Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Top Ten: Part Two

It is either sad or hilarious that I just posted an "I Hate Christmas" piece this weekend with several of the same reasons I cited when I wrote this piece about how much I hate Christmas a few years ago. I really might be a Scrooge...so to avoid any nocturnal otherworldly visitors, I wanted to create a list of things I like about Christmas (let's just hope there are ten):

1. Pictures of children with Santa. I especially like to see pictures of crying children on Santa's lap because well, it's a rite of passage (and I promise to post a picture of my kid wailing on the big guy's lap on the FB page).

2. Classic, unadulterated Christmas movies that we all recognize as classic, unadulterated Christmas movies: It's A Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and A Christmas Story (1983). I can even enjoy a modern classic like The Family Stone (2005). But no colorization and only certain modern remakes like The Preacher's Wife (1996).

3. Stevie Wonder's Someday at Christmas album, which is absolute holiday perfection.

4. Any rendition of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. I need to start playing it in the car on long rides with the Babe, and of course once she is old enough, we will be front and center watching it performed on stage (will begin taking the Niece this year). Ovation TV will soon air different versions again this year although I guess I will never see my absolute favorite with Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland on PBS again (hint, hint Great Performances)...

5. Last minute Christmas shopping with my Dad. Funny how something that probably was not intended as a tradition (because my Dad does everything at the last minute) has become something that I have come to cherish.

6. If you are of a certain age, you probably have memories of elaborate department store window displays. We used to make a special trip downtown just to see them. Nowadays, you don't even have to make a special trip if you have creative neighbors like these folks in Dyker Heights, NY.

7. Holiday decorating and general preparation. Until it becomes a series of never-ending chores, I really enjoy getting ready for the season: decorating the tree, finding a unique way to display holiday cards, writing our holiday newsletter, mailing cards, wrapping presents, making coquito, etc. And I'm on it, just as soon as I finish this piece...

8. Christmas cookies baked by my niece Mandy. True holiday happiness can be found in her three-layer cookies.

9. Handel's Messiah has grown on me over the years. My Mom invited me to accompany her to a performance at her church many years ago and I had no appreciation for it at all. I went with her a few more times, not reluctantly but as a tradition of sorts, each time gaining a bit more tolerance. It got easier to enjoy when Quincy Jones' Soulful Messiah was released. Recently, I have been taking her to the performance at our church. I have no idea if the music is making any impression on her anymore; I am just glad that she can still attend.

10. Of course I love, Love, LOVE Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and almost every rendition of it on film, stage and in animation. Almost. I do not like any modern version that has Ebenezer Scrooge re-imagined as a Martha Stewart/Oprah-esque old maid or as a heartless corporate tycoon (too soon). My absolute favorite version is George C. Scott's definitive take, who sets the gold standard of miserly perfection. I could try to list my favorites, but there are too many: from Bill Murray's comedic turn, to Albert Finney's musical version (don't judge me, Thank You Very Much), to the Michael Caine version with the Muppets, to everyone's animated favorite starring Mr. Magoo.

It is a little known fact that I almost got to portray Scrooge back in the eighth grade; alas, I was the only one who learned all my lines so I never got to undergo the transformation. Perhaps that is why it has been easier to dwell on all the things I hate about Christmas...when in fact I actually do love this time of year. And in the spirit of the season, here is a bonus:

11. I love the opportunity to give. The older I get, the more I realize that life itself is a gift, so whenever one has a chance to spread a little cheer, it is so worth doing. Someone recently called to simply wish me a happy holiday just because I had once been kind to him. I had no idea that I had made such an impression and it just proves that even a small gesture of generosity can be a priceless gift.

So in the words of Tiny Tim: God Bless Us, Everyone!

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