Christmas: a few favorite things

Published 10:54 am Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

While driving to work last week, realizing that Christmas was about a week away, I got to thinking about this most wonderful time of the year. It was then I realized that my lifetime had encompassed in excess of one-half century of Christmases.

I wouldn’t trade 56 years packed full of happy memories for anything.

During my period of reminiscing, a bushel basket full of warm memories flooded my mind. If you will just humor this old man for the next two minutes or so (or how ever long it takes you to read these words), allow me to share a few of my favorite things about Christmas.

Pecan Pie: Don’t ask me why this popped in my mind first. It’s not like it ranks as number one on my “favorite” list; it was simply the first thing I decided to write about.

Perhaps it’s on my list because my mom made the best pecan pie in the entire world. I looked forward to a slice – or two, or three – come Christmastime. Then, as an adult and coming home for Christmas, she would bake a separate pie, just for me. It was better than any store-bought gift.

Christmas Songs: While it may detract from my image as a grizzled old newspaper editor, I get all weak-kneed and teary-eyed upon hearing certain Christmas songs.

This may sound odd, but Alvin, Simon and Theodore singing “The Chipmunk Song” (“Christmas Don’t Be Late”) brings back a flood of memories. Written and recorded in 1958 (when I was 5-years-old), my family had that album and my sister, Cindy, and I would begin spinning that record on the old hi-fi set sometimes around Thanksgiving.

I still love to hear that song today…it brings back the innocence of youth. Ditto for such yuletide favorites as Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (Gene Autrey), “The Christmas Song” (Nat King Cole), “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (Andy Williams) and “Home for the Holidays” (Perry Como).

Roanoke Rapids: From the time I was able to form my first lucid thought, I learned that Roanoke Rapids and Christmas go together in the Bryant family. It is a Bryant tradition to gather on Christmas Eve; first starting at my grandmother’s house and, after she died, at my uncle’s home.

It didn’t matter what surprises waited under the tree, it was a pure joy just to be in the “Double-R” city for Christmas.

Perhaps today’s kids will think this is some sort of cruel joke, but my step-grandfather…we called him “Pop” Brown…would give each grandchild a bag containing hard candy, an apple, an orange and a handful of walnuts. That’s it…but it was a gift from his heart and it meant the world to me.

Even today, Roanoke Rapids remains part of my family’s Christmas as we make the annual trek to my sister-in-law’s (Ramona Vann Swink) home for lunch on Dec. 25.

Red Lights: On the way home from Roanoke Rapids, my dad would keep his eye peeled for Santa’s sleigh. Sure enough, just about the time we traveled past Jackson and made the turn on the Dusty Hill Road, Dad would spot a red light in the sky…proclaiming it to be Rudolph’s nose. Speaking of noses, Cindy, Tommy (my “baby” brother) and I would have ours pressed against the car window to see that magical red light. Today, I still seek out one on Christmas Eve.

Deborah/Danielle: Christmas isn’t any fun alone. For the past 30 years, I’ve had the good fortune to share the holidays with my wonderful wife, Deborah, and for 24 years with my beautiful daughter, Danielle. We may not have much in the way of fortune, but love is the greatest gift of all. Thanks to my girls for making my Christmas merry and bright.

Here’s wishing all the joy and wonderment of the Christmas season to you and your families. Take the time to stop and remember a few of your favorite things.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at or 252-332-7207.