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'Living' Article December 2011- Christmas Traditions

Living

December 2011

 

My wife is a militant defender of the notion that each holiday deserves its due time.  She resents it when the American commercial machine forces upcoming holidays on us before their true season.  Never is she more disgusted than throughout the month of November when television advertisements, daily mailbox fillers, and store displays totally bury Thanksgiving beneath drifts of premature Christmas content. 

Across the years this reality has at times placed a temporary strain on our marital bond.  My mother claims I emerged from the womb on December 1, 1957 crying to the tune of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.  The Christmas season has always been my absolute favorite time of year and my car radio quite often is tuned to Christmas music the very day it is first available for my listening pleasure.  It is my mom’s fault.  I grew up with Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Arthur Godfrey, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Mitch Miller, the Ray Conniff Singers and her ultimate heart throb, Perry Como.  Through ten months of the year our record player gathered dust but during the months of November and December our house was filled with Christmas music.  The albums were always stacked a half dozen deep awaiting their next tour of the turntable.    

Over the years new Christmas songs and emerging artists have caught my ear.  There was that classic John Denver and the Muppets album.  Who doesn’t feel compelled to head south each year when Amy Grant recalls her ‘Tender Tennessee Christmas’? And you’ve got to admit that Celine Deion can put a chill up your spine when she hits those high notes in her rendition of “O Holy Night”.

Of all the Christmas songs across all the years my favorite surfaced back in the late 1990s when I paused long enough to listen to the story told through a gravel-voiced artist from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  The song, ‘Old City Bar’ shares the miraculous tale of a mythical Christmas Eve in which the grizzled old bartender empties the cash register to buy a ticket home for a cold and lonely girl.  From the midst of the feel good story the lyrics go on to challenge the listener: 

If you want to arrange it

This world you can change it

If we could somehow make this

Christmas thing last

By helping a neighbor

Or even a stranger

And to know who needs help

You need only just ask

Here’s wishing you and your family a Christmas season that bites you with a bug, lifting you above Black Friday, gaudy sweaters and the Ray Conniff Singers, leaving you looking for ways to keep the true spirit alive throughout the New Year.   

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