No matter who you are, where you live, or what holiday you celebrate, chances are you have some December tradition you like to uphold. No, must uphold. They’re not optional. These are things you must do or your chosen holiday does not really come. I’ve written about this before, citing particular movies, songs, and TV specials that must be listened to or viewed, but I’ve never posted a comprehensive list of all things that must be seen, heard, eaten, or experienced between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They are in no particular order unless otherwise noted, beginning with two I mentioned Friday in the preview of this post. Whether this is all of them I’m not really sure, but here’s the first 50 I could think of.
Things to do between Thanksgiving and Christmas
1. Listen to Frank Sinatra’s A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra. Recorded in 1957, it set the bar high for holiday albums. Preferably listened to on long-playing record, where one can easily note the change in mood from contemporary (side one) to traditional (side two), I like to listen to this album in its entirety late on Thanksgiving evening. (Alternate listening time: car ride home from Grandma’s the following day.)
2. Put up Christmas lights in the den. Nothing looks better than the glow of your television backlit by multi-colored bulbs.
And speaking of your television, hear are a few things to watch (numbers 3-13 on our list)…
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
4. It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992)
5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
7. Frosty the Snowman (1969)
8. Frosty Returns (1992)
9. A Garfield Christmas (1987)
10. “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (first full episode of The Simpsons; original airdate: December 17, 1989)
11. “The Strike” (the “Festivus” episode of Seinfeld; original airdate: December 18, 1997)
12. “Classy Christmas” episode of The Office (original airdate: December 9, 2010)
13. “The Night of the Meek” episode of The Twilight Zone (original airdate: December 23, 1960)
Then there are movies. Oh, the many movies of Christmas. These are my Top Five (and numbers 14-18 here).
14. Bad Santa (2003)
15. Home Alone (1990)
16. A Christmas Story (1983)
17. Elf (2003)
18. Christmas Vacation (1989)
Certain things you’ll want to eat or drink…
19. egg nog
20. Coca-Cola (the beverage of Christmas)
21. an old-school regular peppermint candy cane
22. those white nougat candies with the tree image in the center
23. those cheap shortbread cookies that are dyed pink or green and are surprisingly delicious, not to be confused with the ones that come in the blue tins
24. those cookies that come in the blue tins
25. a chocolate orange (why do they not sell these all year?!)
26. chocolate bar wrapped to look like a hundred-dollar bill (same question as above)
27. Martinelli’s sparkling cider
28. cinnamon rolls for breakfast (Christmas Eve or Christmas Day)
29. crescent rolls for dinner (same)
Things to hear…
30. Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) listened to in its entirety
31. Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” (any version recorded by the Boston Pops)
Other things to see, hear, taste, read, do, or experience…
32. Travel down Broad Street (Virginia Route 7) in Falls Church; they just do lights and decorations really well.
33. Check out the red lights lining Georgetown Parkway at Krop’s Crops in Great Falls.
34. Walk through the “Winter Walk of Lights” at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens (Vienna, Va.).
35. Drive through the Bull Run Festival of Lights (Centreville, Va.), amazingly even better than the walk-through at Meadowlark, seen from the comfort of your car.
36. See a performance of The Nutcracker, or at least listen to the “soundtrack” in its entirety.
37. Enjoy an evening at home watching that yule log image on your television.
38. Read Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.”
39. Find a Christmas party at someone’s house (preferably way nicer than your own house) and go there. Bonus points if you’re playing the piano and getting paid to be there.
40. Have Jack Daniel’s on Sinatra’s birthday (December 12). This really has nothing to do with Christmas but it does fall in the season. You should have Jack Daniel’s from time to time anyway just to be reminded of what a real drink tastes like, before the world was overrun by girly cocktails and macchiatos with skim milk.
41. Donate toys to charity.
42. Deposit money in one of those Salvation Army red kettles.
Places to go…
43. Rite Aid in Sterling; why their set up is better than everyone else’s I couldn’t say, but it is.
44. The mall. Every community has a place simply referred to as “the mall.” Go there and experience the true meaning of Christmas.
45. A giant decorated tree in a shopping plaza (again, everyone has one… or in Loudoun County we have about a dozen).
46. Big Lots… trust me, weird off-brand Christmas stuff.
47. Dunkin’ Donuts… best Christmas displays of your standard commercial food operations.
And finally, everyone has his or her own unique Christmas toys or games that have special meaning. Make these your last three. For me I have two from my childhood and one from adulthood.
48. The mouse Advent calendar. Back before Advent calendars were ubiquitous (and could set you back 20, 50, or 100 bucks depending how adult you wanted them to be), I had a simple cloth calendar that hung on my bedroom door. There were 24 pockets, and each day a little toy mouse moved from pouch to pouch, producing a toy, money, or treat each day. I’ve now given Franklin the calendar and he’s brought the tradition into the 21st century. I’m also on the third generation of cats who like to steal that little mouse.
49. The dancing Coca-Cola bear. Purchased in about 1993, this item always makes me smile. It’s a stuffed bear, about a foot tall, holding an upright bass and wearing sunglasses. It sits on a pedestal adorned with the Coca-Cola label, and dances to a medley of “Jingle Bells” and “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”
50. Also from the world of Coke memorabilia… a Holiday 2005 glass bottle which sits on my bookshelf 12 months a year. The beverage was consumed more than a dozen years ago but the bottle looks like it just came off the factory line. It was the last thing my father ever gave me. (Well, last physical thing.)
Number 51, of course, is to let Christmas come and enjoy the day.
But isn’t the buildup so much better?