Do You Hear What I Hear — Don’t Tell S.A.N.T.A.

A strange thing happened this year: I became okay with Christmas music.

Actually, I’ve always been okay with Christmas music, but only after Thanksgiving. Too much, too soon always drove me crazy. Every season needed its time in the spotlight: Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. Putting one ahead of the other was just wrong, if for no other reason than there are Charlie Brown specials for each holiday, and the Peanuts gang deserves its due.

I even created a group in college (back in the dark ages of the 1980s) to make sure Thanksgiving didn’t get lost in the rush to Christmas. We called it S.A.N.T.A. – the Society Against the Neglection of Thanksgiving Altogether. It served a need – mainly, giving us something to complain about – and only half the people we knew treated us like we were psychotic. But like many college causes, SANTA eventually faded away into nostalgia, and the pressures of everyday living took over.

But this rule didn’t fade: No holiday shows or music before Thanksgiving. Not one moment. Respect the Pilgrims. Respect the turkey. Respect the movie matinees after Thanksgiving dinner. Good Lord, respect the football.

But something suddenly changed. As I was driving to the golf course this week, I clicked on a radio station that was all Christmas music, all the time. They apparently made the switch in the dead of night, like someone slipping out the window after a midnight tryst. There it was, in all its naked glory (to continue my ill-advised metaphor), blaring from my radio as if it actually belonged.

Of course it didn’t belong. How could it? Didn’t I say that I heard it while driving to the golf course? Fairways and “Jingle Bells” only mix in southern states where Christmas lights hang in palm trees and off the bows of boats in the harbor. I don’t live near a warm beach, and birdies and pars don’t happen in the snow.

And yet, as I drove, I found myself humming and singing along.

I should’ve seen this coming. I was visiting my daughter last November in Florida, where she was a freshman in college, on the weekend before Thanksgiving. She was under the weather, so she spent most of the weekend on the couch watching TV and relaxing. She’s not a football fan, so we watched Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel. (I’m pretty sure I’ll lose my man card for admitting that.) Now she says she’ll need to be on her deathbed to do that again, yet there we were, watching movie after movie, soaking up Christmas joy and ambience, acting like there was nothing wrong with our behavior.

It was sooooo wrong.

I don’t know how it happened. Maybe we shared a delusion that it was December. Or that they really weren’t Christmas movies. Or that the Hallmark Channel was somehow cool. But the truth is more insidious than that. For whatever reason, I wanted Christmas early.

I’m not proud of it. I know it sounds weak. I know the 20-year-old me would call me a SANTA sellout. But I can’t help myself; the music just touches the right chord for me these days.

Maybe I’m feeling nostalgic for the days when my kids were small. They’re pretty grown up, and there are days that I wish they were still five, and that we were still going to see Santa at the mall, and still driving around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights, and still watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” together. That’s not such a bad reason. It’s okay to miss those days. It probably speaks to my feelings of mortality, to some overarching need to turn back the clock, to some understandable desire to be young and vibrant and share the holidays with my kids because I’m just a big kid myself.

But it’s probably not any of those things. It’s probably just that as I get older, I’m less rigid. Or maybe it’s just because I’m looking for a reason to listen to Christmas music because it reminds me of being a kid … wait, now we’re back to wanting to feel younger again.

Whatever it is, I just shrug and sing along.

But I do still have standards. For example, the last song I heard the other day on my way to the course was “Do You Hear What I Hear?” When I got back into the car after playing nine holes, the first song I heard was a different version of the same song.

I stared at the radio and said, “Enough already – I heard you the first time.”

My 20-year-old self would be proud.

(C.W. Grody has published 13 books and hundreds of articles in national magazines. His latest book, “Since Before You Were Born,” is a collection of humorous stories loosely based on his childhood. It’s available here: http://www.amazon.com/Since-Before-You-Were-Born-ebook/dp/B00EHT3B5G.)

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