No season in the Church calendar provides us with so much music as does the Incarnation Cycle (Advent and Christmastide). Christmas is one of the principal festivals of the Church (along with Easter and Pentecost), and in popular culture is seen as the most important holiday in the year, regardless of one’s religious affiliation.
Even after we have winnowed out the obviously secular (Deck the Halls, Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland) and the silly (Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree), there is still a huge amount of music that we sing at no other time in the year. Choosing the right music while still satisfying the demand of the faithful – who often feel it “just isn’t Christmas” if we don’t sing [take your pick] – can be a strain.
Then there is the constant argument between those who feel we shouldn’t sing Christmas songs until we get to Christmas itself. They want a distinct Advent season with songs appropriate to Advent. They have a point. The Church doesn’t start celebrating Christmas until Christmas Eve, but this runs against popular culture, which goes crazy on Christmas, starting with Thanksgiving, and then drops the whole thing on December 26. On top of this, you only have one or two Sundays (plus a special service or two) to sing Christmas songs, while there are four Sundays in Advent in which everyone around us is singing and playing Christmas music to the point of surfeit. It’s a no-win proposition.