We’ve got that holiday feeling
That happy holiday feeling
Our favorite holiday of the year
When I was a kid, I used to love listening to my parents’ Christmas albums. My dad loved Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and to this day, I still think Herb’s “Christmas Album” is one of the best ever.
I have a thing for the old Christmas songs. Once again, I’m going to reference a post by Elle Todd in which she talks about current artists butchering her Christmas favorites. (Honest—I do come up with my own ideas, but she sneaks into my brain and steals them somehow…I’ll look into it for a future post. But you’ll probably read about it on her blog first, of course. Rats.)
Back to the point—or points, really, since I have a few things I want to say about this whole Christmas thing.
The songs I like most are either old or sound old. It’s that old-style vocal quality that makes me fond of the sound of Harry Connick, Jr., or Michael Bublé (Mister Bubble, as we call him around our house, since nobody appreciates him but me). If I’m listening to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” it needs to be Andy Williams. “Santa Baby” must be done by Eartha Kitt…and I have no idea why anyone would listen to the other truly awful versions available, although Mister Bubble’s version of “Santa Buddy” is a pretty good alternative. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is best done by Al Hirt and Ann Margret. The list goes on.
Because my dad was also a huge Barbra Streisand fan, we had every one of her albums, including her Christmas one. As a child, I loved to sing along with it, using the never-lit candlestick in our dining room as my microphone. Picture an eight year old who thinks she has Barbra’s pipes, belting Christmas songs at the top of her lungs when no one else is home. I laugh at the memory of it now, but was deadly serious about sounding like Babs at the time.
As an adult, though, I began to wonder why a Jewish person would have recorded a Christmas album. Isn’t Jesus, after all, the big stumbling block between Christians and Jews? Why would someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah sing songs like “Silent Night” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem”?
The only answer I could come up with involved money. Barbra knew enough—or had an agent who knew enough—to capitalize on the commercialization of Christmas, even back then.
I’m not sure if it’s because things are truly getting worse, or if it’s because I’m getting less tolerant of it, but I’ve noticed more of a frantic feel to the holidays over the past few years. Sales start earlier and earlier (as I mentioned in my Black Friday post), causing us to feel as if we’re already behind before we’ve even begun. Thoughtful gifts have been pushed aside by the idea that “thoughtful” is not enough: “big” is what’s required to impress people (if you don’t believe me, listen to the Valentine’s Day ads a couple months from now as they tell men their single heartfelt flower is pathetically cheap, and “only” a dozen roses is too cliché). Time for relaxation and reflection is trampled on by the constant stream of parties which, of course, can only be thrown in during this time of year when people are already pressed for time.
I want to enjoy my Christmas. I don’t want to be so burnt-out on the whole package that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are just one more harried obligation. I remember an incident a few years ago when, upon arriving at my in-laws’ house for Christmas Eve, I placed our tray of homemade cookies and candies on the table. One of my sisters-in-law glanced at them and said, “They look delicious, but oh my gosh, I am so sick of cookies and junk after all the parties we’ve been to all month.”
Needless to say, I was pretty bummed to hear my efforts were wasted on at least one family member. I knew it wasn’t a personal insult to me (and my always-kind sister-in-law would probably have felt bad, had she known how her innocent comment had made me feel), but the whole experience made me sad that all the preliminaries of the Christmas “season” have worn us down so much that we can’t see the holiday for the fun day or two that it brings. I’m not advocating a boycott on parties and cookies until Christmas Eve morning or anything, but I suppose I’m just calling for a bit of discretion and restraint in what is deemed “necessary” for holiday cheer.
The “happy holiday feeling” Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme sang about so cheerfully (and cheesily, but I love it anyway) seems to have been replaced by…something else. For some, it’s depression; for others, it’s irritation (like me, fighting my way through holiday shoppers because I need groceries); still others feel anger at the political correctness and shout, “Don’t you DARE say ‘Happy Holidays’ to me, you heathen!” at befuddled cashiers. I’ll bet those same people just loved the Holiday Wintertainment Parade in “Jingle All the Way,” with dancing menorahs hand-in-hand with Santas and snow queens.
It’s hard to fight the urge to have “enough” gifts bought, rather than thoughtful gifts which fit the recipient’s personality. I’d rather have one gift that let me know it was me the giver was thinking about while shopping than a pile of things that were “on sale, so I got one for everybody.” Yes, I’ve had that happen on multiple occasions.
I have a friend who calls herself a terrible gift-giver because she can never think of gifts on-demand when a birthday or holiday comes along. However, the reality is that she’s an incredible gift-giver because she doesn’t give according to what the calendar says. If she sees something she knows a friend will enjoy, she buys it and gives it. Right then. No waiting. She’s given me some terrific gifts over the years based on things I’ve mentioned in passing, like buying me a sewing machine when she knew mine was beginning to act unpredictably; or a bunch of really cool kitchen items she noticed me oohing and ahhing over in a Pampered Chef catalog; or a check, tucked into a passport wallet, to help cover my costs on a short-term missions trip. She’s not rich, but she pays attention to people around her and acts with generosity.
Another friend, an author I work with, recently sent me a coffee mug that was perfect for my editor’s sense of OCD correctness. That mug was me, through and through, and she knew it when she found it. I smile whenever I use it, and not just because it’s filled with coffee.
This year, once again, I’m going to cut back a little more on the buying and focus a little more on the giving. Christmas, for me, celebrates the birth of my Savior, so it’s obvious to me where my personal focus should lie. To others who don’t believe as I do, though, I still believe the “holiday feeling” should be about giving and helping, rather than spending and taking.
Try it. You never know: you might like it.