By Anne McKee / guest columnist
Yes, the last day of November has arrived. Are you ready? So much to do and so little time — only 25 days, so jingle your bell and enjoy the ride.
Tons of decorating, and practice, practice, practice the Christmas music; attend the children’s play; plan the menu; prepare for out of town family members (those in town as well); attend all of the Merry Meridian activities, plus those fun things planned in the nearby Mississippi communities of Quitman, Philadelphia, Newton, Decatur, Union, plus our Alabama neighbors in Demopolis, York, Butler,\ and Livingston.
Merry Meridian Schedule (this week)
• Nov. 30, 4 p.m. — Holiday Express Christmas Train, Kansas City Southern, Union Station
• Dec. 1, 8:30 — 10:30 a.m. Junior Auxiliary, Breakfast with Santa, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Dec. 1, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Merry Meridian Boutique Market, MSU Riley Center
Dec. 1, 10 a.m. – Merry Museum, Meridian Museum of Art, Children’s Workshop
Dec. 1, 5 p.m. – City of Meridian & Meridian Main Street Holiday Parade, downtown
We all have our Christmas favorites and traditions. One can never enjoy too much of a good thing, so jingle your bell, and hang the boughs of holly, as we enter the 2012 Christmas season. Below is a favorite Christmas tune:
Christmas is coming,
The Goose is getting fat.
Christmas is coming,
Put a penny in the old man’s hat.
If you haven’t a penny,
A halfpenny will do.
If you haven’t a halfpenny,
God Bless You!
I researched the above verse and learned the merry song was from the Victorian era. It is guaranteed to usher in the Christmas spirit. I can envision from this verse: giving to others; going to Grandma’s house and her big Christmas dinner; generosity to strangers; the excitement of the days just prior to Christmas day, plus much more joyfulness.
Another Christmas favorite — "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever", a children’s Christmas book written by Barbara Robinson and published in 1970. It is a lovely story of the unruly Heardman kids, who take over the annual Christmas pageant at the local church, with the thought of free cookies and punch, but instead the kids discover the true meaning of Christmas, as only those can who experience the beautiful story as fresh and new. One more book that I always read: "Great Wolf and Good Woodsman", published in 1967 and written by Helen Hoover.
From there I move right along to television. "It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas" is a must-see each year. I enjoy the accompanying piano musical rendition as much as the story. Next I seek another favorite, "Homecoming: A Christmas Story." It was in 1972 that the world was introduced to the Walton family, living on Walton’s Mountain, and I certainly enjoyed the years of this popular TV program. I have always thought the inaugural TV presentation, with a Christmas story theme, was the very best of The Walton’s. One more favorite — two years ago, I purchased by very own copy of the movie, "The Nativity Story" (The Journey of a Lifetime, a Story for All Time) – the best-of-the-best Christmas movies, I think.
Not to forget Christmas movies, "It’s a Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street" are both movies which were released in the mid 1940s, but remain fresh and uplifting in their message of peace and goodwill. There is one more – "Christmas Vacation" with Chevy Chase – talk about a character driven plot. Chevy’s in-laws, including Cousin Eddie, his dog, Snots, and the entire crazy brood are sure to bring a dozen or more belly-laughs.
Oh, and the music of Christmas — I could never live through December without enjoying, "Blue Christmas," by Mississippi’s favorite son, Elvis. I admit I also enjoy some of the silly songs, "Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer" and "A Chipmunk Christmas." But mainly the ole favorites such as Bing Crosby’s "White Christmas" and, of course, "I’ll be Home for Christmas" are both on my favorite list.
I most enjoy the traditional Christmas carols, such as: "Silent Night," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and many others. I recently researched the history behind some of these carols, and the reason for the writing of them. To me, it makes the song richer, when you know the circumstances that led to the writing.
"Silent Night" was written on Dec. 23, 1818. The writer lived in a small Austrian village located near the Alps. The story centered on a problem — the broken church organ. Music must be included during the Christmas Eve service at the local place of worship, Church of St. Nicholas, and the assistant pastor, Josef Mohr’s, desire to bring a Christmas carol for the small congregation that could be sung accompanied with only a guitar. He thought of a poem he had written a couple of years earlier — inspired by the peaceful, snow-covered scene of his village of Oberndorf, whenever he gazed upon it from an overlooking hill.
The next day Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Gruber only had a few hours to compose a simple musical setting for the poem; it didn’t matter that the organ was broken. They now had a Christmas carol that could be presented to the church-faithful and accompanied by the guitar for the Christmas Eve service.
By 1839 the carol was so popular that King William of Prussia ordered his cathedral choir to sing it every Christmas Eve. The carol was brought to the United States in 1839. In 1863, nearly 50 years after being presented in German, "Silent Night" was translated into English and is now in more than 100 languages.
Christmas traditions, most importantly include the telling and retelling of the first Christmas story. The shepherds, the angels and the sweet baby Jesus are the very best of Christmas favorites, and not overrated in the least, but will remain implanted in our Christian hearts forever.
Jingle your bell – are you ready? No matter, Christmas is ready for you.
Anne B. McKee is a writer and storyteller. Visit her website at www.annemckee.net.