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From the Publisher's Desk – Chestnuts needed for my open fire (Dec. 16 2015 issue)

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, yule-tide carols being sung by a choir, and folks dressed up like Eskimos.”
What’s your favorite Christmas carol? Although I have many, I must say that “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole is one of my favorites. There is something between his voice and the mood set by the lyrics that put me in a mellow, cozy place. Yet, I’ve never experienced roasted chestnuts, don’t like Jack Frost and wouldn’t be comfortable in Eskimo clothing.
Although some of the more well known Christmas songs have been done and redone by various artists, I still tend to stick with the older versions that I grew up with. They are timeless. To me they are as traditional as unpacking those treasured ornaments that have been stored from year to year. You forget you have them until you see them again and then they bring a smile and feeling of familiarity as you recall the memories of Christmases past.
I can appreciate my generation and those just slightly before me. I think we have a greater appreciation for tradition than many youngsters of today. I doubt that many of today’s teenagers even know who Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Gene Autry, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin are.
Christmas seemed like it would never get here as a child. Now I blink and it is here. Wasn’t the Apple Festival just last week? Where was that vacation I meant to take all year?
As a child my eyes were filled with visions of sugar plums or something like that. I could make out a Christmas list to challenge the best of shoppers. Many items on my list were eye candy with little knowledge of what the toy really was.
I must say that toys of my youth could have a simple, one word instruction manual – “imagination.” They were all basic in nature but brought out new depths to a young imagination.
That supercharged Matchbox car could outrun the police, become air born over the arm of the sofa and endure numerous crashes. I could take on an entire army with a cap gun and never run out of ammunition.
Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were still magical on TV even in black and white. One of my favorite early memories was listening to Erwin’s AM-1420 when they would have letters to Santa.
I can still hear Gene Autry singing “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane, Vixen and Blitzen and all his reindeer, pullin’ on the reins.
“Bells are ringin’, children singin’, all is merry and bright, so hang your stockings and say your prayers, ‘cause Santa Claus comes tonight.”
After that jolly introduction they would actually have Santa taking time out of his busy schedule to call in from the North Pole. The radio announcer would read letters that had been sent in and Santa would acknowledge the children, the gifts and whether they had been good all year.
I just love to be in stores during December and hear parents using the Santa threat on their children. “Santa is watching. You better be good if you want him to bring you something.”
That brings to mind the classic song “I’m gettin’ nuttin’ for Christmas.”
Sing along, “Cuz I ain’t nuttin’ but bad. I broke my bed on Johnny’s head. Somebody snitched on me. I hid a frog in sister’s bed. Somebody snitched on me. I spilled some ink on mommy’s rug. I made Tommy eat a bug, bought some gum with a penny slug, and somebody snitched on me.
“I’m gettin’ nuttin’ for Christmas. Mommy and Daddy are mad. I’m gettin’ nuttin’ for Christmas, cuz I ain’t been nuttin’ but bad.”
Of course there were worse options than getting nothing. You could get the confusing lists of 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords a leaping, 9 ladies dancing, 8 maids a milking, 7 swans a swimming, 6 geese a laying, 5 golden rings, 4 calling birds, 3 French hens, 2 turtle doves and partridge in a pear tree. Young or old, what are you going to do with any of those gifts? I hope they all come with return receipts.
Fortunately not many of us have experienced a Christmas nightmare of seeing grandma get run over by a reindeer but evidently these things can happen.
One of the earliest known Christmas songs is from the 4th Century, “Jesus refulsit omnium,” composed by St. Hilary of Poitiers. When Gutenberg started his printing press rolling in 1454 copies of carols could be distributed, but Christmas celebrations were suppressed by puritans at that time.
Christmas carols were banned between 1649 and 1660 in England by Oliver Cromwell who thought that Christmas should be a solemn day. When Protestants, inspired by Martin Luther, took to the joy of Christmas carols, many had to flee Europe under pressure from the Catholic church. They took the Christmas carols with them to their new homes across the world.
One of the best known Christmas carols, “Silent Night, Holy Night, was written in 1818 by and Austrian priest named Joseph Mohr. It is said that he was told three days before Christmas that the church organ was broken and wouldn’t be repaired in time. He then wrote three stanzas that could be sung by a choir to guitar music. Today, the song is sung in more than 180 languages.
The biggest selling Christmas single of all time is Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” I have heard other artists’ renditions but nothing compares to his.
Whatever your favorite song is, I hope you hear it often and your spirits are lifted with the magic of Christmas.
“And so I’m offering this simple phrase, to kids from one to ninety-two, although it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you.”