Tag Archives: Christmas

The Season of Thanksmas

Before we even settle down for a Thanksgiving dinner, the season of Thanksmas is upon us.  Thanksmas is the time when retailers try to rush us right past Thanksgiving into the season of Christmas.  You know it has arrived when the obnoxious fluorescent lighting of a store is actually overshadowed by the Christmas displays.  Everywhere you look, commercial Christmas is upon us.  Rather than subtle and tasteful decorations, most stores go for the “Santa’s elves just threw up in here” look. 

What’s the matter with savoring a holiday?   If you ask me, Thanksgiving should last for a week.  It’s a holiday that has nothing whatsoever to do with gifts, but rather family and gratitude.  (Okay, I’m trying to overlook the football, parades of lip-synchers, and ridiculous amounts of desserts.)   But even at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, Santa Claus arrives to steal the show.  Shouldn’t he be kept under wraps for his grand appearance a month later?  Plus, I don’t know if it’s really fair to leave Mrs. Claus and the elves during the start of their busy season. 

Santa Claus used to appear on Christmas Eve, but now I guess it’s all about public relations and keeping in touch with the people.  The other day I saw hundreds of children in line to see Santa at the mall.  Not only did the parents look exhausted, but the children did not seem at all excited at the thought of standing for an hour to spend a minute on a stranger’s lap.  Apparently no one questioned the fact that during the busy week before Christmas, Santa was spending an afternoon at a mall food court.

Nothing against Kris Kringle, but he would make much more of an impact if he made one annual appearance.  Let each holiday have its own day of glory.  Besides, how would Santa like it if the Easter Bunny showed up on Christmas morning?  Next thing you know, Cupid will drop the ball on New’s Year’s Eve, and the Leprechaun will pass out Valentines.  Let’s put an end to the holiday merge!  Thanksmas, Christmas Year’s Day, Valentine’s Birthday, The Fourth of Easter!

Now that the Christmas season has arrived, we should cherish every moment of it. It is a glorious holiday that deserves its moment in the spotlight. And as much as I love and respect George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, I do not want to celebrate their birthdays during a Christmas parade. 

Have a Merry Christmas, everyone!  Here are some links to some of my previous Christmas blogs:

The Unofficial Christmas Carol Awards, The 12 Minutes of Christmas, Scotch Tape and Schnitzel with Noodles, Watch Out for the Blazing Yule, Santa Gets a Makeover

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New Year’s Eve in Times Circle

           

 EXHAUSTED PARTYGOERS:  …5, 4, 3, 2, 1…HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

            (Cue kazoos, confetti, and embracing partygoers).

            One minute later…

            EXHAUSTED PARTYGOERS: (awkward silence) Well…Goodnight!

When it comes to holidays, New Year’s Eve gets the short end of the stick.  First of all, it has to follow Christmas, and who can compete with that?  While Christmas has a plethora of carols and fun songs, New Year’s has one, and nobody knows what it means. 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And days of Auld Lang Syne?

The Scots have a way of putting things that would even make Einstein scratch his head.  “Auld Lang Syne” was written by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who wrote the famous song/poem, “My luve is like a red, red rose.”  Apparently he caused a lot of confusion with this misspelling, which eventually led to the invention of Luvs® diapers.  Not many people realize that other diaper brands also stemmed from his less popular poems, “I want to give thee kissees and huggies” and “My luve doth pampers me.”  But nothing compares to the confusion he caused by his New Year’s Eve song.

In addition to the song problem, the iconic image of New Year’s Eve is the dropping of the ball in Times Square. Isn’t “dropping the ball” supposed to be a bad thing?  Athletes who drop the ball are shamefully scorned, sometimes for life if it happens during the World Series or Super Bowl. Then there’s the reproving expression: You really dropped the ball on that one.  So why start a new year by “dropping the ball?”  Seems a bit ominous to me. 

And Times Square?  Being “square” is hardly a compliment.  Maybe we should find a more geometrically flattering location, like a nice circular rotary, or even The Pentagon.  Or do it at a stop sign; at least that’s an octagon. And to all of you who actually stand outside and freeze your biscuits to witness this momentous event in person, wouldn’t you rather do it in Hawaii? 

Where is the New Year’s cookie?  The New Year’s Tree?  I’m telling you, this holiday needs our help!  After much consideration, I have put together the following proposal to bring some glory to this unfortunate holiday. 

CHRISTMAS                  NEW YEAR’S       REVISED NEW YEAR’S

Christmas cookies          chips & dips          Double Stuff Oreos

Santa Claus                   Dick Clark            Chuck Norris

XMAS                            no abbreviation     NYE

morning                         midnight               brunch

decorated tree                dropping ball         hot fudge sundae

gifts                           kazoos & party hats   Navy Seal uniforms

numerous carols             Auld Lang Syne      Michael Jackson’s Thriller

warm living room            Times Square         Times Circle, Hawaii

 

 

The Twelve Minutes of Christmas

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” was never one of my favorite carols, but I’ve recently come to appreciate it a bit more.  Any song that requires me to clear my calendar for a week is not going to make my Top 10 list.  But the main question I always had about the song is:  Why so many birds?   I’ve received many Christmas gifts over the years, but never a bird.  What kind of “true love” gives so many different types of birds for Christmas?  1 partridge + 2 turtle doves + 3 French hens + 4 calling birds = TEN birds.  No wonder he has to bring five golden rings to make up for days one through four.  Only jewelry could bring him out of the doghouse.

What does he bring her on day six?  Should have brought chocolates, but nooooo…GEESE.  And even SWANS the next day.  The following day he sends eight maids a-milking. I didn’t even know you could milk birds, so this was news to me.  I would have been nervous that the next day’s gift would be eight cows.  With so many birds, the only gifts that would have been appropriate at this point would have been a mop and a new roasting pan.

The last four days of gifts actually do make sense to me.  From days nine through eleven, he sends thirty people dancing, and leaping, and playing music.  This was clearly to distract her from the absurdity of his earlier gifts.  He was hoping that a personal Broadway show would cover up the mess and commotion caused by the 23 birds.  It’s a good thing she gets twelve drummers at the end, presumably to beat him over the head.

This carol was written centuries ago, when Christmas was not one day of celebration, but twelve.  In the Middle Ages, everyone tried to extend such happy times as long as possible.  While our modern selection of gifts would look much different (hopefully), the heart behind the concept of extending Christmas intrigues me.

The twelve days of Christmas have now become the twelve minutes of Christmas.  With all of the buildup of excitement and the effort to write cards, bake, shop, and wrap, the actual celebration of Christmas passes in a blur.  Consider a child’s schedule on Christmas morning:

5:00 a.m.        jump on parents to wake them up

5:01 a.m.        get ready as fast as humanly possible

5:03 a.m.        race to Christmas tree

5:10 a.m.        finish opening gifts

5:12 a.m.        finish playing with new toys

Instead of a twelve day feast, we get a “fast food Christmas.”  We scarf down our holiday rather than savoring it.  So as long as I can clear my calendar and maintain enough oxygen, I can now enjoy singing the longest and silliest Christmas carol of all time.  Crazy bird lyrics aside, it will always be a gentle reminder not to rush a good thing.  I think we could all use a little extension of peace, love, and happiness.

Scotch Tape and Schnitzel with Noodles

For those of you who thought you were linking to an actual recipe for Schnitzel with Noodles, I apologize.  You can probably just toss some schnitzel together with some noodles, and you’ll be all set. To make it healthier, you can use Low Fat schnitzel. ( I don’t really know what schnitzel is, but it is fun to say, and I encourage you to say it as many times as possible during this holiday season.)  Disclaimer: Please do NOT be confused by the title and actually add Scotch tape to your schnitzel (there, I said it again).

 I was actually referring to a line from the song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music:

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels;

Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles.

If any of you have never seen this movie, I have made up for it by watching it for you a million times.  If you want I could just come to your house and act out every role from the entire movie, including the yodeling and Austrian accents. 

For some reason, “My Favorite Things” counts as a Christmas song.  While this brings new meaning to the word “sketchy,” I am a fan of the song.  First of all, name one other song where you get to say both “schnitzel” and “strudels” in the same verse.  I also appreciate that this song is essentially a list of someone’s favorite things, as women love making lists.  The list is wonderfully descriptive, although I don’t agree with most of the choices:

Raindrops on roses (If it’s raining, I’m not at the beach.)

Whiskers on kittens (I’m allergic…to whiskers, not kittens.)

Bright copper kettles (I use the microwave.)

Warm woolen mittens (Too itchy.  I prefer a cotton/polyester blend.)

Brown paper packages tied up with strings.  Aha.  I agree that it is exciting to receive a brown paper package.  But tied up with strings?   My mind flashes back to my childhood, where Christmas morning was filled with cries for help trying to open gifts tied with ribbon that even a beaver couldn’t gnaw through.  Sure, strings and ribbons look pretty, but it is almost cruel to give someone a gift they can only open with a blowtorch.

This year I received a brown paper package that was covered in enough packing tape to repair a jet engine.  In these sort of situations, there’s not much you can do to get the present open, short of backing over the present with your truck.  Or, if you have a toddler, let him open it.  Toddlers can even open child-proof bottles. 

When wrapping gifts, the value of Scotch tape is underestimated.  Not only is the smell divine (right up there with schnitzel, I’m guessing), but it opens very easily.  Any time I can open a gift without a tool box, I’m grateful.  Yes, Scotch tape makes me proud of my Scottish heritage.  (Also, schnitzel is Austrian, and I’m German. Whoa…)

I admit that sometimes I’m too lazy to cut more of the wrapping paper to the size of the gift, so I wrap it around several times with enough paper to make shelter for a small village.  But the beauty of this move is that you are forced to use up an entire roll of my beloved Scotch tape.

So, as Christmas approaches and you are wrapping your gifts, please prevent cruelty to humans and forget the superfluous strings, ribbons, and superglue-like packing tape.  Use a ridiculous amount of Scotch tape, and let the pleasant aroma mingle with that of your gingerbread and Christmas cookies.  And, of course, the Schnitzel with Noodles (see recipe above).

The Unofficial Christmas Carol Awards

The moment we swallow the last morsel of Thanksgiving dinner, the Christmas season officially begins.  We’ve barely cleared the table and fallen onto sofas clutching our bloated bellies, when radio stations begin their non-stop barrage of Christmas carols.  There is no gentle transition; the switch is about as subtle as a T-Rex in a tutu.

There are two kinds of Christmas carols: Real and Fluff.   Real carols celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Whenever you hear words like “reindeer” and “Santa,” you’re usually dealing with more Fluff than a peanut butter sandwich.  Most radio stations are too afraid of offending the secular crowd with mentioning Jesus, so they become giant Fluff factories during the holiday season.  After about an hour, they have run the gamut of un-Christmas carols, so they start repeating the same playlist over and over again.  Emergency rooms become flooded with retail employees who slammed their heads on the cash register at the thought of listening to “Jingle Bells” one more time.

Ladies and gentlemen, here are the UNOFFICIAL Christmas Carol Awards:

BEST SQUISHING TOGETHER OF LYRICS IN A CAROL

From “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”

With th’angelic host proclaim

It’s hard to go through a day without using the popular word th’angelic, isn’t it? (“Where are you going, honey?”  “To put th’angelic kids to bed.”) Almost every great carol uses a technique for dealing with too many syllables to match the music notes.  Solution?  Smush ’em!  You always know it’s Christmas when ordinary words become pow’r, heav’n, and o’er.  Could this have been a precursor to texting?

MOST MISUNDERSTOOD LYRIC

From “Silent Night”

Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright.

Round yon virgin mother and child, Holy infant so tender and mild.

This is NOT saying that Mary was “round,” as in carrying some post-partum weight.

Runner-up:  “Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing”

My four year old had a good point when he asked, “Why are the angels named Harold?” 

BEST CAROL ONLY DOGS CAN HEAR

“Angels We Have Heard on High”

Beautiful music and lyrics, but if you’re not careful you can really hurt yourself singing this song.  Be sure to sing this one with tissues nearby – not just for the tears, but for the possible nosebleeds that can occur from the high notes. 

BEST CAROL ABOUT AN UNKNOWN PERSON

“Good King Wenceslas”  Who?

Also wins Most Difficult Name to Pronounce in a Song.  He was probably a great man; too bad his name wasn’t Bob. 

BEST FILLER LYRICS IN A CAROL

“Deck the Halls”

Fa la la la la is a great filler for when you can’t think of more lyrics.  Maybe the lyricist was under a time constraint and he threw these words in, little realizing how popular they would eventually become. 

BEST CAROL PEOPLE ONLY KNOW THE TITLE TO

HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING, “GLORY TO THE NEWBORN KING!!!!!!  hmmm hmmm hmmm la la la mild, hmm hmm hmm la reconciled, la la la la la la la la  hmm hmmm hmmm hmmm HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING, “GLORY TO THE NEWBORN KING!!!!!!”

People make up for slacking through the verses by boisterously belting out the chorus as if to say, “See, I know how this song goes.”

BEST NEAR-RHYME IN A CAROL

From “Joy to the World”

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness and wonders of his love.

Christmas is the only time we allow near-rhymes in our favorite songs.  Prove does NOT rhyme with love, but hey, they LOOK like they rhyme. 

BEST CAROL THAT DOESN’T EVEN TRY TO RHYME

“The Holly and the Ivy”

The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown,

Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.

The rising of the sun, and the running of the deer,

The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.

There is something bold and rebellious about having no rhymes in your Christmas carol.  My three year old asked for the song about the poison ivy, and that could also be a marketing problem for this song.  Referring to verse 3, The holly bears a berry as red as any blood, he explained, “You know, the song with the bleeding bear.” 

MOST REPETITIVE CAROL

“O Christmas Tree”

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Thy leaves are so unchanging.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Thy leaves are so unchanging.

Not only green when summer’s here, but also when ’tis cold and drear.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Thy leaves are so unchanging…

…and so are these lyrics.  With three out of four lines of the verse exactly the same, you have to wonder if the lyricist developed writer’s block and was rushing to get to a hot date. 

CAROL REQUIRING THE MOST OXYGEN

“The 12 Days of Christmas”

Is it an underwater diver coming up for air? No, it’s just the collective gasp of people finally reaching Five golden rings. You need 12 days just to finish this song. 

MOST UNSELFISH CAROL

“All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth”

…and the entire toy section of the Sears catalog (but that didn’t rhyme). 

COOLEST USE OF PUNCTUATION IN A CAROL

“Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”

That’s! very exciting to put an exclamation point right at the beginning of the song! 

MOST UNFORGETTABLE CAROL

“Carol of the Bells”

The melody of this carol stays in your head for so long you may have to have it surgically removed after the holidays. 

BEST INVISIBLE LYRIC

From “Jingle Bells”

(laughing all the way) Ha ha ha!

The words are not actually in the song, but EVERYONE sings them anyway!

 CAROL THAT SHOULD BE LEFT TO PROFESSIONALS

“O Holy Night”

If you have ever attempted to sing this carol in a group, you know what I mean.  

BEST GRAMMAR USAGE IN A CAROL

“Angels We Have Heard on High”

Why your joyous strains prolong?

What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heav’nly song?

If Yoda could have written a Christmas carol, this would have been it.  

BEST INVISIBLE AIR DRUM PERFORMANCE

“The Little Drummer Boy”

Pa-rum-pa-rum-pum!

Santa Claus Gets a Makeover

St. Nicholas

What happened to Santa Claus?  Early pictures of St. Nicholas depict a religious man with a gaunt face and aquiline nose.  Wearing a bishop’s robe and clutching a Bible, the St. Nick of yore seemed to personify the true meaning of Christmas. Several hundred years later, Santa, now clad in a garish red suit, showed up at the mall with elves and magic reindeer.  Children weren’t sure how to react to this man with the maniacal laugh who was tracking their behavior like a watchdog, even while they were sleeping.  In some odd sort of therapy, parents helped kids face their fears by forcing them to have their picture taken with him after standing in lines long enough to make the Great Wall of China look like a stick of gum. No one was sure what this had to do with the birth of a savior, but one thing was certain: Santa had received a makeover, and his “reveal” was shocking indeed. 

Modern Day Santa

The Body.

He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;

First, Santa really packed on some pounds.  The culprit?  Working at the mall, of course.  How could he be expected to work right next to the food court and still be able to maintain his slim figure? During breaks his elves were probably making countless donut runs.  Not to mention the need for complex carb packing during his most stressful time of year.

Makeover Idea:  To get into shape, he should try organic gardening and work with a personal trainer.  Drop the mall tours.  There is something disconcerting about seeing Santa holding a Starbucks® coffee and talking into his cell phone.  He doesn’t need the extra publicity, and let’s face it: Mall Santa killed St. Nicholas.  Going into seclusion, à la J. D. Salinger, will only increase his popularity and mystique.

The Outfit.

He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack:

Red is not doing Santa any favors.  Notice how it draws attention to the ruddiness of other facial features:

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

Also, the fur is a little outdated and not very practical when climbing down sooty chimneys.  And no man, I don’t care WHO he is, should have a belt bigger than Wonder Woman’s.

Makeover Idea:  Black is the new red.  Not only is black slimming, but what better way to hide the soot stains?  Replace the pipe with cool sunglasses. 

The Transportation.

Traveling by reindeer and sleigh may have been cool hundreds of years ago, but why not take advantage of technological advances?  Wouldn’t GPS make his job a whole lot easier? And the reindeer-sleigh gig seems a bit unreliable.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Santa was on the lawn? Wasn’t he supposed to land on the rooftop? Obviously there was some problem with the landing. Or was that why he was yelling at the reindeer in the middle of the night while everyone was trying to sleep?

And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:
“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donner and Blitzen;
“To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

Makeover Idea: If Santa is trying to use the element of surprise, then crash landings on the lawn, sleigh and animal landings on roofs, and reindeer reprimands in the middle of the night are questionable methods. I’d like to see more evidence of stealth capabilities.  How about rappelling from the roof? 

The Location.

Why does Santa have to live at the North Pole?  The cold is not good for his health.  If seclusion is his goal, there are plenty of remote tropical islands to choose from. 

Makeover Idea: Santa should move to a secluded island in the South Pacific, shave his beard, and get a nice tan.

The New Santa would be tan, fit, and slim in black. He would be intriguing, mysterious, and resourceful. Click here for the Extreme Santa Makeover Reveal:

Credits:

Poem excerpts from Clement C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas,” 1822.

St. Nicholas photo from Wikipedia.com

Modern Santa photo from public-domain-image.com

Watch Out for the Blazing Yule!

The Christmas season has arrived, and before you start roasting your chestnuts on the open fire, you’d better watch out.  First of all, an open fire does not meet safety codes, but that’s not what I’m worried about. According to “Deck the Halls,” there’s something called a “BLAZING YULE,” and it’s got me wondering.   I’m sorry, but it just sounds like an animal on fire.  (“Why did you swerve the car?”  “Don’t you see the blazing yule before us?!”)  Okay, so it’s really just a Christmas log, but come to think of it, aren’t there a lot of mysterious and funny-sounding Christmas terms?

MISTLETOE.  Sounds like you need a podiatrist.  (“I’ve got some mistletoe.”  “Maybe you need new sneakers.”)  Either that or you have superpowers that enable you to shoot a missile by pointing your toe.  Imagine how this could speed up those pesky long lines at the mall.

Mistletoe is actually a plant hung at Christmastime to make girls kiss young men.  Probably started by some guy in high school who couldn’t get a date.  I believe his name was Georgie Porgie. 

TROLL THE ANCIENT YULETIDE CAROL.

I thought trolls were the little men who live under bridges.  But no, troll is a musical term for singing heartily or gaily.  Now I just picture a bunch of dwarfs doing karaoke.

Yuletide (a.k.a. the Christmas season) implies that the Yule comes in, and the Yule goes out, although I’ve never seen a Yuletide chart on a weather forecast. I’d like to be informed when the moon changes and there will be a sudden influx of Yule.

YORE. (as in “golden days of yore”)  People have a hard enough time with YOUR vs. YOU’RE.  I just don’t know if they can handle ANOTHER one. 

Yore refers to a time long past.  Please don’t write the following on your Christmas card:  I hope yore Christmas is merry.  The only correct usage would be:  I hope yore Christmases a loooooooooong time ago were merry.

YON. Children are often confused as they picture Mary, the “round yon virgin,” as  overweight and yawning.  Although she really would not have lost her baby weight yet, and she would have been exhausted from the labor and delivery.

Yon, yond, and yonder all refer to an indicated distance.  Over time this has morphed into: Yo, check that out over there (“ova day” for some parts of the country).

EGGNOG.  I’m familiar with the egg, but what’s nog? When I look at an egg, I basically see the shell, the whites, and the yolk.  If there’s something else in there called “nog,” I’m not drinking it. 

Eggnog is actually a drink consisting of milk, eggs, sugar, and alcohol.  I have a hard enough time watching Sylvester Stallone drink raw eggs in Rocky.  Although it appears that after you drink the stuff, you will be able to climb stairs without being winded.

WASSAIL.  Is it part of a boat, like the mainsail and the headsail? 

Wassail is a toast to someone’s good health, or it may refer to the drink used in such toasting.  Thankfully there are no eggs in this hot mulled cider, and the toast is sure a lot classier than “Down the hatch!”

JACK FROST.  Kids everywhere fear this crazy man who bites people’s noses. Strangely, they have a lot in common with him; he leaves marks on all the windows.

Jack Frost is a personification of winter. He is more famous than his distant cousins, John Pollen, Joe Foliage, and Jim Humidity.

CORN-COB PIPE. My kids recently asked me why there is a Corn Cop.  It took me a moment to figure out that they were referring to the corn-cob pipe in “Frosty the Snowman.”  I could have milked this one for awhile to convince them to eat all of their corn at dinnertime.

In Frosty Returns, Frosty no longer has a corn-cob pipe.  It may be to deter kids from smoking, but I think the producers realized that if a snowman struck a match to corn on the cob, it could traumatize small children.  And then the Corn Cops would have to get involved.

SUGARPLUMS.  Are they actually plums covered in sugar? The fact that the kids in The Night Before Christmas were having visions of sugarplums demonstrates the very dangers of too much sugar.  Even the parents were settling down for “a long winter’s nap.”  They practically had to hibernate after their sugar crash.

A sugarplum is a piece of candy made with dried fruit and sugar. No wonder the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker can’t stop dancing!