God, I used to hate the original version of this song when I was young. When you’re in middle school, you tend to prefer the “sparkly, energetic, Mariah Carey-delivered” brand of Christmas tunes as opposed to the “slow, melancholy, Bing Crosby-sponsored” brand. I thought the lyrics were stupid because, well, I was always home for Christmas anyway. I didn’t get the hype.
Over a decade later, I’m happy to report I am no longer in middle school. I’m a bit older, wiser, and have a few more life experiences under my belt. That change in background must have played a part when I recently heard Sufjan’s take on this song and my opinion on this Christmas classic changed completely, as it is now one of my favorites. I wish I knew more about music so that I could fully explain why Sufjan’s take on this song feels so damn… warm. I think that’s the best word to use.
The song is a roller coaster. It begins with Sufjan’s delicate voice placed over a bright instrumental. It then quickly erupts into a large, grandiose instrumental, complete with guitars, cymbals, wind chimes, and, of course, sleigh bells. And then it settles back down into what sounds like Sufjan and his friends visiting your living room and singing Christmas carols to you by the fireplace. It’s sometimes chaotic, sometimes intimate, but always warm. Just like Christmas.
That feeling of “warmth” enhances the feeling of longing I get when hearing the lyrics. Christmas, for me, has always been about being at home with family. We have our traditions: putting up our artificial tree that’s had the exact same decorations for over a decade, or volunteering with the church to feed the homeless. But beyond the cliche Christmas traditions, I really miss the everyday feeling of just being home. Seeing my parents huddled over the newspaper crossword with two big mugs of tea. Lying on the couch and rewatching Gilmore Girls episodes with my sister. Eating breakfast while my brother practices piano in the living room. There are just so many random, everyday things about home that give me that thing I can only describe as that “warm, fuzzy feeling.” Sufjan’s take on this song reminds me of those moments, and it makes me wish I wasn’t 1,000 miles away from home right now.
The good news is that I will, in fact, be home for Christmas. My flight lands a few days before the 25th. Wherever you are, and whatever home is for you, I hope you have similar plans. It’s always cold outside this time of year, so go home, go inside and experience the warmth with the people you love most.
Jon Cheru is a fresh college graduate trying to fake his way through adulthood. He doesn’t know much about anything but likes to pretend that he does. He’s thankful for the opportunity to take part in this project and wishes all of you a Merry Christmas. Wow, what a nice guy!