Christmas trees and Hanukkah candles are vivid symbols of holiday joy, but what’s more precious this season is the sharing of old stories and songs and the discovery of new ones. This year’s holiday-themed offerings, though recession-diminished, include some gems that would brighten even a Scrooge’s December. Here, 13 of 1992’s plum records, videos, and books — A-quality seasonal diversions that might someday join perennials like Gene Autry’s Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Who Stole Christmas on the holiday classics shelf.
STREET CAROLS (Various Artists) This collection of original and classic R&B holiday tunes (”Merry Christmas Baby,” ”The Bells of St. Mary”) hums along with spontaneous glee. With guest spots by Ronnie Spector, the Chi-Lites, the Spaniels, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jerry Butler, the mostly a cappella arrangements are full of finger-snapping fun. It’s a funky street-corner Christmas, with a doo-wop in place of every ho-ho-ho. — Bob Cannon
THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL On this soundtrack to the forthcoming movie of the same name, the Muppets are back with their fuzzy good cheer, singing Paul Williams’ holiday songs about Scrooge, love, and even a ”Christmas Scat” duet between Kermit and Tiny Tim. Kermit’s voice, once provided by the late Jim Henson, is now rendered by worthy successor Steve Whitmire. If this doesn’t make you dance around the Christmas tree, seek professional help. — Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
HANNA-BARBERA’S CHRISTMAS SING-A-LONG Kids will romp and roll as they croon yuletide tunes along with the cartoon voices of Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and the Jetsons. Rhino revs up these Christmas standards with guitar riffs, cymbal smashes, and vocals that evoke a Hanna-Barbera showcase on ice. — Michele Romero
LET’S CELEBRATE HANUKKAH The highlight of this tape is the lively retelling on side two of the story of Hanukkah, which will entertain not only children but adults who may have forgotten what they learned in Hebrew school. Side one offers eight fun holiday songs sung by children, with lyrics in an accompanying book; also included are a recipe for latkes, a translation of Hanukkah Hebrew words, two puzzles, and a quiz. — Sharon Isaak
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS It’s hard to imagine a more extraordinary gathering of talent than the one on this collection of Christmas songs and stories. Clement Clarke Moore’s famous yuletide tale is told soothingly by Meryl Streep, and the music is by George Winston and the Christ Church Cathedral Choir of Oxford. The special treat is Streep singing ”It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” This is as fine as Christmas entertainment comes. — RAW