By Craig Strydom

Closing the Year off On a High Note.

blurry snowy background with 6 holiday music album covers overlapping across the image

A Collection of Favorites: Tactis Holiday Playlist 2023

It’s that time of the year again when every sound system in the land has a holiday song blaring from its sub-woofers, tweeters, or bass bins. So, what exactly is a holiday song? And why do we go all mushy and sentimental when we hear one? Why do we gush and reach out misty-eyed for the nearest sprig of mistletoe even before the eggnog has kicked in? Holiday songs are our annual guilty pleasure, a gift that keeps on giving, even when it is no longer a gift (more about Mariah later).

Of course, holiday songs come in all shapes and sizes, one only has to think of Oy Chanukah, Oy Chanukah playing as a backdrop to some dreidel-spinning and menorah-lighting to know one can’t escape it. We asked the staff at Tactis, DC’s leading customer experience agency to tell us what it is about holiday songs that makes them so irresistible. The answers are as rich and varied as the ingredients in a good eggnog.

Love Actually

Billy Mack’s Christmas is All Around, originally recorded by British band the Troggs, brings an instant smile to Todd’s face (Todd Coen is Tactis’s Executive Vice President, even when he’s not smiling). Their first child, Todd tells us, was born days before Christmas, and the song to him is like a fun flashback to those days when the rom-com ‘Love Actually’ was almost on a loop in his house as they navigated the joys and sleepless nights of new parenthood. According to Todd, this holiday song, with its catchy tune sung by the charismatic Billy Mack, became the soundtrack of their first Christmas with their little one.

Says Todd, “It’s not just a holiday song for us; it’s a reminder of those lively, laughter-filled days, watching a great movie and making unforgettable memories with our newborn. Every note of this song is like a snapshot of that fun, chaotic, and absolutely, wonderful time.” Todd is lucky that it is this holiday song that stands out and not another. It could just as easily have been ‘Good King Wenceslas looked out On the Feast of Stephen.’

For Sandi Houg, a Tactis Support Center Guide, Little Drummer Boy by King + Country is one holiday song that pa-rum-pum-pums its way into her heart every time she hears it. Which is most of the time, except when Mariah Carey hogs the limelight. As for Sandi’s least favorite song, she cannot think of one. Perhaps she hasn’t heard All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey, voted America’s most annoying Christmas song according to a 2022 survey conducted by a certain financial website, although why a financial website would survey holiday music is anyone’s guess.

All I Want for Christmas Is Peace and Quiet

Unlike Sandi, Shaqwan Fincher does not even hesitate when asked what her least favorite holiday song is. All I Want for Christmas is You, by Mariah Carey is her instant reply. “Every store plays that song so much it is like it’s the only song we know when Christmas comes around,” she says. Of course, now that she has said those words, All I Want for Christmas is You, by Mariah Carey, will loop in her brain for the rest of the day whether she likes it or not! Holiday songs have a way of doing that. They are earworms. Thankfully, she has something to take away the Mariah-inflicted pain. Holiday songs remind her of watching her son trying to rip open his gifts to the steady beat of Earth Kitt’s Santa Baby, her favorite holiday song. “He wanted to eat the paper,” she says. “Being a first-time mom, I found that moment cute and funny.” 

Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, and Silent Night by the Temptations, bring back memories of decorating the tree, holiday family dinners, and gift exchanges for Tactis Help Desk Analyst Eboney Byrne. Holiday songs are a firm favorite for this Tactis employee, but she draws the line, oddly enough, on December 1. “I love them after,” she explains, “but not before,” this from a girl who used to think that Feliz Navidad was pronounced: “Felix Navidad.” This went on until her elementary school Spanish teacher corrected her. Since other kids in the class agreed with her, she didn’t feel too silly about it.

You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry

Alma Diaz Lopez, sadly no relation to the above-mentioned Felix Navidad, has a unique reason for choosing Santa Claus is Coming to Town as her favorite holiday song. “That’s because he’s the boss,” she pronounces, defiantly, referring not to Tony Soprano, but to the other New Jersey boss, Bruce Springsteen. “I went to school with his niece!” she adds. You better watch out, you better not cry, that’s her story and she’s sticking to it. Of course, Barking Dogs Jingle Bells takes the podium as her least favorite holiday song. And who can blame her, we all know it pales compared to Jingle Cats Silent Night. Don’t believe me? Google it!

Lastly, Alma’s guilty pleasure is one she shares with most of us. Last Christmas by Wham reoccurs with each trip around the sun. It will not be the last Christmas you hear Last Christmas! But moving further south, it’s the Hispanic Classic, Burrito Habanero that beefs up her empanada. “Our grandparents and parents used to light up and sing along,” she says. “There was always a clown mimicking the donkey at some point in the song. Maybe too much eggnog,” she concludes. Too much coquito, indeed.

Tactis Help Desk Analyst, Marcela Boal, after everything we have said and done, still insists on loving All I Want for Christmas is You. It reminds her of the one thing she longs for most at this time of year: her family. She also prefers no presents at Christmas time and finds Feliz Navidad annoying, going so far as to ban Jose Feliciano’s rendition of the song from her house. Not very Christmassy. Yet she allows Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer in her house. It’s her guilty pleasure. Might we suggest ‘Jose Feliciano got run over by a reindeer’ instead, Marcela, as a way to kill two holiday songs with one stone?

Tactis Content Analyst, Gelila Abebe’s earliest memory of a specific holiday song is O Dennenboom (Oh Pine Tree), a Dutch favorite from her upbringing in Holland. This Christmas by Donny Hathaway is her hands-down favorite. She also has the distinction of being the only Tactis employee to openly admit to liking Boney M, the ultimate holiday song guilty pleasure.

Here’s Hopin’

Rebecca Rodrigues’s child brain (her words, not ours) found the holiday track Old Toy Trains calming when she first heard it play from a cassette recorder during her warm Bombay (now Mumbai) childhood. And we can’t say we blame her. Tactis’s Director of Account Management’s least favorite holiday song, on the other hand, is Angels We Have Heard on High. Why? It’s the excessive ‘oooooo’s’ in Gloria (Gloria in Excelsus) that she finds so annoying. “Shepherds, why this jubilee?” we imagine her asking, “Why your joyous strains prolong?” Yet, despite being so o-ffended by the o’s in Gloria, she seems to have no problem listening to the occasional holiday song by Alvin and The Chipmunks in all their falsetto glory. This, from the same person who for the longest time thought the line from Jingle Bells was ‘one horse hopin' sleigh.’ Welcome to the Felix Navidad club, Rebecca.

Jessica Jarmin, Tactis’s fiery Executive Vice-President, did more than nearly steal Christmas – she nearly burned it down! As she tells it, she attended a Christmas Eve candlelight service with her grandparents when she was 10. As the title suggests, the service includes turning off all the lights and everyone holding a small lit candle. The pastor then lights his candle from the Christ candle and passes it down until everyone – even the kids – ends up holding a burning candle. Then, hymn book in one hand, candle in the other, the congregation quietly sings Silent Night.

But, as kids are wont to do, Jessica and her cousins started messing about, accidentally setting alight her grandmother’s winter coat hanging over the pew, the fur hood. Jessica panicked and quickly closed the hymn book on the burning fur. Amazingly, she got into trouble for making a loud sound when she slammed the hymn book shut, and not for juvenile arson. It would only be years later that she would share the truth of what happened with her family. Silent Night now holds a special place in her heart.

Mi Casa, Su Casa

Puerto Rico takes pride in having the longest holiday season in the world. On the Island, la Navidad lasts around 45 days, starting right after Thanksgiving Day in November, extending through mid-January, and culminating in the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián. Customer Service Representative Lead Genesis Garcia, who hails from there, has fond memories of going from house to house in Puerto Rico on Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) singing her favorite parranda, the Boricua version of a Christmas carol, in this case, the medley Si No Me Dan de Beber, Candela, De Palo a Palo, La Puya, La Mania. The first line translates to, ‘If they don’t give me something to drink’. We’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Last but not least, Robert Gaza, not unlike Alma Diaz Lopez, goes straight for Bruce Springsteen’s Santa Claus is Coming to Town as his fav. At the same time, he believes Maroon 5’s rendition of So This Is Christmas to be a horrible remake. Of course, like half of the interviewees on this list, Daniela Middleton rates All I Want for Christmas is You as being her least favorite holiday song, leading us to conclude that there are two types of people in the world, those who love All I Want for Christmas Is You, and those who don’t.

Happy Holidays to all. Si No Me Dan de Beber!

A Collection of Favorites: Tactis Holiday Playlist 2023