Thursday, December 24, 2015

Ho-Ho-Ho Holiday Fun

It was gloomy, raining, and way too warm when I got up this morning. I started my Christmas Eve by finishing this year's reading of A Christmas Carol. Since the last chapter of Christmas Carol is pretty short, I tossed in two American Girl stories that showed how difficult the holidays were in the mid-20th century.

Kit's Surprise takes us to Cincinatti in 1932. Kit Kittredge is not having the most fun Christmas. Her father is out of work, she just had an argument with her best friend Ruthie about her picking up the tab for their annual post-Christmas outing, and she's stuck working for nickels for her grouchy Uncle Hendrick. But when she lets her imagination roam and creates a special gift for Ruthie, she discovers just how powerful fantasy can be.

Molly McEntyre's holidays aren't going much better in Molly's Surprise, set in 1944 during the tail end of World War II. Her dad is overseas, and she's missing him more than ever. Her older sister Jill keeps telling her this Christmas is going to be "realistic," owing to the war. Molly wants the same kind of wonderful surprises her dad used to bring to the holidays. She and Jill learn that everyone in the McEntyre family is good at making surprises...and that Christmas miracles can come in the most unusual ways.

I got up early enough to enjoy some movies and cartoons during breakfast and before I went to work. Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas is an anthology of three festive tales featuring the Disney gang. My favorite is "Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas." Huey, Dewey, and Louie wish it was Christmas everyday...and then regret it when they get stuck constantly repeating Christmas Day. After one day goes especially bad for their uncle, they finally discover the importance of family. Goofy's son Max has questions about the existence of Santa in "A Max and Goofy Christmas." Goofy becomes determined to show Max that Santa - and Christmas spirit - is real. Mickey and Minnie do their version of one of the most famous Christmas short stories in "Minnie and Mickey's Gift of the Magi." The two mice give up the things that mean the most of them to buy gifts for each other.

As the showers continued off and on, I decided to combat the gloom with some wonderful memories. I went in the back room and pulled out my Christmas photo books. I have pictures going back as far as my middle high school years, when Keefe was about 3. (One photo shows him as a toddler with a pacifier.) There were photos of Christmas Day parties with Rose's pals, of Anny getting that Lite Brite she wanted when she was sixteen (I never saw her happier), of Mom and Dad usually looking very groggy at 6 AM on a morning when everyone was otherwise off from everything.

Switched to Happy Days' first holiday episode as I got ready for work. "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas?" Fonzie, who keeps claiming he has a party to go to on Christmas Eve. Richie thinks otherwise. He convinces Fonzie to join his family's Christmas Eve celebration, despite Mr. Cunningham's continued insistence that the night be fore family only.

It was raining a little bit when I went to work, but not heavily. I was only slightly damp when I arrived. I'm glad I wasn't late this time. Needless to say, we were crazy for most of the morning and early afternoon, especially in the self-checkout lane. Jodie came through my line not long before my break. Yes, she and Dad were having their annual Christmas Eve party, and yes, I was invited. I'd rest at home, then go there. Work did slow down a bit after about 2:30 as more people started to head to their Christmas Eve events and get-togethers. I was fueled by sugar. They had lots of snacks in the back room - madelines, mini-brownies, mini-cupcakes, pastries, pumpkin and apple pie, those yummy soft sandwich cookies I love, and someone brought in a cookie tray.

When I got home, I ran Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too while changing and getting my gifts to give tonight together. When Pooh forgets to put what he wants on the Hundred Acre Woods' crew's letter to Santa, they retrieve it...but find they can't send it again. Pooh first tries to play Santa for his friends, then becomes determined to deliver the letter himself.

I found a little gift on one of the plastic chairs on my porch when I got in. My landlords Miss Willa and Richard gave me a very nice ceramic cup with a beautiful hand-painted Christmas tree, a mini container of Red Velvet Cake anti-bacterial hand gel, and a bag of home-made peppermint bark.

Headed to Dad's around 5. Although it was just Dad, Rose, Craig, Jodie, and Khai when I arrived, other people gradually turned up throughout the night. There was plenty of food along with my cupcakes and pumpkin mousse pie. Rose contributed a cookie tray, including tasty Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies and her heavenly Cherry-White Chocolate Cookies. There were baked ziti (I ate so much of that), Caesar salad, hot sausage, meatballs, very moist and flavorful turkey, a ham, macaroni salad, and rolls. Appetizers included shrimp, brie with blueberry sauce, and a pepperoni and cheese tray.

Khai and the neighborhood kids had a ball with the old-fashioned train set Dad had set up around the tree in the living room. They loved watching it go around and around, sometimes dropping plastic "cargo" pieces into the beds. The parents and I enjoyed Nickelodeon's Ho-Ho Holiday Special, which apparently Khai adores to the point where he's watched it five times. Goofy, punny random skits and musical numbers are whittled between a funny story that has some of Nickelodeon's current stars attending a big Christmas party at a huge house...and then being trapped there by a mystery person who doesn't want them to leave this party.

Considering I know nothing about Nick's current live-action offerings, I got a big kick out of it. No wonder Khai likes it. The kids are funny, the story is hilarious, and some of the skits are really cute. Check out the game show spoof and the number with the rapping "grandmothers."

The adults switched to Snoopy Come Home on Demand after they couldn't find any holiday specials on the networks. (It was 6:30. Most of the networks were still running news shows; most cable channels were in re-runs or showing holiday movies for adults.) I haven't seen the second Peanuts movie in a long time, and evidently a lot of the adults hadn't, either, from the delighted exclamation of fond memories of watching this on VHS. Charlie Brown is shocked when Snoopy up and leaves to visit his former owner in the hospital. This leads to a problem when Snoopy is torn between his two owners...but the strict no dogs rules that drive Snoopy crazy throughout the movie ends up working to his advantage...

Headed out around 7:30. It was a little foggy, but still very warm, probably in the lower-70's, upper 60's. I rode around Oaklyn, near Dad's house and the Oaklyn Library, looking at lights. I love all the colorful displays. The rainbow ones are my favorites, but those new sparkling floodlights are really pretty, too.

I went online in the living room as soon as I got in. I finished out The Monkees' holiday episode as I got organized. The groovy 60's rockers did their only Christmas show in the second season, just as the show was starting to get a little stranger. The boys think they're going to be play for a rich woman's party, but they end up babysitting her stuck-up nephew (played by The Munsters' Butch Patrick). They do everything they can to show the kid some Christmas spirit, but he's not impressed...until Mike Nesmith figures out what he really wants.

Did The Bishop's Wife next. David Niven plays the bishop, who desperately wants funds to build an elaborate new cathedral. He's neglecting his old parish and selling out to the rich, crotchety old woman (Gladys Cooper) who wants the cathedral to be a monument to her late husband. He's also neglecting his beautiful wife Julia (Loretta Young), their daughter Debbie, and their friends, including the eccentric Professor (Monty Wooley). His call for divine intervention brings in Dudley (Cary Grant), an impossibly handsome and suave guardian angel. He's supposed to be helping the bishop figure out what he wants...but what he's really doing is falling for Julia.

One of the three big Christmas movies released in 1946-1947, it wasn't successful at the time despite the wonderful cast. Too bad - this is a very sweet movie, with fine performances from the lead and a lovely final speech involving an empty stocking.

Remember WENN's Christmas episode also came out during its second season. In the show's only hour-long episode "Christmas In the Airwaves", the staff of radio station WENN is looking forward to a fun and festive Christmas 1940. Their plans are sent off the rails when the station's grieving owner and her nasty, miserly financier arrive. Their owner lost her husband the Christmas before, and she doesn't want to be reminded of anything about the holiday...including programming at WENN. The financier just wants the station to shut down. The cast tries to figure out how to get their holiday shows around the miserly accountant and prove to their owner that life and holidays go on.

I'm finishing the night with A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown. I'll do a few more animated shorts after this, then end my Christmas Eve with music and chatting with Lauren.

From all of us to all of you, I hope you have the merriest of Christmases and the very happiest of holiday seasons!

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