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Darrell Huckaby: Let the sounds of Christmas fill the air

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

"Go tell it; Jesus is born!"

I have been waiting 11 months to be able to sing those lines without feeling guilty about rushing the season. Why do we have to wait for the season of advent to sing joyous songs about the birth of Christ? The good news of God's gift to the world is significant 365 days a year, after all.

My next-door neighbor growing up was Miss Mae Hardman, who left Porterdale to teach at Rabun Gap Nacoochie School the year after I left to go to college. She still lives in those North Georgia Mountains around Clayton. Miss Mae's favorite hymn, no matter what the time of year, was "Joy to the World," and she often complained to me that the folks at the Presbyterians wouldn't acquiesce to her wishes and sing it year round.

I tried to get her to go with me to the Methodist Church by telling her that we sang it every week, but she knew better.

Well, I love Christmas music, both sacred and secular, and I look forward all year to the moment when the person on WSB hits the high note of Amazing Grace and the "Rich's Great Tree," which is now sponsored by Macy's, at Lenox Square, bursts into light. That is the signal, at our house, to let the Christmas music begin.

I will admit here and now that I am a sucker for buying Christmas albums -- although they are called CDs now and even they are about to become obsolete, or so I am told. You let a company produce a new album with a compilation of my favorite songs by my favorite artists and I will buy that sucker, with little regard to how much it costs -- even though I have all the songs by all the artists on other discs. I know, I know. It's just a thing.

My favorite Christmas album, and my favorite song, differs from day to day and year to year. Willie Nelson is a perennial favorite, though. I can close my eyes and just picture Willie sitting by a fireplace all alone, the rest of the room dark, or maybe illuminated by candlelight, playing his battered guitar and singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem." It puts me in a melancholy mood every time. My favorite cut is "Pretty Paper," which is also the name of the album.

"Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue, wrap your presents to your darling from you. Pretty pencils to write, 'I love you' ... "

That always puts me to mind of Elvis, of course, and I am digging through the stack of CDs looking for something that has "Blue Christmas" on it.

When I was a kid we didn't have many records, but we did have a Bing Crosby Christmas LP and I have it on disc and make sure it gets plenty of play time this time of year. I even have a scratchy old copy of the Ames Brothers' "There'll Always be a Christmas," that my favorite converted Southerner, Danna Gutknecht, gave me several years ago. I've already played it a couple of times this season.

I like playing my personal recordings better than I like listening to the all-Christmas-all-the-time stations. When you listen to those, you hear songs that will drive you crazy after the first two or three days of advent. Let me give you a for-instance of three. I don't care if I never hear another recording of Burl Ives singing "Holly Jolly Christmas." I know. I know. It is a classic. It was fine the first four or five thousand times I heard it, but I am over it now. Ditto those stupid dogs barking "Jingle Bells," and I don't want to hear about your grandma getting run over by a reindeer, either. As a matter of fact, "Deck the Halls," has lost a little of its luster, too, although I will still find myself breaking into it every now and then, particularly while I am decorating the staircase and doorways of our house with greenery.

I do opt for the radio dial every once in awhile, hoping to hear one or two of the songs that I don't have recordings of -- like the Ray Stevens version of the Ahab the Arab Christmas song. That's the one where Clyde the Camel pulls Rudolph's sleigh. We probably won't hear that one this year. Politically incorrect, don't you know.

As the season progresses, I will move away from "Silver Bells" and "It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas" toward "The First Noel," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and Miss Mae's favorite, "Joy to the World." As Christmas Eve approaches there will be more "Silent Night" and "O Holy Night" renditions on my personal airwaves.

I love this time of year, y'all. It's Christmas in Dixie. I like that song, too -- even if the group that does it is called Alabama.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.