Some people would call me crazy, but here’s what I think: it’s never too early for Christmas. It truly is the most wonderful time of year. Everything is glowing and warm and sweet and happy. And if you’re anything like me, you need a top notch holiday playlist to match this contagious mood. There are so many classic Christmas songs to choose from, but if you’re looking for something new and out of the box, you may want to give “Be Yourself at Christmas” by Praytell a listen.
Praytell is a folk pop duo of Jon Guerra & Valerie Strattan Guerra, who live in Chicago. The two began playing music together in 2009 when they formed a band called Milano. Since then, both have ventured into solo work, and then Jon & Valerie decided to form their own group called Praytell in 2017. Praytell was a place for them to explore music that didn’t fit within the boxes of their individual music and to practice storytelling in their songwriting. Since they’ve formed, they’ve gotten to tour with fellow indie artist Andrew Belle, and they also spent years as an opening act for Vince Gill and Amy Grant’s Christmas at The Ryman. Right now, they are preparing to go on their own headlining Christmas tour. “Be Yourself at Christmas” is a track on their newest album, It’s Almost Christmas, Vol. 2.
This simple Christmas song begins with just an acoustic guitar. When the first vocals ring in, they are gentle, pure, and smooth as snow (get it?). Lucky for our ears, these gorgeous vocals are maintained throughout the whole song. When the chorus finally hits, a piano track is added, plus some harmonies that almost turn the lyrics into a conversation between the lovers. Anyone who has loved someone romantically or platonically can connect to this chorus. Instruments keep getting added onto the track; little bells, string instruments, and all of the music combined not only make the song sound fuller, but altogether more merry.
The little cherry on top of the holiday vibe they’ve established is a single isolated bell chime at the very end of the song. It’s perfect. What I love about this song is its ability to sound like a typical indie pop song in the verses, but twist the melody in the chorus just enough to sound like a classic Christmas tune from the 60s.
Bing Crosby would be proud.
Why is it so hard to be yourself at Christmas time?
We would be fine if you and I kept up again.
As I wrote in the beginning, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, the happiest month or so of winter. Being surrounded by all of that happiness establishes a kind of pressure to feel the same. If you have to act, you’re not being your true self. This person believes it wouldn’t be so hard if they were to talk and be truthful with each other.
If you’re blue, that’s okay,
I’ll take you anyway.
“I love you” means you can feel free
to be yourself at Christmas around me.
You can be yourself at Christmas around me.
They want the person to whom they’re speaking to know that feeling sad is okay, even during such a happy holiday, and it doesn’t matter to them. They accept them no matter how they feel.
Part of loving someone is loving them for everything they are. They are free to be just that.
Why is it so hard to come back home at Christmas time?
Memories through the years
remind us of who isn’t here.
It can be painful to return to a place you once called home during Christmas. During Christmas, many memories are made, so the holiday often conjures up old memories as well. It can be nostalgic. As time goes by, people may leave, or we may leave people, and looking back on that is not always pleasant.
Sometimes the snow don’t ask you when to fall.
Sometimes the angel choir don’t fit at all.
The snow is an uncontrollable force. It doesn’t wait for you to be happy to fall. It will come regardless of your emotions. And all of the upbeat, warm music surrounding you during the holidays doesn’t seem to match how you’re feeling on the inside.
Can you love it, what you thought it’d be?
And easy answers don’t come easily.
Love ain’t hidin’ in the mistletoe –
it’s with the people that will let you know.
Even though this person’s not in the right emotional place for Christmas, the narrator wants to know if they will still love it anyhow. They need to stop searching for love and happiness in the superficial parts of the holidays and look for it in the people around them.
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