Sunday, December 4, 2011

IT'S THE HOLIDAY SEASON...Strap on your bells, baby

  Today's melody:  "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas by the man with the velvet voice, Johnny Mathis.

I grew up listening to Christmas albums by artists Johnny Mathis, Ed Ames, Andy Williams, Ray Coniff, Mitch Miller, and an old favorite, Dennis Day (with Jack Benny). Wow! Talk about a "time warp." I've got whiplash! A couple of years ago, my brother found me the old album by Ed Ames "Christmas is the Warmest Time of the Year," which gave me a favorite carol, Some Children See Him... It was one of my favorites, and while I've added Amy Grant, Kurt Bestor, Mannheim Steamroller, as well as Christmas tunes from my favorite bands of today, Johnny Mathis and Ed Ames still get equal time on my holiday playlist. My top ten favorites?

1.   Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant
2.   Stille Nacht by Mannheim Steamroller
3.   I'll Be Home for Christmas toss up between Johnny Mathis and Karen Carpenter (The Carpenters)
4.   A Christmas to Remember by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton
5.  Grown Up Christmas List by Amy Grant
6.   Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney
7.   Last Christmas by Jimmy Eat World
8.   Boots by The Killers
9.   White Christmas by Bing Crosby
10.  Some Children See Him... by Ed Ames

I pulled out the several plastic tubs full of Christmas decorations this weekend because I couldn't face housework. This way, I give the dust a "holiday feel"...literally. My theory is if I put enough angels, nutcrackers, snowmen, and Santas at eye level or above, no one will notice the floors need scrubbing. Add colored lights, dim the overhead ones, and put a fire in the fireplace and company will never notice the hand prints smudging the woodwork, or the dog's nose print on the glass insert in the back door. That's why we spike the wassail and serve rum saturated eggnog. It completes the holiday illusion. Everything appears wonderful and sparkly.

    Does your heart do a little pitter-pat when you open your decoration boxes and find your favorite ornaments? I collect angels and nutcrackers. I also have a fetish for Christmas dishes. But my favorite decoration? My nativity. It's the first decoration I put out and the last one I put away. Why? Because it symbolizes "peace." Arranging my porcelain figurines to create a scene depicting a sacred moment, reminds me to keep my heart open, allow forgiveness, quiet my snarky tongue, and find the good in everything. Not an easy task in this world.   

I really believe that's why we look forward to the holidays (even Grinch found his adrenalin rushing in anticipation of the season). Granted, the commercialism, overspending, and expectations dim the shine of the golden moment, but push all that aside and reflect on the "feeling" of Christmas. When you walk into the mall to do your shopping, there's a festive air. Carols play over the speakers, decorations hang from ceilings, and the smell of cinnamon almonds, roasted nuts, and chocolate fill your lungs.

And overall, people smile more. After Black Friday takes its casualties, people seem kinder, more patient waiting in line...more giving. If the Salvation Army volunteers stood outside grocery stores ringing their bells in August, do you think they'd get as much? Would you be inclined to drop that $5.00 bill in the red can mid May as you would mid December? We crave the "spirit" Christmas creates.

So why does it take twelve months for us to notice the neighbor who is struggling, or the homeless person huddled against a building to avoid the wind, or sadly, become mindful of the soldier away from home this one month versus the other eleven in the year? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could carry the gentle charity of Christmas beyond December 25th? That's why I won't put my nativity away until the last moment. As long as it sits across the room lit up with tiny white lights encased in angel hair, it's a glowing reminder of the kind of person I should try to be year round...not just at Christmas.

What decoration do you cherish, regardless of how ragged it's become over time? What ornament completes your tree? Mine? Small framed pictures of my children and grandchildren on Santa's lap that I tuck within the evergreen branches. Funny how no matter how old they get, when they come to the house, they all look to see where their picture is. I've even found them "re-arranged" to make sure they get front and center attention over a sibling.

So what ornament or decoration places you in the time capsule and zaps you back to a time or place where life seemed simpler? What certain carol puts the familiar ache in your heart or the tear in your eye?

 

10 comments:

Loretta said...

My favorite ornaments are all those my children made when they were little:) I can never pick just one, so it's all of them:)
I love the song, White Christmas sung by Bing, and my favorite movie is, "It's a Wonderful Life". I earned my nickname ZuZu out of that one:)
Thanks for the Christmas memories and wishes, Joelene:)
Love to you and yours,
Lo/ZuZu

Sandy L. Rowland said...

Love Amy Grant. The rest of your song list is fantastic, but I add The Christmas Song. My favorite decorations, other than by my kids, are hand made from my mother in law. She's passed. And hand made snowflakes from a girlfriend who died of cancer. They are still with me and warm my heart.

Thank you for the memories--all good.

Christina Wolfer said...

I don't have a favorite ornament, but watching Rudolph every year always makes it feel like Christmas. It brings back childhood memories.

Silent Night is my favorite song. The Drummer Boy and Do You Hear What I Hear are good ones as well.

Jewel's Gems said...

Great post! For me, Christmas just isn't complete without watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. It always gives me warm fuzzies:-)

J. Coleman said...

Rudolph, Charlie Brown, It's Wonderful Life - all favs. I love the newest version of Miracle on 34th Street, The Family Stone, and Christmas Eve isn't complete without watching Christmas Vacation. Watched Four Christmases the other night and I swear I peed my pants I laughed so hard. Thanks guys for stopping by.

Ruth A Casie said...

Growing up I loved this time of year. Our tree was small and covered with blue lights and white balls. It was a strange situation because ... we're Jewish. My parents, both from orthodox households, were less observant. We called it a Channukah bush.

Mom loved the tree for all the right reasons. It was beautiful and smelled great (even with the aromas of brisket and latkes - that's potato pancakes). Mom loved this time of year. It was another reason to give gifts.

There weren't really many Channukah decorations, at least not when I was growing up. But Mom's menorah took center stage on the dining room table. We played dreidle, sang Channukah songs and yes, more presents, one each of the eight nights.

All in all, the presents were usually small or something that you needed. Underwear and jammies were big items. Scarves and gloves were an annual gift, I usually lost mine at school.

For Mom, it was all about being together, unwrapping the presents and watching the excitement on our faces. I never really understood that until I had children of my own.

Paul came from a very different Jewish family. A tree, well, he just couldn't do that. Staci's husband and Cori's fiance are both not Jewish. I live vicariously at their houses on Christmas day.

But for Channukah, well we do a Channukah that would make Martha Stewart envious but my Mom really proud.

My favorite holiday songs: Adam Sandler's Channukah Song and Silver Bells.

Happy early holiday. May we all get our shopping done early!

... Ruth

Sandy B said...

Went to a community concert yesterday-- the church was filled, the music wonderful, the spirit definitely there. Great way to start the Christmas season. I'm ready!

Kacey Mark said...

What a wonderful post. Great job!
My favorite Christmas decoration is the stocking with my name written in gold glitter and an entire christmas scene sewed onto its front. My Grandma made it for me before she died (when I was about 10). I remember hoping to grow up and create beautiful thing like that.I'm still working on that!

Calisa Rhose said...

Beautiful post Joelene. My favorite song is By the band Alabama- Thistlehair the Christmas Bear. Fun and upbeat and my kids loved it growing up. A favorite ornament is hard because I''m so danged sentimental. I have a hand made Santa that I love and I always had ornaments my girls made growing up. I'm missing those this year... Hubby put the Christmas tree away (for me \-: ) last year and I'm still looking for everything, especially after two moves and the ensuing rearrangement the storage sheds...

Diane Darcy said...

Loved your thoughts. I have snowflake ornaments I made with the kids when they were little. Each has their cute little faces behind a glass mirror and ribbon. Love them. =)