There are lots of things we need to be careful of in the holiday season, like making sure we remember where we parked in a crowded shopping mall lot, or making sure not to leave gluten-free cookies out for Santa Claus (St. Nick is on record as being very pro-gluten).
One big one that’s sometimes overlooked is to be careful not to start unintended Christmas traditions. You know the rule: if you do the same thing two Decembers in a row, it becomes a personal or family tradition forever. It can be anything from spilling eggnog into the plush lining of your mandolin case, to singing The Christmas Song to the tune of Wreck of the Old 97, as mentioned last week. Once you’ve done anything twice in the Christmas season, you’ll find yourself saying things like “ah, it just wouldn’t be Christmas if we didn’t break into the neighbor’s house and disable their alarm system (the dog) to steal some brown sugar.” If you fail to do this the following year, someone in the family is bound to feel like you’re wrecking Christmas. Again.
I recommend a more deliberate approach. Plan the establishment of new Christmas traditions so you have some control over your own holiday (and wouldn’t that be a novel idea?). Here are a few you might consider:
Instead of the time-worn tradition of mailing your new CD to DJs around the country, accompanied by a one-sheet with liberal use of the word “dynamic,” try dressing up as Santa Claus and visiting their houses on Christmas Eve, depositing a CD in each DJ’s stocking. If their stockings aren’t large enough to fit a CD into, try sneaking into their bedroom and putting it under the pillow, tooth fairy-style. What could go wrong? Make sure to time it so you avoid running into the actual Santa Claus, or for that matter, the actual DJ. This is how misunderstandings happen. Flying reindeer would definitely make this job easier. A word of caution: I’m told that Terry Herd of the Bluegrass Radio Network sleeps with a switchblade on his night stand. Better leave it under the tree if it won’t fit in his stocking.
Work on your Jim Carrey-as-the-Grinch imitation, and perform Knoxville Girl for the family as a recitation on Christmas Eve.
Along the same lines, recite all of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in the voice of Bill Monroe, or, for the more ambitious, Carlton Haney.
Make Christmas tree ornaments out of used strings and give them to friends. A wound guitar G-string (.026”) is ideal for this purpose; just avoid saying to your non-musician friends that you’re making them a lovely tree ornament out of “a used G-string.” In fact the word “used” is best avoided in reference to any Christmas gift anyway.
The lazy alternative: just hang used strings on the tree (my uncle used to hang used tea bags on the tree, so why not?)
Speaking of used gifts, many of us are guilty of “re-gifting” Christmas presents that we either didn’t want or already had. I’ll admit that I did this last year with my copy of the Barry Manilow tribute to the Stanley Brothers. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, though I’ll admit that his performance of Next Sunday Darling is My Birthday (with half-step modulation) was pretty stirring. Why not make it a game and attempt to re-gift instantly, while presents are still being opened? Every year, take the gift you like the least, excuse yourself from the room for a few minutes, quickly rewrap it, and give it right back to the person who gave it to you. They’ll never suspect you would be so brazen, and they’ll just assume that you both had similar taste in gifts (maybe that’s not a good thing). This may be harder to pull off with larger items like sleds, or more expensive items like pre-war flatheads. Never instantly re-gift a puppy.
Hold a Christmas jam session and insist that everyone play instruments they’ve never played before. Then call Sleigh Ride in E flat (and sing it yourself, of course). Videotape it and put it up on YouTube on Christmas Eve.
You might consider putting that Grinchy Knoxville Girl on YouTube too, while you’re at it.
It just wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t turn in a column late to Bluegrass Today.