FFWDing to the Best Part: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” U2 (1987)

The explosion of Amazon packages at my doorstep, the -9 wind chill, and the red cups at Starbucks remind me that Christmas season is upon us. Oh, as does the non-stop onslaught of festive music everywhere one turns. Call me Ebenez–ess(?), but I was pretty tired of “Jingle Bell Rock” on about Nov. 30. Speaking of which, does anyone else feel the need to insert an extra “jingle” in the lyric that goes “Giddy-up, jingle horse, pick up your [jingle] feet…”?  Every year, I screw this up, even though the extra syllables don’t properly scan.

But U2’s version of this particular secular ’60s hit (originated by Darlene “He’s a Rebel” Love) remains among my favorites, despite the fact that it was co-written by a convicted murderer. Joy to the world!  Short, sweet, with a touch of anguish, and that robust Bono intensity we all love (some in larger doses than others).

Best part? 1:39 – 1:47. Bono sings, “If there was a way, I’d hold back these tears, but it’s Christmas Day…”  Sad, right?  Alone and sobbing during the most wonderful time of the year?  And yet, the singer himself is rather clearly trying to hold back laughter.  What was happening in the studio as this line was being sung?  Hijinks between The Edge and foot models? Too many pints of Guinness?


What’s your favorite holiday tune? Maybe I’ll cover it in the next 12 (!) days.


The Finished Products (In Which Tomato Juice Seems Downright Festive)

Christmas brunch went off without a hitch!  With the one downside being that I can’t blame my sleepiness on the tryptophan in turkey.

Bloody Marys (Maries?) were made, though only I partook …

Other preferred mimosas …

The finished casseroles and compote (Dad doesn’t love tomatoes, hence the asymmetry in the Southwestern casserole)…

But Dad did like his new winter hat …

… and my parents’ 14-year-old cat Benedict preferred to be left alone in his newly-discovered box.

What was your favorite Christmas/Chanukah gift this season?  Any new traditions put into play?

Trading Turkey for Toast (In Which I Ask if ‘New Traditions’ is an Oxymoron)

Webster’s defines ‘tradition’ as ‘an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior’ or ‘the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction.’  Indeed, I just began a post with ‘Webster’s defines,’ like a bad fifth-grade report on gravity (though my elementary-schoolteacher Mom points out that these days, kids cite Wikipedia).

Tradition is most prevalent during the holiday season – what side dishes you eat for Thanksgiving. Where you hang the stockings.  What family member will always be late and therefore shouldn’t be counted upon to bring the appetizers.

As things change in my family – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse – we have found it necessary to alter our traditions.  After my brother passed away in 2004, we shifted the time and place of our Christmas – instead of spending Christmas morning in Northeast Ohio, we opened presents Christmas Day evening in suburban St. Louis. It was a way to all be together at Christmas but around different scenery that didn’t remind us so viscerally of who we had lost. Five years later, enough healing had occurred that we returned to Northeast Ohio for a Christmas-morning gift exchange (but in the living room instead of the den).

This Christmas holiday, my Dad is the interim rector in charge of celebrating services the local Episcopal Church. This means, among other responsibilities, that he’ll be officiating at four services – 5:00 pm, 7:30 pm, 10:30 pm, and 10:00 a.m. – in observance of Christmas Eve and Day. It also means my favorite carol, ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing,’ is the recessional (the walking-out, end-of-service) hymn tonight, but I’m sure that is just a happy coincidence and not at all a case of musical nepotism.

So instead of Christmas-morning festivities, we’ll open presents in the early afternoon.  And instead of turkey or crown roast accompanied by a nice Pinot Noir, we’re having a Christmas brunch with mimosas and Bloody Marys.

For my contribution, I’m making two casseroles that Molly and the rest of the ‘Chill’ gang (a/k/a my high school BFFs) have politely eaten before.  One is my friend Hillary’s ‘overnight’ blueberry French toast containing such healthy ingredients as cream cheese, maple syrup, and roughly 37 eggs (before-baked view  shown below):

The other is a Southwestern Brunch Casserole from my favorite cookbook of all time (the recipes are relatively simple and always reliable):

And here’s a look at it, pre-baking (and pre-addition of tomato slices and paprika).  A little light reading off to the side there was provided by the Akron Beacon Journal, former stomping ground of my favorite author, Chuck Klosterman (how’s that for a digression):

Mom is making a winter fruit compote, which will be topped with ricotta, honey and almonds:

And we’ll be rounding it off with some turkey sausage links and cranberry bread.

But the point I wanted to convey here (and managed to wait until the penultimate paragraph) is not to make people hungry.  It’s to say that even as some of our traditions, travel destinations, and participants change, others hold true.  I’ll tell Mom I have a gift receipt for something before she even opens her present.  Dad will have silly esoteric gift cards on the items he’s wrapped (one year, all presents were ‘from’ new U.S. Cabinet members; the next year, all presents were courtesy of obscure New Orleans Saints players). A particular Mannheim Steamroller song will play that we all love to hate. Mom and/or I will quote Sesame Street’s Bert and ask for a ‘scissor’ to assist with a particularly snug bow.  At some point, an Old Fashioned or three will be consumed. A fire will crackle. And we will feel lucky to be sharing the holiday together. God bless us, every one.

What are some traditions your family shares, in the holiday season or otherwise?