The mall was filled with anxious shoppers darting in and out of busy stores. Strung along the ceilings and walls were attempts to make the shopping center look festive – wreaths with big red bows, gold lights and plenty of fake snow adorned every nook and cranny. Santa sat near the center of the mall, ready for little girls and boys to sit on his lap and tell him what they wanted most this year. But at the very center of the mall stood a stage. Two girls on the stage were singing loudly off-key into their microphones, “We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” After their song ended, the MC grabbed the microphone, “Okay, we’ve got Christmas karaoke tonight! Sing your favorite Christmas song!”
“I want to sing!” my 14-year-old cousin said, almost pulling my arm out of socket.
“I don’t want to by myself,” she pouted. “Look at all the kids here from my school. It will embarrass me to do it by myself.”
The mall is usually a haven for teenagers on the weekend – coming to walk around the stores with their dates, occasionally taking in a movie. I did the very same thing when I was her age. Would I have gotten up in front of all of my peers to sing my favorite Christmas song? Probably not, but there is a good chance that I would have too.
My sister and I had been singing Christmas songs in front of crowds since we were very little. My papaw would dress up as Santa and we’d visit needy children. While he’d hand out Christmas presents, my sister and I would perform the duties of elves – which basically consisted of singing Christmas carols. One of my favorite songs to sing was “Jolly Ole Saint Nicholas.” My sister killed me with this song, because she refused to sing it right. The lyrics said “Jolly Ole Saint Nicholas, lean your ear this way” but Tiffany insisted that it said “lean your hear this way.”
I’d tell her not only was that the wrong way to sing it, but it didn’t make sense. Being the stubborn little sister that she was, however, she kept singing it her way. We’d fight about it every time, so we should have just thrown the song out altogether, but it was the one we’d always try to sing first.
No Christmas is complete for my family unless we listen to Elvis croon out his Christmas carols. Elvis was usually played while we trimmed the tree. One year, while helping my aunt decorate her tree, we listened to Elvis sing about having a “Blue Christmas” and talked about how different it was to not have my aunt’s husband Gale around to help us. Gale had to be out of town that year for work, so whether he would make it home for Christmas or not was questionable. When “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” started playing, Tiffany excused herself to another room. We found her minutes later, crying her eyes out. On a Polaroid picture of Gale, she wrote “Gale is gone” and the ink had been smeared by her tears. “I guess that song just got to me,” she sobbed. I can’t listen to Elvis Christmas songs to this day without thinking of that.
“Ba rump ba bum bum!” My dad would scream at the top of his lungs whenever “The Little Drummer Boy” would play on the radio in our car. This would make my sister, my brother and I laugh every time. Dad’s rendition of the Christmas classic was obnoxious and almost unbearable, but it seemed to put him in a good mood every time it played.
“That’s your dad’s favorite Christmas song,” my mom would tell us, and while none of us were particularly fond of it, we were sure to play it just because we thought he loved it so much. Last year while sitting around listening to holiday tunes, the song came on.
“I’ve always hated this song,” my dad said.
“WHAT?” I exclaimed, “but it’s your favorite!!!”
“No it isn’t. I hate it. Your mom has just always thought it was my favorite, and I’ve never told her any different.”
“But you always sang it! You never sing anything!!” my sister said.
“It’s easy to sing, and it made you all laugh.”
Now, when we hear “The Little Drummer Boy” and my dad starts his throaty “Ba rump ba bum bum”, we tell him to can it.
In fifth grade, I was chosen to sing the solo all the other girls in my choir were dying to get. I was so nervous as I got up to take the mic to belt out, “I’ve Got No Man but a Snowman” and it didn’t help that Donnie Fraley sat in the front row making faces at me. I took all the song I had in me and pretended I was singing it to Jason Holyfield, hoping he’d get the hint that I wanted him to ask me to the Christmas dance, since I technically had no man. With Jason Holyfield in my heart, Donnie Fraley in front of me and to top it all off, I had just started my period before taking the stage, the odds were definitely against me. However, when I sang, I didn’t even recognize myself. To this day, I think God sent me the voice of an angel just for that moment, and had also given me the brains to go out of the house wearing red pants for the occasion.
So as my cousin Zannah stood in that mall persisting that one of us sing with her, I thought, Hey, why not? It’s Christmas time, and nothing gets me in the spirit like a good Christmas song.
“If you don’t go up there and sing, I’m gonna sign you up myself,”
Tiffany told her.
“Someone go with me! PUHLEEZE!”
“Ok, Zannah, I’ll go with you,” I told her.
Together, we chose “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus” and when they called our names, I had to practically drag her up on stage to sing. The music started, and soon a crowd gathered around to listen. As I opened my mouth to start singing, I realized I was the only one that was being heard. Zannah stood quietly lip syncing, her mic turned off. For a minute, I was moritified! I was singing Christmas karaoke in a mall in my hometown, and I was just sure there were plenty of people I had graduated with witnessing this embarrassing moment. But when the song was over, I watched as Zannah was getting high fives from the prissy girls in her class, and praises on how well she did, so any embarrassment I felt was completely erased. That is, until Zannah insisted on telling everyone in our family about how we made her get up there and she had no part in wanting to sing at all.
So yes, I enjoy all Christmas music. The jingle bells, the ba rump ba bum bums, the fa la las, the silver bells, the silent nights, the red nosed reindeers – without them, Christmas time just wouldn’t be the same to me. I’ll continue to crank them up and sing them whenever I hear them, and I will pass this tradition along to my kids too.
This, of course, includes all Mariah Carey Christmas tunes as well. I love that crazy bitch.
Carrie Nations loves everything about the holiday season except for eggnog. She really hates eggnog. You can send her a partridge in a pear tree at firstname.lastname@example.org.