Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Reasons to Love the Season!

     The writing prompt was “Three Things I Hate About the Holidays”, but I can’t bring hate into this season!  I love Christmas!  The music, the movies, the good cheer – I love it. 

     When I was little I would sit next to the record player and put on Mitch Miller, Bing Crosby, the Christmas Is for Kids album, even How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  We actually had an album.  I can’t remember if it was the whole story or just the music, but I loved listening to the Whos in Who-ville, singing their song.  As a teenager I veered away from the classics and gravitated to Mariah Carey and Paul McCartney and anyone else that was popular at the time with a Christmas song.  I still like to hear Bieber and Gaga but I also love Tony Bennet and Ella Fitzgerald and Dean Martin.  It brings me back to that living room, that record player, and that family.  It was a good time to be a kid.

     When it was time to get the tree my dad would grab his old handsaw and we would pull on our boots and coats, hats and scarves, and if it was really snowy (which it usually was) we would have to wear snow pants or even a skidoo suit.  When I think about it now I bet we looked like Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story”.  We would trudge out to the forest behind the hill out back, looking for the perfect tree.  We always found one, and it was always the best one we ever had.  Even when we pulled it into the house and set it up and we could see the glaring holes and wayward branches.  Somehow, once the decorations were on there, no one ever noticed.  We had such old and beautiful decorations.  

My brother and I always longed for the newer ones.  Now I wish I had those old frosted glass baubles.  A few years ago my cousin sent me an ornament that our grandmother had acquired at the last minute after a Christmas Eve disaster.  Every year since, when I hang it on the tree I tell the story of how it came to be in our house, and the kids say “You say this every year!” and I always say “Tradition”.  (Huge Fiddler on the Roof fan, here)   We go to a tree farm now, no woods behind our house, but we still go out and choose and cut our tree. It takes a while, but it is still fun and everyone looks forward to it.

     My mom would slave in the kitchen for days making cookies.  Mainly sugar cookies, the kind you would roll out and cut into shapes.  After they were baked we would all sit around the table with different colors of homemade frosting and colored sugared and sprinkles (my favorite) and we kids would get to decorating.  There were four of us at the most, sometimes three and we would decorate about six or seven dozen.  Mom would make up plates of all the cookies and pass them on to our neighbors and friends.  She’d wrap them in cellophane and put bows on the top with a Christmas card.  She made cookies that were rolled in corn flakes with a cherry pressed in the center, and peanut butter balls that had rice crispies in them.  I can’t remember the other kinds.  When I got older I made hard candy that she included.  When I got out on my own I started my own baking traditions and started building gingerbread houses.  I make peanut butter balls and Oreo truffles, biscotti and sometimes Russian tea cakes.  Only no one wants food anymore.  Everyone makes their own now.  I do it anyway.

     Christmas cards were a family affair.  Dad would write a Christmas letter and we would all sign it. I tried to do one too, but I reverted to cards.  I used to write them out on Thanksgiving night, after the tree was set up (back when I had a fake one).  It was a quiet time of reflection, being thankful for the folks I was sending warm thoughts to.  Now we make our cards and it is a rush to get them out.  This year I got them to the post office on December 22.  Too close for me and not a lot of time for delivery.  I will start earlier next year.  I will be prepared.

     We have been watching some of the classics with the kids – Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Elf.  I’m waiting my turn at the library for “The Muppet Christmas Carol”*, which was recommended to me by my boss and a movie I have never watched.  I still watch “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  On Christmas Eve I even cuddle up to Alistair Sim and watch the original “A Christmas Carol”.  I know that they will keep some in their repertoire and discard others as they get older, but I hope that we are giving them some permanence in a very Bedouin type of life they were born into.

     Yes, I love this season!  People are nicer, they smile a little easier, they seem to be more considerate, and a little less hurtful.  Merry Christmas everyone, and may you keep a bit of it in your heart in the coming new year.

*Fun fact – On the news the other day they noted that The Muppet Christmas Carol taught more children about the spirit of Christmas than any other Christmas film.  They got the message.  Now I have to see it.