Friday, December 15, 2006

No More Humbuggery

Let the holly-jollyness commence!
I believe I've just begun
the countdown to
full festive mode.

I'm the first to admit that it takes me longer than most people to find the "spirit" of Christmas. When I see the first signs of it popping up in stores shortly after Halloween, I block it out completely. And if too many people try to smother the great holiday that is Thanksgiving with too much talk of the big day that's "only" a month away, I tightly pack spoonfuls of stuffing into my ears and refuse to listen.
(Note: Mashed potatoes work equally as well.)

Regardless of the title of this entry, or the tone of its first couple paragraphs, my middle name is not Ebenezer. I promise you that. I'm a big fan of Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, as well. I just can't maintain the level of hype that some folks do for so many days prior, whistling carols as I work, or trying to sing like Burl Ives.

Around mid-December each year, though, there are a couple indicators that give me a jolt and tell me it's time to start Ho! Ho! Ho!ing.

The first has been occurring for more than a decade now, and it never fails to put me in the right mindset. The newspaper at which I work publishes a Children's Album each Christmas, as I'm sure many newspapers do. The middle school kids submit drawings, and the elementary school kids write stories and poems and letters to Santa and tell why they like Christmas and winter and......whether I'm typesetting some of their handwritten pages or formatting them to fit in the pages of our newspaper, it's impossible to not be inspired by some of the creativity contained within.

We do our best to leave as many of their "creative" spellings unchanged, so the reader gets to see what we see in the original. And while many of the themes are like to play in the snow and get cold so they can go inside for hot cocoa, or boys like to throw snowballs at their sisters, or boys like to go ice fishing with their dads and grandpas and uncles (who sure can drink a lot of beer!)...there's an originality to each kid's writing.

One girl wrote about how the snow sounds when it's falling. Didn't think that was possible, did you? Listen next time it snows, and if you hear, "Ch, ch, ch," then her writing is true. (If you just think of Jason from the "Friday the 13th" movies, then you're not revealing enough of your inner child. Dig deeper!)

Out here in these rural parts, if Santa's reindeer get a little touch of frostbite on those extra-cold nights, do you know how Santa finishes his rounds? You got it...he lands in a farmer's field and borrows some cows.

In one story, a girl writes about how everything was going wrong in the days leading up to Christmas, and one of the elves went to Santa and said (and I quote), "...our wood got broke." Luckily, things all worked out in the end. Whew!

In this year's issue, one girl was writing about Christmas candy and mentioned a bag of "likalice." I'll never eat another Twizzler the same way.

And my favorite of the year (here comes my bias) is the boy that wants a Barry Sanders jersey for Christmas. This kid was probably only a handful of years old when Barry left the league, and yet he's this boy's idol because he was so great, and so humble. And because he played for Detroit. I can relate.

— • — • —

The other outlet that gives me a Christmas boost is relatively new, as I stumbled onto it just last year. I have XM Radio in my car, and during the holiday season they play Christmas carols on several of their stations. One in particular, called Special XMAS, caught my ear last year.

This station specializes in some of the "alternative" Christmas carols, if you will. Even more obscure than, "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer." For instance, just tonight I heard an AC/DC impersonator doing his rendition of "Jingle Hells Bells."

The other night, I heard the audio of Cartman singing, "O Holy Night," in Mr. Garrison's class, and every time he screwed up or forgot the lyrics, Kyle got to zap him with a cattle prod.

I've heard an ode to regifting, called, "Didn't I Get This Last Year?" (a la "Do You Hear What I Hear?") I also heard a singer named Richard Cheese (heh.) and his leisure suit-wearing band, Lounge Against The Machine, do a jazzed up version of "Christmastime is Here," made famous by Charles Schultz and his Peanuts (as he put it).

My favorite example, though, comes from last year, when I first heard "Santa Lost a Ho! This Year at Christmas." I wish I could find an audio link to it so you could hear it for yourselves, but the lyrics in the chorus go something like this:

"He used to go Ho! Ho! Ho!
Now he goes Ho! Ho!.....Oh-Oh!
Where'd the other Ho! go? Don't know!!"

(I know, I know. Simple things for simple minds.)

— • — • —

I'm going to spend some holiday family time at my sister's this weekend, and you can bet that there will be nary a single "Humbug" in my vocabulary, and my sense of humor will be set firmly in place.

However. Now that I've finally reached the preferred state of mind for this grand season of yuletide, would somebody pleeaase tell me what I can get my mom for Christmas?

"Never worry about the size
of your Christmas tree.
In the eyes of children,
they are all 30 feet tall."
—Larry Wilde


  1. Great post as usual. I'm one of those people who likes to stretch out the season as long as possible mostly by making lots of cookies early on "to get ahead", eating the first few batches myself, "cuz one or two won't be missed", and then having to bake again right before Christmas so we have some to set out for Santa! (yes, I spent today baking...again)
    More importantly, that little girl is RIGHT. that's the sound big, wet flakes makes when it snows at night in WI. I've never heard it hear in MO. Maybe cuz I'm a grown up. But I'll listen next time.

  2. Good stuff. I've got a couple of Christmas stories myself, which I'll blog about on Friday.

    I really liked Barry Sanders. And to think, the Packers took Tony Mandarich over him. Ugh! Can you imagine Favre and Sanders on the same team? Wow. Oh well. I can't really complian. Things id work out good in the end.

  3. P.S. Speaking of the Lions, the Packers did everything they could to help the Lions win in Lambeau yesterday. Yet they chose not to.

    Rumor has it that fans are staging a walkout of the Bears/Lions game this weekend.

    The Lions have had the worst six-year span win/loss record in the history of the NFL - 23-71 since 2001, a .244 winning percentage.

    And to think, in eight full seasons, Wayne Fontes was 64-64. Does that mean the Fontes era was "the good ole days?"

  4. Christams... oh Christmas! Nothing like Christmas for all on 36th Place. I'd trade limb for one more. I talked with my students today about family traditions and how we take them for granted. We hurry and hustle, pack our faces and tear paper, give quick hugs and move on!!

    We talked about slowing down, taking it all in, cherishing every second and showing appriciation and love to our friends and family. Because... before you know it, IT'S ALL CHANGED.

    Things may even change for the better, but change nonetheless.

    I think our short conversation really sunk in. I have some pretty "deep" students. This will hopefully lead to some insightful writing opportunities come the new year.

    Anyway, I'm pretty juiced for the whole Christmas experience again this year. Celebrating with two amazing 6-year-olds and a wife who's like an angel (she lets me hunt constantly) couldn't get much better... but there will be no football game with a frozen nerf, snow-mound lined streets and the boys from 36th Place. By the way... if you jumped from the street to make a catch and land far into the snowbank, potentially sliding all the way to the sidewalk, the catch was good! Who really cares if you get both feet down!!!

    BUT... in the Quad Cities we were able to golf without jackets last weekend!!!


  5. Great stuff, Mark! I definitely remember the adjustable sidelines for our big-league football games. Although I can't remember the last time we had waist-high snowbanks in winter. They seem to be getting smaller. Or maybe, our waists just got higher, I dunno.

    We did an awful lot of peckin' around on that block-long street, that's for sure.

    I'd love to hear what some of your students have to say or write about the holidays after they're over. Sounds like you had 'em thinking about a lot of things besides ripping open gifts.

    Merry Merry Christmas to you and Heidi and da boyz!

    And Merry Christmas, Erin.

    And Merry Christmas, Burt. (thanks for saying nice things about Barry. he deserves every syllable he gets.)