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November 2005

The Magic (and Stress) of the Holidays


I. The Magic of Holiday Music
II. Coping with Holiday Stress
III. Music Medicine Resources
IV. Exciting New Projects: Send in your questions for FREE e-books

The Magic of Holiday Music

What is it about holiday music that gives many people a warm glowing feeling, a brief respite from adult life and the chance to feel like a kid again, just briefly. We know we’re adults, but just hearing a few bars of “White Christmas” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” takes me back to the little frame parsonage in S.C. where I waited with so much anticipation to see if I would get the bride doll I had asked for (1955) or the shiny bicycle I requested in (1956). What is it about music that brings back memories in a way that even photographs can’t achieve? There is lots of research going on now about how music affects different parts of the brain and it is quite interesting ( At this point, I don’t think it really matters what part of the brain holiday music is affecting, it’s just that when we hear those familiar strains after Thanksgiving, something exciting and hopeful begins to stir in our hearts and minds. If you divide music into different categories, popular classics like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Silver Bells” recent songs like The Little Drummer Boy” or “Merry Christmas Darling”, sacred classics like “Silent Night,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” or perhaps humorous songs like “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” you can feel lots of very different feelings. However, they all produce feelings and memories unlike any other category of music that I can think of.


Another memory that comes to mind for me is the annual Santa Claus parade that my sisters and brother and I would eagerly await in the cold winter air. We would jump up and down to stay warm as the bands marched by and floats filled the streets with holiday scenes of elves and toys and candy for good little girls and boys. Hearing “Up on the Housetop” I remember lying as still as I could and being as quiet as a mouse, in order to hear reindeer hooves landing on the roof and Santa gathering up his bag of toys to come down our chimney. Once Santa had delivered our toys and gifts, my mother told us that if we did not share our toys nicely with our siblings or visiting children, that Santa’s elf  Bellsnickle would come on New Year’s Eve and take our toys back while we were sleeping. I’m not sure sure about the origin of that legend but check out

With the world getting smaller, thanks to advances in communication and transportation, most us are now acquainted with holiday music from many different cultures. Jewish music from the Hanukkah season is rich with beautiful music. This site,, has lots of good historical information on Hanukkah and its music. A popular child’s song at Hanukkah is “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel.” You can hear it by clicking A good site for info on Hanukkah is We also now observe Kwanzaa, an African-American holiday celebrated from December 26-January 1. This site is excellent for learning more about Kwanzaa and the music associated with it,

No matter what holiday music you grew up with, take it out now and enjoy the richness and good feelings of the memories that will come flooding back and fill you with happiness and a desire to pass this on to future generations. Please write to me if you will with the stories or your holiday music growing up. Maybe we’ll get our own blog going!

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Coping with Holiday Stress

For some people, holiday music does not bring happy memories and warm, fuzzy feelings. For those who grew up in dysfunctional families of one kind or another, holiday music brings back memories of drunken-ness, violence, tears, and disappointment. There are also those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD. This disorder has to do with real neurochemical changes that result from the shorter days and less sunlight. For these people, scientists have now created banks of lights that they can sit in front of for 30-45 minutes per day and get the same benefits as sitting in the sun for that period of time. For more information, go to this well-written and informative site,

In some people, the holidays are stressful because they try to take on too much responsibility for holiday decorating, wrapping, baking, entertaining, cleaning up after, and being an all-around one-person holiday creator. Of course we’re all influenced by Hallmark ads on TV and Currier and Ives pictures, but we must temper that with some reality. No one’s holiday will be perfect because we’re human and someone will arrive late, bring a dish that didn’t turn out quite right, or perhaps have an accident on slippery sidewalks or highways. Look at your list of things you’d like to do this holiday season and then trim the list down to two or three really do-able things is a way to create more peace and serenity in your holiday.

Probably the three hottest topics that cause stress and discord during the holidays are 1) finances 2) relationships and 3) physical exhaustion. If you know you are particularly susceptible to these stressors, then make it a point to talk with someone you trust and who you know cares about you. Together with that person create a plan for self-care during the holidays that involves budgeting that money you have available, being with people that you enjoy and who enjoy being with you, and doing each day only the things that you can do without over-exerting yourself. Be sure to create some time to be alone and re-energize yourself with reading, meditating, or exercising. You will get through the holidays and soon be off to start a hopeful New Year.

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Music Medicine Resources

My teacher and mentor, Don Campbell has written some of the most accessible and understandable books out there on the healing power of music. His most popular and best known book is “The Mozart Effect” and is based on the famous Mozart study that was done at the University of California, Irvine in the early 90’s. He also wrote Music, Physician for Times to Come” in the late 80’s and “Music and Miracles” in 1993. All of these books are compilations of chapters by different people on different aspects of music and healing, and all are wonderful resource books to have on your Music and Medicine shelf. Kay Gardner’s book “Sound the Inner Landscape” is becoming a classic and has a fascinating section at the end on how music will be used in the future. I would also recommend “Toning: the Power of the Voice” by Laurel Keyes. If you’re interested in learning to do vocal toning, this book, and my tape or CD on toning are ideal ways to get started. All can be purchased on my site at

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Exciting New Project & Free Books for Your Help

I've started an exciting new project that I wanted to tell you about. I'm working on four new e-books that I think will be very exciting to you and will be an important asset to many different communities of people. The books are about

  1. Music and Pregnancy
  2. Music for Addictions
  3. Music and Surgery
  4. Music with Alzheimer's Patients.
I am looking for your help. For each question you submit regarding the topics, you will receive a free copy of the book when it is finished, which should be before the Holidays. Thanks in advance for contributing to this exciting project.

My e-mail address is

Please feel free to send in your questions about the best resources for music healing at any time. I will answer as many as I can.

Until December, plan and safe and healthy holiday,


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