Tag Archives: Christmas

My Favorite Christmas Songs

It’s Holiday again.

I mean, it’s Christmas time again. For the purposes of this blog I can call a ceasefire to my part of the War on Christmas and acknowledge the holiday that occurs every December 25th. Actually, there really isn’t a war on Christmas. I know, Bill O’Reilly is turning in his grave hearing me say that. (Is he dead?) But, seriously. The majority of Americans still celebrate it. We still get the day off of work and school. The specials still run on television. So retailers are opting to be more inclusive when giving Season’s Greetings to their customers. Big deal. Is that a war?

Be that as it may, I thought I’d list five of my favorite Christmas songs. As always, this is my list. Your results may vary.

In no particular order, here they are:


Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt (1953)
Oh, yeah, it’s cheesy and the string breaks get a little annoying, but Kitt’s sultry gold-digging is quite enjoyable. It would be difficult for Santa to deny her requests when put the way she does it. Others have covered this song, but this version is the best. And the “boom-boom, boom-boom’s” are a nice touch.


Snoopy’s Christmas – The Royal Guardsmen (1967)
This Christmas song was The Royal Guardsmen’s follow-up to their Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron hit from the year before. In fact, musically the two songs are virtually identical. I had to do quite a bit of digging through YouTube to find the first hit from 1966. Many people seem to think Snoopy’s Christmas is titled Snoopy Vs The Red Baron, but they are different songs. Apparently, this band had a thing for Snoopy.


It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year – Andy Williams (1963)
Yes, I know. This song is almost cliche, but I have to include it. It reminds me of all those Christmas specials that would play on TV in the lead up to the big holiday. Those specials helped mark of the days until Santa came and, at the same time, ramped up the anticipation of the arrival of that generous and jolly old fella. Andy Williams also came up with the only version of Twelve Days of Christmas, normally an incredibly tedious song, that I like. (I’ve linked to it as a bonus.)


A Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives (1964)
I first heard this one the way I’m sure most of the rest of you have: From The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas Television Special. Yes, plenty has been said in recent years about what a terrible message that special taught American television-viewing audiences in the mid-60s and beyond. The message was if you’re different you’re a freak and unwanted, even by Santa! And that only when that difference can be exploited are you then worthy of inclusion. Well, despite the horrible treatment of misfits, the song is quite rousing.



Christmas Time Is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio (1965)
This might just be my favorite Christmas song. As with most of the others, this one comes from a television holiday special – the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas. I think the music for this program is what makes it so darn good. The Vince Guaraldi Trio really did something special here. In fact, the entire soundtrack is fantastic!

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Packing Peanuts!

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Moms – Increasing The Rarity Of Valuable Items Since…

The other day, while waiting in the check-out line at Walgreen’s, I became part of a conversation about the ways people would light their Christmas trees back when we were kids. Back in the Stone Age. Actually, one way in particular. The cashier was describing the lighted, rotating color wheel that would project colors on the tree or house or whatever you would aim it at. They still exist, but the customer ahead of me had never heard of them.


I chimed in to say that I was pretty sure I had one at home. One from the Stone Age that used to belong to my wife’s parents and was in the basement somewhere. I should maybe see it I can dig it out and set it up for some bonus lighting on Christmas Eve.

The conversation continued as it became my turn to make my purchases. The cashier marveled at all the things we got rid of over the years. “If only we’d kept them. We’d be millionaires,” she lamented wistfully.

Um, well, unless we got rid of those Matisse originals stuffed in the back of the closet for so long, being potential millionaires would be a stretch. Perhaps she meant we’d feel like a million bucks to be able to still connect with an object from our past. Yeah, I don’t think she meant that either.

On the drive home, I got to thinking about how we lose our treasured items from our youth. Most of us simply outgrow the toys we prized so highly. We decided money would be more valuable at the moment and sold those items at garage sales. Maybe we were less monetarily motivated and gave our treasures to Goodwill. Maybe Mom got sick and damn tired of our room being such a mess…

Oh, yeah. The Great Toy Purge of 1976. (Or thereabout.)

I shared a room with my younger brother in those days. My brother was more of the unkempt sort than I was when it came to the cleanliness of our room. However, I wasn’t exactly Felix Unger. And one day, Mom had had enough. We hadn’t heeded her warnings to get that room clean or else!

“Or else what?” we shrugged to each other. “What’s she gonna do? Throw everything away? Riiiight.”

Well, that’s exactly what she did. She finally snapped and began scooping up our toys that had been so carelessly strewn about our room. Then out into the trash it all went. All of it. She really did it. Trip after trip, our collection of toys disappeared.

Then, she turned and eyed my box of comic books.

“NO!” I cried, “Not my comic books! Mom! Pleeeeaaase!

And, much like a soldier leaping onto a live grenade to save his comrades, I threw myself in harm’s way to save my precious comic books. My look of terror quickly turned into a sneer of defiance, “Do what you will with my toys, woman! But you shall not lay a finger on my comic books! Not one step closer if you value your life!”

Mom hesitated. The tension of this standoff could be cut with a knife.

She gave it some thought and finally capitulated, “No, your comic books shall not be touched. They are put away where they belong, which is what I wanted to be done with your toys. And I would suggest you bag and back them with Mylar bags and acid free backing boards, if you want to keep them in good condition.”

I’m not sure she actually said that last part.

Anyway, as the day waned with her boys still whimpering over the purge of their toys, Mom’s heart softened. “All right,” she said, “I may have overreacted a little, but I hope you boys have learned I’m serious when I say you need to put your toys away. You may go out to the trash and retrieve one toy.”

I don’t recall which item my brother rescued, but I grabbed out my Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces.


Oh, he was a cool toy. He came with a wig, mustaches, warts, scars, two extra noses, sideburns, fangs, eyeglasses, etc. You could make him look so many different ways. Like a thousand different ways!

I cut a window in his box and covered it with plastic wrap, so that when he was boxed up he could still see out. I used put Hugo in his box, looking out the window I made for him, and I’d zoom him around as though his box was a rocket ship. Boy, did I like that toy.

Do I still have Hugo?

Nah. I gave him away.

Packing Peanuts!

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The best version of…


Well, it’s holiday time again and I figured I’d weigh in on this most serious of debates: Which of the 14,398 film and television versions of Charles Dickens’ classic¬† story¬† of greed and redemption is the best? It’s difficult to say for certain, because I haven’t seen all 19,573 versions of A Christmas Carol. But that’s not going to stop me from naming the one of the 22,741 versions I think is best.

The story is very familiar to most anyone. (With 27,821 versions it’s hard to believe many people wouldn’t know the story.) Ebenezer Scrooge is a cold, money obsessed man of business. He’s penny-pinching and cruel to all around him, with no charity toward those who are less fortunate. He thinks Christmas is a bother and a humbug.

However, his former business partner, Jacob Marley, who had died on Christmas Eve seven years earlier, visits Scrooge as a ghost who exists in a hellish kind of limbo. The late Marley has taken pity on Scrooge and wants to give him a chance to change his ways and avoid a similar fate. Three spirits will visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve to help convince him of the error of his cruel greediness.

Looking through Christmases of his past, present, and future, Scrooge learns he’s had a wonderful life and that he really shouldn’t kill himself for a bit of insurance…money… Wait. That’s a different movie.

Anyway, the spirits do their job and Scrooge awakens enlightened and inspired to change his ways. He becomes quite the generous soul who henceforth always kept Christmas well.

Yeah, I know! Spoilers! But come on.

As I said, there have been many, many, many versions of this story told since Dickens wrote it. Hell, WKRP in Cincinnati even did a version of the classic tale. But, hands down, my favorite version is the UK’s 1951 Renown Pictures film Scrooge (or A Christmas Carol as it was titled in it’s American release) starring Alastair Sim as the mean old miser himself.

It’s vital that the actor playing Scrooge gets it right. And not just the cold-hearted, money-grubbing, humbug-shouting Scrooge, but the joyous, giddy, warm-hearted redeemed man that he became. And Sim is brilliant! His dark and cruel Scrooge is terrific and his humbled, kind-hearted Scrooge is just as convincing. His supporting cast is filled with wonderful English character actors most of whom rise up to match the caliber of Sim’s performance.


I have two quibbles: One is the woman who plays the younger Scrooge’s love interest. She acts a bit wooden and is always looking off into the distance. And her crying is about as phony as I’ve ever seen in film. I’m not sure if that was an acting choice or if that was how she was directed to play it. It just felt acted, if you know what I mean.

The second quibble is the whole Cratchit family Christmas celebration. They are so pitifully poor, because Scrooge pays the head of the family so little, and yet theirs will be the finest Christmas goose and the finest Christmas in all of London. They’ll even have enough gin punch for two toasts! And the pudding! Oh, the pudding! Come hear the pudding singing in the copper!

Yeesh! The whole sequence is so sweet I think I develop a cavity every time I watch it. Now, I know the scene is supposed to show how happiness is not tied to money. The Cratchits are joyful despite their poverty, while Scrooge is miserable with all his wealth. But still, I’d advise brushing your teeth immediately after watching that scene.

And Tiny Tim is too tall! OK, that’s three quibbles.

Otherwise, I think the film is wonderful. It has a dark and brooding feel prior to Scrooge’s conversion. And one of the effects of that darkness is to give the feeling of authenticity to the story. It feels real and makes one think the movie goes back much farther than 1951. But, the picture brightens and the world becomes a hopeful place after the spirits have succeeded in their task.

Oh! And as a bonus. There is an excellent continuity error in the film. Christmas morning has arrived and Scrooge’s charwoman (terrifically played by Kathleen Harrison) has come with his breakfast. Scrooge is not acting himself. He’s giddy and happy and she’s terrified.

So, there’s Scrooge dancing around his bedroom, when he stops to look in a mirror to tell himself he doesn’t deserve to be so happy. It’s at that point you need to look in the mirror. Look closely! You will see a man off camera lean in to watch the scene.


It’s not a ghost! It’s not pareidolia! It’s a member of the crew. And it’s a pretty cool continuity error.

If you have never seen Scrooge or if it’s been a long while, it’s well done and worth your time. The entire film is available on YouTube, but if you watch the colorized version I will be sorely disappointed in you. Colorization is a humbug! HUMBUG!

Tiny Tim

Merry Holiday, everyone!

Correction (12-27-15): When originally posted I had listed the wrong character and actor for the scene in which we see the off camera crew member in the mirror. I had said it was the laundress played by Louise Hampton. The character was the charwoman and was played by Kathleen Harrison. I have made the correction.

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