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What's Your Holiday Soundtrack?

Holiday music sparks memories of Christmases past

The holidays always take me back to my earliest Christmas memory: Singing carols with my mother as she let me help decorate the tree for the first time.

We were living in Brooklyn at the time and I remember thinking that I was no longer a kid — even though I was only four — because she finally let me help hang the glass ornaments up.

I helped until I accidentally dropped one glass ball depicting the Holy Family.

So she put me in charge of something decidedly less dangerous: Going through her LPs and pulling out all the Christmas albums.

I knew most of the songs by heart already, but it was fun to play them and sing along and watch her and grandmother put up the ornaments, lights and garlands.

My parents spoke French and Haitian Creole exclusively at home, so all the Christmas songs I learned as a kid were in French.

Two stand out as my favorite and bring me back to that time: "Minuit, Chrétiens" ("O, Holy Night") and "Petit Papa Noël" ("Little Father Christmas).

The first one appeals to me because I always liked the melody and the meaning behind the lyrics.

The second one was the first Christmas song that I learned by heart and tells of a little boy who prays that Santa doesn't forget him as he delivers toys to all the children of the world. All the little boy wants is a pair of shoes. (Compare that to what my 9-year-old nephew said he wants this year: A MacBook Pro and an iPod Touch.)

I remember telling my mother if I could talk to Père Noël, what we called Santa, I wouldn't ask for shoes. I'd tell him I wanted the "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots." 

I did tell y mother I was worried he wouldn't find me since we lived in an apartment building and we didn't have a fireplace.

Not to worry, she said. Père Noël was an expert at delivering toys to all the kids in New York City, whether they had chimneys or not.

He didn't disappoint. When I woke up on Christmas morning that year, there was a nicely wrapped box on the floor next to my bed.

Inside the box: Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.

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