Traditions feel comforting
We’re suddenly whizzing through December at the speed of a magical sleigh. That means we’re officially allowed to start feeling ‘Christmassy’, in our house, at least.
Do you feel it too? Are you looking forward to Christmas, just a little bit? (Or a lot?) Are there any rituals or traditions that send that festive feeling running through you?
Since I was seven years old, along with shaking out the tinsel, baking mince pies (with mixed results), and addressing hastily written cards just in time for the last post, or, if I’m being truthful, a couple of days too late (but next year will be different, you understand!), Christmas has also meant putting the Elvis Presley Christmas Album on the turntable.
Oh why can’t every day be like Christmas?
And there he sits – beaming glossily into the middle distance from the record sleeve – snow-covered hills behind him, forever handsome in his blue anorak, a garment which was slightly cheesey, even back in 1978 when I received the album for Christmas. But we can forgive him his jacket.
I’d forgive him just about anything.
My first love
The King, Elvis the Pelvis, Tiger Man, whatever else you want to call him (as long as it’s kind), Elvis Presley was and will always be my first crush with a capital E.
The Elvis Presley Christmas album
On my coveted album, he gives a couple of carols a certain boogey factor, dreamily dreams of a white Christmas, rocks up with a cheeky promise that he’ll be coming down your chimney (as you’ve been ‘a real good little baby’), and then laments the Christmas which has now turned a shade of blue.
He promises to be home for Christmas (if only in his dreams), and he sings about missing his mother, as he remembers how she loved those roses growing in the back yard. With the gamut of emotions that you could feel at any time, but which are always intensified at Christmas – when those feel-good vibes are supposed to be magnified in our merriment, I believe Elvis has something for everyone.
But I’m biased.
How Elvis left the building and rock ‘n’ rolled into my life
I was out playing in the street after school with my sister and some friends while my parents were watching the news. It was August 1977. I was called in and Dad said, ‘Just watch this. This is history in the making.’
And there he was… Shimmying, really fast, along the front of a stage, singing in powerful dulcet tones to a screaming audience, and smiling into the camera.
Before Elvis there was nothing.John Lennon
I fell in love then and there. On the day he died. And I will love him until the day I die.
A song for every emotion
Shortly afterwards, my parents split up. I was given the Separate Ways album as a gift. It’s still my favourite album to this day. Elvis sang me the words to help me understand why my parents separated, ‘One day when she’s older maybe she will understand why her mum and dad are not together, the tears that she will cry, when I have to say goodbye tear at my heart forever’.
Following Elvis’s death, Dad took me to my very first concert. It was an Elvis impersonator called Healthcliff. It was an incredible experience for me at my young age.
Mum took me to the cinema to watch Kurt Russell play Elvis. I fell in love with Elvis’s love story and tried to learn everything about him.
I was, officially, a Fan!
I’m sure I enjoyed every Elvis film far more than he ever did, frustrated as he was with his roles… I just loved to watch him. And listen to him: smouldering, velveteen, smooth.
Music moves – a language for everybody
I love the way he croons, how he shows his vulnerability. It’s easy to connect on an emotional level.
He has a song for every sadness. ‘You don’t know me’ is just one of his classics about unrequited love. Who can’t relate to that at some time in their lives? I will never tire of hearing how he loves her so. Doesn’t everybody crave to be loved as deeply as he proclaims his love?
He even sang about Old Shep, that I played with a renewed intensity after my own dog, Sam, died when I was a child.
I don’t care that he married a girl who was 10 years his junior (she maintains he was the love of her life), I think it’s so much more sad than funny that he died an undignified death. Those stories about sending out for the most expensive burger in the world don’t bother me. I still love him and I always will.
It’s human nature to gripe, but I’m going ahead and doing the best I can.Elvis Presley
A voice for every generation
Elvis transcends everything. A shared love for him can bring a commonality to many a relationship.
Christiane, a Belgian lady a bit older than me, took good care of my children when I used to go to work very early. Although from a different generation, and a different culture, she shared my love for Elvis.
The last time I saw her, she had been given only a few weeks to live. Christiane was preparing to die. As she lay in her bed, her final request for me was to look over a translation of her favourite song, ‘I’ll remember you’, into French, so that it could be read at her service.
After I’d read the A4 sheet she’d had typed out for me to check, and which would be given out at her eulogy, I blinked in my tears and smiled at her and my children. I told her it was ‘perfect’.
As you can imagine, listening to the song two weeks later, as we said our final goodbyes to Christiane at the crematorium, was truly bittersweet.
Now and again, I’ll play that song, and I’ll be transported back to a time when Christiane came around over Christmas, and we listened to Elvis together.
Elvis’s music brought great joy to Christiane, as it does to others. It has helped me through many a difficult time in my life and has always been there for me. And no matter what the future holds, the comfort of his music isn’t changing any time soon.
And how about you? Is there something (or someone) special that brings you a little magic at Christmas time? Maybe you also bake mince pies, although you don’t really like them? I’d love to hear about any special (or peculiar – but not too peculiar) rituals you might have.
Or let me know if you share my love for… you know who 😉
To those of you who are reading, Happy Listening, Merry Christmas and… Thank You Very Much!
Looking for ideas for holiday activities to try with your family and friends, or even on your own? Here are four ideas you might like.