Friday, December 21, 2007

O Christmas Meme, O Christmas Meme

Yogamum from Yoga Gumbo tagged me with this Christmas meme. I have to confess, I’m a little out of it this Christmas season. In years past, I’ve gone over the top with decorating, parties, elaborate wrapping and cards and this year, I just haven't been interested. Thinking about the questions on this meme really took me back to the past and made me think about why my 2007 holiday spirit isn’t what it was. It’s not a bah humbug thing and it’s not a holiday season depression. I'm not sad. I think perhaps it's just that things have changed too much and I'm more old fashioned than I care to admit.

Christmas Meme Part I:

What are your three favorite Christmas songs and who sings them?

O Holy Night

Good King Wencesclas

O Come All Ye Faithful/Adeste Fideles

I like only versions of these songs that sound “churchy”.

I am not now a practitioner of any religion, but when I was growing up, going to church was a part of my upbringing. Everyone in my family was crazy about the Christmas season. We played Christmas music constantly and it was always traditional music performed by the Vienna Boys’ Choir or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir -- sacred sounding recordings. I knew all of the words to every verse of every song that was printed in the Christmas carol pamphlets that the John Hancock insurance company gave away, including Adeste Fideles. In the 60’s, the people in my family were all big drinkers, and there is nothing that will get you in the mood for four verses of Joy to the World on a road trip like a whole lot of liquid Christmas cheer. Yes, it’s true. It was a family tradition to attend the 11:00 PM Christmas Eve Service at St. Paul’s with several adults who were three sheets to the wind and filled with the Christmas spirit. And who doesn’t sing Christmas songs while drinking and driving around looking at lights? Now before you start thinking how terribly sad this all must have been, let me assure you that it wasn’t. I wasn’t all that aware that they were drinking like fish at the time or that what they were doing wasn't completely normal. I have a lot of fond memories of those times, believe it or not.

What are your three favorite Christmas foods?

Roast Beef with Yorkshire pudding, Mince Pie, Christmas pudding with Hard Sauce

My grandmother’s parents were English and that carried over into most of the things we ate and drank. I don’t think anybody in my family even owned a coffee pot, because they all drank tea with milk and sugar all the time. My poor father had a sad little jar of Sanka somewhere in the house. My grandmother always loved mince pie and not everybody in the family ate it, but I did. I haven’t had Christmas pudding in too many years to count, but we always had it when I was growing up. The roast beef with Yorkshire pudding was a Christmas tradition and a Sunday dinner favorite if we weren’t having roast lamb with mint jelly.

What are three Christmas Secrets?

1. I’ve always thought there was something magic about Christmas Eve. That’s the night I’m most likely to secretly talk to my dead loved ones – and I think maybe they hear me. They all loved Christmas.

2. My parents used to tell us when we were little that there were little elves that hung around the Christmas tree and would watch us to make sure we were being good. I think they were right.

3. I can’t hear or sing O Holy Night without getting emotional. It doesn’t happen if the songs are sung by pop stars or with a modern sound, but if I hear it sung in the more traditional, church style, it brings me to tears. The same goes for Ave Maria and a number of other Christmas songs. Color me sentimental.

What are your three favorite Christmas movies?

1. Hands down favorite is A Christmas Carol, the 1951 version starring Alistair Sim.

2. It’s a Wonderful Life

3. The Charlie Brown Christmas Special and The Grinch That Stole Christmas

Part II is YogaMum’s Grinch Meme from last year (click on the link to see her answers).

What is your least favorite holiday task? (e.g. shopping, cooking, wrapping) I don’t like shopping for people who are so picky that I end up with a list of things they want and I have to choose one or buy a gift card. It sucks the joy out of the whole gift giving experience for me. These are the kind of people that don’t appreciate cool, creative gifts like yoga lessons or sealing wax or silk padded book rests or hamsters.

What was the worst gift you ever received? I can’t think of anything. I am very easily pleased. You could wrap up a chewed up old pencil and give it to me and I’d be delighted I was on your shopping list.

Who is the hardest person in your family to shop for? My father-in-law. He doesn’t need anything, doesn’t want anything and doesn’t have any hobbies or interests.

What relative do you dread seeing at the holidays? Or, when you were a child, what relative did you dread seeing? I’ve never dreaded seeing anyone that I can think of.

What holiday tradition would you eliminate if you could? If I had the power, I’d eliminate giving generic gifts that have to be purchased. Exchanging store-bought gifts just feels like an empty habit, without any real feeling behind it. It would mean so much more to me as a gift recipient if I got a poem, a plate of cookies, a knitted scarf, a contribution to a good cause made in my name, a song or a hand made card.

What do you swear, every holiday season, that you’ll never do again, only to find yourself doing it again the next year? I loathe buying gift cards. When I was growing up, shopping for gifts or making them was exciting. Everyone loved what they got, no matter how silly, because we really thought hard about trying to find something special for each other. I hate giving gift cards to people because I feel like I might as well throw a fistful of cash at them, but there are some people who will tell you that they’d actually prefer getting a gift card, rather than getting something they don’t want. I think we just have too much now. Do we really need to go out and buy more crap and create more waste with all of the gift bags, wrapping paper and ribbon? Disclaimer: This doesn't pertain to little kids. I love watching them open toys.

This concludes the official meme part of my Christmas post. This year my stepson and his children (okay, okay I’ll say my grandchildren but it kills me every time I do) are coming over to open presents on the 23rd. I started the cookie baking process today and have vowed to finish my shopping and figure out what to make for dinner by Saturday. On Christmas Eve, Scott and I are going to his sister’s house to have dinner and exchange gifts with his family. This year, we’ll spend Christmas Day alone together. Scott is Jewish, but not religious, but I think I’ve got him convinced that we should observe one of the great traditions of his people on Christmas Day: A movie and Chinese food.

I’m not going to tag anyone, but hope you’ll give the meme(s) some thought and maybe post your own.

What are a few of your favorite and un-favorite holiday traditions?


kristen said...

I'm going to take you up on this one. I feel like we need to rekindle some the holiday spirit we were feeling earlier in the month. The last couple of weeks have been hard, but it's time to let it go...back to the holiday at hand! I'll try to post on this today.

Julie said...

Thanks for sharing, Lisa - colourful memories, and hope you have a happy Christmas this year!

We are having a quiet unsophisticated Christmas as both sons are in their own digs - we'll have a meal with one. Not even got a tree yet.

Quite a few people we know do untraditional things over Christmas now, like going for a Boxing Day hike and picnic if the weather's fine enough.

debra said...

This is the time of year for reflection---of memories and traditions old and new. Enjoy your dinner---have a spring roll on me!

steve said...

How do you do it, Lisa? Going overboard on Christmas, keeping up with your blog, AND doing the Dickens Challenge during your busiest time of year at work? I hope you find some time for sleep.

I'm wondering whether you ever sang my favorite Christmas hymn at St. Paul's. Having "In the Bleak Midwinter" as a favorite Christmas song perhaps labels me as a sentimental pre-Raphaelite Victorian, but there it is. It's in the Episcopal Hymnal, but I've never sung it in church.

Josephine Damian said...

"Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" pretty much sums up my whole attitude.

Happy holidays!

And may the muse always be kind!

Charles Gramlich said...

Seems like quite a few people are not in feeling as much Christmas spirit this year as in recent years. I'm the same. Part of it is the incessent silliness of the sniping over even the term Christmas. I don't care what people personally want to call their Christmas tree, but referring to it as a Christmas tree is not promoting a religion. Come on folks, stop being so sensitive about nonsense.

moonrat said...

i cry everytime i hear "o holy night" too... (i also cry at "oh come all ye faithful," since it reminds me of my grandfather...)

Melissa Marsh said...

Favorite traditions: going to my grandmother and grandfather's house on Christmas Eve and eating butterball soup (a Germans from Russia recipe), then sitting around and opening presents. Every.Single.Year.

As we are not going home this year, Christmas Eve will feel incredibly different - but we will make butterball soup. But it won't be the same.

It's strange - I always start out with the Christmas spirit around the first week of December, and then I sort of lose it. I'm not sure why this is, but I really wish I could keep the spirit alive all the way through December.

Tim said...

Lisa --

What a wonderful post. I'm pretty much immune to Christmas. I've always thought you should try to do the best you can all year long for the people you love (and doesn't that sound insufferable?) but I have to admit that I like the lights on the houses.

Christmas was a big alcoholic holiday at my house, too, and you're right: people had a great time. I am so tired of all the condemnation of practically everything that makes people feel good. If it's not alcohol, it's trans-fats or doughnuts. I'm a former drunk myself, and I can testify that some of the best times of my life (and some of the best sentences I ever wrote) were illuminated by the glow from six or eight drinks.

Have a wonderful holiday -- and I'm WAITING for your next chapter.


Lisa said...

Kristen, good for you! I haven't had a chance to comment, but I loved the post.

Julie, aha -- now you're dispelling all of my ancient views of Christmas in England!

Debra, I will have that spring roll and I've been doing lots of refection this season. Who am I kidding? I do it all the time :)

Steve, I haven't gone overboard on Christmas this year at all! My terrible confession is that the blog posts tend to be another form of writing procrastination. I was struggling with chapter 2 last night and decided I'd "take a break" and post this. I am terribly undisciplined, I'm afraid. The hymn doesn't ring any bells, but if it was in the Episcopalian hymnal, I've no doubt that I sang it at some point -- maybe more than once.

Charles, Oh brother, I know what you mean. For crying out loud, I say live and let live. I have never gotten used to the PC "Happy Holidays" thing. I still tell people Merry Christmas and feel a little exhilarated and maybe even subversive when I do -- but I dig it because I'm a rebel!

Moonrat, I think I cry because those songs remind me of people, places and a time I've lost too.

Melissa, Now I have to google butterball soup. I'm intrigued. Last year Hanukkah ended pretty close to Christmas Eve so I made brisket, latkes and some other traditional Hanukkah foods. It was pretty cool.

Tim, My thoughts exactly -- I watched A Christmas Carol last night and that's what the spirit of Christmas Present was all about. People should keep that spirit all throughout the year. I guess I'm insufferable too :) I know what you mean about the "anti" attitudes. I think people tend to throw the gin out with the bathtub, and I wish I could find whoever decided that we should all feel guilty about eating bread! Now, I will say that Christmas was always good, although I'd characterize my childhood as a mixture of Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Days of Wine and Roses -- several of my relatives did end up in rehab and "in the program" and there was a dark side of all of it, but I think that was all a part of the culture then. Joy to you and yours and I'm workin' on it!

Maddy said...

Thank you - those were some lovely reminders.
Best wishes

This is my calling card or link"Whittereronautism"which takes you straight to my new blog.

Ello said...

Ok since you already know by now how much of a nonshopper I am, it should be no surprise that I love giftcards. I'm such a bad shopper!

Lisa - I wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season with your family!
My best,


Lisa said...

Maddy, best wishes to you and yours also and thank you.

Ello, I hate it too and I'm pretty much in favor of eliminating shopping altogether -- the gift cards are a personal problem of mine :)

Merry Christmas and much love and joy to you and yours!

Kim Adamache said...

Merry Christmas, Lisa and to Scott too. I have been reading your recent posts. My, you're prolific!

I haven't had a chance to comment, but here are some of my thoughts. I loved your Dickens Challenge start - Tracy seems familiar - I feel as I might know her. Big congrats on your award for A Roar For Powerful Words. Regarding this Christmas Meme, I'm another one who is brought to tears over O Holy Night and this is big, you don't have to be called grandma unless the little ones are related through blood or adoption!

I'm currently working on my own Christmas post, so be looking for that.

Julie said...

- Like everywhere else, social mobility has disrupted a lot of the old patterns, particularly in these areas of London. From what I've seen while blogging, it seems more 'traditional' over the pond, which wasn't what I expected!

Mardougrrl said...

Blogger ate my comment! Basically, I said that you are one of my favorite finds of the last year, and I look forward to reading more of your work this coming year. Your memories sound a lot like mine...*sigh* And I love "O Holy Night" as well.

I'll be reading the new chapter tomorrow. :)

Lisa said...

Kim, I love your latest work!Thanks for the kind words about my blog. I think I tend to get prolific when I'm procrastinating about other things :)

Julie, that surprises me a little, but I guess my thoughts about England are over 20 years out of date.

Monica, thank you so much!

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