A back-to-basics Christmas with Norman Rockwell, mood music and the like

There’s a happy feeling
Nothing in the world can buy,
When they pass around the coffee
And the pumpkin pie
It’ll nearly be like a picture print
By Currier and Ives
These wonderful things are the things
We remember all through our lives.

— “Sleigh Ride” (1948)
Music by Leroy Anderson
Lyrics by Mitchell Parish (1950)

It’s time for some holiday nostalgia — what better way to get ready for a mellow Christmas weekend?

“Sleigh Ride” sets the tone perfectly — both Mr. Anderson’s original instrumental creation — and the vocal version here with Andy Williams, accompanied by some classic Americana scenes.

The “Sleigh Ride” lyrics, too, pay tribute to Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives, two more purveyors of those classic wintertime and Christmas scenes.

Between 1834 and 1907, the New York City company perfected a business model that made fast, cheap, black-and-white lithographs that were then hand-colored. Currier and Ives even billed itself as  “the Grand Central Depot for Cheap and Popular Prints.”

My favorite Currier and Ives “picture print” is the 1862 lithograph “Central Park Winter.” I have many nice childhood memories of visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in St. Paul’s North End where my brother Dave and I would spend hours working on a large-scale puzzle depicting the famous skating party.

So, get in that nostalgic holiday mood. Sit back and relax, listen to the accompanying Christmas music and check out some familiar scenes of the season.

Try this combo or this one.

And then sample the master of Americana, Norman Rockwell. You’re made of stronger stuff than I am if you’re not moved at least a bit by this combination of music and Rockwell montage.

Too often, highfalutin types dismiss him as a sentimentalist or just an “illustrator” — any skeptic should check out this art analysis of one Rockwell Christmas image and marvel at what a complex, thoughtful artist he was.

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And if you’re still craving more Christmas cheer, check out several of my earlier Listing Slightly salutes to the season: a mistletoe tribute here and an “overlooked songs” list here.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/23/2011 - 09:45 am.

    I hate to introduce politics into a very nice holiday article (great pictures!), but for all the identification of Norman Rockwell as a traditional-values kind of guy, he was actually soemthing of a lefty. Back in the 60s, right-wingers did not receive commissions from Ramparts magazine to do cover portraits of Bertrand Russell.

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