Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Tree Video

I've written about our Christmas tree before, but each year it does fill me with total pride and unearned nostalgia. The tree came from Steve's grandfather's hardware store in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, brand spankin' new in 1965. That is also the year that A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired, vilifying exactly this kind of Christmas tree. And, of course, introducing that iconic jazzy Christmas music by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

In my house in Park Forest, where my parents moved with me from Pennsylvania in 1965 when I was a year old, we were listening to The Sound of Christmas, the Ramsey Lewis Christmas album that came out in 1960 and was re-released in 1962 with added tracks. My parents, who married in 1963, may have bought it for their first Christmas together, along with the Kingston Trio and Bing Crosby Christmas albums.

These would become mainstays of our Christmas listening, with few additions-- the Muppets' Christmas album and the Carpenters' Christmas album are the only two I remember as vividly in the mix. On a Saturday between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day (our official Christmas season), My mother would prop up the 4-6 albums in the morning, and one by one they'd drop and play. When they had finished, she would turn the whole stack over and play the B-sides. While they played, we'd make Christmas cookies and crafts for presents for teachers (my favorite, the Christmas diorama in a baby-food jar with cotton snow, white glitter, and tiny wooden figures).

Each album had a distinct character, and listening to them in halves like this, instead of individual songs on a mix tape or ipod shuffle, had a strong effect on me. I never tired of them. By the time one was over, I was so ready for the next. The rolicking fun of "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" by the Kingston Trio was always welcome, and the groove of Ramsey Lewis was a welcome counterpoint. Bing Crosby's "Mele Kalikamaka" could certainly try one's patience, but it was worth listening to for the delight of those background singers on his version of "Jingle Bells."

This year when we put up the Christmas tree, I got out my camera and made a little video. I was initially motivated by showing the individual steel branches in their original paper sleeves. However, it is also quite a production to put up the thing, so I just kept picking up the camera. In a way, this tree is the embodiment of Steve's aesthetic-- midcentury modern and somewhat minimalist. No lights go on the tree, or ornaments (so I've been instructed). Just these small colored balls, glass, of which a surprising number remain intact (I broke one this year). Since presumably Charlie Brown wouldn't approve, I went with the Ramsey Lewis soundtrack instead.

The video turned out much better than I expected. The muted original sound and the light sort of makes it feel like an old-fashioned 8mm family film. There's one clip where I forgot to mute the sound, and you can hear the football game in the background.

Enjoy the video, and Merry Christmas!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First time reading your blog- love the tree! I was just telling my 93 year old Grandmother today that I wished she still had hers- complete with the colored wheel that went around to highlight the tree! We inherited the aluminum tree after she had it so I do remember the paper sleeves, etc. The music you played is similar to what my folks listened to in the 60's - thanks for the trip down memory lane!!