The Student News Site of Henry M. Gunn High School

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The Student News Site of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

The Student News Site of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Sleigh bells ring and voices sing: Festive music creates lasting holiday memories

Sleigh+bells+ring+and+voices+sing%3A+Festive+music+creates+lasting+holiday+memories
Natalie Lam

When the final scraps of turkey and stuffing leftovers are eaten, a new season commences: the holiday season. As many begin preparing for the winter holidays, an array of holiday hits and timeless classics plays on car radios and in malls as people go about their holiday shopping.

(Holiday music) puts me in the holiday spirit and (gets me) ready for Christmas. It has warm and cozy feelings — like emotions attached to an exact memory of good moments in time.

— Junior Leilani Griffin

At Gunn, holiday pieces are a staple in the music department. In addition to preparing for the annual winter concert in December, the Gunn choir puts on holiday-themed community performances. Their holiday setlist consists of traditional carols alongside. newer commissioned pieces such as “Home for Hanukkah” by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, which was written specifically for the Gunn choir.

Choir teacher Angelina Fitzhugh emphasizes the importance of being conscious and inclusive of different cultures in the music community.

“We make sure that there’s always going to be Hanukkah representation and (that we perform) music not just from the Western (world),” she said.

Fitzhugh also believes that performing holiday music brings a sense of continuity and comfort to her choir students.

“It’s only a tiny portion of what we do, but most students really enjoy singing and performing those holiday tunes, especially the ones that we’ve done year after year,” she said.

In her school choir, Fitzhugh sang for people in retirement homes, a memorable experience that united different generations.

“(For me,) it was an interesting piece as a teenager to see people I considered super old to have (a similar positive) experience I was having and to enjoy the music in the same way I was enjoying it,” she said.

Holiday music also reminds people of joyful times. In a 2020 news article, Biola University Music Therapy Professor Ronald Borczon explained that famous holiday melodies, often connected with happy moments, are ingrained in people’s memories. Sophomore Matteo Carbone’s experience reflects this phenomenon.

“I was in first grade, and my brother was in kindergarten,” he said. “We (played) music on a speaker, and we were dancing around the house (during) most of Christmas,” he said.

Similarly, nostalgic holiday hits such as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe” help junior Leilani Griffin transition into the holiday season.

“(Holiday music) puts me in the holiday spirit and (gets me) ready for Christmas,” she said. “(It) has warm and cozy feelings — like emotions attached to an exact memory of good moments in time. It makes me think of memories with my family and friends, which makes me happy (and want to) build a snowman or make snow angels.”

There’s so many memories attached to holiday music (we hear throughout our) whole life. Sharing those memories and having that shared experience with others brings (us) together.

— Choir teacher Angelina Fitzhugh

Carbone, too, appreciates the uplifting feel of holiday music while hearing it in public areas, though he doesn’t proactively listen to it.

“I celebrate Christmas, so (hearing holiday music) is nice,” he said. “(Some songs are) very relaxing and others are very joyful overall, and (it puts) me in a happier mood.”

Some say that holiday music is overplayed and near-impossible to escape during the winter. The key to maximum enjoyment of holiday music, therefore, is a tailored approach. Fitzhugh, who worked in retail as a teenager, recalled the frustrating experience of repeatedly listening to the same 10 songs every day.

“I was done with it,” she said. “I can imagine (how it) still affects people who are forced to listen to it because of where they work. There are certain songs that really trigger people, and they’re like, ‘If I have to hear that song again, I’m going to lose it.’ (It’s) true for any song if it’s overplayed, but this particular set of music is only played in this time frame of the year, so it’s amplified.”

Still, as an integral element of the holiday season, holiday music is a powerful way to cherish the past, celebrate diverse cultures and improve overall well-being.

“There’s so many memories attached to holiday music (we hear throughout our) whole life,” Fitzhugh said. “Sharing those memories and having that shared experience with others brings (us) together.”

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About the Contributors
Ellie Yuan, Social Media Editor
Senior Ellie Yuan is a social media editor for The Oracle and has been on staff since January 2022. She enjoys playing tennis, traveling, listening to music and drinking coffee.
Natalie Lam, Graphics Freelancer
Senior Natalie Lam is a freelance graphic artist for The Oracle. She enjoys drawing, reading webtoons, and listening to music.
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