Special sounds help usher in holiday season

Published 6:00 am Sunday, December 16, 2012

“It’s not Christmas time until …”

     Many people can complete that sentence in a wide variety of ways.

     For some, it’s when the Christmas tree goes up in the house.

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     For others, it’s when the temperature in December drops below a certain point.

     (I would say the first snowfall, but we hardly ever get that in Mississippi. Plus, it’s more likely we’re keeping the air conditioner going instead of turning on the heat.)

     For major retailers, I think the Christmas season starts about, oh, July 5.

     But seriously, my unofficial start of the Christmas season has changed over the years. As I mentioned a few columns back, the arrival of the Christmas catalogs signaled the season’s start when I was a little boy.

     Regardless, a constant over the years for me has been music. I know I am not alone in this thought, as “Silent Night,” “Joy To The World,” and other hymns and carols serve as season-starters for many.

     My choices in holiday music, or some form of recorded word, have ranged from simple fun to sentimental reminders of the real meaning of the season.

     When I was a child, the pre-holiday classroom sing-a-longs of “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” never failed to give way to the Christmas morning radio broadcast of “The Christmas Guest.”

     As I lied in bed, having awakened early either in anticipation of the morning’s discoveries or more likely never having gone to sleep at all, Grandpa Jones of “Hee Haw” fame could be heard telling the story of Conrad on the radio in my parents’ room.

     In the story, Conrad has a dream that he would be visited by Jesus on Christmas Day. Therefore, he goes about preparing his home in anticipation.

     Instead, however, he is visited by three people: a beggar in need of shoes, a hungry woman and a child lost from his family. Conrad helps them all in turn, but realizes the day has past with no appearance by Jesus.

     Then a voice reminds Conrad that his special visitor had indeed appeared as promised.

     “Three times I knocked and three times I came in

     And each time I found the warmth of a friend

     Of all the gifts love is the best

     And I was honored to be your Christmas guest.”

     That childhood memory surfaces whenever I think about Christmas, as do other special recordings related to the holiday season.

     For years, I did not consider it Christmas time until I had heard Amy Grant’s version of “A Tennessee Christmas.”

     Indeed, the whole album of the same name served as sort of my own holiday tradition. The fact I had a crush on Grant all through high school and beyond probably played a big role in my choice of Christmas music.

     And for once, I’d like Alabama’s “Christmas In Dixie” to actually become a holiday reality. We don’t see too much “snowin’ in the pines” until January – if then.

      I don’t seek it out for a listen, but somehow, never a Christmas season passes without my hearing “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” at least once.

     I think the Elmo and Patsy classic, and I’ll use that term loosely, is one people either really enjoy or really hate. I tend to be in the first group.

     In recent years, I’ve taken up a new special Christmas tradition that really helps me to welcome in the season.

     On the day I set aside to do my Christmas shopping, I put Patrick Stewart’s recording of  “A Christmas Carol” in the car CD player. The former “Star Trek” Capt. Jean-Luc Picard is commanding as he does all the voices of the characters from the Charles Dickens classic.

     Hearing the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation as I go about my day and thinking about loved ones does a lot to lift whatever spirits may be down and to put me in the mood for the coming holiday.

     With that in mind, I hope every one has a merry Christmas. And as Tiny Tim says, “God bless us, everyone.”

     That’s all for now.

     Write to Managing Editor Matthew Coleman at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602, or send email to mcoleman@dailyleader.com.