The Best Christmas Song

Very few songs have joined the Pop Christmas Canon in the last forty years with only two at present being considered for inclusion, in my estimation: The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” and Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne.” Both differ from most of the other songs in the oeuvre by the fact that neither can be remotely called a happy song: in Fairytale, a couple wistfully recounts their unraveling relationship—and their careers and lives as well—amidst the glory around them that is Christmas in New York City. In the “Same Old Au Sang Lyne,” the protagonist runs into an old flame in a convenience store on Christmas eve and they polish off a six-pack in his car while reminiscing.

Both have had a tremendous impact on me—soon after getting married I dragged my wife to New York for Christmas Eve, looking in vain for the NYPD Choir but still managing to have a romantic holiday just the same. And well before we married I took a woman on Christmas Eve to the same convenience store where Dan Fogelberg ran into his ex-beau (yet another advantage of being from Peoria) and split a six-pack in the parking lot just as they did.

But I have my own new nomination for enshrinement into the canon: Snow Day by the group Matt Pond PA.
To call a three minute pop song Shakespearian risks mockery but I am laying my cards on the table: Snow Day is a profound meditation on love and age and faith that slowly unspools in the context of the aftermath of a snowstorm.
The song begins with a familiar trope: recounting the sensory pleasures of walking in a storm with a partner when few others are present.While it’s not exactly original, it is nevertheless satisfying and we can all relate to the silence and calm that a fresh coating of snow instills.

These aren’t a couple of millennials walking around in Williamsburg, looking for the newest speakeasy—this is a couple with some years and a history together, old enough to feel the effects of advancing age. Putting “decaying” at the end of the line may appear at first glance to be merely a way to set up a rhyme but decaying isn’t automatically an adverb here. It’s an allusion to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, done in an understated way. And it completely works.Not only have they become old but they’ve become old together, and figured out some essential truths about life and love and faith along the way.However, a few stanzas later it suddenly becomes clear that the song is really about something more elemental.