Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Haul out the holly

Now playing on the iPod - "O Tannenbaum" - Vince Guaraldi Trio

As you may have noticed from my recent "what's playing" notes, it's officially holiday time at Casa del Cozy. Thanksgiving to Epiphany/Twelfth Night is my favorite time of year, and I refuse to apologize for this. Yes, the stores put out their decorations and wares too early. Yes, the season brings us abominations like "The Christmas Shoes" and family fare like The [insert name of cute animal] Who Saved Christmas.

But it's a special season for me, and I'm not exactly sure why. Probably not a good idea to examine it all too closely, but it may have its roots in Christmas Eves at my Grandma's house. I can still see the decorations she put up every year, smell the lasagna she'd make, recall that drowsy ride home and how I'd keep an eye out for Rudolph leading the team through the sky. I always try to re-create that feeling as much as I can, and share it with others as well. My fondness for the season even creeps into my fiction: a good barometer of how characters are faring is how they spend Christmas.

Anyway, for those who care here are my traditions and rules for proper holiday enjoyment.

Music: Christmas music should be played only from Thanksgiving through Epiphany (though I do allow myself a fix in mid-summer, about the time I'm utterly sick of the heat). I don't like "all Christmas all the time" stations as they're too reliant on screechy divas rending "O Holy Night" asunder, novelty songs that were tiresome the first time around, and the aforementioned "Christmas Shoes". I'm fairly traditional in my holiday music. It's hard to go wrong with Christmas with the Rat Pack, A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, and the Mediaeval Baebes' Mistletoe and Wine. Collections I like include Most Fabulous Christmas Album Ever, Croon and Swoon, and Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker.

Movies: Again, I'm pretty traditional. It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street are as good as they ever were. As Christmas Carols go, I'm partial to the one with George C. Scott (aided and abetted by David Warner, Angela Pleasance, the late Edward Woodward, and Roger Rees). I'm too young for the exact flavor of nostalgia found in A Christmas Story, but it has more resonance for me now that I have a young son. And if one needs a bitter chaser to the holiday sweetness, one could do worse than to watch The Ref, in which catburglar Denis Leary spends Christmas Eve taking hostage a bickering couple, played to utter perfection by Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey.

TV: Video is a boon to me - I haven't had cable in years and ironically enough live too close to Mount Wilson to get broadcast reception (which is why I have to watch Castle on Hulu.com). But thanks to DVD I can watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated if you please, not the Ron Howard abomination), A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and let's not forget the delightfully wackadoo Year Without a Santa Claus (the one with the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser).

Books: As if you need to ask. I always re-read A Christmas Carol although by now I've read it so many times I have it nearly memorized. Less familiar but just as enjoyable are Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales and Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory.

If all this can't get you in the mood for Christmas, then come on over to my house for the holiday dinner. I'll have the front room all decorated, candy galore, and a feast including roast beast!

Now if you'll pardon me, I'm off to wrap some presents!

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