Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Christmas Idiot

Yesterday I got into my car and realized, here it was the 17th of January and my selection of music hadn't changed in a over a month.  Truth was, I still wasn't ready to let go of Christmas tunes.  As I started up my car, George Winston regaled me with the Holly and the Ivy, this was followed up with TSA going nuts on one Christmas standard after another (Plus my favorite An Old City Bar).  Before long I was whistling along with Phil Volan and Joleen Bell (who by the way sings like an angel) singing O Holy Night.
   That's right, people, I'm still listening to Christmas music and might even do it for a bit longer.  And why not?
   As November rolls around and radio stations break into the carols I hear the litany of complainers every year.
  "It's too soon."
  "I'll be sick of this stuff by the time Christmas shows up.  And it gets worse every year."
   Let me just state my position up front.  I never grow sick of Christmas.  I never tire of the trapping of this holiday: the lights, the commercials, the Santa in the mall, the tree, the presents, and especially the music.
   I grew up in Philadelphia where, like a lot of back east big cities, downtown was transformed at Christmas time.  The windows of the monster stores were wonderlands of elves, and reindeer...and toys.  There were actual vendors of roasted chestnuts on the street corners.  Strangers would pass you by and say "Merry Christmas" and smile.  My whole family would go out and it was a big production to pick out the best tree from the Christmas tree lot in our neighborhood.  The pine smell of those places still lingers in my memory.
  I was an altar boy and on Christmas Eve. Often I had to preside over the midnight mass.  If I wasn't serving at the mass, I still went, because in the hours before the mass my friends and I would gather outside the pool hall up the street from the church and sing Christmas carols.
   Angels We Have Heard on High.  Jingle Bells.  Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Silent Night.  The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).
  For weeks I looked forward to that night, showed up early and sang heartily with my breath showing all white in the December chilly night.  I can close my eyes and still see my friends shouting "Jingle Bell Rock" like their lives depended on it.
  So here I am forty five years later.  In a few minutes I will climb into my car to go grocery shopping.  It's been almost a month since December 25, but I think I'm in the mood for Bruce Springsteen and the late Clarence Clemens howling "Santa Claus is coming to Town."
  And he is.  Just not for another eleven months.

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