Tag Archives: A Very Merry Christmas

CSOTD 12/25/16: The plow will bury the sword

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope you’ve enjoyed my Christmas Song of the Day feature again this year, and I hope it has added to your enjoyment of the season. Perhaps you discovered a new favorite song you’ll want to make part of your own holiday traditions.

My Christmas Song of the Day for December 25 is one I’ve known for almost 50 years. I first heard it in 1967, when my parents bought the album A Very Merry Christmas at the local W.T. Grant store, which at the time was in the Souderton Shopping Center just outside Souderton, Pa. (I grew up in neighboring Telford.) It was the first “grown-up” album I can remember being allowed to play on my dad’s stereo system, and I really liked it. It started my lifelong love of Christmas music.

Probably because of the kind of music we listened to on records (i.e., kiddie records for us and my dad’s classical albums for him), there was a disconnect between what was on LP and what was on the radio. They seemed to be two different universes. And then, I heard today’s song on the radio. For the first time, something we had on record was coming from the FM dial! It was yet another life-altering event.

The song that bridged the gap between records and radio was “Touch Hands on Christmas Morning” by Mike Douglas.

Douglas was a well-known daytime talk-show host based in Philadelphia. His nationally syndicated show started a couple years before Merv Griffin’s similar program; for years, they dominated daytime talk until Phil Donahue came along. For the most part, Douglas’ show was a mellower version of The Tonight Show, with celebrity chit-chat and music.

It turned out that Douglas could sing, too. In early 1966, at the same time that “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys and “Nowhere Man” by the Beatles were in the top 10, his salute to “The Men in My Little Girl’s Life” was right there with them. He would go on to make several LPs, one of which was a Christmas album in 1967. A year before the holiday LP, “Touch Hands on Christmas Morning” was issued as one side of a 45.

The song has some great lyrics, including its chorus: “Pray that with tomorrow, the plow will bury the sword,” a restatement of the theme of “peace on earth” found in both Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 in the Old Testament. It’s an uplifting number for a glorious Christmas Day, and I hope you find it that way, too.

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CSOTD 12/17/2015: Shalom lecha

I still remember the very first “grown-up” album my parents let me play on my dad’s stereo. They bought it during the Christmas season of 1967 from the local W.T. Grant store, which was a cross between an old-time downtown five-and-dime and a more modern department store. The album was A Very Merry Christmas, and it started my life-long love for music of the season.

My Christmas Song of the Day for December 17 is one of the songs from that LP, one that has seldom shown up in all the years since, but is absolutely gorgeous.

I could spend a lot of words talking about Theodore Bikel (1924-2015). He was a versatile actor on stage, screen and television; a political and union activist; and a folk singer. He started recording for the Elektra label in 1956, and over many years, he made albums of folk songs from many countries, singing in 21 different languages.

In 1967, he collaborated with a folk group called The Pennywhistlers on an album called Songs of the Earth.  By then, Elektra was no longer strictly a folk label, as it now had the groups Love and The Doors, and Bikel’s album might have sold a few thousand copies at best. But one of them ended up in the hands of whoever compiled A Very Merry Christmas, and he must have been struck by the gentle beauty of this part-Hebrew, part-English lullaby.

It is indeed a rare Christmas song that starts with the word “Shalom,” but “Sweetest Dreams Be Thine,” written for Bikel’s 1967 album by Jim Friedman, is one. After all, it can be easy to forget that the Holy Family was Jewish and spoke Aramaic, a close cousin of Hebrew. Listen along as Theodore Bikel and the Pennywhistlers sing.