Christmas Traditions and Memories…

Every year for as long as I can remember, I have spent part of Christmas Eve watching “A Christmas Carol” on television.

The 1951 version with Alistair Sim as Scrooge. [The 1938 edition with Reginald Owen in the lead role is okay, but given the choice, I’ll take Sim every time.]

In some ways, it was easier years ago, because the two versions alternated on Channel 2 all night. (Channel 7 counter-programmed with “Christmas in Connecticut” which I have never watched. The other stations offered Christmas mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and other locations, and there was Channel 11’s tape loop “Yule Log” with Christmas music playing.)

Anyway, if we were entertaining at home or out visiting friends or relatives, I’d be up later into the night watching the movie.

Nowadays, I have it on videotape, so I can watch it whenever I’m ready. Yes, I do have both versions, but I always watch the Sim version first. If I’m still not sleepy, I’ll watch the Owen version as well.

Ever since my kids were little, we pick a night during Christmas week and drive all over the town, looking at the lights and decorations on the houses. We would pop in a tape of holiday music and spend a couple of hours (and a couple of gallons of gas) critiquing each block.

Though Chuck has lost interest in it the past couple of years, it is still something Sammi and I do. In fact, now that she’s driving, she has scouted out a couple of blocks that are “must see streets” for us this year.

Back when she believed Santa came down the chimney, Sammi always felt sorry for the reindeer. She also thought Santa was too fat. So instead of a glass of milk and a plate of cookies, we left an orange and a glass of ice water for the man in red and an unpeeled carrot for Rudolph and company.

Those of you who’ve played the part realize that it’s just as easy to drink a glass of water and eat an orange as it is to consume milk and cookies. But stop and consider what you do so that you leave partially eaten carrot with “reindeer bites” in it.

I’ve had a Santa Claus suit for more than twenty years. Even before I had kids of my own, I would put it on and make Christmas Eve appearances at the homes of various friends. (And, back then, Santa’s sack was filled with lots of copies of DC’s RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER and CHRISTMAS WITH THE SUPER-HEROES digest books, as well as candy canes.)

One year, I was low on gas, so, in full costume, I stopped at a gas station and filled up. Yes, it was a self-serve station. Yes, other customers did ask where the sleigh and reindeer were. I told them Rudolph was ill and gave them all candy canes and comic books.

Once I had kids of my own, I worked this elaborate subterfuge: I would go out the back door (usually to “take out the garbage”), put on the costume in the garage, and come back in the front door. Just as gullible as the people who never seemed to realize that Clark and Superman are never seen together, the kids didn’t find it strange that I always managed to miss the appearance of Santa. (Although, one year, I heard the remark, “Santa has the same shoes as Uncle Bob” and decided the next year to put on big snow boots in addition to the red suit.)

The most valuable Christmas present I ever got – well, valuable in a strictly dollars and cents way – was the grab-bag prize when I was in sixth grade. It was AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 and FANTASTIC FOUR #6. At the time, they cost 24c. Today, in mint condition, they are worth more than $25,000.

Ironically, I already had both books, having bought them myself. So I traded them away not long after, probably for a couple of issues of JIMMY OLSEN or DETECTIVE COMICS.

During my senior year of high school, my group of closest friends and I decided to have a Christmas Eve party. Perhaps the only thing surprising about this was that they were all Jewish; I was “the token Christian.”

We cut a branch off the evergreen on Janet’s front lawn and propped it up by taping it to the wall in Fred’s bedroom, then decorated it with strings of popcorn and paper candy canes. [Janet’s father was not thrilled with what we had done to the tree. Nor was Fred’s mother amused by what the tape did to the wallpaper.]

Among us, we had only one Christmas record. Have you any idea how many times “Jingle Bell Rock” will play consecutively during four hours? And how, after all these years, I still remember every word and every note?

Each year at Christmas I send the following out to my friends.

In the coming year, may each of you…
…meet an old friend you thought you’d never see again.
…help a stranger in need and, in turn, find yourself being helped by another stranger.
…face adversity with a positive outlook, fight pain with a laugh, and disarm your enemies with a smile.
…gain the willpower to break your worst habit.
…rediscover the unrestrained laughter we had as children.
…overhear someone saying something nice about you, especially something you know to be true but don’t think anyone else realizes.
…do at least one of the things you have always wanted to do but never had the time for.
…learn from the past, embrace the present, and welcome the future.
…find a moment every day to reflect on all that is good in your life.

And, on that note, I think I’ll go pop “A Christmas Carol” into the VCR.

Merry Christmas.

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Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.


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