Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent Calendar - A Christmas Cut-Up

[Note: This post originally ran during the first Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December, 2007]

My memories of Christmas at school begin at St.Peter's Catholic School in Liberty, New York which I attended during Grades 1, 2 and 3. The focus, of course, was on the story of the Nativity and not on the more secular features of Christmas such as decorations and Santa. I remember there were no Christmas trees in classrooms - there may have been one in the main lobby of the school. I do know there were no Christmas trees in the church itself.

I started school at a very young age - I think 4 1/2 years old in kindergarten which was at the public school. I was a handful for my mother, both from an intelligence standpoint as well as physically. I'm sure it was a challenge to keep me in line, as I would hear stories that my mother laughed at in later years.

One example: it was tradition to have the nuns who taught school come over to a student's home for dinner at least once during the school year. Usually it would be the two or three nuns who taught your child. Our visit fell during the Christmas season which was quite a bit of fun. Until my mother's inquisitive son opened his mouth during dinner - and not to shovel in food.

I remember asking one of the nuns why she didn't have children and if she had been spayed like our dog Blondie. Well my mother said later, "I thought I should just die right there." Of course, this was the late 1960s and the nuns who taught me were part of a very hip, post-Vatican II group. I think they laughed for minutes on end at my remark.

While I performed in many Christmas concerts, and also as one of the VonTrapp childen in our version of The Sound of Music one year, I was more known for my versions of popular songs. This included Jingle Bells. Now if you are of a certain age (and I won't say what that age is), you will know what the image above means and how it relates to Jingle Bells.

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee


Whitney McKim said...

Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg... Batmobile lost a wheel and the Joker got away -- Hey!

I absolutely loved your story of an inquisitive child wondering why the nuns didn't have children... that's priceless. Out of the mouths of babes.

But, I have one question. This question actually came up earlier this week, during my violin lesson. My instructor and I were playing through "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music when both of us began to wonder... when did this particular musical become a Christmas musical?? You mentioned that you were a VonTrappe kid one Christmas, so... do you know? When or why The Sound of Music is now regarded as a Christmas themed production? Other than the fact that there is snow on the alps of course....

Thomas MacEntee said...

Well, I was a bit young when The Sound of Music movie came out (I hear it was also called The Sound of Money since it was such a blockbuster). My thinking is that the song My Favorite Things evokes those same feeling of security, safety, being around family that the holidays do. Also realize that Christmas music is a big money maker - every star, even Jewish ones have a Christmas Album. Imagine the royalty check someone like Brenda Lee gets every January for Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree!

I also had to laugh when you mentioned My Favorite Things. I had a friend who went around singing:

"Stringing young hitch hikers up in my attic

Drinking ten beers then driving eratic

Letting the air out of kids' water wings

These are a few of my favorite things."