Christmas season musings: Chestnuts, open fire, snow


When we reflect on Christmas, we think of the emphasis on shopping and the many exciting things associated with the holiday season. Early on, such as days like we are experiencing now, you can look out your window and see the leaves falling.

Falling leaves this time of the year remind you of October when they turned and gave us that splendor, which goes away all too quickly. This year, however, the color seemed to stay with us longer than I can remember. This past Thanksgiving, there were a few trees here and there which retained their color.

When the leaves begin to fall, you notice how they float so effortlessly to the ground. They just keep coming and coming, twisting in the wind and landing indiscriminately, creating little piles here and there.

The yard crew comes one day, blowing the leaves into rows and collecting them, leaving the grounds clean and kempt. The next day, the leaves reappear and continue falling until the New Year when every tree is bare.

Then you can spot the balls of mistletoe high up among the limbs. And the squirrel nests that appear in the forks of the trees.

You find that squirrels seem to be shut-ins during the winter months. You seldom see a squirrel scampering about as they do all spring, summer, and fall. They search, as we do, for a warm place to spend the winter months.

I like the Christmas pre-season. It is like having a tailgate party before the game. There are parties aplenty, and socializing is as important as the long-awaited time when everybody gathers around the fire to open the presents.

I like everything from the shoppers scurrying about, even in places like New York. No city dresses up for the holidays like New York, where the small lights dominate. There are big red bows and wreaths all over Manhattan.

I like New York at Christmas, and I like the manger scenes in the small towns across the country. Thankfully, political correctness hasn’t gotten all of them.

Most of all, what I like best about the Christmas season are the Christmas carols, which have stood the test of time. Growing up, we enjoyed the Christmas hymns at the little country church, favorites like “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” and “We Three Kings.”

Two favorite Christmas carols have always been “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby and “The Christmas Song” by Mel Tormé. You may recognize the latter as, “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.”

This takes you back to New York again, when you take a walk from your hotel down to Rockefeller Center and take a look at the giant tree, which stands more than 75 feet in the air. This tree is illuminating to your feelings and spirits. It is a noble tree.

Nearby is the skating rink, where ice skaters of all dimensions and skills glide around the rink as Tormé’s mellow voice glides over your senses like the skaters on the ice. Even if New York is cold, you feel warm and comforted by hearing the Christmas Song. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Yuletide carols being sung by a choir, and folks dressed up like Eskimos.”

I never tire of that song and the inspiration it brings at Christmastime. Interestingly, Torme wrote the song during a “blistering hot” summer in an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool.”

I like it that Bing Crosby’s song also never grows old. It is emotionally rewarding that the traditional Christmas carols are just as popular today as they were years ago. Every now and then, a new Christmas song comes into prominence and receives acceptance. But it would be hard to find one that could ever displace the traditional favorites like “The Christmas Song” and “White Christmas.”

Those of us who live where snow falls infrequently — and, more often than not, unexpectedly — don’t expect to enjoy a white Christmas, but that is something to add to your bucket list.

Think of a New England setting with evergreens blanketed with snow. Skaters on a small pond. Horses pulling a sleigh with bells jingling. Pancakes and maple syrup. Jack Frost nipping at your nose.

Yeah, that is something I have always wanted to do. It is nice to dream, and I’m still dreaming of a “White Christmas.”

[For 36 years the sideline radio reporter for the Georgia Bulldogs, Loran Smith now covers a bigger sideline of sports personalities and everyday life in his weekly newspaper columns.]