Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It’s the most wonderful time of the year



Admit it, some of you read that title in Johnny Mathis’ voice, didn’t you?

Yes, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!

I love Christmas…..a LOT! We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and that, my esteemed readers, is the whole reason for the season. Of course, the gathering of friends and family and general holiday cheer just add to the fun of picking out that ultimate gift for a loved one.




Yes, I say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” I’m not condemning anyone who uses other terms, by the way. I’m simply not going to apologize for saying Merry Christmas. So call it what you want. I won’t be offended if someone says Happy Holidays to me, or Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Yule or even Happy Festivus. In fact, I’ll appreciate the sentiment behind it, as much as I hope someone would appreciate the sentiment behind my saying Merry Christmas. Now if someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas, you filthy animal,” I may have an issue with it.



I will admit, though, that my favorite parts of Christmas have to be the music and all of the holiday treats. I’ve written before about my love of music in general, as detailed in this previous blog. Every year I look forward to when I can start playing Christmas music. My own standard is to wait until after Thanksgiving. I won’t play any Christmas music until the Friday after good ol’ Turkey Day. After that, though, Christmas music is pretty much all I’ll play or listen to until the feast of St. Stephen (which also happens to be a cute song The Chieftains perform). OK, full disclosure here: I easily could’ve said “the day after Christmas” instead of “the feast of St. Stephen,” but it sounds soooo much more sophisticated when I mention a saint, right? Me? Sophisticated? Ummm, sure!

Now before anyone says anything about listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving being OK, I’ll say this. You are right! If you want to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, or after Valentine’s Day, or whenever, I say go for it! It’s your choice and this is a free country. It won’t bother me one bit. In fact, try reading the book NOS4A2 by Joe Hill in the middle of the summer if you want some Christmas references to tide you over. Nothing like reading something about Christmas when it’s 90 degrees with 100% humidity to put your mind in a different place.

I digress, though……

One look at my Christmas playlist would reveal an eclectic blend of everything from classic carols to more contemporary songs to some with an international flavor. While I’d love to post my entire Christmas playlist here, I don’t see that as either feasible or advisable. The list is simply too long, and frankly some of the titles (with their resulting links) would definitely not be family friendly. I’m looking at you, Mr. Hankey! Not familiar with Mr. Hankey? That’s most likely a good thing. Trust me on this, and don’t bother Googling it if you don’t already know. If you do, don’t blame me for anything you might discover. Just sayin’…..

My list changes from year to year, though, truth be known. I have a core group of favorites (my starters) that I’ll usually want to hear, and then there’s the second string. My second stringers sometimes get promoted to starters and every so often some of the starters will get relegated to a backup position.

I’m going to challenge myself and list just the top twelve. Why twelve? Well, I’m writing about Christmas songs, and since the Twelve Days of Christmas is a song, that seemed appropriate. This promises to be as hard as the 100 word flash fiction story challenges I’ve written previously for Halloween and Christmas. Thanks, Eric, for the idea!




Here, in no particular order, are my 12 starters for 2016. For those on my Facebook friends list, I believe all of these will look familiar. The hyperlinks will take you to a YouTube video of my favorite version of each song.

Soca Santa  
An upbeat, Caribbean flavored song that will transport you to Trinidad, boat drink in hand.

The Rebel Jesus  
Sung by Jackson Browne, along with The Chieftains. The lyrics are quite profound, and send a beautiful message.

For Unto Us A Child Is Born  
One of three traditional carols on my starters list. I've always enjoyed listening to this, and marvel at those who can actually sing such a difficult song.

Mary’s Boy Child  
This is another Caribbean flavored song that caught my ear several years ago.

Boar’s Head Carol  
Another traditional carol, also performed by The Chieftains. I really love the Celtic flair of this version, combined with the Latin in part of the lyrics.

We Need A Little Christmas  
Don't we all need a little Christmas? Johnny Mathis seems to think so.

Ho Ho Ho And A Bottle Of Rum  
Jimmy Buffett really knocks it out of the park with this fun, upbeat song. Makes me want to add even more rum to my Christmas Eve punch.

Sleigh Ride  
Here's another Johnny Mathis version I consistently enjoy, year after year.

I Saw Three Ships  
I have several versions of this song in my collection, and Sting's version takes first place.

A Holly Jolly Christmas  
Only the Burl Ives version counts, as far as I'm concerned. Every time I hear this song I can see the snowman version of Burl Ives as he sings it.

Ding Dong Merrily On High 
One more traditional carol here, and another done by The Chieftains. Yes, I do love listening to them.

Christmas Canon 
Trans-Siberian Orchestra, with their innovative approach to music, has definitely expanded my Christmas music collection.

A final thought about Christmas music before I move on to my other favorite part of the Christmas season……TREATS! Have you ever actually listened to the lyrics of You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch? I was talking about this with a friend of mine at our dive club party the other day. With all the mean comments made about Mr. Grinch, it’s no wonder he acted the way he did. Libby then replied with “It’s a question of which came first….then chicken or the egg. Did the Grinch start out bad, which prompted the song, or did the song make him bad?” Good point, Libby. I’ll grab another drink and ponder those heavy thoughts. At least until I get bored and move on. Oh look, squirrel!

To me, at least, no other time of year offers as large an opportunity for such a wide variety of treats as Christmas. Honestly, though, I think the “season” starts with Halloween. I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but at our house, Cindy and I make sure to buy some of our favorite candy just for us. We usually have enough left over for a couple of weeks, then with Thanksgiving rolling around we start thinking of pies and how many we should make to ensure we have some for after Thanksgiving. Who doesn’t love multiple slices of pie on your plate at the same time? That link, by the way, will take you to a blog I wrote about pie, glorious, wonderful, pie. Once Thanksgiving has come and gone, it’s just a smooth transition into nonstop holiday feasting until New Year’s Day. After that, many will make the inevitable resolution to eliminate all the treats, work out and drop all those holiday pounds. Which lasts all of a week. Or until the next holiday arrives.



Cookies!



Now these are not just treats that we make at home. Oh, no, it's almost a conspiracy. Coworkers bring trays of delicious cookies, or a container of their homemade chocolate and salted caramel fudge. "Here, have some!" I can't refuse and them think I'm rude, so naturally I do the right thing and snack away. We have wonderful neighbors on our street. During this feasting season, I'll come home and find a package of goodies sitting by the door with a note wishing us a Merry Christmas. How cool is that?







Krispies!




Candies!



My favorite cookie of the season, hands down, is the gingerbread cookie. I prefer a soft baked cookie versus the crunchy-shatter-your-teeth version. The shape is completely irrelevant to me. They can be the traditional gingerbread man, a tree, star or amorphous blob and I’d still happily scarf ‘em down. Hhhmmm, what other cookies get to make an appearance? A close second to gingerbread cookies are chocolate crinkles. If they weren’t so labor intensive, I’d make them more often. Then again, if someone would like to bake some for me, I’ll happily thank you publicly on my next blog. Any takers?



I'll have 'em all, thanks



Chocolate Crinkles



Besides cookies, I can look forward to some fudge, rice krispie treats and other goodies limited only by the cook’s imagination. Not everything needs to be sweet, though. I stumbled across a recipe for cheesy sausage balls on Whataburger’s website that I’ve made the past few years on Christmas Eve. Clicking the link will take you to Whataburger's website, where you can find the recipe. From experience, you do NOT need to double this recipe unless you plan on feeding a LOT of people. The basic recipe will make plenty. Trust me on this. Yes, you can use any sausage. It doesn’t have to be Whataburger sausage if you are unfortunate enough to live in an area where it isn’t available. Any pan sausage will suffice. Their creamy pepper and jalapeno ranch sauces work nicely with these balls, too!

Cheesy jalapeno sausage balls
photo from Whataburger website

I wonder just how many calories are represented by all the photos above. Calories? They don’t count during the holidays, right? See my comments above about New Year’s resolutions.

What are your favorite Christmas songs/carols?

Do you have a favorite treat?

I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below.



With all the music, treats and family, this is indeed the most wonderful time of the year! So, to all my friends and family, and everyone else reading this blog:

Merry Christmas, y’all!


carpe cerevisi