for grading, 57,042 (40,755 + 14,064 + 2,223) have come back as PSA 10.  That is 67.33% or 2 out of every 3 cards subbed on average have graded Gem Mint 10.  So building a PSA 10 run should not be that difficult but it will still be a fun project with no end. 

My only suggestion would be that I would like to see a voting process where fans could determine that players from each team who would get a card.  That would help to avoid the Brandon Morrow's of the world being included before Mark Grace and Ron Santos. 

Chicago Cubs Checklist (with print runs) last updated October 6, 2021

  • ✓ 5 Ian Happ (PR=3,042) 
  • ✓ 30 Brandon Morrow (PR=5,585) 
  • ✓ 64 Ryne Sandberg (PR=7,212)
  • ✓ 67 Anthony Rizzo (PR=5,568) 
  • ✓ 83 David Bote RC (PR=5,345) 
  • ✓ 103 Javier Baez (PR=4,499) 
  • ✓ 127 Kris Bryant (PR=5,361)
  • ✓ 210 Jason Heyward (PR=2,573)
  • ✓ 217 Ernie Banks (PR=5,406)
  • ✓ 266 Kyle Hendricks (PR=2,074) 
  • ✓ 310 Nico Hoerner RC (PR=3,523)
  • ✓ 323 Willson Contreras (PR=2,052) 
  • 352 Alec Mills (PR=1,886)  
  • 429 Craig Kimbrel  (PR=1,780)
  • 453 Patrick Wisdom (PR=1,547)
  • ✓ 473 Frank Schwindel (PR=1,764)

My current PSA 10 collection.