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.”