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Top 40 Philosophy: Charlie Brown vs. The Muppets, “Christmas Time Is Here” vs. “It Feels Like Christmas”

Posted in Friendly Philosophy, Music, and Top 40 Philosophy

The second classic Christmas Special on TIME’s list of the “10 Greatest” specials is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” So, for today, let’s talk about Vince Guaraldi Trio’s “Christmas Time Is Here.”

Evidently, Lee Mendelson — who produced the specialalso wrote the lyrics for “Christmas Time Is Here,” with Guaraldi having already written the music. Now tell me, my friends, if “happiness and cheer” would be among the words that Guaraldi’s music called to mind. Like Pharrell’s “Happy,” the music for “Christmas Time Is Here” is sombre, perhaps even sad. But we’ve already talked about that issue, in relation to “Mary, Did You Know?”

“Christmas Time Is Here” is about the arrival of the Christmas season, and all the things that go with it. Christmas is something that happens to us, and the song ends with the wish, “that we could always see / such spirit through the year.”

In contrast, Paul William’s, “It Feels Like Christmas,” from The Muppet Christmas Carol says “the message” of Christmas “is ‘make it last all year’.”

Seasons and times-of-year happen to us, in one song. We might wish they could last, but that is ultimately up to them. Seasons and times-of-year are things we can extend or fail to extend, in the other song. We have the power — nay, the obligation! — to keep them around. (Well, to keep one around, at least.)

Compare this to the “atmosphere” in a room — say, at a meeting or party. It seems that in some instances, the atmosphere is tense or sad or angry, and there’s nothing we can do to change it. We walk in, and are immediately “caught up” in it. In other cases, however, a new person walks into the room and completely changes the atmosphere.

So, are seasons and atmospheres objective, subjective, or intersubjective? And do we have control over them or not?

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