I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season so far. Much of traditional Christmas literature, including, I believe, the first chapter of Matthew (“Like, Really Awesome News for Modern Dudes and Dudettes” translation), refers to this week as “crunch time.” It’s during this time that some of us long to regain some of the true meaning of the holiday, which can be so easily lost in the shopping, socializing, and feeding frenzy.
I had the very enriching experience last week of caroling (out in the snow, no less) with some members of our local community, and it got me to reflecting on a few things: first of all, I have no idea how the bass part of The First Noel should go; secondly, taking a little time with some of the old-fashioned customs associated with Christmas seasons gone by can make even the most harried holiday season feel more meaningful, even if you gain the same amount of weight and feel just as stressed as ever. If there was a third thing, I’ve now forgotten it.
But, returning to the second item, is there a way to make at least a small portion of this season a little more traditional? Those of us who are devotees of bluegrass music can certainly appreciate tradition and the old way of doing things, so this kind of thing should be right up our alley (and, by the way, things being “right up our alley” is already quaint and traditional).
I realize, though, that in this busy world of smartphones, e-cards, and individual coffee brewing systems, it’s a pretty radical lifestyle adjustment to read Dickens by candlelight, sing carols at the local nursing home, or slice a bagel by hand. Therefore I thought I’d suggest some ways that you can have a somewhat compromised “old-fashioned Christmas,” ways that you can stop and smell the holly (does holly even have a smell?) while keeping one foot in the modern world. Think late ‘60s Flatt & Scruggs, or maybe the Ralph Stanley/Bob Dylan version of The Lonesome River.
Ideas for a semi-traditional Christmas experience:
Don’t change your strings once in the whole month of December
Wash dishes by hand, even if you have a dishwasher (only do this once)
Make a snow angel even if there’s no one around to help you up, and even if you live in Florida and it’s a sand angel.
Drink coffee made in a large percolator
Buy the person in your family who already has everything a large percolator
Watch the second-oldest version of the Christmas Carol movie, preferably on VHS tape.
Find someone to bring a set of vibes to your next bluegrass jam session, and perform a truly authentic version of Christmas Time’s A-Comin’
Watch football on an older box-style color television with the field looking kind of blue.
Install the next-to-last operating system back on to your computer, just for fun (and oh will it ever be!)
In all texting and social media interaction, shun “LOL” and “TTYL,” instead typing, “Laughing Out Loud” and “Talk To You Later” (unless that stands for “That Tramp You Love” — I’ve never been too sure)
Hitch up the horse and sleigh and ride over to the local shopping mall. If you don’t own a horse or sleigh, just drive there as usual, but park in the furthest parking spot available and walk the rest of the way, whistling Good King Wenceslas as you go.
Make a Christmas call from a pay phone. Use a smart phone to find out if there are any pay phones left where you live.
Spend Christmas Eve in jail and refer to it as “the calaboose” or “stir.” Come to think of it, that may be where you can find a pay phone.
Play a Christmas party using old Shure Vocalmaster speakers and a 4-channel board. Candlelight on stage will enhance this experience.
Tune your instrument without the use of an electronic tuner, instead using a friend with a good ear to tell you when each string is in tune. Offer this friend a cookie.
Reheat Christmas turkey leftovers on a conventional stove, instead of a microwave. Or, just eat them cold.
Buy an actual CD
Wishing you and yours a very merry and relatively old-fashioned Christmas!