Tis the Season

I love Christmas.

I particularly love all the trappings of Christmas.

I love the decorations.

This year will be especially spectacular because we will finally have our own tree, and it’s going to be a real one (and not one of them balsams, where the needles all fall off), and it’s going to be be big, and it’s going to be in my living room.  It will have white lights and red and green and gold shiny balls.  It will have our collection of ornaments that have been collecting in boxes from the wonderful yearly tradition of giving an ornament on Christmas Eve.  When we have kids it will be cut down by me, and we will trundle our bundled selves out into the woods and haul it back to the Subaru, but for this year I will be happy with one from the Christmas tree lot in Newport.  I can barely contain my excitement for it.  A few years ago my mother-in-law sent us a tree (which was actually a fancily bound collection of live limbs) from LL Bean.  It was one of the best surprises ever and it made me so happy to have our two foot tall “tree” decorated with microscopic ornaments and a quarter strand of lights on a small table in our small apartment’s small living room area.  So I expect that having an actual size, real, not in quotation marks, tree with multiple strands of lights and lots of ornaments in my full-size octagonal living room is going to be nothing short of amazing.

Not my tree, not this year.

In addition to the tree, there are all the other decorations.  My wife and I have decided on an old-timey Santa Claus theme for our decorations.  Santas who look like they are from a past long before consumerism, tending towards the anorexic in buid as opposed to the obese red robed toy deliverers of the modern Christmas era.  They are predominantly folk of the woods or country (which goes well with our out in the country house), with tree limb staffs, animals about their person, and long, droll faces.  They are rarely cheeri, instead exuding quiet solemnity, which I think is a nice temper to the ecstatic nature of the rest of the holiday season.  As far as the concept of Santa goes, we haven’t yet discussed our position on Santa with our future children, but I do love the iconography of Santa.  It is unfortunate that his current image of  jolly old fatness seems to be cemented in the popular consciousness (perhaps by the ubiquitous Rudolph TV special) and that general knowledge of the many variations on the Santa figure throughout history are less known, or forgotten.

Speaking of Rudolph, I love the TV specials.

While there are numerous holiday television specials, You really can’t go wrong with any of the Rankin/Bassclassics, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman, or the lesser known, but equally wonderful, Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Little Drummer Boy, The Year Without a Santa Claus, Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town, Jack Frost, and, for some reason unavailable on DVD, The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus (which if you haven’t seen, try to!  All of the Rankin/Bass shows are usually on ABC Family at some point during their annual 25 Days of Christmas).

Then there’s the non-Rankin/Bass specials worth watching.  There’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas (not the Jim Carrey film).  With Frankenstein as the Grinch, Tony the Tiger singing “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch,” the Whos down in Whoville, little Cindy Lou Who, and the Grinch’s ultimate redemption as his heart grows three sizes that day, it’s a perfect holiday story and wonderfully animated.   Mickey’s Christmas Carol was the first, and only worthwhile, of the Mickey Mouse holiday specials, and perhaps the only good Disney one.  I do remember something with Winnie the Pooh, which involved Roo ice skating, but I’m not sure what special that was part of, if it was from a special at all.  I don’t think it was Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too.  It may have actually been in one of the Winnie the Pooh movies.  There’s also A Chipmunk Christmas, which is cute, but grating on the ears.

Unfortunately, most modern specials are thoroughly drivel, and nothing more than attempts to cash in on already successful entertainment franchises, or even worse, our love for classic Christmas specials through what I will call the “Disney sequel method” (I’m looking at you Cinderella 2, et al.) of adding stupid new story lines and sub-par animation, thus cheapening the original .  I am looking forward, however, to the upcoming original Prep & Landing which looks like it might be a fun CGI imagining of Santa’s Christmas Eve travels with high-tech Mission Impossible elves, and might give Disney a new, worthwhile, special.

The last really good Christmas TV specials came out in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and included two Muppet specials: The Muppet Christmas Carol and A Muppet Family Christmas, wonderful for the scene with Swedish Chef wanting to cook Big Bird, and then they sing “The Christmas Song” together.   (Ahh…memories…).  A Garfield Christmas (and really the only good Garfield TV special at all), came out in 1987 and is  most memorable for the opening titles musical scene with Garfield getting every present he can think of from a robot Santa.  A Garfield Christmas is usually shown in the same hour as A Charlie Brown Christmas (which debuted in 1965).  I like the Charlie Brown special more for the Vince Guaraldi Trio soundtrack, containing “Christmas Time is Here,” than for the show itself.

And how I do love the music of Christmas.

November 2.  That’s the date Mix 102.5FM went from being the local “Hot AC” channel to “ChristMix” 102.5FM  and will continue playing 24 hours of holiday tunes through December 26.  Woo!  I’ve been listening right along on the radio, and to my own several GB on my iPod when I’m not in my car, and will continue to do so (to the bewilderment and/or disgust of my wife).

I wish, though, that certain songs were rendered off-limits to be re-recorded.  Some songs are already perfect representatives of the holiday spirit just as they are.  Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” and Nat King Cole crooning “The Christmas Song,” are easily tied for the best Christmas song, ever.  We do not need anyone else, especially not Twisted Sister, Rascal Flatts, New Found Glory, Christian Aguilera, Toby Keith, and, among others, Billy Idol, whose holiday album was, for the most part, laughable, covering these two standards.

Likewise, the following versions of songs should be put on a list, never to be covered again:  Elvis Presley’s plaintive “Blue Christmas,” Brenda Lee singing Johnny Marks’ “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” Sammy Davis Jr. and Carmen McRae’s witty back and forth “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” Willie Nelson’s heartfelt “Pretty Paper,” Burl Ives’ merry “Holly Jolly Christmas” (also written by Johnny Marks), Dean Martin’s swoony “Marshmallow World,” Gene Autry’s  “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (from the TV special, and again written by Johnny Marks), Frank Sinatra’s teary-blue-eyed “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Andy Williams’ upbeat swing on “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Perry Como wanting you to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and Chuck Berry and Bobby Helm’s licks and riffs on “Run Rudolph Run” (yet another Christmas tune written by the Jewish Johnny Marks) and “Jingle Bell Rock,” respectively, are examples of songs that should not, ever, be recorded by another musician.

I’ll even add some later versions of holiday classics to this list:  Madonna’s version of “Santa Baby,” for her virtuoso combination innocence and sex in a Christmas song, as only she could (almost as if it was a merry “Like a Virgin”), and U2’s version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” that caught the band at a crucial time of their development (mid-tour for The Joshua Tree)  and musically fit into the greater scheme of Christmas rock songs like “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”  I recently heard a blues version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” that is excellent, but a wholly different spin on the song, emphasizing the despair the singer is feeling at being without his love (if only I knew who sang it!).

Listen to Christmas music online:

http://twurl.nl/rtnu2v

http://twurl.nl/8mud4e

http://twurl.nl/a1jbow

And giving is what the season is about, isn’t it?  I love gifts.  And by that I mean I love the entire process of gift giving.

Sure, I do enjoy receiving gifts, but I do so relish the giving of gifts to others at Christmas.  I find distinct pleasure in thinking about a person and what a good present for them would be, seeing them open it, and conversely, find displeasure in the idea of shipping a present to someone and never having the climactic conclusion come to fruition before my eyes.  It’s like a novel or movie that’s missing the last 20 pages or half hour.

I love spending time with family and friends.

I mean, that’s what it really is all about right?

I love Christmas.

Or, at least, I love the idea of Christmas.  The actual day, no matter how wonderful, cannot ever really live up to the way blown out of proportion extravaganza of holiday joy I imagine, and expect, every year.  It’s a spectacle awash in a soft glow of definitely not firesafe, electricity bill raping ceramic multi-colored lights,  a perfectly groomed foot of pure white snow outside, smiling caroling faces, and visions of sugar plums dancing all around, is built upon a nostalgia for a time period well before I was born, the 1940s and 50s, and, of course, existed only in reality in the movies and music of the period.  What I expect every year has only ever been an idea, but that does not mean it isn’t worth aspiring to, or continuing to hope for.

May you have joyous overblown extravagant spectacles for your holidays!

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One response to “Tis the Season

  1. It looks like you are a real expert. Did you study about the theme? *lol*

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