You had to know it was coming. Jimmy Fallon hosting Saturday Night Live the WEEK before Christmas? You had to know that the show, at some point, would feature the wacky little ditty “I Wish It Was Christmas.” Many years ago the number, written by Fallon and Horatio Sanz, was premiered before the 30 Rock crowd. The original has become a classic in the realm of silly little SNL memories. The version we linked to on this site last year was NOT the original but a different version. I remember seeing one in a warm month, or at least a spring month, clamoring for the season to arrive. And so as I watched Saturday Night Live I waited and was rewarded with the 2011 version of that very first sketch. All four players were there from the original: Sanz, Fallon, Chris Kattan (looking waxy), and Tracy Morgan. They played the song, Morgan did his dance, Kattan whipped his head and almost dropped the keyboard, the audience reacted to the sketch as a classic. And it is, the song is a classic, but the version from last week was not THE version. No, there is another version, a version that I have written about before, a version that rests on top of the mountain of Christmas music.
Ever since taking over the slot vacated by Conan O’Brien, Fallon has been creating a fun, funny, and crafty late night show. His show feels young and fun, something that always seem to brew at 12:30 at night on NBC. The irreverence is grounded by a likeability that you really sense when you see him on TV or on these commercials. The show is fun and he seems dedicated to Christmas and the season. Surf over to Hulu and keyword search Fallon and Christmas. 12 Days of Christmas Sweaters, Drunk for Christmas, etc. The man loves the season. Two year ago I happened upon the show and hear the sound of Don Pardo (or a sound alike) introducing a gift from Late Night. Out came Fallon and Horatio Sanz, in matching sweaters, and began to play the song. One minute in the song builds, the band takes off and Julian Casablancas takes over, all the elements creating an environment of pure enthusiasm and pure happy energy. The song, in reality, isn’t much lyrically, but it magically transforms into something greater in this setting. Casablancas had released a recorded version of the song in conjunction with his solo debut, this version kills his first version.
Last year I wrote about the song, about the way it makes me feel and the way it makes me feel whenever I hear this version with Fallon & Sanz & Casablancas. It combines the gentle majesty of the season with the enthusiasm of the participants and the absolute enjoyment of the crowd. As the time has passed since last year I think this song, this version, is the greatest Christmas song of all time. Why? It is the most modern, for one. Sure everyone puts out a disc of Holiday tunes for the season, these are more likely than not a collection of classics with a new spin. The majority of traditional Christmas songs were modern in the 40s and 50s, when the season was probably incredibly magical and paced well. Think of Michael Corleone shopping and finding out about his father in the first Godfather film. To me, that is the feeling of Christmas that those songs reflect. The rush that captivates and motivates us all nowadays ruins what should be a nice, reflective time of year. Some Christmas music is timeless, the Charlie Brown Christmas LP is one of the greatest complete set of Christmas music you could ever hope to have. Soft, brilliant, cheerful, devotional, yet completely engaging. That disc sounds like snow on the ground, the first snow you see, no footprints, not even from squirrels or other animals. Pure, white fields of joy under a beautiful cold blue sky.
The Fallon song is modern and yet it says nothing of the modern lives we lead and the crush of desire many feel at the holidays. It alerts that the season is simple and joyous and within reach whenever we need to feel simple and joyous. It is not materialistic it is excited and eager and within those emotions we too can remember those feeling and emotions.
I am a parent now; I have two small (in terms of age) children. I want their memories to Christmas to be driven by snow, stars, lights, and a rush of good cheer that will last until the kids are the age I find myself. The holiday season is brief, it can be rough, and events that transpire at this time of year, good or bad, will remain with you for your remaining days. Remember that life, while bleak in points, is beautiful. Really it is. You don’t know how many more sunrises you will see, nor how many more Christmastimes. Allow yourself the chance to slow down and appreciate what makes the Holiday season magical for you now and for you when. And never forget those feelings.
Here is my War Against Chrismas Music mix for 2011. It ends, as last year’s ended, on Jimmy Fallon’s “I Wish It Was Christmas Today.”
Mike Vincent is a teacher, dreamer, grouch, and runner. He lives in northern Michigan and his favorite Beatle is George Harrison.