In the past I’ve railed against the Christmas excess, particularly the consumeristic aspects of it, starting well before Thanksgiving (and even before my beloved Halloween). Seeing as how this year some stores (all of them) are opening on Thanksgiving for their “Black Friday” sales, I’m giving up.
That’s right; I’m throwing in the towel. You win. I even wrote a little song for you heartless bastards, just to show I care. Enjoy.
Stores are open, let’s get hopping.
Screw the family, let’s go shopping.
Out into the hurly burly,
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la
Black Friday is starting early!
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la, la-la
Save the turkey and the stuffing.
Human contact we’re rebuffing.
We’ll be loyal Christmas elves
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la
All those gifts won’t buy themselves!
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la, la-la
Fast away Thanksgiving passes.
Lines move like frozen molasses.
Looking for that coat of leather
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la
Instead of being all together.
My Not So Humble Mother has been pestering me for a while (okay, a couple decades) to give her a Christmas list so she can get ahead on her shopping. I don’t see what the big deal is, since I don’t think I’m that hard of a guy to shop for. Still, in order to make it easier for her and anybody else who might want to get me a little something, I’m getting this up now with plenty of time for the holiday season. Here’s what I’d like this year, in no particular order:
Australia (H/T to Gene Hackman circa Superman II)
A date with Kathy Ireland
A new wardrobe
A new house
A new car
Three dozen penguins
My virginity (Sorry, no link. I lost that a long time ago.)
World peace (Sorry, no link. We haven’t been able to find that for a long time either.)
$526,817.83 in unmarked bills (so I can afford to pay the butler, the maid, and the gardener)
A map to King Solomon’s mines
Two sturdy goats
A time machine
My two front teeth
The heads of all of those who would dare to oppose me
A recount of the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election (I really don’t care who won; I just want people to shut up about it.)
And just remember, if you’re still looking for that special gift or virtual stocking stuffer, you can get a copy of my book on Amazon for less than a buck!
Ah, Christmas. There’s no other holiday quite like it. Even if you aren’t Christian, you can still get into the secular spirit by drinking heavily, decorating your house with enough lights to divert traffic from the nearest airport, and maxing out your credit cards on things that people will enjoy for as long as it takes them to unwrap the next present. I do so love this holiday. And nothing says “Christmas spirit” like the music of Christmas.
We all have our favorite Christmas ditties. For me, there are a handful of songs that just say, “Let the merriment commence.” I thought I’d take a little time to share them with you, along with some of the reasons that make them so special to me.
First up is the one song that I have to hear before I can officially declare it to be Christmas. That song, of course, is the immortal “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-D.M.C. Now I can hear some of you thinking “are you out of your damn mind?” Others of you may not even be that polite. Allow me to explain. For those of you old enough, cast your minds back to 1987. The very first A Very Special Christmas album had been released, and my dad bought it the first chance he got. He was a huge fan of Christmas music, dad was, and he loved so many of the performers. He couldn’t wait to put it on. He so loved every single one of the tracks, Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellencamp, even Sting… until…
Let’s just say Dad wasn’t a fan of rap music.
My sister and I, of course, knew what was coming. We were even waiting for it. The look on his face when the song started was priceless. We made him sit through the whole thing, and every year after that it just wasn’t Christmas until we broke out his ever-growing collection of Christmas CDs, dug out A Very Special Christmas, and made sure Dad got his chance to enjoy “Christmas in Hollis” (the fact that Mom grew up in Queens just made it that much funnier). This will be our first Christmas without Dad, but every time I hear that song, I remember him fondly, and I dance just a little in his honor.
The next song that I love at Christmas time is “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” by Blink-182. Okay, I’ll admit it, this one puts me squarely in the Grinch category, but I swear it’s for a lot of good reasons. First, I’m a Grinch, so there. Second, as far as anti-carols go, this one takes the cake. It is a perfect summary of every negative feeling I have ever had in the Christmas season, bundled together into a zippy pop-punk bundle. The chorus alone is a treasure, with such gems as “it’s time to be nice to the people you can’t stand all year.” Who can deny feeling some shred of that cynicism at least at some point? The fact that my sister knew me well enough to include this song on the Christmas album she put together for me one year makes it all the sweeter, since it turned it from sheer nihilistic anti-commercialistic rebellion into heartwarming, family affirming, nihilistic anti-commercialistic rebellion.
And speaking of My Not So Humble Sister, I’m going to have to loop back around to A Very Special Christmas (that album played very prominently in my childhood Christmas memory) and mention “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” by U2. Every year, as soon as this one came on, my sister and I would sing this one together, dancing around with abandon, acting like fools, having a grand time. For just a few moments we would forget to be antagonistic teenagers and actually enjoy each others’ company, if only for the length of one song. Anyone who knew my sister and I at that age (or pretty much anytime before the age of 25) realizes the astonishing power that represents, and why I treasure those memories now.
The next song on my parade of Christmas delights is “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms.
What, I’m not allowed to love a classic?
Okay, so here’s the story, even if it is a little embarrassing. As my family will gladly (or ruefully) attest, when I was a little kid I first discovered this song. I thought it was pretty neat until I found out the singer was named Bobby, and then I become obsessed with it. I listened to it practically non-stop for something close to a year. No, not that year. A year, as in 365 calendar days. Did I mention I was obsessed? Anyway, I finally got over it (I think my sister finally hid the record from me), but I still love that song.
To be sure, there are a lot of other songs that I love to hear this time of year, but those are my “must hear” list. Whenever I hear them it’s as if they’re speaking to me directly, and what they’re saying is “Merry Christmas, Bob.” And that’s what I’d like to say to you now.
Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the next person who mentions Christmas before I taste turkey gets a kick in the jingle bells. It’s not that I’m a Grinch (although my sister, the Christmas Elf, will gladly tell you otherwise). It’s just that my ability to enjoy the Christmas season is inversely proportional to my level of exposure to it. Don’t get me wrong; we have our holiday traditions, and I love them all. The music, the food, the decorations; most of all I will never forget the look on my sister’s face the year I finally slipped the lump of coal into her stocking for a change. But I digress. The point is that these moments are beautiful because they are rare, they are fleeting, and thereby they are magical.
I remember when I was a kid (and I have never felt older than when I typed those words) there seemed to be an understood rule: Christmas didn’t start until after Thanksgiving. Sure, you might see a few commercials about the big sale at your local department store on Black Friday in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, but it was always in the background, like the siren song of savings before the mad rush of commercialism truly began. First came the parade, Dad would yell at the TV while he watched football all day, then the turkey, and you finished off the night with The Wizard of Oz. The next day would come with its marathon of shopping quite soon enough, and Santa’s lap would be waiting all month long for you to whisper your list of impossible desires to be passed on to your long-suffering parents.
In the last twenty years, and particularly I’ve been noticing it in the last yen years, it’s like the stores can’t wait for Christmas to start. They’re worse than the kids. My roommate told me he was in one store, which shall remain nameless (but it rhymes with K-Mart), and they had a Christmas aisle set up already. Oh, I forgot to mention: this was three weeks before Halloween. It was right next to the Halloween aisle; talk about one-stop shopping. I’m surprised they didn’t have chocolate bunnies out, too.
It can’t be the economy, or trying to lure in the “early shoppers”, because they were doing it before the economy tanked, and there have always been early shoppers (my mother is still finding gifts she “hid” back in August… of 1998). It’s like someone decided to hell with the unspoken rule, and once one person crosses that neutral zone and gets away with it, everyone else jumps on board, and I for one think it’s time we all take a stand. We mock people who leave their Christmas lights up on their homes more than a few weeks into the new year; isn’t it time we boycott stores that put theirs up more than a few weeks before the holiday? Don’t we deserve a chance to celebrate one holiday at a time?
Am I the only one who has seen Mame? Does no one else know the song “We Need a Little Christmas”? There’s a reason that song resonates, and it’s because Christmas is supposed to be a special time, a time of magic and joy. But to be special, it has to be rare. When Christmas gets pushed back so far that it literally becomes “Christmas in July” as the marketing campaigns of my youth used to say, where’s the magic? Doesn’t Santa deserve a few months off?