And here we are, at the end of this series for another year. Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that I’ve shared this song before. (I suspect at some point it will become as much a tradition as “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses.)
Not only do I love this song, but I also love this week. It’s about as low-pressure as my life gets. There’s still work to do and the house to clean, but everyone’s home and more relaxed than usual. The bustle of getting ready for Christmas in my large extended family has ended, and while I miss those traditions now that they’re over for another year, I’m looking forward to New Year’s Eve, and celebrating the new beginning that a new year naturally engenders.
When I was a child, the week between made me a little sad. My father used to tell me I had the “Christmas blues,” a melancholy kind of sorrow for the end of the holiday. (That was before I wised up and began insisting that my family actually do something fun every year for New Year’s Eve.)
Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick tell a funny story about this song, and in fact, about the album it’s on. They wanted to make a lucrative record and decided the way to do was to make a holiday collection in time for Christmas. But Coulton didn’t want to make any covers of established Christmas songs (especially the tired ones I started this series on my blog almost a decade ago to rebel against). He didn’t want to use the words “merry,” “cheer,” “joy,” etc. So they were left with the “darker” and more morose side of Christmas.
Except this album of all original songs isn’t “dark” or morose at all. (Well, unless you count a couple of songs that have a twistedly funny sense of humor.) One Christmas at a Time is actually one of my favorite holiday albums of all time, and the song I’m including today, one of my favorite tracks on it.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is completely aspirational for me. I have a moment to rest, a moment to do whatever the heck I want, and a moment to imagine the possibilities I will make of the coming new year. It’s lovely. Just like this song.
Houston’s Christmas Music Station has started playing their regular rotation again as of yesterday, but with holiday songs still sprinkled in. So here’s another Christmas song from me, too!
Jonathan Coulton is, frankly, an inspiration. He decided he wanted to make his career in music and so wrote a song a week, then posted it, built a following, and transitioned from his old job (that he apparently didn’t love) to a career in music. That kind of creative stamina is something I wish I could even imagine on a practical level, to say nothing of achieve. (To be clear, there’s a lot about my “day job” I like and wouldn’t want to give up. But the ability to create so much is just astounding to me, and feels therefore aspirational.) I also find his quirky, clever sense of humor really satisfying.
This song was from one of his Thing A Week albums. Enjoy!
I recognize it’s a bold claim to say that music I choose won’t make you miserable, but aren’t hot takes what blogs are for? Anyway, today’s song — “The Week Between” by Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick — has made the 12 Days Playlist in years past, and I had considered making it a bookend with The Waitresses for the Day 12 spot each year. I chose not to, though, because I honestly had too many other good tunes to share this time around (as is often the case), and the week between Christmas and New Year’s had a Monday that felt well-timed for this earworm.
I’ll catch up with you all more in the coming days and weeks to debrief on 2021 and cast a glance at 2022, but for now, here you go. Enjoy this song which I love, that sums up this week — almost every year of my childhood — so beautifully. The song’s subtextual premise is about nostalgia, and it definitely hits that for me.
What about you? What’s nostalgic about the week between for you?
Today was Christmas, and it was good. Mellow and relaxing, for the most part. Fun, at times. Most of my favorite aspects of Christmas — the Lebanese food, giving my loved ones gifts, not doing any work — were all in effect. There were video calls with my family members I couldn’t see in person. There was some socially distant and masked-up visiting from across the yard for a few minutes with others. It was, on balance, a good day.
But I cannot deny that it was weird.
The weirdness comes from not having the usual big to-do for the holiday with my enormous extended family and a generous cadre of friends dropping by throughout the afternoon or evening, all full of laughing and telling stories and eating and drinking together. Nope, that’s not really happening this year. But it’s okay. Subdued, but not bad. This way is necessary, and it’s also temporary. I think, I hope, next year will be different.
Some of my friends and cousins who work in the medical industry have already gotten their first doses of the covid vaccine, so that’s good. And while there’s nothing but absolutely bonkers nonsense bordering on mildly terroristic narcissism coming out of the upper reaches of the government, the larger horizon still provokes optimism.
Like most people, I had to put a pause on so many of my usual holiday traditions this year. But not all of them. The 12 Days of Holiday Music here, for example, is something I love doing and had no reason to halt. And just as I begin the series each year with The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” for its personal significance to me and for the comforting sense of routine (or ritual?), I think I’m going to end the series with a repeat song that I first included here in December of 2014, because it’s special to me.
“The Week Between” by John Roderick and Jonathan Coulton is one of my favorite holiday songs ever. It’s mellow and sweet and a little melancholy all at the same time.
When I was a child, Christmas was everything. Toys, delicious food, the end of my father’s unbearably long working hours until the next holiday season, and a party with my extended family, which meant cousins to play with as far as the eye could see. A very special tradition we had was that we always spent the night at each other’s houses on Christmas night, thereby extending our holiday for yet another day. We would stay up late and tiptoe into the kitchen after our parents went to bed for a “midnight snack” — usually cheddar sliced off an enormous block of cheese and Coke in six-ounce glass bottles. We played board games. We told each other scandalously funny jokes. We played with toys and watched movies and tried to see how late we could stay up. We almost never made it to actual midnight at that age. I lived for these times.
But once all of that was over, and we all went back to our own houses, to play with our own toys and siblings only, with no more excited wrapping of gifts, no more days spent cooking food in preparation for the holiday, no more anything much to look forward to until my birthday in March…
Well, I would inevitably fall into low spirits. One year my dad explained to me that I had the “Christmas blues,” the let-down once all the festivities were over. And this persisted for several years until I was old enough to start insisting my family do something, anything, to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
So. Flash forward a few decades. The time between Christmas and New Year’s is now, honestly, just about one of my very favorite weeks of the year. I have some time off before school starts up again, and the hustle and bustle of orchestrating a holiday for my family has also been accomplished. Everyone is home and just hanging out. People drop by for little visits, maybe, something low-key, or they wait until our annual New Year’s Eve bash (which also will not be happening this year).
I can devote time to creative projects and reading for fun and watching movies and sleeping in and whatever else. It’s one of the very few truly relaxed, free times I have as we put the subconscious stress of the holidays behind us and look forward to new beginnings.
The line in this song that has always resonated with me the most, that made me love this song so much, is in the chorus: “In the week between, all your drunken uncles and cousins’ cousins are on the scene…” (Not that I’m a fan of drunken people in general.) Ever since I was a child and all the way until just last year, that special time with my cousins is so much of what I love about life.
And then there’s the next line: “The week between, New Year’s resolutions in conversation with last year’s dreams.” I mean, that’s just poetry. And it’s exactly how my mind pivots from one year’s ambitions to the next, and that, too, is comforting to me, a far horizon folding itself toward me as I stand on an ever-hopeful shore.
So. Enough rambling for one night. I’m going to go fix myself a snack of very soft pita bread, hot enough to melt the butter I spread across the inside of its pocket. Maybe some sliced cheddar, maybe share a Coke with my husband. Text back and forth with my cousins, pictures of our kids. (They miss each other, too.) Then get into bed and read a new book.
I hope your winter holidays, if you celebrate any, have been just what you needed this year, or that you at least have had a moment to enjoy the calm, that you’ve had some calm to enjoy.
Today’s my dear husband’s birthday, and in honor of such, I’m using his favorite Jonathan Coulton song for my earworm. And it really does have a catchy chorus. Aaron first introduced me to Coulton’s work with “Code Monkey” years ago, and now I’m a big fan as well. So much of his music is ridiculously funny (such as this earworm) as well as nerdy, so you know we’re going to be big fans in this house. You’ve heard Coulton’s work on this blog before, too, particularly in the form of his Christmas album, a collaboration with John Roderick; some of those songs often show up in 12 Days of Christmas Music That Doesn’t Suck.
I’m also a fan of Coulton’s because he wrote a new song every week for quite a long time and posted them online. “Skullcrusher Mountain” is one of those songs. If I’m not mistaken, this project (called “Thing A Week”) allowed him to transition from a job in IT to being a full-time musician, and let’s be frank, that kind of creativity, persistence, and dedication are just inspiring.
It’s Winter Break and no one knows what day it is anymore.
Just kidding. I know today is Friday. I looked it up.
This is a song I would make into an earworm, but it’s really more appropriate for right now than for Monday, which will be New Year’s Eve, so I’m posting it today. It made it onto my 12 Days of Christmas Music list back in 2014, too, but it’s just such a good song, let’s have it again. Nice and mellow, for one of those days when you’re between social engagements and doing something ordinary, like cleaning your office, and it’s relaxing because it’s productive and not stressful, because it’s Winter Break.
I might be projecting.
Either way, this song is keeping me company right now, while I handle the filing and organize my journals.
So if you’re in the U.S. and are eligible to vote, I hope you’ve either already done that or are going to do that tomorrow. It truly matters, even if you *think* it doesn’t because you live in a “safely” blue or red state. (Yes, Texas, I’m looking at you. Go do the do.)
Let’s hope evil geniuses like the one in Coulton’s song don’t get any more power — or keep what they have. See, you get to help decide that by using your voice in the form of a vote. It’s pretty simple.
I know it’s not Christmas anymore, and most people could really go without hearing another Christmas song for at least eleven more months, but this song, which I wanted to hold out until today, isn’t really about Christmas so much as the chill limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. Enter “The Week Between” by Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick. (I’ve inserted the plain song below, but you can easily find live versions on YouTube with all kinds of entertaining banter, if you’re into that sort of thing.)
This song concludes this year’s broadcast of Christmas Music That Doesn’t Suck. We’ll probably do it again next year. Let me know if you have any suggestions for next year’s series.
Enjoy the rest of your holiday, whatever it might be.