Mike Butler’s Holiday Traditions

It’s the Holiday Season! I have just returned from three days of shopping with my family in Moncton, New Brunswick – a tradition started about a decade and a half ago by the female members of my family.  It’s a chance to have some time together, shop until they drop, and get a little change of scenery for a few days. I love going with them every year because it’s really more about the family time than the gift buying. This year, having that time away inspired me to make this ‘Uncorked’ all about my favourite Christmassy things!

December is a busy month for all of us but I must stress how important it is to take time ‘outside’ of the Christmas Busyness to keep your sanity as the holiday crunch approaches.  I recommend taking in a show (or three!) this month.  You have Fezziwig’s SCROOGE: Back to the Future playing at the Festival Theatre December 11-13 (tickets available at Box Of Delights, Wolfville); The Gentleman’s Chorus: Christmas Concert and Carol-Sing at the Al Whittle Theatre on December 20; and the incredibly funny Farndale Avenue Christmas Carol at CentreStage Theatre in Kentville, playing through December (call 678-8040 to reserve tickets).

One of my favourite things to do at Christmas is read Christmas stories and watch Christmas movies. I can’t remember a year that I didn’t read Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (complete with different voices for each Who!)  Be sure to add these selections to your ‘Holiday Reading List’: Little Women, The Gift of the Magi, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Raymond Biggs The Snowman, The Polar Express, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, and the one that always tops my list, Charles Dicken’s Classic A Christmas Carol. You can find these and many more holiday books at Box of Delights in Wolfville.

I am guilty of playing Christmas music all year round; there I said it! It could be the warmest day in July and I will have Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s Christmas Album blaring while I am doing laundry. I do very much adore holiday music, as long as it’s not annoying. I have listened to my share over the years and here are some of my favourite Christmas/holiday albums for you to locate and enjoy: I already mentioned Kenny & Dolly (they’re just a holiday staple), but I also recommend Sarah McLachlan’s album Wintersong, Josh Groban’s Noel, Michael Buble’s Christmas, Bette Midler’s Cool Yule, the original Anne Murray or Elvis Christmas Albums, Meaghan Smith’s It Snowed, and Christmas with Nana Mouskouri. You can also throw in some Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Burl Ives and Brenda Lee for good measure, but my all-time favourite Christmas album has to be Conway Twitty and the Twitty Birds Christmas Album!

Now, let’s see…  I covered Music, Books, Theatre… how about Movies? The holidays (in my family at least) wouldn’t be complete without our traditional get together where we eat our faces off and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (reciting most of it verbatim) – for 20 years we’ve done this!  Here’s my Top Five Favourite Holiday Films: 1. It’s a Wonderful Life (the black and white, James Stewart Classic!), 2. A Christmas Carol (from 1951 with Alistair Sim, which I believe is the best version ever made), 3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (starring the incredible Chevy Chase in the ultimate Christmas Family Movie – watching it with new people is a lot of fun), 4. Annabelle’s Wish (a little known children’s movie about a calf that wishes to be a reindeer with surprising results – have Kleenex handy!) and 5. Love Actually (starring Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, and Alan Rickman. It is a feel-good holiday treat for everyone).  And an honourable mention has to go to The Nightmare Before Christmas because it’s AWESOME!!!

But all movies and books aside, my favourite thing about Christmas is spending time with my family and friends. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Sure the decorations, presents, food, and fun are benefits but being with my nephews and my niece and my beautiful partner, safe and cozy, is beyond anything Santa could give me. I hope you all make outstanding Holiday memories this season and take time to reflect on the year that has passed, analyze what you did and what you accomplished and strive for better in 2015. I wish all my friends near and far, staying and traveling, of all religions and cultures, a very warm, safe, happy holiday! You’re all important to me, incredible life gifts I’ve received. I am ME because of you and I thank you! Merry Christmas Everyone!

Mike Butler