Random Thoughts (Christmas ’09)

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. I start decorating the weekend before Thanksgiving, because the big dinner and football take up too much time. Once a month, on the 25th when possible, I listen to Christmas music for an hour or two. I stock up on Febreze Fresh Evergreen and Snow candles and air freshener in December so I can enjoy them throughout the year. “Winter Village” is my iGoogle theme year-round.

It’s not the presents and gift-giving; it’s not the nostalgia of the holiday programs (although it has to be close to a national emergency to make me miss “A Charlie Brown Christmas”); it’s not the music; God knows it’s definitely not the snowy weather (which I hate) that keeps me singing “We Need A Little Christmas” in my increasingly raspy voice.

It’s the general atmosphere, what the season does for most people’s attitudes at this time of year that I look forward to most. People who are Scrooges or Grinches the rest of the year find their hearts, if only temporarily. Children are on their best behavior, hoping that being on the straight and narrow for a month or so will make up for eleven months of naughtiness. I don’t know that there’s ever been research done on the subject, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there are more smiles flashed, hands shook, and hugs given in December than any other month.

I love, love, love the season (of course, I do my shopping online; getting anywhere near a mall would dampen my enthusiasm)!

A few random memories and other tidbits:

  • I don’t remember my first Christmas. Give me a break; I’m 58 fer cryin’ out loud.
  • One year we had an aluminum tree, illuminated by a lamp with a rotating wheel that held different colored sections of cellophane.  You don’t see that much any more.  Probably a good thing.
  • I think it was in 1963 that we were living in Walnut Creek, California. For Christmas the family piled in the station wagon and drove to Anaheim and spent Christmas Day at Disneyland.
  • My five favorite Christmas recordings, in no particular order: “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” – John Lennon and Yoko Ono; “The Little Drummer Boy” – The Harry Simeone Chorale; “Christmas Canon” – The Trans-Siberian Orchestra; “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” – The Trans-Siberian Orchestra; “Christmas Time Is Here” – The Vince Guaraldi Trio.
  • We lived with my grandparents for a spell when I was younger. I remember one Christmas season (probably the same one with the aluminum tree mentioned earlier) one of my siblings happened to look out of the window to see a strange man waving his arms around and jumping up and down. We couldn’t quite see him in the dark, but he seemed very frightening. The youngest of us started crying as the strange figure came knocking on the door, although the adults were laughing and telling us everything was OK as they opened the door and let the strange man in. He was, of course, outfitted in the requisite red-and-white and fur-trimmed uniform, and the adults were ho-ho-ho-ing and saying it was only Santa Claus. We were all encouraged to sit on his vast lap and tell him what we wanted for Christmas, but none of us kids were excited about it; yes, we were all familiar with Santa and had met him several times at local shopping centers (yes, Virginia, this was long before the concept of “malls”), but this guy…his hair and beard were scraggly, his face was battered, he didn’t speak (not even one “ho”) and his eyes seemed like holes cut into his face. Which, of course, they were; this Santa was, in fact, my grandfather dressed in a rather old and well-used suit and a mask that must have dated to the Civil War.
  • One of my fondest childhood memories is of Mr. Jingeling, the Keeper of the Keys. He started out as a character created at Cleveland’s Halle’s Department Store in the mid-50’s to sell toys during the holiday season. He proved to be so popular that he’s been around ever since. I remember seeing him during his daily spots on Capt. Penney’s show on WEWS.
  • For my son’s second Christmas, we stayed up late, getting everything just right, and set up the video camera so we could catch the look on his face when he came into the room. Getting up early, we double-checked everything, made sure the camera angle was perfect, and as his mom was bringing him, I pushed “Play” and “Random” on the CD player, which had been preloaded with various titles of Christmas music, including Volume 4 of A Very Special Christmas. As Cam came into the room, he eyes widened and his jaw dropped at the sight of the tree and presents. The camera caught it all, including the audio playing in the background: “Christmas in Hollis” by Run DMC. Not exactly the mood setting music we were hoping for.
  • My five favorite Scrooges:
  • #1 Alastair Sim

    #2 Jim Carrey

    #3 Mr. Magoo

    #4 Michael Caine

    #5 Rowan Atkinson (as Ebenezer Blackadder)

  • (Added Dec.16) Mrs. Claus would visit us on New Year’s Eve (a ruse, I would imagine, to get us off to bed early so the adults could enjoy midnight). Our stockings would be hung somewhere with care (we didn’t have a chimney), and we would awake in the New Year to find she’d loaded them with apples and oranges and other healthy snacks; no doubt to atone for the sweets and so forth that her health-unconscious husband had filled us up with. We weren’t crazy about Mrs. Claus.
  • (Added Dec.22) Somehow, in 5th Grade at Spicer School in Akron, Ohio, I was chosen to participate in the school Christmas play. I probably volunteered, but I don’t remember the details. I do remember that I was supposed to be a shepherd (Shermy!), but I didn’t have any lines to memorize. Probably had to sing a carol with everyone. I was really looking forward to it…until the day of the play. I got stage fright before I even left the house, and had my mom call me in sick. What a wuss. Merry Christmas to all schoolkids who dread the holidays because they’re afraid they’re going to look silly in front of their peers.
    I’m sure as the season goes on I’ll add to this list. I tend to wax nostalgic as I hear certain songs, see certain things, and even smell certain smells. Hope your season brings you special memories, too.

    Merry Christmas!

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