Keep your Christmas in the way that suits you best

Ebenezer and toadying little clerk Bob Cratchit

Christmas is a time that’s fraught. Nobody wants it to be. They want it to be shortbread and plum-pudding and the Christmascake that goes on forever; carols and good cheer, and auld acquaintances and family members coming together and all that oozy stuff of myth. But it rarely is. It is fraught.

It’s also a bombardment of too much ‘stuff’ to handle on a single day. Not stuff-stuff (that’s bad enough), but emotional stuff and those damn associations and reminders.

It’s a reminder of family members no longer here — in some (though certainly not all) cases blessedly, I must be honest — ; a reminder of lost loves and marriages; a reminder of long-ago Christmases at my grandparents’ home that to me was blissful, mainly because I was too young to appreciate the stresses of family drunks and philanderers, or how bloody poor my grandparents were (their fraught stuff); and finally a reminder of a season in which my parents invariably disappointed us kids and likely each other.

It is also a reminder of the profligate greed of a society that deems it proper to encourage people to send themselves into the poorhouse in order to buy gifts they absolutely cannot afford; and it is a reminder of those who literally can afford nothing and a guilt-racked society that deems it damn good Christian behavior to lay a turkey-dinner on them and buy a few cheapskate gifts for their sad kids – only to forget about them for the rest of the year.

Hmm, the foregoing seems to be unrelentingly gloomy, pissy and humbugish and that was not my intention. I was only trying to be honest, not bum people (including myself) out. For there are things that even today, if not exactly magical (the magic for me stopped happening once I ceased believing in that Jolly Old Elf, before that Christmas was the most wonderful thing ever) then at least uplifting. So do not misconstrue my words about the season for there are aspects about Christmas I cherish, I truly enjoy and always look forward to:

Christmas stockings: We still do stockings and I find them the most enchanting of all gifting processes. You know, digging in to see what St. Nick and the Dollar Store have felt a guy was deserving of. Of course, there must always be the mandarin orange in the toe.

The very first few moments after arising, when the tree is lighted in the dark living room and the first coffee of the day is poured. That very brief instant, before any consideration of gifts, takes me back very briefly to childhood.

The 1950 version of A Christmas Carol (called Scrooge in the UK) with Alastair Sim as Scrooge. That’s the only version I want to watch, and always do on Christmas Eve.

Listening to my ancient Caedmon recording of Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

Watching the bleak but very moving (its stark honesty brings tears to my eyes) video of Fairy Tale of New York with the Pogues and the tragically deceased and wonderful Kirsty MacColl.
Watching the Christmas Story if only to hear the Chinese Waiters sing Happy Holiday and to listen to Dad cussing at the furnace.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. I mean, I don’t actually do that, but the idea is warm and homey.

Wendy’s Spanish Cream dessert after Christmas dinner.

Christmas brekkie, in which I make my killer eggs benedict and serve them on the lox that Wendy prepared during the summer.

And most of all, the music.

The music indeed. I have exceptions in this regard, but Christmas music, like all other forms of music, I find highly evocative, nostalgic, sometimes spiritual, and serenity inducing. Some pieces can fill the soul, and others will take one back to earlier times in life. Oh, and there are some pieces I have come to loathe because they are so overdone. I would be very, very happy if I were to never hear The Little Drummer-boy again in this lifetime. A fellow can only stand so many rumpa-pum-pums. The Twelve Days of Christmas I would also happily relegate to the trashcan of unwanted seasonal offerings. But, there are others that range from the sublime to the sweet to the silly.

Here are mine, in absolutely no order, with the artists.

Hark the Herald Angels: Kings College Choir, Cambridge

Adeste Fideles: Same as above, or Bing Crosby

White Christmas: Has to be Bing

Blue Christmas: Elvis Presley

Jingle Bell Rock: Bobby Helms

Fairy Tale of New York: Shane MacGowan/Kirsty MacColl and the Pogues

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: Judy Garland

The Christmas Song: Nat King Cole

Happy Christmas/War is Over: John Lennnon/Yoko Ono

I’ll Be Home for Christmas: Judy Collins and assorted other people

O Holy Night: Any really good choir and also Bing

Santa Claus is Coming to Town: Gene Autry

Santa Baby: Eartha Kitt

And last, but assuredly not least – I Yoost Go Nuts at Christmas: Yorgi Yorgeson

Finally, as Yorgi would say:

 “Merry Christmas, effryvun.”


10 responses to “Keep your Christmas in the way that suits you best

  1. To turn the tables and be the curmudgeon this time, I mostly hate Christmas music, with two notable (and much-loved) exceptions: O Holy Night and
    (OK, I can also stand Feliz Navidad if done by Jose Feliciano for about a day or two…)
    Merry Christmas, Ian and Wendy and Max! xo

  2. Thanks for xmastime, Andrea. Thoroughly agree, oh and I forgot Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas. And, of course, only Feliciano for Feliz Navidad and I agree, in small doses. And warm Christmas greetings back to you and yours.

  3. A great comment on Christmas present and Christmas past. The good, the bad and the ugly. The stress. The family dynamics. The whole drunken ball of wax. The unattainable desire to make everything perfect. The awful commercialization and waste. Bah humbug!

    “If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

    But there are some niceties too. The coffee on Christmas morn with a drop of eggnog. A beacon in this darkest of seasons. And your eggs benedict sound absolutely divine I have to say!
    Wishing you a gentle and kind Christmas.

  4. I too love Christmas music. And to continue in our own Christmas tradition I will remind you that The Drifters’ version of White Christmas is the very very best. And you didn’t mention anything by The Platters.
    Listen to this:

  5. I’m an “O Holy Night” kinda girl myself…my daughter sent a couple stockings this year – and I actually have a fireplace to hang them lol.
    Wishing you and Wendy the best of the season Ian.

  6. A favorite Scrooge quote of mine, Sonya. Thank you for it. And Geewits, I love the Platters and apologize for that particular neglect.

  7. OH. MY. JOLLY. GOD!!! That quote is so freaking perfect. Thanks Sonya!!

    As for myself, I really hate Christmas music. Though I’m loving Christmas this year because not only do I not have an iota of Christmas spirit, but this year, I don’t even have to pretend I do!!! My Christmas day will be spent with Mr. Jazz at Joshua Tree Parc – which will most probably be deserted!

    This makes me a very happy Jazzer indeed!

  8. Merry Christmas to you Ian. I’ve been scarce this year due to health problems, my annus horribilus, but look forward to a healthier 2011.

  9. Sonya and Jazz: My favorite Scrooge quote.
    JMB: Lovely to see you again and may 2011 be a vibrantly healthy year.

  10. Bah humbug!

    No, seriously, it’s great that you’re able to keep it all in perspective. Too many people aren’t able to do so. And as for music. Alexander O’Neal’s “Sleigh Ride” is a good one to dance to, and Run-DMC’s Christmas in Hollis is old school hip hop at its best.

    Hope it was wonderful for you!

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