What Justice Stewart Said About Christmas

My essay about making my Christmas mixtape is in the Style section of today’s Washington Post, the pullout section with Helen Mirren on the cover. I was surprised how difficult I found it to write about this silly little project that’s come to claim so many tens hundreds of hours of my time and moxie every fall.

Here’s an outtake:

To ask what constitutes a Christmas song is really to ask, what is Christmas? This is a loaded question, one that recalls for me what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said of pornography: “I really, really like it.”

No, of course I’m kidding. Stewart said “I know it when I see it.” I know a Christmas song when I hear one. Christmas is a Christian holiday, but it’s also a seismic economic event and a tradition-bound, nostalgia-spreading national art project. It’s a sparkly, brightly colored, tinsel-wrapped rorschach blot. It’s Jesus’ birthday, and if he died for my sins then it follows that it’s my party, too. I’ll put Tom Waits songs that make me cry on the soundtrack if I want to.

You can read the whole piece here. My Christmas mixtapes from the last three years are posted on the Musics of Christmas page.

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