This week finds us moving along at a very merry pace towards Christmas. In keeping with the theme of the season—I’d love to share some of my very favorite things about Christmastime. The song, of that same title, was originally introduced in the original Broadway production, The Sound of Music. It was first sung by Mary Martin playing Maria and Patricia Neway playing Mother Abbess. Julie Andrews, who later plays Maria in the 1965 film version of the musical, helped to bring the song to its eventual beloved status. Although Tony Bennet’s version is also pretty Tasty.
I’d have to say that my absolute favorite version of the song, is Sandi Patty’s version on her classic “O Holy Night” album (1995) arranged by the legendary arranger/orchestrator, Bob Krogstad—he was known as Mr. Christmas (I know I’m a little Biased), but give this a listen on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMC09Vjjjfo Sandi Patty, My Favorite Things¹
Now many of you may know Sandi as one of the most highly acclaimed performers of our time with five Grammy® awards, four Billboard Music Awards, three platinum records, five gold records, and eleven million units sold—to many Sandi is simply known as The Voice. What you may not know, is I’m the lucky guy who gets to call her honey—we’ve been married for 25 years, have raised eight children, now enjoying six in-laws, and eight grand-kids together. Talk about my favorite things…
Christmastime—now is a much slower pace—especially as Sandi/I are empty nesters—or as we now call ourselves—Pre-Tirees—thanks to The Farmer’s Almanac². In keeping with our favorite things theme, I’ve asked Sandi to share a list of some of her favorite things about the Christmas season. See her Top Five list:
Family Time which traditionally means the week after Christmas. This year, like all of you, we’re planning creative ways to be together for the Holidays. But Christmas, at its heart, means family time.
Singing Together is a family tradition that started early for Sandi and her family as the Ron Patty Family and extends to us today as we recently toured as a family on the Forever Grateful Tour. But especially at Christmas, the family usually finds its way around the piano for a Carol sing just after dinner. Nana & Papa are always looking for a willing Choir!
Snow Angels are a family favorite—Sandi tells of a college memory, at then Anderson College, of making snow angels for the first time—it was her first time to see snowfall—didn’t snow that much in her hometown of sunny San Diego.
Slower Pace is truly a Christmas tradition of ours, as Sandi is usually home by Christmas after a busy concert & touring schedule. The weeks after Christmas bring rest, relaxation & winding down. And now…lots of Hallmark movies.
Christmas Sweets are more of a confession than tradition But we do keep a few Christmas sweets around including, and not limited to, Jordan Almonds, Peppermint Patties, and don’t forget the Peanut M&M’s.
Another one of my absolute favorite things of the Christmas season are Christmas Wreaths. This time of year, there are literally Christmas wreaths adorning everywhere imaginable—from doors and fences to lampposts and windows—even the front grille of the car! Let’s look at how a round bit of greenery come to symbolize the holidays.
Wreaths have always been a part of many ancient traditions dating back to the earliest civilizations. The circle is a symbol of immortality; throughout history, wreaths have been associated with life, rejuvenation, and renewal. Originally, wreaths were worn around the head, neck, or waist.
The Greeks awarded laurel wreaths to triumphant athletes, in the Persian Empire they were worn on the head as a symbol of importance, and the ancient Romans wore them like crowns. In Sweden, candles were incorporated in the wreaths to celebrate the return of light after the winter solstice. The pre-cursor of our modern-day Advent Wreaths³.
The Advent wreath is a simple arrangement consisting of four candles set equidistant in a circle of evergreens, with a large fifth candle placed in the middle. On the first Sunday of Advent, one candle is lit, on the second two candles, and so on. Finally, on Christmas Eve, we light the Christ candle in the middle.
The circle suggests eternity, the greens symbolize life, and the cross of lighted candles points to Christ. By lighting a new candle each week, by accumulating the brightness, we signify our hope in the coming light of Christ, even as daylight diminishes and darkness rises with the approach of the winter solstice⁴.
Another of my favorite things of the Christmas Season is getting ready for Santa’s late-night visit. Did someone say, “Cookies and Milk?”
In the U.S., providing snacks to nourish Kris Kringle during his nightlong gift-giving journey began to take hold during the Great Depression. This served as a way for parents to remind kids that no matter how desperate the situation, there’s always room to think about and give to others—which is certainly the heart of the lesson!
A glass of ice-cold milk often accompanies Santa’s treats in the U.S., but most countries that celebrate Christmas have their own variation on the cookies and milk tradition. For example, sherry and mince pies are served in Australia, while in Sweden, hearty rice porridge is the norm. Ireland keeps the cookies, but trades milk for a glass of Guinness⁵. Santa probably hits Ireland…last.
With winter break starting soon for most school-age children, consider having them make their own cookies for Santa. In our family tradition, we always encouraged our kiddos to leave a nice cold Diet Coke to accompany Santa’s late-night snack. And amazingly enough—the cookies & Diet Coke were always gone.
Another of my favorite things just might keep you entertained as you finish your late-night Santa snack prep—The Official NORAD Santa Tracker website will keep you updated & apprised on Santa’s exact travel coordinates as he makes his world-wide gift-giving trek.
The program starts on December 1st, but the actual Santa-tracking simulation starts on midnight of December 23. It is a community outreach function of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and is celebrating its 65th year of Santa Tracking.
According to legend, in 1955 a Sears department store placed an advertisement in the Colorado Springs newspaper The Gazette, which told children they could place a call to Santa Claus and included the number ME 2-6681. A call allegedly came through to Colorado Springs' Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center as one digit was misprinted. The Santa Tracker was born.
What started out as a wrong number—to the Colorado Springs’ (CONAD)—has become a Christmas tradition that has grown annually until it was taken over by the North America Air Defense Command (NORAD in 1958. Today, NORAD relies on volunteers to make Santa Tracking possible. Each volunteer handles about 40 telephone calls per hour and the team typically handles more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 100,000 telephone calls from more than two hundred countries and territories. Most of these contacts happen during the 20 hours from 4 a.m. on December 24 until midnight MST on December 25.
A website called NORADSanta.org was established to allow project access for Internet users⁶. See the NORAD Santa Tracker at https://www.noradsanta.org/.
In closing, I’d have to say, my absolute favorite thing of this season—is the real story of Christmas. It’s so easy with all the hustle and bustle of the season—to lose sight of what we’re actually celebrating in the first place? I refer, once again, to the Charlie Brown TV Special (circa 1965) and Linus taking center to explain to Charlie Brown—what’s Christmas all about⁷.
Join Linus for this one minute & thirty-second reminder: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=linus+tells+christmas+story.
At CONIZO some of our favorite things can be summed up in our core values of faith, quality, community, passion, optimism and innovation. It’s through living-out those values in all that we do, that we hope to be a leading innovator and provider of intergenerational experiences, resources, products and services. We believe that the wisdom of one generation, can and will, intersect with the hope of another.
Visit our online store and see a few of the products and services that are available this season. Check out & add the Advent Daily Devotional—a CONIZO exclusive by Sandi Patty—to your daily Advent and Christmas reading. It’s our earnest hope that we’ll become one of your favorite places to find tried and true resources, products and services all focused on helping you—live life well.
Thanks for spending a few moments with a few of our favorite things.
Sandi Patty, My Favorite Things, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMC09Vjjjfo .
The Old Farmer’s Almanac, https://www.almanac.com/
The Story Behind Your Christmas Wreath, https://www.almanac.com/story-behind-your-christmas-wreath?trk_msg=832MP1B9R9MK3E6R3OCCR71J7C&trk_contact=GPVGSAGEKQMRJS2TFVC49JH2MC&trk_module=new&trk_sid=1GAFHU9BA22IL8A4V8106AG740&utm_source=Listrak&utm_medium=Email&utm_term=Story+Behind+Your+Holiday+Wreath&utm_campaign=Companion+Newsletter&utm_content=12-13-2020
Living the Christian Year, Bobby Gross, InterVarsity Press, copyright 2009.
Santa Snacks Around the World, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, The Sunday Edition, December 13, 2020.
The NORAD Santa Tracker, https://www.noradsanta.org/
Charlie Brown TV Special, (1965) https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=linus+tells+christmas+story