Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas, Don't Be Late (Alvin and the Chipmunks)

I read the following meme on Mom Sequitur's blog (hi, Kate!) about a month ago... and commented that I'd love to copy, paste and fill in the blanks with my own answers as it got closer to Christmas - here we are... and here I go!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I used to do either/both... but last year I bought about 20 Publix
green bags and wrapped all my gifts in those, topping off with a nice holiday ribbon - this year I bought an equal number of the Target red bags, and will do the same. Since simple is the theme of our holiday, the bags will live on throughout 2009 and beyond, rather than ending up in a landfill - reduce/reuse/recycle...

2. Real tree or Artificial? We always did a real tree... when we still did a tree - however, for the last four or five years, we've skipped that step. The year my mom's husband was killed in a car accident, we decided to drive up from Florida and spend Christmas with her (and my brother, sister and her family) - it just felt like a lot of work when we wouldn't be here to enjoy it. So... no tree, but bits and pieces of my Santa collection, lots of candles and a few other decorative touches outside and in - it still feels festive, and we're not overwhelmed pre- and post-trip. Plus my sister's tree is always huge and gorgeous - we can live vicariously!

3. When do you put up the tree? Again... when we did, we always waited until *after* Thanksgiving... usually the first weekend in December - I'm a firm believer in celebrating one holiday at a time... :-)

4. When do you take the tree down? When we did, we always kept it up until after New Year's - I never got tired of appreciating our handiwork and the calm it invokes...

5. Do you like eggnog? Hack... gag... spit - yuck! That being said, when we lived in Puerto Rico, our neighbors used to make coquito, which was an eggnog with coconut milk, which I loved - crazy, huh?

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Interestingly enough, the gift I remember loving the most wasn't even intended for me - my Uncle Leon (as hip as my father was conservative), his wife Sue and their five children sent a package of presents one year, and included The Doors first album for my parents. Needless to say, it fell on deaf ears and I inherited - loved it then... still do... :-)

7. Hardest person to buy for? I don't think anyone is especially hard to buy for, if you pay attention and listen - even if I don't purchase anything until December, I make mental notes along the way so I can find the perfect gift when the time is right...

8. Easiest person to buy for? If you follow the standards above: everyone!

9. Do you have a nativity scene? It's in storage now... but I bought a nativity scene (at Sears, of all places!) our first Christmas in Puerto Rico (1985), which means it's 23 years old now - our tradition was for each child to take turns putting the characters in a place of their own choosing. The only rule was that the Baby Jesus could not be in the hayloft (since Mary and Joseph couldn't fit up there as well) - it always managed to go smoothly and cooperatively...

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Always mail... (with even a family newsletter included!)... except last year was so hectic I never managed either - this year both are happening, and I hope never to break that tradition again!

11.Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I can't really think of a worst - I think I'm *very* easy to buy for (Oz paraphernalia, silver jewelry, books, CDs), as my eclectic taste is visible in everything I say/do...

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I do adore A Christmas Story (just found out a friend's father invented the leg lamp!) and the last few years, Love Actually has made it into our holiday repertoire too - gotta love the Joni mentions... :-)

13. When do you start shopping? I might pick up a few things that I see throughout the course of the year that I know will be just perfect for someone but, for the most part, I don't shop until December - these days I do more and more of my shopping online, especially since we travel. I have everything shipped to my sister's house, tell her she dare not open anything and "wrap" (see #1 above) when we get there - we even stuff each other's stockings...

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I must confess that I have re-gifted (a la Seinfeld)... but only when I know the person who initially gave the gift will not cross paths with the one who received - but... I don't do it randomly... and only when I feel it will find a better home with them than me...

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? For years, my mom made the most amazing strada... with bread, eggs, sausage and swiss cheese... which you have to make the night before and let set - we'd pop it in the oven and smell it cooking while we were opening presents. Served with fresh fruit on the side, it made a perfect Christmas morning breakfast/brunch, filling us up enough to tide us over until the main meal later that day - it became a tradition in our household as well, and I also make a vegetarian strada for my daughter (who now eats meat, but it's still nice to have a healthier option... :-)

16. Lights on the tree? Absolutely - my mom always used the big ones, which I did for years - then my kids begged me for small ones, which we did. We went back to big and it felt like coming home - plus... it's much easier to replace one bulb at a time rather than an entire strand!

17. Favorite Christmas song? My favorite this year (in the comtemporary category) has got to be Why Can't It Be Christmastime All Year... and I of course adore Joni's River and Dar's the Christians and the Pagans - if we're talking traditional, it's a tie between O Come, O Come Emmanuel... We Three Kings... and In the Bleak Mid-Winter (I obviously love those melancholic, minor chord songs)...

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? See #2 above...

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Of course - is the Pope Catholic?!?

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Always an angel - we've had the same one (I bought it at a craft fair) decades ago...

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Always Christmas morning - the wonderful thing is... my husband's family's tradition centers around Christmas Eve, so we could always honor both rituals without compromise or tug-of-war.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? I think I'm most annoyed by the fact that people seem to get more impatient (is that contradictory?)... whether it's driving, waiting in line or seeking help in a store - I think I tend to go to the opposite extreme in that, since I'm always running/scrambling, waiting and driving have turned into times of peace, quiet and stillness for me...

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? My favorite ornaments are ones I bought similar to my favorite of my mother's when I was growing up... blown-glass birds that clip onto the tree branches - just thinking about them has me wanting to put up a tree next year, so I can haul all my decorations out of storage and see them again. I also have an amazing Santa collection (40+) I used to display, and get compliments on - each one has a story (of course!). As far as themes or matchy-matchy, I don't go that route - I adore the cacaphony of colors and styles of Christmases past... from the homemade ornaments my kids made in preschool years ago to a few priceless crystal baubles... and everything in between!

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Doesn't matter to me what we eat... just as long as my family is around the same table, giving thanks for being together another year - my Aunt Marie passed away in June, so there will be an extra aura of sadness at her absence...

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? I really and truly can't think of a thing I want - my favorite part is buying gifts for everyone else, choosing just the right present for each. I'm a lucky woman - wanting more seems frivolous and unnecessary. Okay, okay... maybe the new Stephanie Kallos book - good thing I ordered an extra copy to put in my own stocking!

Feel free to join in - Merry Christmas!

BOOK: The Poky Little Puppy's First Christmas by Justine Korman, Jean Chandler (illustrator)

POEM: The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas by Ellis Paul

Every Christmas since 1950
the Johnsons have filled their yard
with nifty blinking reindeer,
Santas, Frosties, dwarves and stars

It started oh so simply
just lights within a tree
then the mailbox got all strung up
then the chimney, then the eaves

and then the half-shell Mary
got draped in neon blue
then the hydrant, then the doghouse
then they freed a petting zoo

with electric reindeer,
llamas, horses, donkies, camels, mules
and a life-sized baby Jesus
sparkling like a desert jewel!

The lights so rattled the neighborhood
that the Smiths planned a revolt
led by a neon Santa Claus
that buzzed and sparked one thousand jolts

The Williams' rolled out cotton snow
the Wheelers pinched a Grinch
Mr. Greenburg lit a menorah
with eight foot flames and did not flinch

The Jacksons inflated a Frosty
inside their manger scene
the three wise men all stood confused--
A desert snowman! Is this a dream?!

Things got so darned cluttered
that every house along the street
vanished beneath the twinkling junk
like pajamas beneath the sheets

With each new year, this competition
gave each family a Christmas mission
to see who could outdo themselves
with barking penguins, sleighs and bells

Pretty soon from miles around
strangers came to Medford Town
to see the sights on Christmas block
the lights come on at six o'clock

The cars lined up in droves and droves
driving slowly at their leisure
they'd gawk and squawk and stare in shock
while their children had near seizures

Even up in outer space
the cosmonauts could see the place
the Christmas lights atop the trees
made them homesick for their families

But then one Christmas it all would change
there was no space left to arrange
in all the Johnson's neighborhood
except the tip where one tree stood

So Missy Johnson took a star
and on a ladder reaching far
put it on the the last tree's top
while all the neighbors' chins did drop

Then Johnny Johnson switched the switch
Santa's hands clicked six o'clock
and every light in Medford Town
blew out block, by block, by block

Then Boston, Providence, then state by state
America turned black as slate!
Then Canada, then Mexico
fell into the deep shadow

Then the Kremlin, then the Eiffel Tower
were soon to be out of power
London, Rio, Tokyo
were in the dark, but in the know

And in this blackout, all did stand
heartbroken down to every man
till Missy Johnson's eyes looked up
and her little voice did there erupt

"The stars! The stars! Above our heads!
They've never been so clear!" She said.
And everyone was quite amazed
to see the Milky Way ablaze!

Ten billion stars for every eye
stretched across the newborn sky.
Satellites and meteors
each were counted by the score

Who would have thought the sky would know
how to put on a Christmas show?
Without the plastic, blinking stuff
the sky itself was just enough

See, all it took on Christmas night
to guide three kings was one star's light
The people stood on Christmas block
and held on to that simple thought

Christmas could be neon-free
with no Santas, Frosties, reindeer, see?!
The people round all sighed relief
'cause tangled lights can cause such grief

The next year out on Christmas block
they lit a candle on a rock
and gathered round it merrily
and sang a Christmas melody

And no one seemed to even care
that decorations weren't even there
though maybe they could steal the scene
on the holiday called Halloween

QUOTE: "Christmas is a bridge. We need bridges as the river of time flows past. Today's Christmas should mean creating happy hours for tomorrow and reliving those of yesterday." ~ Gladys Tabor


  1. Susan, this year I, too, am using the pretty red Target bags for many of my gift-wrapping needs! While I'll always prefer paper and real ribbons, this year we are being more frugal & green and those bags fill both needs. :-)

  2. Hey, M ~

    Great minds think alike! - everyone we gave the green bags to last year absolutely loved (and are still using) them. I depend on mine for so many things - it's the gift that keeps on giving... :-)

  3. hey! I see CarrieandDanielle on your blog roll - thanks for that. I've got a new gig that might inspire:
    New year blessings,

  4. Hey, Danielle ~

    Thanks for taking the time to stop in and comment - I very much enjoy the CarrieandDanielle site daily...

    Will check out your new one... and add it to my blogroll as well - New Year blessings back at you!