With the exception of my mother my entire family are completely absent of the Christmas spirit. We're grinches. We're hum-bugs. As a teenager I hated everything about the Christmas season (except of course getting out of school and receiving presents.) I hated that stores tried to pressure you into buying a lot of useless gadgets. I disliked all the tacky knick-knacks you were supposed to hang on your walls and yard. I thought all Christmas trees were gawdy and useless. I despised the rampant consumerism and loathed the need to buy everyone junk they really didn't need nor want. I especially hated the music. All those terrible songs being played over and over every where you went.
We used to mercilessly mock my mother who absolutely loves the holiday. She puts her tree up the day after Thanksgiving every single year. She decorates the lawn with all sorts of lights and giant snowmen, Santas, and reindeer. She has a collection of little knick knack Santas that somebody really ought to call Guiness about (or the sanitarium.) And she loves her music. She has more Christmas music than anyone ought to ever lay claim to and she loves to play them back to back to back all during the month of December. Oh how we used to make fun of her for that. To this day my sister and I can have a good laugh over the horrendousness that is Neil Diamond's rendition of "Little Drummer Boy."
By the time my siblings and I were old enough to have to purchase gifts with our own money we made a pact to not buy each other anything. Ever. To this day I've never bought my brother a gift for any purpose. Last year I found some DVD set on the cheap and when I asked him if he had a copy and that I could get it for him he cursed me and made me promise to not even think about getting it for him.
When I moved out of the house, all through college and beyond I never did anything special for Christmas. I didn't put up a tree or decorate in any way, I refused to play any sort of holiday music, I even avoided eggnog which I actually kind of like. Sure I bought my parents presents and even threw some wrapping paper around them, but that was the bulk of my Christmas spirit. I made sure everybody knew my feelings too. I was more than happy to rant about the rampant consumerism of the holiday, of the fake need to buy each other presents even though nobody ever likes what they get. How Santa is a sham forcing parents to lie to their children. Etc, and so on. I must have been annoying as hell.
Than I got married.
The wife is a pretty big fan of the holidays. Not as much as my mother, nobody is that crazy about Christmas. She had a little fake tree, but it was so old and junky we just couldn't bear to put it up again and decided to go out and buy a real one. We found a local tree farm and wandered about the lot looking for the perfect tree to take home. We set it up in our living room and decorated it as best we could. My wife's grandmother bought her a new ornament every year and her mother has now kept up the tradition so she has ornaments dating back to the seventies and it really is pretty neat to see them all hanging from the branches.
We put up some lights and made some hot chocolate and had a mighty fine time of it. We even bought some Christmas music. I was still pretty hum-buggy about that but I did allow her to buy a CD filled with classic crooners like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, and of course Bing Crosby. We also bought an album by John Denver and the Muppets. My parent's had that one when I was a kid and I used to absolutely love listening to it.
It really is a great little album. The Muppets trot out classic Christmas carols but enfuse them with their own manic style while Denver adds in several ballads that gives the album substance. As a kid I loved the "12 Days of Christmas" with Miss Piggy's belting out of "Five Golden Rings" followed by a rowdy "barump rump rump," and the Beach Boys inspired "Little Saint Nick" by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. As an adult I appreciate Denver's sentimentalism in songs like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and his spoken description of the story behind "Silent Night/Holy Night." That album is now the traditional first album we play for the Christmas season and is usually the back drop to putting up our Christmas tree.
This year it took on new meaning as this is our daughter's very first Christmas. At seven months she isn't old enough to understand why there is a giant green prickly thing where she used to play or the stories we tell about the holiday. She does seem to enjoy looking at the flashing lights though. And when the Muppets started singing she let out the biggest laugh and started shaking her legs and bouncing about. If that isn't the true meaning of Christmas right there, well just call me Mr. Scrooge.