Christmas won’t be Christmas without . . .

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

So begins Little Women, a book I never actually finished.  (I am more of a Transcendental Wild Oats fan, I must admit.)  I did not enjoy Little Women, but that opening line stuck with me, and popped into my head when I heard Ray Conniff and the Ray Conniff singers on the radio the other day.

Suddenly, it felt like Christmas.  There are just some things that make Christmas Christmas, and for me, Ray Conniff and his crew are one of them (or, technically, a bunch of them).  Here are a few more:

Music on Records, Cassettes, and Other Outdated Media:  Some of my first Christmas memories are musical ones.  Pulling on my mother’s sleeve in the midst of a smoky, loud, extended family Christmas Eve celebration to ask her to put on Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper”.  Dropping the needle on our Ray Conniff Christmas album to hear this medley.  Rocking out to our sweet Beach Boys Christmas cassette as we rode in the car.  Dancing like a goofball to Anne Murray’s rendition of “Christmas in Kilarney” (that one was a CD, which I guess still puts it in the “outdated media” category).  (Pro Tip: I did not claim to be proud of these selections, but I do stand by them.)

Candles and a Hymn: There was a period between college and seminary internship when my parents, sister, and I were without a “church home.”  As the churchiest one in the family, it fell to me to find one that met our most important criterion: at the end of the the service, everyone gets to light a little candle while singing “Silent Night.”  Now that I’m a pastor, it is within my power to make this happen every year.

Our Best Tree Yet: I loved, loved, loved the ritual of choosing our tree.  We would walk up and down the rows at the Christmas tree lot, until three of us had agreed on one tree and one of us (I’m not naming any names, but it was always my sister) had her heart set on another tree.  The fighting.  The struggle to get the tree tied on the car, into the house, and into the tree stand.  The wrestling with the lights.  The careful hanging of the ornaments.  And the most important part: Dad gazing in appreciation at the tree and declaring, “I think this is our best tree yet.”

Something Goes Wrong: There’s no snow.  There’s too much snow.  A present doesn’t arrive in time.  The oven won’t light and you have to make the artichoke dip and coffee cake in the toaster oven.  At least one person has a raging sinus infection.  You know what I’m talking about.  No matter how carefully we plan and prepare, something big or small always goes wrong.

And that’s good!  When something goes wrong, it reminds us that what really matters isn’t the tree or the music or the candles or the food.  It’s the people we’re with and the memories we make.  It’s the birth of a baby in a world where so much is wrong–a baby who comes to make things right.

And, by the by, that toaster oven artichoke dip turned out great.

Your turn!  What makes Christmas really Christmas (or Hanukkah or Solstice or the winter holiday of your choice)?

The Beach Boys - Merry Christmas Baby / The Man With All the Toys - album cover

Christmas Bonus: The Beach Boys rocking “Little Saint Nick.”  Run run, reindeer . . .

What’s that?  You want one more Beach Boys treasure?  All right, all right: here’s “Santa’s Beard.”  I used to love it because it’s a song with a story, like “It’s My Party” and its exciting sequel, “Judy’s Turn to Cry.”  Take that, Judy, my best friend Sarah and I used to think.  But I digress.

Merry Christmas, everyone!



Filed under Marvelous Miscellany, Thankful Hearts

9 responses to “Christmas won’t be Christmas without . . .

  1. Manda

    While I don’t know the Willie Nelson song I particularly identify with: Music on outdated media, Christmas in Kilarney in particular and LOUD extended family.

    This raises a funny question for me, though. Since my early adulthood (whether or not that period has yet passed is irrelevant) I have been trying to forgo these things for “new” traditions for two reasons:
    1. Waiting for or trying to force old family traditions when I’m alone and not in MN makes me either sad or sadder and it never turns out right anyway.
    2. Knowing that I can’t go back (nor do I think I want to), I’m eager to form my own new traditions that are a reflection of my current family.

    Okay, and I don’t know how I feel about this, but your post made me think about it and it’s a good thing I’m not preaching tomorrow because this would surely work its way into a sermon.

    Merry Christmas, Maggie (and Mike and Zoe)!


    • It’s true–you do have to let go of some old traditions and try to make new ones. Mike and I just got a real tree once (it turns out we are both allergic), and it was wonderful, but he did not understand that he was supposed to be difficult in the tree lot. And the tree lot wasn’t quite what I wanted, either. As Zoe gets older, we are trying to figure out how to have family traditions that accommodate the realities of having a pastor in the family. Tricky, as you know.

      And now, back to staring at my sermon before Zoe’s nap is done!

      Merry Christmas to you, Manda!


  2. Hi there. I am a student that goes to a upstate NY school. I enjoy reading your blogs and I would be glad to see more posts. If you could, please check out my class mates and I’s blog on wordpress. It’s called shenjournalism and to make it easier heres a link for everyone.
    Have a nice day and a great holiday season.


  3. Claire

    you nailed it, Marg. I had of course blocked out the Christmas Tree Incidents, but it all came rushing back when I read it. I’m sorry that I have better taste in trees than you people 😉 I am so excited to do all these things with you guys in TWO DAYS!!! ps–don’t forget to specifically mention all the delicious treats like mimosas, shrimp (i know those are your fave), artichoke dip, baked brie…yummmm


    • Yes, you were right and we were wrong. Every. Single. Year.

      I am very excited for our festive treats! These latter day traditions are pretty special. I’m excited to see Zoe dig into the coffee cake. And who knows? Maybe she’ll discover a love for shrimp!


  4. Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album. The record was translucent red. I loved it.


  5. Brenda Lee’s Christmas tape!! I still must listen to this every year or it is not really Christmas. Loved this post, Maggie!


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