My kids grew up, Christmas-recording-wise, on “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas.”
That’s Ms. Fitzgerald, of course, and year after year, both my daughters treated us to a dance-drama rendition of Frosty and Rudolph until their teenage years forbade them such revelry.
When my turntable-playing days waned, I bought a CD version of this recording and it was only today that I noticed that there are some bonus tracks not on the LP. One is a pseudo-Hawaiian Christmas song, another an alternate version of Frosty with Ella imitating a kid’s voice and yet another, a song called “The Secret of Christmas.” Never heard that last song in my long, listening life. It’s a ballad written by the fine songwriters Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn. As you might suspect, a bit on the sentimental corny side, but in fact, great advice in the punch line:
It’s not the glow you feel when snow appears
It’s not the Christmas card you’ve sent for years,
Not the joyful sound, when sleigh bell’s ring
Or the merry sounds children sing.
The little gift you sent on Christmas day
Will not bring back the friend you’ve turned away.
So may I suggest the secret of Christmas is
Not the things you do at Christmastime
But the Christmas things you do all year through.
Well, ain’t that the truth. Peace on earth, good will to all is not a part-time job, not a light switch to be turned off and on, but a dedication every minute of our waking lives. Santa should be coming down the chimney each and every night bringing the gifts children need, not just the candy canes and latest gizmo that they think they want, but the things they truly need—of course, food, shelter, protection, but then each gift that helps their deep dreams unfold and all given with a jolly Ho-ho-ho love and a gentle reminder to be more nice than naughty (but a little bit naughty—see Wrong Words Day).
And so I once more offer gratitude for this life I’ve stumbled into, built on the glow of nature’s bounty, the joyful sounds of children singing, the xylophones ringing and the chance to do Christmas-like things every day of the year. Minus the dogma and theology.