We all can think of a couple of items that make the Christmas season so special to each of us. Perhaps it is a movie, carol, or distinct memory that makes us relish the holiday.
Well, here are just a few of my favorite things about this exciting time — in no particular order.
This is hard. There are so many classics: The Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, It’s A Wonderful Life, Elf, Home Alone, the list goes on and on. For me, myself and I, there are two movies that have to watched during the month of December — Little Women and Meet Me in St. Louis. Judy Garland is iconic and absolutely wonderful, singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” That movie just makes me clasp my hands to the side of my head and sigh. Little Women, well I know that isn’t really considered a “Christmas” movie. Yet, with all of the winter moments and the scene signifying Christmas miracles – it gets me into the holiday spirit. It might also have to do with the fact that my late grandmother owned a copy of the 1949 version that I watched over and over, and it makes me feel a bit closer to her during the holidays.
FAVORITE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL:
Movies and specials aren’t in the same category for me. Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Claymation’s Christmas, Muppet Christmas, there are so many amazing 30 minute to hour television extravaganzas that enliven childhood memories of supreme happiness. The one that I have to catch each year, with no fail, is “Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special.” It is so late ’80s, it’s not even funny. No, it is super funny. From the King of Cartoons to the Magic Screen, each and every character from the beloved children show unite with stars of the time to create a Christmas spectacular. As in Pee Wee’s words, “Feliz Navi’blah!”
This is super hard. From Perry Como to Ella Fitzgerald to Louis Armstrong, the classics always reign supreme. But (oh, there’s a but) I have to listen to two songs on repeat from Thanksgiving to well after the holiday season is over: Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” and Joni Mitchell’s “River.” I’m not depressed, no, these are just original pieces from true songwriters. Fogelberg’s songs are seriously like opening up his soul to the masses. I love when music used to tell a story — one that was relatable and truly sentimental and from the heart. Both of those songs can bring me to moments in my life that I cherish and hold dear.
FAVORITE ALBUM (in its entirety):
Again, a toughy. I have to listen to at least three Mannheim Steamroller albums through December, as well as the iconic Mariah Carey “Merry Christmas” CD. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” will get me dancing in a matter of seconds and makes me feel like a middle schooler again. Yet, this honor is bestowed on “The Christmas Collection” by Amy Grant. I’m not a huge fan of hers outside of the holiday season, but it contains all of her Christmas classics. My mom and I would listen to her songs over and over during shopping trips and drives to craft fairs. Her music is the nostalgia that I require while gazing at the lights on my tree. “Breath of Heaven” is seriously one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.
FUNNIEST PART OF THE SEASON:
This honor is bestowed on dressing up animals in crazy costumes. My parents’ poor cat Suki is known to be the brunt of our humor (don’t feel sorry for her, she is treated like the most spoiled of princesses at their house). She is one of those animals that has a very distinct personality — meaning, she either doesn’t want to be around you, doesn’t want you to touch her, and actually just wants you to leave her alone. So when the Mrs. Claus outfit or reindeer antlers comes out — there is a distinct cringe. She falls to the ground dramatically, and doesn’t move as if she was stricken suddenly by some tropic disease. Drama cat is hilarious, for sure.
For me, it is Christmas Eve. It hasn’t changed with our family for more than 20 years. I spend a great deal of time during the day with my mom making homemade chili and oyster stew. We frost sugar cookies, listen to Christmas music, and talk. The entire family will go to 4 p.m. Mass at our local Catholic church. Honestly, Mass on Christmas Eve is one of the most beautiful experiences. Incense, songs, rituals — I enjoy it immensely. This is about nostalgia, as well. I spent a great deal of time during my childhood’s winter months practicing music as we prepared for the children’s choir Mass on Christmas Eve. This meant pretty dresses, pretty tights, and fighting to the death for the best solos. Anyways, we will go home, eat our big feast, play games, tell jokes, watch a Christmas movie, and open a few presents. It is one of those truly special times that I look forward to all year round.
The anticipation. The letdown afterwards is awful. Instead, I love to surround myself with anything Christmas and get excited for the parties, fun, and experiences that will be had. As a child, we always had an Advent calendar. It was great for me, because I could see exactly how many days were left until Christmas. Each morning, I would beg my mom to let it be my turn to open the little window on the paper calendar. It was almost better than opening up presents (almost). Being out-of-state, that feeling of childlike anticipation has somewhat returned. I am anxious and thrilled, counting down the days until I’m back with family.
ALL AROUND FAVORITE-IST:
That’s easy: Family. We are a quirky, quick-witted, hearty bunch of people. For example, this is the nativity scene that is set up at my parents’ house during the holiday season. Something look wrong with it? Yeah, my mom did that. She thinks it’s funny, and we do too. If the cat was left out of the manger, it just wouldn’t make sense to us at all. Every nativity scene needs a giant white cat, truly. I look forward to coming home next week and spending time with them. Christmas in Iowa – the best gift for this girl.