Christmas is awesome. Therefore,
it is worthy of getting its own page on Home of the Wysz. This is not a
comprehensive or ultimate guide to Christmas. This guide simply
suggests some of the most awesome ways to celebrate the holiday.
looking for more general information about the meaning,
history, and celebration of Christmas, start with Wikipedia's Christmas
Know what you're
looking for? Jump directly to one of the following
sections: Cookies | Decorations | Movies | Music
Like most holidays,
food is a very
important part of Christmas. I like a good dinner, and I love hors
d'oeuvres, but what really comes to mind when I think of Christmas are
Christmas cookies. Cookies are a huge part of Christmas in my family.
We have an amazing variety produced (and consumed) every year,
including snickerdoodles, spritzes, chocolate crinkles, and meringues.
I'd estimate that we have between eight and ten different kinds each
year, with some coming and going as tastes change. I wonder what
happened to those pretzel-shaped ones we used to have.
But one cookie that will never be absent is the meringue. This is
simply the greatest cookie ever
created. Ever. Its sweet taste is
addicting and totally awesome. Regular meringues, such as ones that you
buy at the store, are alright, but after one or two you're looking for
something to wash it down with and ready to move on to something else.
The meringues made in my family are different. They're light, some
almost hollow inside, except, of course, for the chocolate chips
contained within. This is what's so great about meringues: You can't
have a bad one. With chocolate chip cookies, for example, you have to
find one with the right amount and distribution of chips, and also
factor in the hardness of the cookie. With meringues, they're all the
same hardness, and it doesn't matter how many chocolate chips you have,
because it's simply the difference between tasting sugar and tasting
chocolate-flavored sugar. It's all good. They are so addictive that I
have had to fight with my sisters for the last one. Once at my
grandmother's house, my sister declared, "Don't let Michael get to
them!" like I was a dog or something.
Besides cookies, I like other food associated with the season. Potato
chips and homemade clam dip is one of the essential hors d'oeuvres in
my family. I'm often encouraged to sit back and take a breather when
eating them. It's just so good! I'm glad that I started eating it at a
young age when I didn't know what it was, because if they had tried to
introduce me to "clam dip" now, there's no way I would be interested.
And finally, an old tradition has recently experienced a revival. For
most of my childhood, I had a Friendly's ice cream cake on my birthday.
My birthday is on New Year's Eve, which is why I associate it with
Christmas. The cake was vanilla ice cream with two layers of chocolate
cake. And then
one year without warning, it was replaced. Several years went by with
creations from Dairy Queen and other places, but the cake I remembered
was gone. Friendly's had stopped making it. But on my 21st birthday, my
cake was brought out, and it was the
cake. I couldn't believe it. The first piece was cut, and an
inspection of the cross-section confirmed that it was, in fact, built
to the exact specifications as the one from my childhood. I hope that
Friendly's never discontinues this cake again. Here's a picture:
Looks pretty awesome, doesn't it? It tastes awesome too.
waves to the crowd at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day
parade, he is giving the "all-clear" signal to those waiting to break
out the Christmas decorations. At this point, Christmas is officially
"go" for launch. We wait until Friday to start decorating and playing
Christmas music, and the candles in the windows and outdoor lights are
lit on December 1st.
The central decoration of Christmas is the Christmas tree. Why? Because this is
where it all goes down on Christmas morning. Nobody looks for their
presents under a wreath. Every family has its own traditions when it
comes to trees. Some use artificial trees, some cut their own, some buy
them on the street for $25, and, based on what we saw a family hauling
away at one tree farm, it seems that some set out to bring home the
ugliest tree they can find.
My family always goes
trees, so the tradition keeps me
tied to them. I like the smell of them, and can even be reminded of the
season when I get poked by a stray needle in my coat a few months later
and crush it for the smell.
The challenge is also part of the tradition. Walking around the tree
farm on what is almost always the coldest day of the year, searching
for that perfect tree is a great way to start the season. Sometimes the
search takes ten minutes, but we've also had years where the search
takes hours and spans multiple
tree farms. Not only do we need to find two perfect trees, one of them
has to be about 12 feet tall. One year, we had one that topped 14 feet.
That was just crazy.
Once the trees are selected, we have to get them home safely. While
this is easy enough these days with SUVs and helpful people at the
farm, it can still be a challenge. Some years the big guy is too big to
be bailed, and if you drive to the far side of the farm where the big
trees are, you're on your own when it comes to securing them to the
Once home, we usually keep the trees outside in water for another week
or two, so they are decorated closer to Christmas. Once inside, secured
to the custom tree stand, positioned to fit everyone's definition of
"straight," and wired to the beams, the trees are lit and the smaller
one is flocked with fake snow. Once the angel is on top of the big
tree, it's time for the ornaments. We have a lot of them, and they take hours
to hang. Everything looks awesome in the end, so it's worth it.
The decorations don't end with the tree. The world must be saturated
with signs of Christmas during the season. In our house, electric
candles are placed in every window, and turn on promptly at sunset.
When our new house was built, we had all of the outlets for the candles
put on one circuit, so they can be controlled with one button. We put
strings of lights on a couple of bushes, and do the icicle lights thing
as well. I get a kick out of the fact that the packaging on most lights
still touts the "If one goes out, the rest stay lit!" feature, even
though it has been a standard for years. It's like those old motels
with signs that still advertise color TV as an amenity. As you have
probably seen on TV and in your own neighborhoods, some people really
get into the spirit with their outdoor lighting displays. And today,
sophisticated computer control equipment is readily available and
affordable to more people than ever, sparking a new revolution in
animated outdoor lighting. If you really want to see some cool
Christmas displays, check out LightsOnDisplay
by Mike Ziemkowski. He is an inspiration to me... just wait until I get
my first house! You may also have seen a video that made its way around
the Internet in 2005 showing a display by Carson Williams of Mason,
Ohio synchronized to Wizards in Winter by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Unfortunately, traffic problems
caused by the display
prompted Williams to turn
it off for the time being.
Other decorations include greens, candles, miniature villages, bears
wearing sweaters, and lots of Santas and snowmen. It's also a good idea
to have a fire going if you have a fireplace. I have some pinecones
covered in an unknown substance that creates green and blue flames when
it burns, which is totally awesome.
The one decoration I don't get is the blow-up inflatable thing. I'm
talking about the things that became popular a few years ago and are
held up by a fan when turned on. When they're turned off, they appear
dead or vandalized. I honestly cannot figure out why so many people buy
these things. My only guess is that they're extremely inexpensive. I
don't want to offend anyone, especially on Christmas, but those things
are just tacky, and they always have been. Sometimes I'll see an older
decoration that appears cheap by today's standards, like a metal tree,
but I can understand that it was probably acceptable when it came out.
But these inflatable things aren't even retro. They looked bad the day
they were released. The only one's I find tolerable are the kind that
create fake snowstorms, but they're generally indoors. I approve of
Even websites get decorated for Christmas. I'm not sure if it will work
when you try it, but if it's near Christmas, try typing "Christmas'' or
a related term into Google's web
search. Notice anything different?
Christmas Movies & TV
can find most of the following
items in my Christmas
DVD guide on Amazon.com.
a Wonderful Life
of the most well-known
This movie is on T.V. every year,
and it's one that you always feel you have to watch, even if it's only
on in the background while you make cookies. Hot dog!
Charlie Brown Christmas
known as "Merry, Christmas,
Charlie Brown!" this 1965 Christmas
special totally rocks. The tree, the pageant, and the music. One of my
favorites. The later "It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown"
(included on the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD) is also worth a look.
can buy Vince Guaraldi's famous soundtrack for the timeless classic on Amazon or download immediately on iTunes.
Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition, a beautiful hardcover book, sits on
our family room coffee table every December. If you're really into the
Charlie Brown holiday specials, you can get Christmas, Thanksgiving,
and Halloween in one
Muppet Family Christmas
is tied with A Charlie Brown Christmas as my favorite Christmas
special. I must warn you that the DVD leaves out some really good parts
because of music licensing issues, so please keep that in mind if you
consider buying it. My favorite way to experience it is watching the
version my parents taped off of TV in 1987. While they cut out some
commercials, a few remain on the tape, which is cool because it's fun
to watch old commercials for OshKosh B'Gosh and Double Mint Gum. Makes
me feel like wearing overalls again.
Eve on Sesame Street
special, originally aired
is another item in the family taped-off-of-TV collection. Nice to go
back to the days when parents, not Cookie Monster, were responsible for
what children ate. He eats a phone in this one. And something else at
the end... but that's a surprise.
Muppet Christmas Carol
is another Muppets creation
which changes to the original content in the DVD version have irked
fans. Read the reviews and decide for yourself. It's like reading Star
Wars fans talk about the changes that Lucas has made over the years.
I've read the reviews and decided that there are some people out there
who really like the Muppets.
a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie
newer special stayed on our
for over a year, and I'll probably get the DVD at some point. I enjoyed
it, and the "corporate synergy" joke came while I was taking a course
about television! And listen to the tune of God's doorbell...
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
(Animated & Jim
like both of these movies. Why
would they be on this list?
Alone (and Home
pretty sure the soundtracks
these movies, by the one and only John Williams, are what made me fall
in love with the song "Carol of the Bells."
Late Night Christmas Lighting
Spectacular - AKA "Lighting of the Vigoda" (
2005 clip from Late Night
O'Brien parodies NBC's coverage of the Rockefeller Christmas tree
lighting and serves as further proof that Conan can get Abe Vigoda to
do anything. This aired the same night that Letterman interviewed
Oprah, and I have to say that I enjoyed Conan's bit more than the Oprah
interview. It's family-safe except for the part with Triumph. You'll
have to decide for yourself if it's worth 2 bucks to download.
a story about Christmas!
Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Vacation could be
of the modern American Christmas.
Santa Clause (and The
Santa Clause 2 - The Mrs. Clause)
standard modern Christmas
But that's not a bad thing.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947,
actually only seen the 1994
version and honestly can't remember very much about it (although I know
I liked it), but I feel compelled to include both versions in this list.
is a new classic, at least
in the "new classic"
saw the first trailer a full year before the film was released, and had
to wait all year for it to come out. It's visually awesome and the
soundtrack is fun as well. The segment where the train skids across the
ice is what sticks out in my mind as I write this; they had some really
talented artists work on this film.
have this taped off of TV
but I haven't seen it in a few years. Garfield is awesome, and so is
this Christmas special.
All The Way
never seen this movie, but
I get a
kick out of every time "Arnold" yells it on Conan.
Classic TV Specials
"Happy birthday!"—it's all here in one box of Christmas memories. Also,
be sure to check out Letterman's
fun Rudolph parody. Click
here and then click on "Dave Visits Rudolph And Santa." You'll
need to have RealPlayer installed.
music is awesome, and by law must include bells. For several years, my
collection, whether it was counted by album or by track, outnumbered my
selections of non-Christmas music. Thanks to the impulse-buy nature of
the iTunes Music Store, I've now amassed more non-holiday songs, but my
Christmas collection continues to grow. Back in the day, we listened to
most Christmas music on the radio. No, we weren't using FM transmitters
with our iPods. We were listening to the actual radio stations. You
know, those things with all the
commercials? Our only recorded music was on 3 cassettes: Merry
Christmas from the Chipmunks (iTunes
| Amazon), Christmas With The
Beach Boys (iTunes
| Amazon), and The
Christmas Music of Johnny Mathis - A Personal Collection (iTunes
| Amazon). One year, a
certain rendition of Deck the Halls was getting a lot of radio play,
and I really liked it and wanted to know who played it. My mom was able
to catch the name "Something Steamroller" when the DJ announced it.
After she told me, I hopped on Amazon.com, which at the time only sold
books and music, and searched for either "Deck the Halls Steamroller"
or "Christmas Steamroller" and found a lot of "Mannheim Steamroller"
hits. I doubted that the song I heard was from the mid 80s, but I
clicked on the preview for "Deck The Halls," and thanks to our
speedy 28.8 modem, was able to confirm that it was in fact the song I
loved. From there, the digital collection became what it is today, with
over 250 Christmas songs in my music library. The one song I still
don't get is It's the Most Wonderful
Time of the Year. The song refers to "scary ghost stories" being
told on Christmas. Is my family the only one that doesn't tell ghost
stories on December 25? The only traditional scary ghost story that I
can think of related to Christmas is A Christmas Carol, but still,
that's only one story. Where are the stories?
Here's a small selection of my favorite Christmas music:
you know from the
think this stuff is awesome. While I like all of their songs, their
faster tracks seem to have a more universal appeal. I've listed them in
an iTunes iMix called Most
Rockin' Mannheim Steamroller Christmas. My favorite album is simply titled Christmas,
and is fun to listen to all the way through, especially with the
obligatory (but awesome) Stille Nacht at the end. The CD is available
from Amazon or you can download it immediately
it's Christmas music or
Beethoven, these guys have fun with whatever they're playing. I
discovered TSO just a few years ago when I heard a cool rendition of
Carol of the Bells, one of my favorite songs, in their Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
track on Christmas Eve And Other
soundtrack to A
Charlie Brown Christmas (iTunes
likes Charlie Brown,
everyone likes the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas. At least
all the cool people do.
Bruce's "Santa Claus is Comin'
I could go on and on, but this page is already long. For more fun
Christmas songs, check out my Awesome
Christmas Songs iMix or pick up a
copy of Now
That's What I Call Christmas! which includes pretty much all the
essentials. One of my favorite songs on this album is Paul McCartney's Wonderful Christmastime.
Christmas morning means Christmas presents, which are awesome. If
you're expecting a Christmas Eve delivery from Santa, you can track him
online thanks to NORAD.
receiving presents is usually pretty easy, shopping for someone else
can be difficult. Experts agree that the only guaranteed way to get
someone a gift that they won't return is to purchase an item that's
non-refundable. Fortunately, even last-minute shoppers can find such an
item: iTunes gift certificates! You can print them yourself, send
them as emails, or, if you plan far enough ahead, send them in the mail.
If you're a Christmas enthusiast who wants to show the world how you
feel, you may be interested in these items that I've created using
you can create your own custom items on Cafepress if you want a really
unique gift. Just click on "Make your own stuff."
kids, that's Christmas. Let me leave you with a few random thoughts
that didn't fit into the other sections:
Thanksgiving is basically dress
rehearsal for Christmas. You figure out the best route to the
relatives' if you're traveling, check the oven capacity if you're
cooking, work out seating arrangements, give/get Christmas lists, and
refresh yourselves on the self-timer function of your cameras.
Guests will always arrive much
later than you expect, unless you are unprepared, in which case they
will arrive early and bring friends.
Christmas cards are out of
control. You will give them to everyone, and everyone will give them to
you. There are only about two degrees of separation between any two
people when it comes to Christmas cards.
See also: Wysz's Guide to Valentine's Day
visiting, and Merry Christmas! If you have any questions or
comments, you can email me at email@example.com
Special thanks to The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine for saving this page after I had mistakingly deleted it!