Top 5 Old Time Radio Christmas Programs

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Top 5 Old Time Radio Christmas Programs*

(*That are available for listening to on YouTube)

People even celebrated Christmas in the olden days – before cable TV, HD TV sets, DVDs, Bluerays and hand-held video players. Click on the titles to go and listen – and many of the links are only Part 1 of the particular program, so please be sure to listen to the other parts available at the YouTube site.

Superman’s Christmas Message – 1945

 

Bing Crosby Christmas Show – 1946

 

A Christmas Story – Jean Shepherd – 1974

 

Christmas Shopping – Abbott and Costello – 1945

 

A Christmas Carol – Mercury Players – 1939

More Christmas Novelty Recordings

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The Sublime, and the Sublimely Bizarre

Because so many deserving recordings were left off the Top 5 list.(Click on the individual song titles to hear the recordings)

The Yogi Yorgensson Ouvre:

I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas

Yingle Bells

I Was Santa Claus at the Schoolhouse (for the P.T.A.)

The Christmas Party

” ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” by:

Art Carney

Liberace

David Hasselhoff

Henry Rollins

John Cleese

Songs about the 1914 Christmas Truce:

Christmas 1914 In No-Man’s Land” – Mike Harding

Christmas in the Trenches” – John McCutcheon

Snoopy’s Christmas” – The Royal Gardsmen

A Red Sovine Classic:

Billy’s Christmas Wish”

More:

“The Twelve Pains of Christmas” – Bob Rivers

Christmas Balls” – Ben Light and his Surf Club Boys

” ‘Zat You, Santa Claus?” – Louis Armstrong

Everywhere It’s Christmas” – The Beatles (1966 Fan Club Record)

Santa and the Purple People Eater” – Sheb Wooley

Donde Esta Santa Claus?” – Augie Rios

Monster’s Holiday” – Lon Chaney Jr

Christmas Boogie” – Canned Heat with The Chipmunks

Linus and Lucy” – Vince Guaraldi (from A Charlie Brown Christmas Special)

The Littlest Christmas Tree” – Red Skelton

White Christmas” – Walter Brennan

All I Want For Christmas is a Beatle” – Dora Bryan

I Want A Beatle For Christmas” -Becky Lee Beck

“An Old Fashioned Christmas (Daddy’s Home)” – Linda Bennett

Santa Claus is a Black Man” – Akim

Happy Birthday Jesus” – Little Cindy

Top 5 Christmas Novelty Recordings

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Top 5 Christmas Novelty Recordings

There is never a greater need for a sense of humor than during the Christmas Holiday season. Over the years many recording artists, the famous and the obscure, have done their best to carve out a few minutes within which we can take a breath and laugh as we are dragged into the desperate, eccentric follies of the modern Christmas Celebration. Here are some examples to get you started – leave your own favorite Christmas Novelty recordings in the comments.

5. Santa Claus and his Old Lady – Cheech and Chong (1971). “The Christmas Story” for the Stoner Generation. This single by the famous counter-culture comedy duo made the Billboard Christmas Chart for three years running – #4(’71) and #3(’72 & ‘73) – and is still dragged out and dusted off annually at most AOR stations.

4. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – Gayla Peevey (1953). This is one of those recordings for which there seems to be no middle ground: one either loves it, or one hates it. Sung by 10-year-old Gayla Peevey (who in 1960 recorded the song “My Little Marine” using the name Jamie Horton), the song reached #24 on the Billboard Pop charts. The recording often appears on various Internet sites mislabeled as being performed by Shirley Temple.

3. (Tie)“Green Chri$tma$”(1958) & “Christmas Dragnet”(1953) – Stan Freberg. “Green Christmas” is a brilliant satire of the advertising profession and the commercialization of Christmas by the same. Borrowing from Dickens, Scooge is the COB of a large advertising firm, who is confronted by Bob Cratchit, the owner of a small spice company who is resisting the push to use Christmas as an advertising bonanza. Many of the most prominent products being hawked in a Holiday vein at that time (Coca-Cola, Chesterfield cigarettes, etc…) were slyly parodied, and subsequently many advertisers of the day refused to have their commercials air anytime the record was played and as a result the record received no commercial airplay. Nevertheless, the record sold, and there was a newspaper report on December 27, 1958, that the day after Christmas of 1958, Stan Freberg presented a check for $1,000 to the Hemophilia Foundation of Southern California as his royalties from the first year’s release of “Green Chri$tma$.” He gave all royalties from the song to charities to quell any criticism that he was profiting hypocritically from the subject of his satire. “Christmas Dragnet” is a terrific parody of the then popular police drama starring Jack Webb, and is almost as funny as the real Christmas episode from the TV show.

2. A Christmas Carol – Tom Lehrer (1959). Piano-playing humorist Tom Lehrer also found the overt commercialism of Christmas a fat target for his incisive musical wit. His nightclub act at the time consisted predominantly of satirical takes on different popular song forms, and his “A Christmas Carol” combines a merry original song with snippets of familiar Holiday hymns and carols featuring reworked lyrics reflecting the unabashed marketing and consumerism that was suffocating the Holiday even in the 1950s.

1.The  Twelve Gifts of Christmas” Allan Sherman (1963).The late, great Allan Sherman – King of the Song Parody – gave us this reworking of the interminable old workhorse “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and saw it rise to #5 on the Billboard charts in 1963 and back again to #32 in 1965. Though some of the gift items listed in this 47-year-old recording might require a brief history lesson for some young listeners of today, the Christmas Bacchanalia Theme will be universally recognizable, and the gross Holiday Materialism of 1963 seems somewhat quaint by modern day standards. It’s amazing – and sad – what we can become accustomed to.

Christmas Therapy

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Christmas Therapy

 

The modern Christmas Season, at least as practiced here in the United States, produces more anxiety and dread than joy and peace in most adults. The out of control commercialism and forced socializing that feeds unnatural expectations and feelings of emptiness and lack is, for the most part, impossible to avoid. Coming right on the heels of all of this Holiday splendid-osity is the arrival of the New Year, and its attendant year-end tallying up of the columns, both the material (taxes, etc…) and the spiritual (assessing the past, and aspiring for the future). It can all add up to Crazy-Making, to use the non-clinical term.

A decade ago, give or take, in the midst of my own Christmas Holiday disquiet, I bumbled into creating a little self-help exercise that actually succeeded in taking a good portion of the loaded holiday stress from my mind. I’ve repeated it every year since, and I offer it here in the much ballyhooed Spirit of Goodwill.

To make it short and sweet: Write a letter to Santa Claus. Wait! Don’t leave! Hear me out!

The idea at first may sound stupid to many, but is it really any dumber than standing in line to spend a half a week’s pay buying Starbucks gift cards for the office Secret Santa exchange you just found out about the day before? Allow me a little more time to make my case.

Children are encouraged to write letters to Santa Claus, the general motivation being the acquisition of desired material goods. Many thousands of letters addressed to Santa are sent by children every year, and the postal service has even instituted Operation Santa Claus, a program in which volunteers open the letters and try to fulfill some of the wishes contained in them.

For adults, belief in Santa Claus is tacitly and aggressively discouraged. And yet adults are actively encouraged toward, and even praised for, belief in a host of other entities that one is told are not seen but felt. So why should Santa Claus be treated any different? I say he’s as good as any other invisible entity to which one may plead.

As a therapeutic tool, writing letters has been proven to have great palliative value. So gather pen and paper, an envelope and a stamp (very important!), and sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve jot down a few ideas you would like to share with the Jolly Old Elf regarding what you would like to see happen in your life, and the lives of those you love, in the coming year(s).

It does not need to be a long missive. Start with saying hello to Santa and ask how he’s been. Steer away from the unapologetic materialism of the typical childhood letter to Santa. Instead, tell Santa Claus what you need that can’t be easily bought: a new or better job, a healthier body, success for an endeavor, a new philosophy, meeting the right people, wishes for the New Year(s)—tell Santa what you need, why you need it, and then how you will pay the gift forward. Sign the letter (I usually just use my first name—Santa Claus is magic, after all, and he will know it’s me when he reads the letter). Then put it in the envelope, address it to Santa Claus, North Pole (or whatever derivation of that basic address you choose), put a stamp on it (yes, you may feel like you’re wasting a good stamp, but the Post Office still has to handle your letter, and you can think of it as akin to the blood sacrifice required in many of the Hero’s Journey stories) and, most important of all, mail it! Before Christmas Eve.

Send those hopes and dreams out there. It only takes a few minutes of your time and costs a stamp, but something nice may come to you in return. You just never know. That’s the magic of the Christmas gift—anything could be wrapped up in that colorful paper.

You just never know.

Top 5 Christmas Stories

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Top 5 Christmas Stories

(other than the original and the stories contained in my book “Christmas Wishes”)

This is a short list of stories containing a Christmas theme that have become annual favorites of mine. Some are stand-alone stories; others are excerpts from longer works. Some you have heard of, some you have not. Some you may agree with their being placed in the “Top 5,” others you may not – Feel free to add your own Top Christmas stories via the comments.

5. Christmas Eve by Washington Irving. Irving’s 1812 publication The Sketch Book contains five entries regarding a traditional Christmas celebration at a country manor house in England. Because of these chapters, the Sketch Book is often credited with revitalizing the celebration of the Christmas Holidays in the United States as well as England, both of whom had been indifferent to what was then considered a minor holy day by most Christian faiths. Indeed, in most areas of Puritan New England the celebration of Christmas was illegal, probably due to its past history as a time of unbridled revelry and debauchery by the lower classes. Irving presents the reader with a polished, calm, fictionalized account of a ‘traditional,’ Old World Christmas, complete with blankets of pure, white snow, mistletoe and holly, merriment and gatherings of family and friends.

4. Gifts of the Magi by O. Henry. As the pen name of William Sidney Porter, O. Henry became synonymous with the ironic or ‘twist’ ending. This is on full display in what is his best-known short story, “Gifts of the Magi.” In this 1906 short story – allegedly written at Pete’s Tavern in New York City – an economically disadvantaged young married couple each give up their most precious possession in order to buy the other a special Christmas gift. Often re-written and/or parodied, the original story has never been improved upon.

3.A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. A boyhood memory of young Buddy (Truman Capote) and his elderly distant cousin in which she engages Buddy in the annual hunt for special ingredients with which to make her Christmas fruitcakes as gifts for friends and family. You do not have to be a fruitcake fan (and let’s be honest – most aren’t) in order to be warmed by this recollection of the holiday during simpler times, prior to unrestrained commercialization, when the love that went into making a gift and the time spent in receiving it were often of greater value than the gift itself.

2. Christmas Fare by Rip Rense. In a chapter from his fictionalized autobiography, “The Oaks,” writer Rip Rense recounts (how’s that for alliteration?) a treasured Christmas memory. Young Charlie Bogle, getting off the bus en route to visit his mother for Christmas, finds himself in a strange town and discovers he has lost all his money. It’s a Christmas only Santa himself can save.

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It seems so obvious for this book to be on the list that I debated its inclusion for quite awhile. But, as I write in the beginning of my book “Christmas Wishes,” while most folks are familiar with the title of this Dickens book and much of its iconography, it turns out very few have actually read it, and that is a shame of tragic proportions. Everyone owes it to himself or herself to read the story of Scrooge and his dark night of the soul and his eventual redemption by the grace of Christmas, in its original version and at least three times during their life. A diligent reader can plow through the novella on a Christmas Eve, and the lazy ones can start the book during Thanksgiving weekend and easily finish by Christmas. The humor and humanity of the story will give the modern reader pause for reflection regarding what the Holiday Season has become, who exactly is really ‘at war with Christmas,’ and inspiration to create something more meaningful, within their own family at the very least.