Traditions at Christmas

The presents are wrapped. The house is tidy — for now. NORAD’s Santa Tracker has been diligently monitored all evening. We’re back from Christmas Eve at the in-laws, which was low-key and actually quite fun. The reindeer food is sprinkled on the front lawn. The cookies and special portrait of Santa painted by my 7 year old are on the little table next to the fireplace. The kids are in bed, and Santa just finished delivering presents and enjoying his snack. Now the wife and I can enjoy a little peace and quiet, and rest in anticipation of the full day ahead tomorrow.

If you haven’t read Shawn’s beautiful tribute post to his late mother in law Barbara, please do so. My own mother passed away this December 1, after a long bout with breast cancer and the debilitating effects of a stroke. And there was an empty chair at the in-laws tonight as well. My sister-in-law’s father-in-law, Stan, passed away this past March after battling lymphoma for nearly a decade.

To me, Christmas Day has always been about family. When I was a kid, one of the few times that we brought the whole extended family together around the big table and ate a formal “pass the plate” dinner was Christmas. Ham and cornbread dressing and sweet potatoes and green bean casserole were always staples. Oh, and chocolate sheet cake with fudge pecan icing. Nobody in Texas has a get-together without sheet cake.

We’ve tried to keep that tradition going in our immediate family. The kids like helping Mom and Dad prepare the food, and they love to have Grandpa and the aunts and uncles and cousins over to eat and open presents. My wife and I still marvel at the fact that so many of our friends don’t cook or can’t cook. Our kids literally swarm the kitchen at mealtimes, and they are always eager to stir batter or break eggs or spread frosting. Our oldest likes to sew, too. Maybe we’re a bit old fashioned, but we like it that way.

Speaking of traditions, Hot Air’s Ed Morrisey has compiled a short list of his least favorite Christmas songs. And to tell you the truth, one of my most eagerly anticipated holiday moments is actually the end of the formatted Christmas music season on FM radio.

Now don’t get me wrong — I love Christmas music. Just not 24 hours a day for a month, with the same records played over and over again. And it seems that each year they play fewer and fewer of the good ones. I have to agree strongly with Ed on his choices. John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War Is Over),” Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” and Wham!’s “Last Christmas” have all topped my “most-annoying-song-compounded-by-endless-airplay” list for years.

Another thing I despise is covers. Really — do we need to hear Madonna singing “Santa Baby”? Or Hall and Oates covering “Jingle Bell Rock”? Or Jon Bon Jovi doing “Please Come Home For Christmas”? I despise covers, because I fear that cheesy covers by inferior (but more contemporary) artists will eventually replace classic recordings for commercial airplay. When no one wants to play Charles Brown’s beautiful record of “Please Come Home For Christmas” any more, then we have lost a big part of what makes the season special.

As for music I love, I’ve always been thrilled by Stan Kenton’s gorgeous “A Merry Christmas,” arranged for the all-brass Kenton orchestra by Ralph Carmichael. I also love the Chet Baker/Christopher Mason collaboration “Silent Nights,” which sadly is now out of print.

Here in Oklahoma City, Christmas is not complete without the B. C. Clark Anniversary Sale jingle. It’s been on the air continuously — in its original form — since 1956, and it is still a seasonal favorite.

I’ll close this post by wishing all of the WizBang bloggers and readers a safe and Merry Christmas. May you spend the day cherishing family, enjoying old traditions, creating new ones, and offering thanks for the gift of salvation and restoration made possible by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God bless you all.

UPDATE:
Speaking of “Santa Baby,” singer/actress Eartha Kitt, who owns the song, died Dec. 25 at the age of 81.

A Christmas Gift
This Christmas, In Memoriam: My Friend, Barbara.