Melissa and I thought it would be fun to interview each other about Christmas traditions for our blog advent posts. Here are my answers to her questions. Feel free to share your own answers--and thoughts--in the comments! I'd love to hear from you.
Melissa: What's your favorite part of the Christmas season?
Becky: The anticipation. It's all about the waiting and wanting. The counting down of days. All the little things that go into it. The music. The movies. The TV specials. The commercials. The holiday displays. The baking. The planning. The shopping. The decorations. The emotions. It's hard not to get nostalgic and think about past Christmases. I know this can be either a good thing or a bad thing. But even if you've lost loved ones, it's still good to remember them and remember the good times.
Thinking of childhood, my FAVORITE part was getting the Sears Wishbook catalog and writing a letter to Santa.
Melissa: When is it too early to begin listening to Christmas music (or is it never too early)?
Becky: The earliest I've ever listened to Christmas music is mid-September. But typically, I start bringing out the Christmas albums in mid-November. A week before Thanksgiving.
There is one Christmas album that gets play all year long at my house. It is Behold The Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson. I read an Amazon review that called it The Silmarillion of Christmas albums. I don't know if that will carry any weight if you're not familiar with Tolkien's book, but this album is about the essence of Christmas. Half the songs are about the waiting, the anticipating, the longing for the Savior to come. I feel it's rooted in many ways in the Old Testament, in the Jewishness of it. For example the song, "So Long, Moses" recaps from Joshua through Isaiah and the Exile to Babylon. The history of a nation, of a people waiting century after century after century for a Deliverer to come. That's what Christmas is all about. Recognizing that the Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled. That there is a Savior who is "God of Us" or Emmanuel.
Melissa: Do you have a favorite Christmas song (traditional/popular)?
Becky: I have many. I'll share a few if that's all right. The one that means it's cookie time is "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" by Andy Williams. I think I mentioned this last year. But mom brings out Andy Williams for cookie making.
"Christmas Time Is Here" means it's time for putting up the tree. Dad always gets out the Charlie Brown Christmas album for tree time. I think this was actually one of the first cds we owned back in the day when CD players were oh-so-new.
"One More Sleep Til Christmas" is an oh-so-magical song that makes me think of my sister. We'd always play and dance around to this one. Of course I love Muppet Christmas Carol--so the soundtrack and movie are must haves.
One of my favorite, favorite songs is "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day." I love the Travis Tritt version. There are two melodies--at least--for this one traditionally. But the one Tritt uses is my favorite. Another traditional favorite is "Hark The Herald Angels Sing." I love, love, love that hymn.
Perhaps one of my stranger favorite, favorite songs is "Matthew's Begats." Andrew Peterson is the genius who put a melody to the genealogy of Christ taken straight from the Bible.
As far as popular songs go, I've always loved "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."
Melissa: What's your favorite holiday movie? Least favorite?
Becky: It'd be close between White Christmas and Holiday Inn. I love, love, love Bing Crosby. And both movies are oh-so-magical. We typically start the season off right with Holiday Inn since it pays tribute to other holidays--like Thanksgiving--as well. So it isn't straight Christmas through and through.
One that *must* get played every year is A Muppet's Christmas Carol.
As far as Christmas specials go...my favorites include: Elmo Saves Christmas, Garfield's Christmas, Charlie Brown, of course, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I also loved last year's Shrek the Halls.
My least favorite movie is probably Polar Express. I don't know quite how they could turn such a great book into an unrecognizable film.
Melissa: Are you the sort of person to go out and see holiday movies just because they're holiday movies? Why/why not?
Becky: Not really. I'd like to go to the movies more than I actually go. But I typically end up seeing stuff only when it's released on DVD.
(I will say this, though, I will try to watch holiday movies that are made-for-TV.)
I actually don't remember seeing any Christmas movies in the theater. But I do remember going to the theatre on Christmas one time to see Lady in the Tramp. And I remember going the week after Christmas to see The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and LOTR: Return of the King.
Melissa: What's your favorite holiday book/story?
Becky: I love How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. I love Christmas Cookies: Bite Size Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I love The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon and Jill Weber. And The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans.
Melissa: Real or fake tree?
Becky: Fake tree. I'm allergic to the real ones. So I've never experienced a "real" tree up, close, and personal.
Melissa: How does Santa Claus come in Texas, since there's usually no snow?
Becky: Mom always told us he came in through the dryer vent since we didn't have a chimney. I never really questioned Santa's coming. He came. There was always proof enough of that on Christmas morning. And I didn't care how so long as he came. :)
As to what other Texas parents told their kids--then or now--I'm not sure. There is that song about Santa coming in a pick-up truck though.
Melissa: Is there one thing that, in your mind, just embodies the whole Christmas experience? That it wouldn't be Christmas without? (It can be food, movie, music, smell, story, whatever...)
Becky: I guess family would be one of the things that first comes to mind. Gifts would be another. I'll be honest :) There isn't so much a favorite food or meal--we change that up pretty often--but the people we spend time with that doesn't change so much.
I do try to listen to religious Christmas music to put myself in the proper sort of mind. I made a mix CD actually that weaves the Scripture in with songs. Here are a few of the songs that would make the cut...
Melissa: Do you have any fun holiday traditions you'd like to share?
Becky: Probably one that we have that is probably more unique, is our "fa-la-la-la-ing" This is a car game that we've always played. Whoever first sees Christmas lights or decorations lets out a fa-la-la-la.
Another fun car game that we don't get to play anymore is "Where In the World Is Grandma Laney?" (When we coined the phrase, Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego was big and newish.) We would drive around town looking for Grandma. Looking to see who could spot her car. When we found her, there was generally a reward involved. She loved shopping. Loved it. And she loved eating out just as much :)
Melissa: When do you get out your decorations? How about doing your Christmas shopping? (Do you brave the malls?)
Becky: This varies. It usually involves tears and much frustration. It's been as early as Thanksgiving or as late as Christmas Eve. The tears coming from me, and the frustration coming from Dad. He HATES getting out the tree. Hates it. There's a line in Garfield's Christmas that goes something like this..."whoever invented Christmas trees should be drug out into the streets and shot..." that pretty much sums up his philosophy.
These days I do a lot of my shopping online. It's not that I'm "afraid" of the mall or anything. But there's better selection online. And the prices are typically better too. I am a big fan of Target, however. Not so big on the mall. For one it's old. (Though I shouldn't use that as a main reason since I think we're about the same age!) Second, it's mostly lame. The stores not so thrilling. But at least it has a Barnes & Noble. The mall used to be more fun. We don't even have a toy store anymore anywhere in town.
Melissa: Do you have a best-Christmas-ever memory?
Becky: I have a few that would qualify. Some of my favorites are from the 80s. '85, '86, and '87 were very very good years for me. Christmas meant toys, toys, and more toys. There were Barbies. There were baby dolls--I loved "My Child" dolls. There were play dishes and play food.
In 1986, I got my first Bible in celebration of my new birth--I became a Christian on December 17th of that year. Everything meant so much that Christmas--everything felt better, richer, more real, more important. Of course, there were plenty of toys as well. I think I got a Barbie remote-control corvette, for example, and I *think* this was the year I got my Heart Family dolls. ("Mom's having a baby, and now it's here.") Sorry for the poor quality, but the sound is relatively good and will give you a fair idea of what I mean.
Melissa: Do you do anything special for Christmas Eve?
Becky: It's funny. Most years, Christmas Eve has been a divided day. Dad and my sister were always off doing crazy shopping. I stayed home with Mom. There was cooking, baking, and wrapping to be done. Technically, I suppose the split came because my sister was older and Santa presents didn't need to be shielded from her. But I still prefer home-time to rushing-around-crazy time. Though it's not always avoidable.
In the evening, we've always got the church candlelight service. We then usually end up driving around and around and around trying to find a restaurant that is open...fast food generally...we're always hoping to catch someplace open. It's funny how you never really CRAVE something until it's not available. Like you don't spend days craving burger-and-fries or tacos or whatever. But if everything is closed...you'll crave it like crazy.
If we don't have luck fulfilling our eating needs up town, I typically settle in for fried eggs or scrambled eggs at home.
We always, always watch something. Some years it's Muppet Christmas Carol. Other years it's Elmo Saves Christmas. I love, love, love Elmo Saves Christmas. And if it's my pick, then that's what I choose.
Melissa: What's Christmas morning like at your house? How about the rest of Christmas Day?
Becky: Cranky. Does that sound horrible??? It has to hit the lowest point so it can bounce back to the highest. I don't *choose* the chaos. It just happens. As Donkey (from Shrek) says "Christmas ain't Christmas till somebody cries!' Usually that someone's me. "
My sister and brother-in-law come in the afternoon. We save the gifts until then. We also save the lunch. We do lunch together--whatever time they arrive--and then we do gifts. We go in a circle. One gift at a time. Stockings always come first. (Stockings hung on door knobs not the chimney as we've never had one of those.) We all have our unofficially-assigned-seats. Best gifts are saved for the last round. Whichever one is supposed to get the biggest reaction is saved for the very very last.
We then do a collapsed heap. My sister usually falls asleep. Then feasting on leftovers. Then playing with the gifts. If DVDs were gifted, then we'll choose one to watch. I also never foresee a Christmas without legos and lego action. My brother-in-law always always gets tons of presents. (More than anyone else. And they're often lego sets.)
After they go home, we typically stick a Christmas movie in and watch it together. In recent years, we've favored either Muppet Christmas Carol (if it doesn't get Christmas Eve time) or White Christmas with Bing Crosby.
Melissa: Do you have a favorite holiday food?
Becky: I love mom's sugar cookies. I love oatmeal cookies. Love them. Maybe even more than the sugar ones.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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