In a 21st century that seems completely awash with selfies, Kardashians, Black Fridays, self-absorption and the general need for instant gratification, it is important to take a big step back and slow down long enough regularly to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, and to truly recall what is really near and dear to each of us in life. The Holidays fortunately return each year to afford us this opportunity should we be smart enough to seize the chance. Admittedly, it does take a significant commitment on our part to rise above all the craziness and commercialism of the holiday season. It is extremely easy to get caught up in all the chaos----the mad dash to an often anticlimactic December 25th as we tie how good our holiday is to how much we did (or didn’t) receive! At the same time, the holiday season offers many opportunities for a respite from all the craziness—namely in its family traditions, annual events, personal decorating and cooking rituals and favorite holiday music. All one has to do is embrace them each year. Make these annual rites fun rather than chores or tasks! Work to preserve and nurture these time-honored things, and pass them on to the next generation. Doing so will help to ensure great “Christmas Futures.” This is what truly makes the holiday season special, unique and personally rewarding.
Enjoy “Christmas Present.” While the holiday season may be spread out over five weeks Thanksgiving through the New Year), it does not have to be all about the commercial aspects. Since moving to the Flathead 14 years ago, I have come to enjoy many great holiday events that I would not consider missing each year. Events such as viewing the Christmas tree at the Conrad Mansion, throwing our own annual holiday bash, doing the Kalispell and Whitefish downtown holiday strolls, enjoying the various holiday parades, concerts and tree lightings, doing annual volunteer work for the Salvation Army, and thinking outside of the “ice” box, being a participant or a spectator in the annual Polar Bear Plunge in Woods Bay on January 1st (the fastest 2 minutes in the Flathead for obvious reasons and a great party before and afterward). These have all become traditions in a short period of time, and are extremely important because like many of you, I cannot always spend the holidays with family members far away.
Honor, reflect upon, and most importantly, enjoy “Christmas Past.” Try to utilize as much of it as you can in your yearly holiday celebrations. Having recently lost my mother to cancer, reflecting on the past holiday seasons is very significant for me this year. She was a great celebrator of the holidays as were many long deceased relatives whom I remember so fondly from my youth. I was fortunate.
Large amounts of money were not spent by my family each year. Rather, they all did the little things that made the season so warm and special. Caroling from door to door with the neighborhood kids, turning our kitchen into a “cookie factory”, recording our annual rendition of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” on my father’s reel to reel tape recorder, going ice skating together on a local pond, and always getting that one great gift that I wanted are among my many cherished memories of holidays past. I will miss you Mom.
And of course, what would the holiday seasons of years past, the present or for that matter the years to come be without music-----the soundtrack to a great holiday season? Am I forgetting something, or does it seem like a long time since a holiday song has been released that has become a major hit? While there have been some good efforts over the last decade or so by the likes of Sheryl Crow, Harry Connick, Jr. and numerous country stars, I can’t remember a holiday song rising up the charts and sweeping the nation since “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in the mid 1980’s. I am hoping that we have not forgotten how to make great holiday music. Unfortunately, much of the holiday music we are fed on the radio for weeks on end is the rather soulless stuff that doesn’t really stand up very well. It doesn’t have much “feel” and is very bland and forgettable. Most of the time for me, the yardstick for measuring the quality (or lack thereof) of any particular holiday song is based on a simple question as follows: If I could remove/change the holiday oriented lyrics and the sound of sleigh bells if present from the song, would I listen to it at all regardless of the time of the year? If my answer is “yes”, I have a great holiday tune to add to my collection. The accompanying list of “Cool Yule” holiday selections features many of the classic great artists of their time singing their hearts out with sincerity and jazzy sophistication. Download away and enjoy!
Cool Yule Holiday Cocktail Party
Music menu… party like your parents used to do!
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (60’s version) – Bing Crosby
“Sleigh Ride” – Ella Fitzgerald
“Let It Snow” – Dean Martin
“Winter Wonderland” – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
“Cool Yule” – Louis Armstrong
“Christmas Serenade” — Johnny Maestro
“The Christmas Song” — Nat King Cole
“My Favorite Things” — Tony Bennett
“Holly Jolly Christmas” — Burl Ives
“2000 Miles” — The Pretenders
“Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me” -Elvis Presley
“Little St. Nick” - Beach Boys
“Jingle Bells” (50’s version) - Frank Sinatra
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” -Brenda Lee
“Baby It’s Cold Outside” - James Taylor & Natalie Cole
“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" - Jack Johnson
“Charlie Brown Christmas” - (entire album) Vincent Guaraldi Jazz Trio
“Jingle Bell Rock” - Hall & Oates
“Last Christmas” (80’s version) – Wham
“Do They Know It’s Christmas” (80’s version) — Band Aid
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” - Bruce Springsteen
“White Christmas” — Sheryl Crow
“Christmas Time Is Here” — Ray Parker Jr.
“Here Comes Santa Claus” - Gene Autry
“Merry Christmas Baby” - Southern Culture on the Skids
Originally published in 406 Woman magazine - Off Key Notes December 2014/January 2015