Things have quieted quite a bit down in town this week. School is out until after the new year, and Tech students have all but vanished until the middle of next month. I’m driving around town and find myself thinking this is a pretty darn decent little community. The holidays do that to me, you know... peace on earth, good will toward men, good will toward women and fruitcake for all.
As we roll through the third week of December the days are getting shorter and it seems like it gets dark by two or three o’clock. The holiday to beat all holidays is only five days hence, but before that happens, there’s a turning point – astronomically speaking. It’s when we cross over the hump so to speak, the shortest daylight day of the year, and I’m talking less than 10 hours.
Tomorrow is the first day of winter, or to be specific, the winter solstice happens. The important thing is that starting on Saturday the hours of daylight will start getting longer and - look out - we’re on our way to spring, and the five seasons start all over again: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Christmas.
I mean really, If you think about it the season of Christmas is a thing unto itself. I guess you could also call it the Holiday Season, considering that folks also celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Yuletide. So, if you start counting the days from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day to the Epiphany on the twelfth day of Christmas it runs into a couple of months. Practically a season all its own.
Anyhow, folks in Magdalena are really feeling the spirit of the season what with the house decorating contest, and the way Bobby Winston’s gas station (page one photo) is all lit up is a thing to behold. There are parties and festivities and the like, and last Sunday I found myself at one such holiday party. I’m not normally a party-oriented person but I do love meeting new people. My problem is not knowing when to shut my mouth. You know, when you think you’re saying something wise and insightful and you suddenly realize the other person is starting to glance around.
Regardless, it ranked up there as one of the better parties I’ve been to.
Me, I'm more of a traditionalist and like to think of Christmas as if through the eyes of a child.
Christmas Day in my childhood was a thing separate from all reality as if time and the world stood still. You forgot what day of the week it was on that day because nothing else mattered but just being at home, making a wrapping paper mess on the floor, and eating homemade popcorn balls and my mom’s divinity candy.
Growing up in our small college town - about the same size as Socorro - all stores were closed on Christmas, even gas stations. If you needed batteries, well, you should've thought about that before. And the local radio station played nothing but carols and hymns, at least until noon.
The record changer on the hi-fi was stacked with the music of the Nutcracker Suite, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, and carols sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Our parents had us faithfully watch Midnight Mass on TV, as well as Amahl and the Night Visitors and the more secular The Gift of the Magi. Indeed, those were the days before Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Frosty the Snowman and all the other holiday kids’ shows.
The past few days we’ve started hearing lots of Christmas music playing in stores, on television and on the radio, and I got to thinking of some of the goofy ways we as grade school kids misheard lyrics to Christmas songs.
Remember singing Frosty the Snowman “with a corncob pipe and a butt and nose…?”
Or, “O tiny bomb, O tiny bomb…” and “see the grazing mule before us, fa la la la la la la la la…”
There was also “Noel, Noel…Barney’s the king of Israel…” Well, that’s what it sounded like.
Here’s one that I still can’t get out of my head: “O come, froggy faithful, joyful and triumphant…” Then there was “Rudolph, the red-nosed stranger…” and “Olive, the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names…”
Of course, some of the kids just made up the wrong words on purpose and we’d all giggle at “Get dressed, ye married gentlemen…” or “Joy to the world! The Lord has gum…”
All in all, though, Christmas music has always put me in the spirit, the traditional songs and some of the new ones. As Johnny Mathis once said, “There’s always room for one more Christmas song, I think.”
Speaking of the above mentioned 12 days of Christmas, someone figured out it would cost around $170,000 to give your true love all the things in that song.
I wouldn’t know what she would do with nine ladies dancing and lords a’leaping anyway.
Our house ain’t that big.