As a child, Christmas was always a wonderful time of year. I am fortunate to have had a loving, stable family with plenty of food and gifts to go around from day one. When Mom eventually told me that Santa Claus wasn't real, I cried. My sister, however, never bought in to the myth. We are pictured below with the best Santa in history at Gaston Mall in 1976: I was seven, Leigh was two. The previous year, she had refused to sit on Santa's lap.
Some of my fondest memories are of visiting relatives on Christmas Eve. First we went to my Mom's side of the family, where Maw-maw was joined by my two uncles, an aunt and three cousins (all in my oldest uncle's family). We kids would sit at a little card table in the kitchen, away from the adults. After dinner came the excruciating wait for adults to clean up, talk, smoke and generally drag their feet before opening presents. When it was finally time, my cousin Lori and I would jump into the pile of presents and hand them out to everyone: there was only so much anticipation a kid could take.
Soon we would trek a few miles west to my Dad's folks, and enjoy an even more elaborate meal from Grandma. We would then open more presents, but there was none of the anxiety from earlier in the day. Dad was an only child, so there were no cousins clamouring for their first endorphine rush of ripping through wrapping paper. It was just my sister and me; the edges had all been smoothed off, and we could coast now.
As dusk approached, we would drive home, so filled with food and serene with the bounty of presents that I would doze off along the way. The next day was always good, but a bit of an anticlimax.
One thing that was not a big factor in our Christmases was music. Memories of A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and other shows on TV are there, but I can't recall much about what we heard on the radio. There was no purposeful listening to Vince Guaraldi, The Nutcracker Suite, anything. Perhaps my Dad would rib me if Spike Jones' "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" came around (he would kid me by saying that a lot), but such recollections simply aren't there.
Music became more and more important to me, and with my experience in radio, I am fortunate to listen to a lot of great Christmas music every year. 2012 has some great offerings, and a good overview from Blurt! Magazine can be found here.
My favorites from this year include: The Sweetback Sisters' Country Christmas Sing-Along Spectacular, The Bank Cormorants' Madonna & Rose, Sufjan Stevens' Silver & Gold, TriBeCaStan's The Twisted Christmas, The Eastern Sea's First Christmas, An East Nashville Christmas, JD McPherson's "Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights)", Sugar + The Hi Lows' Snow Angel, and last but definitely not least, Crocodiles & The Dum Dum Girls' "Merry Christmas Baby Please Don't Die", pictured on the left.
Thank you for reading and may the spirit of Christmas be with you all year long! -Joe