December 25, 2010

What makes a Christmas?

As I was driving out to my aunt's this afternoon and listening to a song called "The Secret of Christmas" (gotta listen to the Christmas music before tomorrow right?),  I was considering the lyrics and wondering what actually does make a Christmas for me. I'm sure it's a little different for everyone, but here are some things that are essential parts of Christmas for me.

#1 - The album "Brand New Year" by SHeDAISY. (Yes, they capitalize all but the E like that. Don't know why.) But this is my favorite Christmas album of all time, and usually my Christmas season starts sometime after the Chamaco's birthday on the 9th when I pop in this CD and sing along while putting up the Christmas tree.  Disturbingly, the Chamaco's favorite song on the album is "Santa's Got a Brand New Bag". He probably doesn't realize it, but the premise of the song is that Santa has basically had an extreme makeover and now the girl singing has the hots for him.

#2 - The shopping trip with my sister. At some point not too long after the first event, my sister and I will go out on a big shopping expedition. I always think I'm going to get all my shopping done that day, and it never happens. But generally we sing in at least 3 stores. And the car. And generally we find stuff that we would like for ourselves that the other agrees to buy and wrap on the condition that the other acts surprised on Christmas morning.

#3 - The Ladies' Ornament Party/Cookie Exchange. This is where the season really starts hopping... nothing says Christmas quite like laughter, theivery, and multiple exclamations of "Oooh, shiny!!!" And most of the time I bring home an ornament that isn't even hideous! My Christmas tree does not have a nice set of themed ornaments, oh no... it is a random mish-mash of stuff my kid made, stuff my mom gave me over the years (she's been giving me an ornament every year for years, on the premise that when I grew up and moved out I would have some... she's still giving them to me), and mostly ornaments garnered from Ornament Parties over the years. Also the all women singing of Christmas carols is pretty awesome.

#4 - Smashing candy canes to bits with a hammer. No, seriously. I do this every year. There's a reason. A few years back one of my co-workers at MES made this stuff she called "Christmas Bark" and we all demanded the recipe. It's easy enough that even I can do it, so I made some that year, and have done so for the family Christmas gathering every year since then. One of the requirements is smashed up candy canes, and I have found the most effective method of smashing is to put them inside a couple of plastic bags and then have at them with a hammer. Fun and festive. : )

#5 - Wrapping. I almost don't know why we bother, because by the time we've helped Mom wrap everything, we've seen pretty much everyone else's gifts and maybe one or two of our own, but I guess it takes me back to the days when I was the only one old enough to wrap presents so I'd help Mom wrap everything for my younger siblings and my dad. This year I did it while wearing reindeer antlers, which was a new twist.

#6 - The annual "me singing 'Police Stop My Car' and someone else looking at me like I'm nuts. Many years ago when I was in Community Chorus and we sang at Zoolights, one of my choirmates taught me this song (to the tune of "Feliz Navidad") and we ran about through the zoo in the dark singing it. Instant holiday classic. Lyrics follow, so that you may all be educated. (This should be sung in a fake Mexican accent, ideally.)

Police stop my car
Police stop my car
Police make me stop
Walk a straight line and blow a balloon up

He wants to wish me a sober Christmas
That's why he always pull me over, Christmas
He just wants to make sure
There's no open bottles in my car

Police, road they block
Police, road they block
Police, road they block
And I can smell the donuts as they smell my breath


Police lock me up
Police lock me up
Police lock me up
'Cause when I blew, I blew a 2.1 


Item #6 leads us to...

#7 - Unconventional Christmas songs. To me, Christmas isn't Christmas without at least one listening of each of the following: "Merry Christmas From the Family" (Montgomery Gentry), "Merry Christmas from the Whole Fam-Damily" (Cledus T. Judd), "Leroy the Redneck Reindeer" (Joe Diffie), "'Twas the Day After Christmas" (Jeff Foxworthy), "Christmas at Ground Zero" (Weird Al Yankovic), "The Night Santa Went Crazy" (Weird Al Yankovic), "Spice Girls Got Run Over by a Reindeer" (no idea), "Grandpa Got Runned Over by a John Deere" (Cledus T. Judd)... Not to mention the aforementioned "Santa's Got a Brand New Bag" (SHeDAISY). There are probably more, but I have to hear all these plus three "normal" Christmas carols... "Angels We Have Heard on High", "Carol of the Bells", and "O Holy Night" (as sung by Martina McBride. Josh Groban or whatever his name is can just zip it.)

#8 - Christmas morning with Mom and Dad. 28 years now and I have not missed a Christmas morning with Mom and Dad. Sometime if I ever get married again and/or move far, far away (or even move near-ish but have in-laws), I might have to miss one, but I haven't done it yet.

#9 - Christmas afternoon get-together with extended family. Sometimes this happens up to a week after the actual Christmas, but when it does it's Christmas all over again. And it always leads to...

#10 - Hilarious family game. It just wouldn't be a family get-together at all if we didn't have at least 4 or 5 of us sit down to play what seems like a perfectly innocent game and then have some sort of hilarity ensue. This is often Apples to Apples, but can also be Mexican Train, Outburst, Taboo, Chicken Foot, or any of a host of others. Today it was a new game called simply, "What?" And I learned that my relatives are all so weird it's hard to tell which wacky idea came from who... I love that about us.

With the top ten list out of the way, I also wanted to share something... maybe it's a week early for this, but the title track of "Brand New Year" is a song that I always like to listen to a little bit after Christmas and as I head into January. I'm going to put up the lyrics for you, and I suggest you consider them...

Learning to turn the outside inside out
Having the courage to find what life is all about
Loving so purely can surely melt a frozen heart
Knowing sometimes all over's the perfect place to start

Welcome to my revolution
Lucky you, lucky me, the way we were meant to be
This is my one resolution
And I make it with no fear
To live, to love, today
'Cause it's a brand new year

Seeing the world through rose-colored eyes
Yeah, this is my one big chance, and I'm gonna take it twice
With the past down below I know love lifted me up here
So I'll take a breath, kiss the sky, toll the bell
'Cause it's a brand new year


Resiliently reclaiming me
Refining my recovery
Untwist my fate, unlock the gate
Let's make a little noise
'Cause it's a brand new year!

I mention this song because, as a career pessimist, it has always been my inclination to say something to the effect of "Hey, a whole new year.... just like the last one!" in a very sarcastic tone when January 1st rolls around. But maybe, just maybe mind you, it would be okay to look at New Year's with a little optimism... like the song says, "sometimes all over's the perfect place to start" and there's just something symbolic about taking last year's calendar down off the wall and tossing it in the trash... last year is over and done, and you get to start all over fresh in a brand new year. This is probably why people make new year's resolutions. I make new year's suggestions, but that's another blog... ;-)

Song o' the Day: "Bury Me Alive" by We Are The Fallen. It keeps being stuck in my head. (Bet you thought it was going to be "Brand New Year", didn't you? Ha!)

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