Ho Ho Horrible?

It’s officially December, which means Christmas will be here before we know it. This year is our first in a house–a real home with a garage and trash day and lawn service–so we thought we’d celebrate Jesus’ birth in fine style with a real Christmas tree, which is something we’ve never had. It’s been up for two days, and the floor is covered in needles. But the house smells great (as does the cat’s head).

My grandmother was kind enough to give us a box or three of ornaments to save us a little money, but we wanted the tree to have a few things on it that were uniquely us. My parents’ tree is covered in different items gathered over a lifetime spent celebrating together, and there’s a story behind almost every piece. Wayne and I began that tradition this year. Here’s what I picked…

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Yes, it’s a very traditional choice, I know. However, it didn’t seem fitting to have a tree without a Rudolph themed ornament on it. Also, it’s a tree decoration depicting something decorating a tree. It was too meta to pass up.

Wayne chose to go with something a little less traditional but very much him.

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Yep, that’s Animal (his favorite Muppet) wearing a Santa hat. It’s positively festive if I do say so myself.

There are also a few musical notes and instruments—mostly French horns due to the fact they’re ubiquitous at Christmas. Sadly, few people associate the trombone (or even the sackbut) with the holidays.

I look forward to building our collection of tree trimmings, but there are also things my parents have that I look forward to owning one day. None more than the lovely and gracious decoration we fondly call Ho Ho.

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My mother made this guy when she was in middle school. Originally, the thing was supposed to be a pillow, but she got fed up with it less than halfway through. Instead, it’s pinned to what looks to be a piece of cardboard. There are six large circles about the size of liter glass bottles, and I swear I can see the faint impression of 7UP in one of them. The “Ho Ho” is done skillfully in the best felt her craft basket could offer. (Who cares if it’s one “Ho” short!?) You will notice that he is a bit askew. That’s because she lost count several times and made a few extra loops without changing colors first. Also, she didn’t have any black yarn, so Santa’s boots and eyes are an electric shade of purple. When I was a kid, I imagined Ho Ho was phasing, like someone on Star Trek, or he was a ghost taking shape. (I think I was mostly concerned because the poor little guy doesn’t have any arms.)

It started as a joke of sorts really, putting Ho Ho out in the house. For years, it was set above the doorway separating the den from the living room at my grandparents’ house in Arkansas. But when we moved to Florida, Ho Ho was placed in the box with essential decorations like the manger scene and precious and irreplaceable homemade ornaments. It wasn’t even a question of where it deserved to be.

At first, I think we gleefully put it out in a place of prominence to give my mom some grief. But every year, we’d all cheer when it came out of the box. Someone was given the honor of placing him on a table or a shelf where everyone who came to our home could see him in all his glory. And it was a big deal to do it! The first time Wayne was asked to do the honors, his face lit up because he knew he was truly a member of the family. I think Elisha handled Elijah’s mantle less carefully. (Okay, that may be gilding the lily a bit, but you get the idea.)

One of the many things I love about Christmas is that we all celebrate it, but no two families do so in exactly the same way. Last year, I wrote about Chipmunk Day, which is something I’ve always thought was fairly unique to my clan. However, there are tons of other things we look forward to. Getting new pajamas, making my dad sing “Two Turtle Doves” because it irritates the snot out of him, watching Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, eating party pizzas, reading the Christmas story from Luke, playing hearts and dominoes, my grandparents sneaking into our rooms on Christmas morning to sing and wake us up—this is the stuff that a truly joyful yuletide is made of. Other families may do totally different things to celebrate, and I’m willing to bet they look forward to their traditions as much as we do ours. Whatever you love as a family, that’s Christmas.

It’s pretty safe to say that no one else in the entire world has a Ho Ho. And that’s what makes him perfect. Martha Stewart might not call him a “good thing,” but we sure do.

Do you have some Christmas traditions you’re looking forward to? Do you have a “Ho Ho” of your own that’s already in a place of honor at your house? I’d love to hear about your traditions. Tell me about them in the comments section below!

Merry Christmas!!!

Happy Chipmunk Day!!!

December 21st, like all of its neighbors that separate us from the full on festivities of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, is often overlooked or hastily torn from the calendar in an impotent rage that makes us wish time travel in a DeLorean was possible. However, we should not be so quick to dismiss this seemingly run-of-the-mill day or slap the incorrect moniker “Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve” on it.

Let us not forget that December 21st is the earliest possible day for the winter solstice! Likewise, there are many hallmark moments we should remember and observe on this oft maligned twenty-four hour period. For instance, did you know that on this day…

  • In the year 69, Vespasian was declared Roman emperor.
  • The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620.
  • The HMS Challenger launched in 1872.
  • The timeless play, A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen premiered in Copenhagen on a snowy night in 1879.
  • The Royal Canadian Dragoons and Royal Canadian Regiment were formed in 1883.
  • The first crossword puzzle appeared in the New York Times in 1913.
  • Snow White, the first full-length animated film, graced the screen in 1937.
  • The first open heart transplant was performed in South Africa in 1967. Granted, the patient died 18 days later, but still…
  • Many famous and illustrious people celebrate their arrival in the world including Thomas Becket (Archbishop of Canterbury, martyr, and saint), John Russell (who gave us the uber annoying Jack Russell Terrier), Benjamin Disraeli, Phil Donahue, Frank Zappa, Samuel L. Jackson, Ray Romano, Andy Van Slyke, and Kiefer Sutherland.
  • Still many more chose this day to use as their launching pad into the vast and unknown reaches of eternity. Some famous folks who bought the farm outright on 12/21 include Thomas the Apostle, Giovanni Boccaccio, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Smith Patton, Jr., Frank B. Kellogg, Albert King, Scobie Breasley (an Australian jockey whose name I just really wanted to include in this list because it sounds cool), and Paul de Man.

Yes, December 21st is a veritable cornucopia of moments both trivial and watershed! However, that is not the reason I’m blogging about it. Today is a day that you, too, can celebrate and use to put a little “Whazzup!” in your yearly wassailing.

I’ve always loved the “Creeper Face” Simon is making in this picture! (From 2or3lines.blogspot.com)

Unless you’re a descendant of Ebeneezer Scrooge, you know this song well. Most people know and love the lyrics “Christmas, Christmastime is near…” sung in an impossibly high register. The disgruntled adoptive father who just wants to get it done and two whiny demands for a hula hoop have made this song a standard in the holiday playlist of many radio stations in America for the last forty years.

The record came in packaging with this image on the front, and my mother and aunt loved it so much that they played it non-stop when they first got it. Why? Since our ancestors first began sharecropping the cotton fields of Arkansas, we’ve been Christmas enthusiasts. Out of that great love for one another and the holiday, we’ve slowly added traditions that make it special. For instance, someone always has to dance to “Holly Jolly Christmas,” we have to have the “Festive Yule Log” burning on the television when we’re opening presents (It’s hot in Florida, so real fires aren’t an option.), and while we eat a true meal on Christmas afternoon, the eve meal is a plethora of junk food like cheese sticks, party pizzas, potato skins, and other finger foods.

We always sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and my father (who hates it) has to sing “Two Turtle Doves” because that means he, the curmudgeon, has to sing all twelve rounds. Without fail, someone reads Luke 2, the Scripture that chronicles the birth of Jesus, and we follow that with the things for which we are thankful and what we’re glad the year brought us. Sometimes, I write a Christmas story or poem that we read together, or my husband and I perform a mini concert on our instruments. And we always get new pajamas we change into the instant the sun hints at disappearing behind the horizon.

And while we’ll open a few presents on Christmas Eve to take the edge off our desire to tear into each and every one of the packages stashed under the tree, up the stairs, and in the dining room, never more than a handful make the sacrifice for the greater good. What we usually do is sort them into piles for each person so the process is streamlined the next morning…though it does make the floor a bit hard to navigate! And when we do open those presents, we do NOT do so in a feeding frenzy style, each person wrapping and giving a collective “Thank You” to one another at the end. No, sir! Each person takes a turn while everyone watches (unless two or three people have the same gift. Those can be opened simultaneously). Once they are opened,  gifts are admired, stories of their purchases are shared and bragged on (especially if the item was found on sale), and there is always an “ooh” or “aah” when warranted. Oftentimes, it takes five hours for us all to open, and we often take a break to stretch, fetch more coffee, and snack on cookies and candies not nommed the night before.

“But why Chipmunk Day?” I hear you asking. Well, we started celebrating it when I was a kid. It’s the beginning of “For Real Christmas” for us. After all, the big day is only ninety-six hours away! We don’t give gifts or anything; it usually involves phone calls, messages on Facebook pages, the occasional card, and other things like that. Yes, it is a way for us to begin decompressing, to begin focusing our attention not on the commitments that keep us separated from one another over the course of the year, but rather on those things that bring us together—faith, family, and tradition. “Hurry Christmas, hurry fast.” Indeed, I’m with you in that sentiment, Chipmunks. I’m in such a good mood already that I almost don’t care about the modifier problem in that sentence. 🙂

Merry Christmas, everyone!