Here’s a post about some of my favorite holiday music-making experiences. I love writing on this topic because inspiring residents to actively engage in music-making is only one technique that can distinguish music therapy from entertainment.

Most of my clients celebrate either Christmas or Hanukkah, so this post is based upon those two holidays.

1. Learn from your clients. For instance, ask if anyone knows how to say “Merry Christmas” in another language. So far this year, I’ve heard Swedish, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Japanese, French, German, and… it’s only December 9. First, take some time to teach the group how to say the phrase slowly. Then insert the phrase into the popular song Feliz Navidad and invite everyone to sing: “I wanna wish you a ______” [repeat].

2. Shape the jingle-belling into songs. For instance, Silver Bells has a natural rhythmic shaping opportunity built in to the chorus. Just sing or say “Silver bells…” then model ringing the bells over your head during the rhythmic space following. An easy “hit.” Here are the bells I like to use.

Mild Warning About Bells. It’s a jingle JUNGLE out there, and you’ve got free reign to use lots of bells, chimes, and tambourines this season… but not tooooo many if your group is ginormous (20+ or if you have mostly loud bells in your inventory). The high frequencies of the jingling can drive you or your group crazy. Plus if your voice cannot be heard over the sound, then it is way too loud. Spread them out, and alternate bells with shakers for participants. Switch later on in the session so everyone gets a chance to jingle jangle! Or use mostly quieter bells. That works, too.

3. 12 Drummers Drumming. That’s an easy one! Your group can play 12 big drum beats for each day of Christmas, rumble when you get to the “12 drummers drumming” verse, or drum one beat after each countdown verse (i.e. 8 maids a-milking BOOM, 7 swans a-swimming BOOM, 6 geese a-laying BOOM…). Super fun.

4. Little Drummer Boy. Another obvious one. Ba rum pum pum pum! Take, drum, create.

Discussion questions I like to use:

  • What were your most favorite gifts for Christmas and Hanukkah growing up?
  • Do you believe in Santa Claus? [laugh, laugh] (cue: any song about Santa Claus)
  • Have you ever experienced a white Christmas or Hanukkah? Where? (cue: any song about snow)
  • Have you ever experienced a warm and sunny Christmas or Hanukkah? Where? (cue: Mele Kalikimaka or Christmas Island by Jimmy Buffett *and* the Andrews Sisters)

So many really awesome posts have been shared about using music with groups for the holidays this year. Here are some of my favorite recent posts I’ve read this year pertaining to adults, music, and the holidays:

Remember Hanukkah! (for next year, at least…)
by Sugar Cookie Sherrye Dobrin, MT-BC

Great therapeutic advice and ideas for sessions during the holidays
by Jolly JoAnn Jordan, MT-BC

Even more great therapeutic tips and ideas for sessions during the holidays
by Red Ribbon Rachelle Norman, MT-BC

Cool Christmas album suggestions
by Rambunctious Reindeer Rachel Rambach, MT-BC

There will be more, and when there is, I’ll add it here. If I left your awesome adults-music-holidays post out, please let me know. Or if you have some more awesome ideas to share, throw down a comment! Happy holidays!

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