I haven't had time to write a Christmas column this year, so this is a shorter and greatly modified version of a column I first wrote back in 2009 or so. It's a confessional column ... I confess.



SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

Years ago I DJ’d part time at a local radio station (which figures into my next novel, but we’ll cover that later). I happened to be on duty when the boss decided it was time to start the Christmas season with the Gift of Music.

He produced a card file and a stack of CD’s. On each card in the file (no computers -- it was that long ago) was the name of a Christmas song, which we shuffled into randomness. As soon as I saw what happened to fall as the first one, I had my intro.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to get the holiday season under way with WLNB’s selection of Christmas music, and I’ve been chosen for the honor or starting it out. I’m perfectly okay with that, as long as I don’t have to play ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’. Now, let’s see what’s on top of our play list ... no. It can’t be. Not that -- anything but that!”

Ah, but it was. And so I started out the Gift of Music with a redneck song about a reckless driving Santa Claus murdering elderly pedestrians.

Hey, I never said I was a good part time DJ. Note that I’m no longer employed there.

I’ve made it a practice to be the best combination of Scrooge and Grinch that I can possibly be. For the uninitiated, Scrooge is the old time British fellow who gets scared by ghosts into loving Christmas. The Grinch is the green guy who goes down to Whoeville to steal Christmas, but ends up returning everything when the Whoeville people start singing happy carols. This begs the question: if the people in Whoeville were happy anyway, why didn’t the Grinch just keep the stuff, and sell it on Ebay?

Yep -- two great stories, two bad endings. Just call me the Scrinch. Or Grooge, that would be okay.

I base most of my attitude on either out of control commercialism or people who, themselves, act like Grinches. Yes, I get upset when I see giant plastic Santas on display at Wal-Mart -- in September. But don’t we all get mad when some scumbag burglar steals the Christmas presents right from under someone’s tree?

I’ve mentioned this before, and recently: Christmas all year round might seem like a good idea, but in reality it would make the holiday cheap and ordinary. Put a friggin tarp on the decorations until mid-November, okay? I once went shopping for Halloween clearance items, and turned the corner to discover a plastic Frosty giving me a ... well, a frosty look.

As for stealing gifts, vandalizing decorations and such ... not that I haven’t wanted to vandalize decorations, but only when the outside ones are turned on in October. For everyone else, a public whipping on New Year’s Day should beat the holiday spirit into them.

My point is this: Although I get as angry as everyone else when “Let it Snow” starts playing in the store while people in shorts and tank tops stumble in, wiping sweat from their brow --

I don’t know if I should say it. It might ruin my reputation, and where am I without that? Next thing you know, people will discover I really like animals. But ... okay, complete honesty, here ...

I love Christmas music.

People may never look at me the same way again.

Christmas is the only thing I look forward to through the months of bitter cold, with nothing but driving snow and black, dead foliage. I never said I was big winter fan. I hate cold, I hate snow, I hate heating bills, I hate bulky clothes that never warm me up, I hate that some people like all that stuff -- but I love Christmas. Colored lights shine through the dull twilight of winter. People actually cheer up a little. Well, some people. And of all the things about Christmas, I love the songs the best.

It doesn’t matter if they’re old or new. Sure, the barking dog Jingle Bells thing grates on me, and I’ve heard versions of “Santa Baby” that make me want to hurry down a chimney. But from Frank Sinatra to Christina Aguilera, nothing perks me up more. What they’ve done elsewhere in their lives, or what other people think of them, doesn’t matter -- I’ll listen to it if it’s Britney Spears, or Barry Manilow.

Old or new? I love “Carol of the Bells” and “The Hallelujah Chorus”, which my choir sang in high school. They didn’t have new Christmas Songs back then. But I’ve got songs in my Christmas library by Faith Hill, the Trans Siberian Orchestra, the Eagles, and, yes, Hannah Montana.

Type of music? It’s all Christmas to me. Doesn’t matter whether it's the Bryan Seltzer Orchestra, Jessica Simpson, or Andrea Bocelli. Or that other fella, Tchaikovsky, and his Nutcracker thing. Still, nothing will ever beat the classics, and Bing Crosby is the king of the classics. I may not like white winters, but “White Christmas” will always be close to my half-frozen heart.

So that’s it --  my big confession. I love Christmas music ... almost all Christmas music. As long as the lyrics aren’t being “sung” by pets.

I don’t even mind that great tribute to holiday violence, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”.

Much.
 
 
The Wreath of Khan.

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
 
 
I always feel a little disjointed when the holidays arrive. I’ve never ready for Thanksgiving, which is followed within hours by Christmas, and minutes after that by New Year’s Eve, followed immediately by several months of miserable winter. I’m never ready.
 
And yet, the holidays come every year. So, what’s my excuse?
 
“Gee, I thought for sure it wouldn’t happen this time. Why was I not warned?”
 
My mother calls every year to find out when we want to celebrate Thanksgiving. We never celebrate Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving—that would be too easy. But many of us work in the service industry. In my 911 center, we almost never close down for the holidays. Okay, we took a few hours off when the Cubs won, but otherwise …
 
Many of my other relatives work in the more difficult service jobs, the ones where you have to work a register and deal with customers face to face. They don’t take 911 calls, but they often make 911 calls. I think I’d rather be on the receiving end. It’s because of their jobs that we can’t celebrate a holiday on a holiday. It used to be they were busy on Thanksgiving, setting up for Black Friday; now they’re busy on Thanksgiving, having Black Friday.
 
If you’re old, like me—I always feel old when the days get shorter—you’ll remember a time when everything shut down for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Go out for Thanksgiving dinner? What a turkey of an idea. Go shopping that same evening? There are ball games to watch, people. But these days we’re thankful for our alarm clock, so we can get up at 3 a.m. to work our part time job in riot control at Best Buy.
 
Don’t worry, ma’am: A little ventilation will get that pepper spray right out of your new flat screen TV.
 
So mom calls, and want to know if we want to have Thanksgiving the Sunday before, or the Saturday after. “But mom,” I say, “Why worry about that in August?”
 
“It’s November, dear.”
 
“But what happened to Halloween?”
 
“Your cardiologist ordered us not to say you missed it until November 7th.”
 
“But—the full sized candy bars!”
 
The irony is that there are plenty of reminders that the holidays are approaching. This year I saw my first store Halloween display in August, and my first Christmas display in September. It was 90 degrees. Nothing says Christmas like watching a plastic Santa melt like the Wicked Witch.
 
“Ho ho oh noooooo!!!!”
 
Nothing left but a bubbling pool of liquid on the floor, smelling faintly of peppermint and gingerbread. It’s enough to make you hit the eggnog.
 
Maybe my denial about the approaching holidays is an unconscious response to the cheapening of those same holidays, the way they come earlier and earlier. It’s not special any more. One year, on January third, I started poking through Christmas clearance items when I was stopped by an employee:
 
“Sir, those aren’t available for purchase yet—we’re putting up the store display tomorrow.”
 
It gets confusing. The Valentine’s Day cupid wears a fur lined red hat, and instead of a bow carries a little bundle of fireworks. Every time you pass him he says, “Happy Easter!” and tries to give you pumpkin shaped candy, while waving a sign advertising a President’s Day sale. On Thanksgiving.
 
The underlying meaning of all holidays has blurred into one unmistakable message:
 
“Give us money, and we’ll give everyone ‘free’ stuff that will make us all happy.”
 
Which they stole from politicians, but never mind.
 
Thus my idea for a new federal law: No holiday can be mentioned more than six weeks before the actual date. No holiday decorations can be put up longer than the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. No special sales can be held on an actual holiday, with the exception of President’s Day, which is a lost cause.
 
One exception: Christmas lights can be put up outside while the weather is still good, as long as they’re not turned on before Thanksgiving. If they’re lit (or inflated) earlier, it’s open season for anyone with a rifle, paintball gun, blow gun, lawn darts, or snowballs. Or bazookas. No, that’s overkill—literally.
 
Our aim should be to make holidays special again, and you can’t do that if the holiday never goes away. If you go to the party store and can’t remember if your decorations are supposed to be red and green, or pink, or red, white and blue, then you’re doing it wrong.
 
How do you know if you’re doing it right? Well, I suppose you’ve got the right attitude if you’re thankful. If you’re giving. If you’re getting along with people, or at least trying to. You know, the good will thing.
 
And if that doesn’t work, you could try giving me some of your Halloween candy.
 
For Christmas.
 
ozma914: (Courthouse)
( Dec. 14th, 2016 05:17 pm)

The Fort Wayne Philharmonic is coming to Albion for a holiday pops concert, and that’s pretty cool.

So … let’s go! It’s where I’m taking my wife for her birthday, because I’m a cheap date. Come to the Central Noble High School auditorium on December 21st, from 7:30-9 p.m., and get in the spirit with some honest to goodness great music, of the classical/seasonal variety.

Here’s the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1097909366961263/

Remember, whenever you miss a holiday pops concert, an angel loses its wings. Then he wanders around in the snow, cold and depressed, and aren’t we going to see enough of that in January?

September Sixth is the day I first saw Christmas items on the shelf of a local store. September Sixth. Well over a quarter of a year before Christmas.
And yes, I have now been banned from still another store for still another anti-early Christmas tirade, but the jokes on them: They had to clean up after my head exploded.

I was waiting for this to be released on video and as a result waited too long … so now here’s my new Christmas column, coming out just in time for my youngest daughter’s birthday. I thought of deleting “Scrooge” and putting in “Jill”, but it just didn’t work.

This is a busy time of year for my publisher, and I’d imagine they couldn’t find the time to do the animation—hopefully next year. Meanwhile, you just have to read this and imagine my voice or, perhaps better, don’t. It was originally in print in the 4County Mall (previously the Kendallville Mall), then on their website here:

http://www.4countymall.com/mark-hunter---slightly-off-the-mark

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK:

How the Grinch Spent Christmas

 

I was in Dollar General—

I don’t make this stuff up—

When I ran into the Grinch,

And his reindeer, the pup.

 

“What brings you to town?” I asked, to be nice.

“The last time I heard you suffered the vice

Of hating all Christmas, the presents and lights;

Yet you stand in the isle of Yuletide delights.”

 

It’s true: We were right in the holiday lane,

The same place I cursed when Halloween came.

There were pine trees by pumpkins, costumes with wreaths.

You could get pumpkin spice with mint or with wraiths.

 

(See what I did, there?)

 

“I’ve joined the club”, he told me with a sneer.

“I’m going full out on Christmas this year.

I’m buying up lights and tinsel and stuff;

Don’t know what this is, but I can’t get enough.”

 

The thing he held up was a Thanksgiving display,

On clearance from last month, but I didn’t say.

“But I don’t understand,” I told the green guy.

“I thought you hate Christmas, and want it to die.”

 

“Oh, I do,” said the Grinch, with a Darth Vader like laugh.

(I don’t think Vader chortled, so that may be a gaff.)

“I’m joining the club; I’m going all in.

The result is a club they won’t want to be in!

 

“I’m putting up stockings, a tree in each room,

Outside speakers from which carols will boom.

Gaudy garland to drape all over my cave,

And starting that evening: all night holiday rave.

 

“I’ll have not tree skirts—oh no, tree gowns!

My garland will go wrapping around and around

Not just my home but the whole doggone mountain—

And a red, green, and yellow spice flavored fountain.

 

“Candles and pillows and shelves of snow globes,

Warm but so gaudy sweaters and robes,

Pillows and rugs and a gingerbread house—

And my wife will be decored … if I find me a spouse.

 

“Decoration limits? We won’t have any lid.

My holiday lights will take down the whole grid!

I’ll blind passing planes, then I’ll darken the state.

And then I’ll light candles and start a clean slate.

 

“And, oh yes, I’ll put my own name up in a blaze,

In rich Christmas colors, to cut through the haze

So all the Who’s down in Whoeville, that dump

Will know it is I who gave Christmas a bump.”

 

I have to admit, I was a bit mystified.

When it comes to the Grinch—well, this wasn’t the side

You think of when picturing this big green guy.

(Sure, he’s no Hulk, but still.)

So with great trepidation, I had to ask: “Why?”

 

“Why? You want to know why?”

(He sounded very much like Jack Nicolson at this point.)

“I’ll tell you why.

 

“My plan can’t be stopped, so I’ll tell you the reason:

By the time I’m done you’ll be sick of this season.

Everyone will hate Christmas: The music will grate,

The spice cinnamon stuff will make them hesitate

 

“To go out and carol, even if it fat free!

Or at least that’s how I’d feel, if caroling me.

And when it’s all done, they’ll feel the same way

As they feel about me—the Grinch—every day.”

 

I have to admit, he’d made a good plan.

Immersion attack from a Christmas hit man.

And it would have worked too, except he didn’t see

It had already been done, with consumerist glee.

 

I began to explain, but we’d hit the checkout,

And I realized what he was about to find out.

The clerk rang it up, a green sounding ring,

The numbers kept rising with every new bling.

 

The Grinch stumbled back, his hand to his head.

“With that bill the reindeer dog won’t get fed,

The heat will go off, hot chocolate won’t trickle—

I’ll end up a homeless, frozen Grinch-cicle!”

 

And he left his load there: every last light and trinket.

“If I knew of the cost I never would think it!

I’m going old school, next year I’ll lay low

And steal all the stuff from the Who’s down below.”

 

It’s an odd way to save Christmas, I think you’ll agree.

But that’s just how it happened … take it from me.
ozma914: (Dorothy and the Wizard)
( Dec. 26th, 2015 02:29 am)

I always get in the mood for Christmas right after Christmas. I can’t explain why, but the day after Christmas, when everyone and his brother completely stops playing Christmas music, is when I want to hear it. Well, that’s what CD’s are for. This year I might just let it go early, since my oldest daughter got me the new Star Wars movie score as a gift. A day spent writing and sipping tea with John Williams playing in the background? Yes, please.

Between my surgery, overtime, and various other factors, there wasn’t much lead time this year, so Christmas came and went in a flash … or is that part of getting older? Although it’s over, I’d like to share one of my favorite, if badly rhymed, Christmas columns:

http://markrhunter.blogspot.com/2013/12/changing-rhyme-schemes-or-not-so.html

Also, you can still read/download my new Christmas short story, and two other short stories, on our website:

http://markrhunter.com/extras.html

ozma914: mustache Firefly (mustache)
( Dec. 20th, 2015 03:31 am)
Emily made this Christmas decoration a few years ago. See if you can guess what it’s called … you SF fans, you should be able to figure it out.

Tags:

 

Here’s our Christmas present to fans, readers, friends, non-fans, and … well, non-readers maybe won’t appreciate it. Just go to our website extras page at http://markrhunter.com/extras.html, and you’ll find a new short story, “Look Outside’, as well as stories from the previous two years. Download the PDF and enjoy on the device of your choice, and let me know if you like it!

 

The No-Campfire Girls first paired Beth Hamlin and Cassidy Quinn, and in “Look Outside” we find they’ve developed a long-distance friendship: Beth lives in northern Indiana and Cassidy at the southern end of the state. Both are missing a parent at Christmastime, and it takes an extra holiday effort to cheer them up.

 

We previously met Beth in all four of my published works of fiction: Storm Chaser, Storm Chaser Shorts, The Notorious Ian Grant, and The No-Campfire Girls. In addition to her appearance in the latter work, Cassidy is the lead in a so-far unpublished YA mystery, Red is For Ick. Don’t worry: Although events from other stories are mentioned, you don’t have to read them to enjoy the story … although I’d be happy if you did.

 

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

 

Here’s our Christmas present to everyone: A free short story on PDF, featuring two characters from “Storm Chaser”, The Notorious Ian Grant”, and “Storm Chaser Shorts”.

“Another Family” is set before the books and features two cops, a surprise snowstorm, and a special guest who needs police assistance. Oh, and family. Merry Christmas! You’ll find it on the website at http://markrhunter.com/extras.html

 

 

Check me out at the Kendallville Mall:

http://www.4countymall.com/mark-hunter---slightly-off-the-mark/im-dreaming-of-an-evergreen-christmas-slightly-off-the-mark

 

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

 

When we put up the Christmas tree last year, our dog became very puzzled.

“Dude, there are all kinds of trees surrounding this house already. Seriously, just come outside with me next time. Mind the yellow snow.”

Amazingly, he said all that with a glance.

If you take an objective, dog-like look at America’s Christmas traditions, you quickly realize we’re a little crazy. We bring a tree inside; we haul electric lights outside. People who refuse to listen to music that’s not still in the top 40 happily sing carols that were written by people who thought the Earth was flat.

(It’s a sphere; just thought I’d throw that in.)

And we celebrate Christmas on December 25th, even though most experts agree Jesus was actually born in the spring. Why? Because it’s close to the shortest day of the year. What else are you going to do in late December? Go to the beach? Get that garden in? Take a road trip to Buffalo, New York?

I doubt very much if Jesus would care when we celebrate His birthday, especially since the truly important Christmas holiday is Easter. By then the days are much longer, so we don’t need the pick-me-up.

The Christmas tree is one of the most interesting and puzzling aspects of Christmas decorating. It’s also big business: Trees in all fifty states are grown for the express purpose of being chopped down in a celebration of life. I used to drive through an area of Michigan that had more trees than Indiana has deer on the roads.

The origins of that tradition make sense, though: In ancient times, anything that stayed green all through winter held special significance. Without evergreens, people in past winters would sometimes completely forget what color was. It was like being stuck in a 50’s TV show, without the laugh track.

Evergreen boughs, hung over doors and windows, were reminders that spring would return. They also helped keep away witches and evil spirits, and as a bonus could be garnished with garlic to fight off vampires. So far as I know, they did nothing against banshees or marauding politicians.

But it was the Germans who, with ruthless efficiency, decided to just bring the whole darned tree inside. Martin Luther added lighted candles to the tree, bringing us the Christmas tradition of homes burning down.

Christmas trees didn’t come to America until the 1830’s, when German settlers arrived with the tradition. Naturally, the neighbors were curious:

“So Hans, why did your house burn down?”

“Oh, I brought a tree inside and hung candles on it.”

“No, seriously.”

A lot of Americans were against anything like carols and trees anyway. People in New England got fined for hanging decorations, although it was legal to hang witches, as long as you didn’t decorate them.

Then, in 1846, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (of “in the can” fame) were seen standing around a Christmas tree. Suddenly it was all in fashion, even though hanging witches didn’t catch on at all. They were often decorated with popcorn, berries, and nuts, a great idea to guard against food shortages. (The trees, not the witches.) Rodents were a problem. (With the trees. Well, maybe both.)

Then, in 1850, Christmas trees went up for sale commercially in the United States. Next thing you know the early version of Wal-Mart, then known as “Mart”, got ahold of it, and the rest is history. They went up in Rockefeller Center, at the White House, and in Woodinville, Washington, where a 122 foot tall, 91 year old Douglas fir does not get cut down every year.

I like that idea, of leaving the Christmas trees alive. I don’t like the idea of going outside in December to look at them, so never mind. Besides, since 77 million Christmas trees are planted each year in an industry that employs a hundred thousand people, closing the business down would result in an unhappy holiday for many.

I used to love having a live tree. The wonderful scent, the look of it. Then I grew up, and after that I loved it for three days: From after it was up until it started dropping needles.

There’s a reason they’re called needles.

Now I have an artificial tree. I love my artificial tree. It looks exactly like a real tree if you squint a little, and I’ve never had to tweeze a single needle out of my foot. The dog, while still puzzled, doesn’t harass it. It has never burst into flames, not even for me, and I can break anything.

It doesn’t dry out, or spoil, and I don’t have to dispose of it every season. It’s durable and doesn’t wear out for years.

It’s a lot like fruitcake.

Ah, but that’s another puzzling tradition.

My wife and I sometimes confuse Christmas with Valentine's Day, but a tree's a tree.

 

 

ozma914: (Dorothy and the Wizard)
( Jan. 1st, 2014 06:40 pm)

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

 

            Santa Claus had a ritual, one he followed every year after he finished delivering gifts for all little boys and girls. It involved whiskey.

            His main elf assistant, Evergreen Iciclepears, poured him two fingers, and started to walk away with the bottle. Santa snapped his fingers. “Keep ‘em coming, Iciclepears. I just delivered 1.6 billion presents.”

            (Evergreen Iciclepears’ real name was Charles Anders. But Mrs. Claus, who was always sound asleep when Santa got home from his big business trip, had renamed all the elves to make them sound more festive. The Elves accepted this because North Pole work paid well and had great benefits – including dental – but privately they called her Cranberry Cuddlecane.)

            Alcohol was not all of Santa’s routine, of course. After the reindeer were taken care of he went straight to his big easy chair, pulled off his boots, and stuck his aching tootsies in a tub of hot Epsom salt water.

            Then he took three ibuprofen, which he always found waiting for him on a tray full of other items, brought by Nutmeg Sugarlights and placed right by his chair. (Her real name was Josephine Hendrickson.)

 

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

 

T ’was the week before Christmas,

and I have to admit:

I wasn’t feeling the spirit;

not one little bit.

 

The stockings weren’t hung,

I didn’t know where they were!

This weather’s not festive.

It just makes me say “brrr”.

 

The world’s done crazy,

bad guys in control

and the good guys are lazy,

so we’re left in a hole


that would make the Grinch happy

with his heart way too tiny.

He’d think that this world

would be his kind of shiny.

 

Now, I’m not a Scrooge,

so don’t be mistaken;

I’ve just been so busy

my spirit was taken.

 

There hadn’t been time

to put up a tree

and entertain the family

(when it falls on me).

 

To save electricity

we hadn’t strung lights

to bring us some comfort

on those long winter nights. 

 

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

 

            Ojenyunyat Sungwiyadeson honungradon nagwutut. Ojenyunyat osrasay!

            No, I didn’t position my fingers wrong on the keyboard. It doesn’t quite have the flow of “Merry Christmas”, but I’m told that’s the way the Iroquois say it. Turns out most Native American tribes don’t have a term for “Happy Thanksgiving”.

            Just as they have different ways of saying it, people around the world have different ways of celebrating the holiday season. Just to give you an idea, I looked up some of the ways Christmas is celebrated around the world.

For instance, South Africans often have an open-air lunch for Christmas. It’s summer down there, after all.

            Try an open-air meal here in the Midwest for Christmas and you’ll spend the rest of the holidays getting thawed out.

            And yet South Africans don’t hang bikinis from their nonexistent fireplaces; just like up here, children hang stockings, probably from the air conditioner.

            In Ghana, Christmas season coincides with the cocoa harvest, so for them it’s a time of profit while they also make the rest of the world very happy.

            Like here they have a big meal, with includes such items as okra soup and a yam paste, called fufu. Fruitcake doesn’t sound so silly now, does it?           

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

 

            This being Christmastime, I thought it might be a good time to discuss Christmas. Yes, my mind does sometimes flow in logical, if obvious, directions.

            Christmas is, again obviously, a celebration of the birth of Christ. Or maybe not so obviously. In fact, that might be one of the single most forgotten facts of the Christmas season, and in today’s politically correct world we’re often encouraged not to mention Jesus while marking Jesus’ birthday.

It’s kind of like celebrating Independence Day without mentioning Independence, or America, or powdered wigs. It’s a known fact that we beat the British army because that powder kept getting in their eyes.

 

On the other hand, experts say Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th at all: He was most likely born in the spring, which kind of fits the whole rebirth theme better, anyway. There were sheep being tended in the fields, for instance, which happens in the spring. In December, the sheep and shepherds tend to stay inside and sleep together. For warmth, I mean. That being the case, if Mary and Joseph had arrived in Bethlehem in December, the inns would have space but there would be no room in the mangers. )

                “Words With the Big Guy” was originally a gift to readers who bought my novel Storm Chaser last Christmas; this year, it was printed in the Christmas insert of the Albion New Era, Churubusco News, and Northwest News newspapers. The story was inspired by “Santa’s Spirit”, which I wrote in 2006 for the Christmas edition of my column, “Slightly Off the Mark”.

“Words With the Big Guy” features Beth Hamlin, a popular character from Storm Chaser and its prequel short story collection, Storm Chaser Shorts; but this story takes place before those events, so no spoilers. Merry Christmas!

 

 

WORDS WITH THE BIG GUY

                Santa Claus stood in front of the Noble County Courthouse, checking the harnesses on his reindeer.

                The real Santa Claus.

                Across the street Beth Hamlin slid to a stop and grabbed her friend Kim’s arm. “Do you see what I see?”

                “I thought we –?“ Kim followed her gaze. “Oh."

Merry Christmas, everyone!

This article originally appeared in the insert of this week’s Albion New Era newspaper:


When I was a kid, we had a fake Christmas tree that no one bothered even pretending might be real.
 
It was an aluminum pole with holes in it, like a great silver stick. We’d take the arrow-straight branches out of their paper tubes, fluff out the bright, unnaturally green “needles” of shredded aluminum, and stick them in the holes. Then we’d hang ornaments: Plain balls and bells of difference sizes. Multi-colored lights went on, as did, naturally, tinsel.
 
I had no idea we were part of a fad that started in 1958, when the Aluminum Specialty Company launched this idea of selling “Permanent Trees” – a fad that faded out at about the same time I discovered the truth about Santa. Ours was a totally artificial bright green; my grandmother’s was white. Not white as in covered with artificial snow – all white. )


Working on my annual Christmas column. It's not easy, finding something that's not too cliche'd but that I haven't covered before. Actually, I'm not sure it's possible to write a Christmas piece that isn't cliche'd; has there been any new Christmas writing that's not overly sentimental since "The Charlie Brown Christmas Special"? Maybe "A Christmas Story", but that's based on a story that dates back to the 60's.

On the other hand, for Christmas I think we can be excused a little sentimentality.

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