Holiday “Letters”

Today’s blog comes from a Daily Writing Prompt.  I thought this was a fun idea.  Some of my answers came immediately, while others I had to think a little bit.  Here is the prompt:  “Make an alphabetized list of the 26 best things about the holiday season, with one item for each letter.  Choose your favorite thing and write a short paragraph about why you love it.”

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“A”

A Christmas Carol.

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Every year since junior high school I have read this amazing tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation by Charles Dickens.  I also listen to Patrick Stewart’s wonderful audio performance, as well as watch the many movie versions.  No matter how many times I hear this story, it always makes me happy.

“B”

Blessings.

The holidays are a time where we reflect on what we are thankful for, and a time for counting our blessings.  In years past, I suffered from severe depression and often never really was conscious of those things.  With the changes in my life, I am much more aware of how blessed I am.  I have so many things to be thankful for and I am truly blessed in more ways than I can count!

“C”

Christmas Cookies.

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To borrow a phrase from Sesame Street – “C is for Cookie.”  Every year as kids, my brother and I would wait for my grandma to ship us a huge tin can of cookies!  She would make Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal, Sugar, Ice Box, and so many more.  The cookies pictured above are called Pizzelle cookies.  My grandma always made them at Christmas!  My brother still has her pizzelle maker.  Today, I still make the Chocolate Chips from a recipe she had in a metal index card box!

“D”

Dante’ & Dimitri

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My sons.  Sharing the holidays with them means so much to me.  I LOVE watching their excitement as they open their presents.  I love spending time with them, whether it is watching TV, playing a video or board game, or just having a heart to heart talk.  They continue to grow into fine young men, and I am proud to be their father.

“E”

Eggnog

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I LOVE eggnog!  My grandmother always had it for us at Christmas.  There used to be an eggnog mix that she would buy, but I can’t find it anywhere anymore.  My brother and I used to drink this like water!  I recently discovered a “custard” eggnog that was really good, too!  All things eggnog – I like:  McDonald’s Eggnog Shakes, Starbucks Eggnog Latte’s, and even the alcoholic eggnog!  There was a place in Frankenmuth that had a drink called the “dirty elf” – it was eggnog with a shot of Fireball whiskey in it – SO good!

“F”

Family and Friends.

What would the holidays be with out them?!  When I look back on holidays of the past, they are special because of the friends and family who were present!  I look forward to the holidays each year because it means special times with these special people in my life.

“G”

Garland.

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When I think about Christmas, I always think about garland!  My mom used to string it on the tree.  She’d hang it on walls, wrap it around things, hang Christmas Cards from it – it was everywhere!  We had gold and silver garland, thick and thin garland, and even garland with snowflakes on it.  I don’t use it today, because I know our cats will just eat it.

“H”

Holiday Music.

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I have blogged about this enough that you had to see this coming!  I love Christmas music.  There are so many wonderful memories connected to specific holiday songs.  While there are some songs that bring tears to my eyes, the majority of them bring me so much happiness.

“I”

Italian Food.

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EVERY Christmas Eve – my grandma made ravioli.  That was part of our tradition.  We also had breaded steak with ammoglio (moy-gyoo) sauce.  She always made an Italian feast.  I have tried to keep this tradition going, even though my sauce is no where close to being as good as hers.

“J”

Jingle Bells.

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This is two-fold.  First, the sound of jingle bells goes hand in hand with the holidays.  To me, there is something about hearing those bells that makes it feel like Christmas.  Second, it is one of those holiday songs that I love.  It’s probably THE universal Christmas song.  My favorite versions are done by Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Doc Severinsen & The Tonight Show Band, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, and SO many other versions!

“K”

Kris Kringle.

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Also known as Santa Claus.  He’s the subject of many Christmas songs.  Millions of children sit on his lap and convey their Christmas list to him.  In one night, he delivers millions of toys to good little girls and boys!

“L”

Lights.

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I love Christmas lights.  When I first got my driver’s license I would pop a cassette tape of Christmas music in and I would drive around looking at the lights.  I remember driving around Jefferson Avenue where all these huge mansions were.  They would have their lights done by professionals and they were just amazing.  Walking through Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo, or taking the Christmas train at Crossroads Village to see lights is also a treat!  I love the way they look and enjoy them more and more every year.

“M”

Mail.

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In a world where most communication is done by phone, e-mail, or text messages, I really enjoy getting Christmas cards in the mail.  I also love getting the “year in review” letters in them.  I can never understand why people diss these letters, because I love to read about what my friends and family have done over the past year.  I love when they include pictures from the past year, too.  I also love family photo Christmas cards.  I used to send them every year.  Sam and I were just talking about how we need to get better at sending them.

“N”

Nostalgia.

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No surprise here, especially since 95% of this blog is about nostalgia!  When the holidays come around, I get VERY nostalgic.  I think of my grandparents, my mother, and remember the good times we shared.  I remember past gifts.  I remember past relationships.  I remember good times and bad times.  There are many memories connected with the holidays for me.

“O”

Ornaments.

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One thing I love about Christmas ornaments is that when you put up your tree, as you unwrap each ornament, it brings back a memory.  Every year, Sam and I go to Bronner’s in Frankenmuth and get an ornament that signifies an even from the past year.  This year’s ornament is obviously about us expecting our baby.  We have an ornament from when we got married and when we got engaged.  I have a few ornaments that I brought with me when I moved in with Sam.  One of those ornaments is from 1977!  It was an ornament that we all got when we were in Catechism in 2nd grade.  It is an ornament of the baby Jesus.  It is the oldest ornament I have.

“P”

Presents.

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When I was a kid, it was all about what presents I was getting.  As an adult, and as a parent, your focus shifts.  It becomes about what special gift you buy for someone else.  What can I get that will make the boys smile?  What is the perfect gift for my wife?  What do I get for my dad, who seems to have everything?  It truly is better to give than to receive, but it is also nice to get something special from someone, too.

“Q”

Quiet.

I know, this seems impossible!  I would agree to a certain extent.  Many holiday gatherings are noisy as hell, but I am speaking of a specific quiet. One of my favorite things is standing outside after a snowfall, just listening to the quiet of the neighborhood.  There were many times I’d be out shoveling the walk, and stop just to enjoy the quiet of a winter day.

“R”

Rudolph

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Sure, I love the Rankin and Bass TV special!  I, however, and talking about the above decoration.  My grandma had these, and so did we!  This decoration was made of melted plastic.  Pinterest calls this a “melted plastic popcorn wall or window hanging decoration”.  There was a Snowman, a Christmas Tree and a Santa in a sleigh decoration, too.  My grandma hung 9 of these reindeer and the Santa in a sleigh on the wall every year!  Man, do I miss seeing this every year!!!

“S”

Snow.

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One of the things I love about living in Michigan is that we see all four seasons.  The holidays without snow are very disappointing to me.  If it is mid to late December and there is no snow, the song White Christmas really hits home.  I NEED to have snow on Christmas!  It is just one of those things that makes the holiday mean more.  I love the beauty of snow on the ground and stuck to the trees … but, yes, I do hate driving in it!

“T”

The Tree.

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You can check out the blog I wrote a week or so ago entitled “Oh Christmas Tree” to read about why this means so much to me.  For now, just know that it is one of the things I LOVE about the holidays.

“U”

Underwear.

I really didn’t have a lot of “U” options.  I don’t like underwear for Christmas, but I put it here because of something I started seeing a few years ago.  I guess you would call it a meme today.  I see it posted on Facebook a lot and it makes me laugh:

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“V”

Vacation.

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Again, a two-fold answer.  (1) Vacation time?  Yes, I do get some time off during the holidays, but nothing real big.  I wish I had the opportunity to actually take a few weeks off around the holidays, but that never is possible for me.  (2) Christmas Vacation Movie?  Who doesn’t love this Christmas film.  There are so many great lines and characters in this film!  Come on – you know any time you pass a house with a gazillion lights on it you call it the “Griswold house”!!

“W”

Wife.

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She makes EVERYTHING in my life special.  The holidays are already a special time for me, but spending them with her make them extra special.  There is not enough space on the internet for me to write about how much she means to me, how much I love her, and how happy she makes me.  I am so lucky to call this beautiful woman my friend, my partner, and my wife.  For Christmas this year, she is giving me the best present ever … she arrives in February.

“X”

X’s and O’s

Ok, it was hard to come up with something beside Xylophone for X!   X’s and O’s are hugs and kisses.  Hugs and kisses from friends and family during the holidays make the season special.

“Y”

Year Without a Santa Claus.

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You should have saw this coming, too!  Last year, many characters made a Christmas blog and this year I wrote an entire blog on it.  I HAVE to watch this every year!  I also have to listen to the Miser Brothers songs in the car during the holidays.

“Z”

Zzzzzzz’s.

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Yet another stretch, but Holiday Zzzzz’s are something I certainly look forward to!  In Twas The Night Before Christmas they talk of a “long winter’s nap”.  In my opinion, any time I can grab a nap over the holidays, it’s a good thing!!!

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That was a fun blog to write!  Now it’s your turn.  What are your “holiday letters”?  I’d love to read them …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Storm and Winter Songs

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According to the calendar, it is still officially Autumn.  There are still colored leaves on the trees here in Michigan.  Many people haven’t even started raking them yet.  This, however, may be the shortest Autumn I can remember as we were hit today with quite the winter storm!

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I guess we broke the record today for “most snowfall” on November 11th.  The record (for the Detroit area, anyway) was set back in 1984 – 4.1 inches.  That record was surpassed as early as 1pm today.  The snow continued to fall throughout the evening and made for one hell of a ride (3+ hours) into work!

The snow brings out a lot of anger in people.  People waste no time talking about how much they hate the snow.  “It’s too early,” they say.  It’s not like we haven’t had snow early in November before, we have.  As a matter of fact, it was one year ago I posted about it snowing on Facebook.  We’ve certainly seen snow as early as late October, too!  While I don’t necessarily like having to shovel it, or drive in it, I do like the snow.  I marvel at the beauty of it when it has first fallen on the ground.  Someone posted this on Facebook yesterday, and it is SO true:

“If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.”

Sometimes, in life, we need to look for the positives instead of focusing on the negatives.

At any rate, all the snow brought me back to a thought I had while writing a recent blog about Christmas music (Is It Too Early? – on November 2).  Some radio stations (both local and on Sirius XM) have started playing all Christmas music.  On my drive in, I was flipping around and stopped on the local station, because they were playing a song that would be considered a Christmas song, but actually worked because of the weather.

Here I am driving 30mph while the snow is falling, and Dean Martin’s “Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!” is playing.  It was the perfect song for the weather.  Which brings me back to the thought I had in the previous blog – why can’t stations play “winter” songs before Christmas, and after Christmas?  I compiled a list of songs that could certainly be played as just “winter hits”.

Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!

Winter Wonderland

Snowfall

Winter Weather

Snow

I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm

Marshmallow World

Song For A Winter’s Night

Snowbird

Hazy Shade of Winter

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Jingle Bells

There are SO many more.  Jingle Bell Rock could easily be a “winter song”.  Frosty the Snowman is a “winter song”.  Sleigh Ride is also a snowy “winter song”!  It doesn’t have to be Christmas for me to enjoy those songs.  Am I forgetting any?  What can YOU add to the list?

Too Early?

I should mention that my wife listens to Christmas music all year round.  AND she likes to be able to enjoy the decorations, so when we have our first snow, the tree goes up.  Yes, it is up and decorated…and the cats are already enjoying it.

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I guess I should make sure the snow blower starts when I get home ….

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Christmas Songs I Can Do Without

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In order for my Christmas season to be “official”, I have to hear Bobby Helms “Jingle Bell Rock” in its entirety on the radio.  I’m not sure why, it just has always been the song that I have associated with the holiday.  Perhaps it was one of those songs that I remember hearing on the radio as a kid, I really don’t know.  I just know that it is the song that says “It’s Christmas time, Keith.”

Let me say this:  I love Christmas music.  As a DJ, I have played countless Christmas parties and have a huge tub of Christmas CD’s.  I have a huge variety of various formats:  Country Christmas songs, Pop Christmas songs, Novelty Christmas songs, and more. One of the radio stations I work for is actually playing all Christmas music right now and I enjoy doing an on air shift there.  All that being said, there are certain Christmas songs that I can do without!  Today’s short blog is a commentary about some of those songs.

Please Stop Playing These

  • “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas” – I don’t care whether this is the original version or one of the countless remakes.  This song is just plain annoying.  This song makes me want to drive off the road when I hear it.  I cannot change the station fast enough when it comes on.  I have yet to understand what is so appealing about this song!
  • ANYTHING by the Mannheim Steamroller.  While I do appreciate improvisational music, there is nothing about their music that I find entertaining or worth listening to.  Let’s face it, the synthesizer died in the 80’s …. let’s put these songs to bed, too.
  • “Jingle Bells” by the Singing Dogs.  While we are at it, let’s add any Christmas songs done by cats, rabbits, ducks, ferrets, owls, pigs, or any other “musical animal”!  Stop it!  These awful songs deserve no place on the radio.
  • “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” – It sucked when it first came out.  I continues to suck.  Why is ok to play this song, in which grandma is MURDERED by Santa’s sleigh, but people are offended by a song that was recorded YEARS before the phrase “date rape” was even uttered claiming that is what the song is about (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for those unaware of that controversy)?
  • “Mistletoe” by Justin Beiber.  – It’s friggin’ Justin Beiber.  That is reason enough!
  • Jingle Bell Rock by Hall and Oates. As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the original is a classic and a must hear for me.  I am not sure what it is about this version that makes me want to throw the radio out the window.  It is awful!  Perhaps it is just my love for the original that makes me hate this one so much, but probably not, as there are other versions of it that I like.  To me, it’s like listening to cats puking…..hell, I’d actually rather listen to that, than to listen to this.
  • Christmas Wrapping – The Singing Waitresses.  What the hell is this?  I understand that the Spice Girls recorded this too and I can’t imagine their version being any better.  This is probably the biggest waste of 3 minutes ever (with the exception of all Justin Beiber music).  This song is in a “hot” rotation on Sirius XM’s Holly channel.  This song needs to be go away forever!  I want to wrap it up in toilet paper and flush it away!
  • It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams.  It’s the most overplayed song of the season!!  I don’t mind hearing it every so often, but every 20 minutes is a bit much.
  • I am a HUGE Beatles fan – but I have to admit that “Happy Christmas” by John Lennon and “Wonderful Christmastime” are, outside of the previously mentioned Andy Williams song, played to death.  Yoko Ono singing on “Happy Christmas” is like fingernails on the chalkboard!  God!  Who ever told her she could sing – John, must have.  As for Sir Paul, he probably could never record again and live off the royalties from just that song they play it so much.  It’s not a bad song – neither of them are – they are just so overplayed!!!
  • ANYTHING by Pentatonix!!!  I LOVE acapella music!  I do.  When voices blend in good harmony, it is something amazing.  Check out Ricochet’s “Let It Snow” – it’s awesome!  I am not sure if the Pentatonix stuff is just overproduced, but it just sounds wrong to me.  Take the song Hallelujah…Rufus Wainwright’s version is perfect.  This version doesn’t sound right from the first note.  I guess this album is the “new” Bing Crosby album, as stores can’t seem to keep it in stock.  Personally, I’ll pass.
  • Dominick, the Donkey.  As an Italian, I am embarrassed by this song.  Lou Monte is one of the great Italian singers.  His song Lazy Mary was a hit and I danced with my grandmother to it at my first wedding.  Sadly, more people know Lou because of this piece of crap, than his hits!  Jingity jing….URGH!  Do the entire Italian community a favor and don’t ever play this again!!!

These are just a few of the songs that drive me insane.  I am sure if I sat and thought about it more, or just turned on the radio, I could list countless others.  For now, I will let you add to this list.  What Christmas songs do YOU hate and why?  I look forward to reading your responses.