Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What is your favorite Christmas Song and Why?

Ah, Christmas . . . The month of chilly, sometimes cold, days. Hot chocolate. Reflection. Blessing. Gift-giving and receiving. Charity. And, music. What is your favorite Christmas song and why? Before I reveal my favorite I have to say, in full disclosure, I love Christmas. I love everything about it. Well, not the modern day commercialism and tendency to begin the bid for money before children even go trick or treating.

When I was 11 years old my parents, brother, and I lived in Levelland, Texas. A small town in the desert like landscapes of west Texas. Levelland was an old-fashioned town with a town square. The court house sat, large and imposing, in the center. I remember loving it. I remember feeling safe and loved.

One cold, blustery, and gray December morning we dressed and headed to downtown for a special day. Daddy wasn't with us. He must have been at work. I couldn't contain my excitement. Something I still have difficulty doing. Those who know me will tell you they can discern my mood with a simple glance. I, very proudly, wore a dress I had received in a box of wonderful hand-me-downs from my Oklahoma cousins. It was Christmas green and red taffeta with a big red bow on the right hip. I used to have a photo of that day. Alas, it is lost.

My brother, John, and I each had five dollars to buy all of our gifts. That money burned right through my little purse. It still burns through my purse. Mama parked backwards in a space in front of City Cafe where she worked. That was strange but I didn't give it a second thought.

Gosh, it was cold! Our first stop, much to my chagrin, was the old musty department store. Mama wanted to find a shirt for Daddy. I hated that store. It frightened me. The scuffed wood floors creaked. I hated the smell. Most of all, I hated the very large stuffed grizzly bear standing at his full height over the shoe department. He moved, I just knew he moved, when I glanced out of the corner of my eye. His claws seemed to be as big as my head. His teeth were long, sharp, and yellow. His eyes were steely black. I whined wanting to leave. At least, until I spied the large, festively wrapped box of stuffed animals. Gosh, they were soft. There were so many sizes and types. I found a small tiger and carried him all over the store. Begging for him and being turned down, "we don't have the money" Mama said. Finally. Mama found a shirt for Daddy.

We walked two doors down to the cafe. Within minutes the three of us ate hot cheeseburgers, fries, and drank Dr. Peppers. Christmas music seemed to come from the sky. It was magical.

My brother and I were allowed to go to the five and dime stores, Wacker's and Ben Franklin, to do our shopping. My money was gone in one store. That would be Wacker's. I don't remember what I bought except for a small cobalt blue bottle of "Evening in Paris" perfume for Mama and some hot salted peanuts for myself. When we were kids my brother held on to his money with an iron fist.

The highlight of our outing arrived. Rushing back to the cafe where Mama waited we blew in ready for the parade. We sat in the front seat of the car looking at the street. The courthouse decorations suddenly seemed brighter. The Nativity on the square took on an ethereal light. The blinking multi-colored lights on the trees tapped out secret messages. Then, a police car with lights flashing and siren blaring led the parade.Then the first entry in the parade--always my favorite-- came around the corner. The beautifully tacked and groomed horses of the law enforecement members pranced and blew smoke in the cold air. And, it began to sleet. To my young eye the sleet was as beautiful as snow. The high school band marched past playing "Jingle Bells." Special people, like the mayor, slowly drove down the street. I thought the best part would never arrive. Suddenly, Santa Claus in his sleigh full of hidden toys in large bags drawn by eight reindeer being carried on the top of a fire truck came into my view. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" poured from that invisible place with the music.

I hung out the window. Mama tried to keep me inside because she was afraid I would get sick. I repeatedly disobeyed but I couldn't help it. Santa even waved at me.

Just as the parade ended that music turned into bells chiming from the court house. They played "Silver Bells." That song, in every form, has been my favorite Christmas song for 48 years now. I often wonder why it became my very favorite. I think it's because of the magic and memory of that day. Looking back I think everything that day fell into perfect place. Even though the weather was very cold, it was appropriate.

That little stuffed tiger actually showed up under the tree that year. And, Mama bought a record of Christmas music which included "Silver Bells" on it. Christmas remains magical to me. I am childlike in my enthusiam. I hope I never lose my sense of wonder and awe.

I would love to know what your favorite Christmas song or memory is and why. I look forward to hearing from my dear readers.


Anonymous said...

You are just so talented, Nonie. I am so proud of you. Silver Bells, huh? I never knew that, and if I did I guess I forgot. Your memory is still so keen, at least with things you want to remember!! haha.
My favorite? All of them! Listening right now to Mannheim Steamroller. Love them.

John said...

I have known that was my sister's favorite song forever... Silver Bells is my second favorite, topped only by O' Holy Night. I too remember that Christmas, unfortunately without the detail that my sister remembers. I do remember hearing Silver Bells and seeing the Silver Bell decorations hanging from the lamp posts around the town center.

Reconning back to those days, I have always had a special memory of the small town Americana... those towns with the court square. Of course my memory isn't of the courthouse, but of the military statue and memorial to all the town's soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our beloved country.

God bless and keep you one and all.

John Bennett

Winona said...

Amazing how people see the same things, hear the same things, and still come away with their own special memories. My dear brother has always known "Silver Bells" was my favorite.

Cynthia Owens said...

Winona, what a lovely post! I too have so many special memories of Christmas, most especially the year I got my Easy Bake Oven (this was long before the Easy Bake Microwave my daughter had not so long ago). Our tradition was that we'd attend Midnight Mass, then go back home for the Reveillion, a French-Canadian tradition that involves lots of food, desserts, and opening our Christmas gifts before finally heading off to bed around 3 a.m.

That year, the night was so clear it seemed every star was visible, but one of them was brighter than all the others. As we got out of the car, shivering in our new Christmas outfits, my mother pointed to it and told me that was Santa (or Pere Noel), and that he must have just left our presents under the tree. When we went inside, there was a huge, gaily wrapped package under the tree. But of course Dad had to kiss all his girls (my 2 sisters and me) and my Mom a "Merry Christmas" first, then make a drink. Finally, Dad handed out the presents - one at a time of course - and the big box was the last. Yep, you guessed it - the Easy Bake Oven I'd been dreaming of. I still love to bake Christmas treats to this day.

As for favorite Christmas carols, I'd have to say it's a tie between "Minuet Chretien" (the French version of O Holy Night, and the Wexford Carol, a lovely Irish carol from the 12th Century.

Wishing you joy this Christmas.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Favorite Christmas song - Mary did you Know?

I know, not an old, traditional one - that would be O Holy Night.

Love Christmas too - except for the cold!

Great post.
Love you, Friend.

Winona said...

Cynthia--I love your memory. The French connection--forgive the pun- is just great. I always wanted that darn Easy Bake Oven but, alas, never received it. Perhaps, when my granddaughters are old enough they'll get one.

Moonine Sue Watson said...

I bought my mother Evening in Paris, too. I thought the bottle was beautiful. She kept it forever on a display shelf in the bathroom, but never used it. It smelled bad.

My favorite Christmas song is Away in a Manger because we did the play every year at Christmas. I always wanted to be Mary, but only sang in the chorus instead. I still love the song anyway as it is what Christmas is all about.

Paula said...

Silent Night sung by Jim Reeves. Beautiful memories, Winona. And very well written!

Trooper said...

It just occurred to me that when I visited a couple of nights on a farm near Levelland, TX, I might have been close to the home of a little girl called Winona. I remember the town square and the landscape known as Llano Estacado that covers so many square miles of Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

Trooper said...

I guess the simplicity of music written for a guitar because the mice had destroyed the pump organ and the telling of Lukes version makes "Silent Night" my favorite Christmas song. I heard it once in the original German language, Although I didn't understand the words, the beauty was still there.