The last Christmas carol of the season

Yes, this was my tree. In July. Shut up.

Back when I was younger, my brother and I used to play a game of very public Chicken — whenever we were in a crowd, like at church or a performance, we’d dare each other to be the last one standing after the crowd sits down, or the last one clapping during an applause break. Sometimes we’d give in to the pressure of silence, and sometimes our parents had to yank us back down into the church pew. Good times.

That story comes to mind now as we all start shuttering the holiday season. Christmas trappings after Christmas always seem like the morning after a hell of a wedding party where you’re only a guest — you’re still riding the afterglow of a good party, but you realize that you’re ready to get on with your life, and if you never see some of these distant relations/friends of friends again, well, that might be for the best.

My mom plays Christmas carols in July to pep up her mood, and I confess to throwing on “O Come All Ye Faithful” or the Charlie Brown Christmas album at parties just for a little ironic laugh. Try it this summer … you’ll be amazed at how it alters your mood. The thought of Christmas trees or zombie-attack mall shopping doesn’t spur warm nostalgia, but Christmas carols worm your way right into your subconscious and get you feeling all seasonal no matter what time of year it is.

Lights and trees stay up for awhile after Christmas, mainly because nobody feels like taking the time to take them down when there’s still good egg nog to be downed. And you’ll still see Christmas crap in the discount bins at the stores for a week or so. (Get your wrapping paper now!) But Christmas carols? Man, those tunes vanish from the public consciousness like they were never there. No more “Holly Jolly Christmas,” no more “All I Want for Christmas is You,” no more “Wonderful Christmastime,” thank heaven.

I didn’t consciously focus on the last Christmas carol I heard this year, though it was either “Joy to the World” as we were bolting church to get home for Santa on Christmas Eve or “Happy Christmas,” by John Lennon, which bubbled up on the radio somewhere late in the game. “Happy Christmas,” while light-years ahead of McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” still feels like a lecture wrapped in delightful pop trappings, like getting a big XBox-shaped present and unwrapping it to find broccoli and socks. Perhaps not the most enjoyable way to end the holiday season, but perhaps the right way.

So this was Christmas. And only about 10 months until we start hearing carols again. Unless I cue up “Father Christmas” one more time.


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