Throughout my childhood, Thanksgiving weekend marked the start of the Christmas season. My parents and my brothers and sisters and I would pile into our station wagon and go on our search for the perfect tree. It had to be real, it had to reach from floor to ceiling, and it had to be full. My dad served as the official "displayer," pulling up any tree we thought might be "the one" so we could circle it to see if it met our expectations. Rarely did we find a tree quickly, but we didn't care how long it took as long as we left with our perfect tree.
We would take it home and put it in a tree stand handcrafted by my dad. My mom would bring out the lights, ornaments and tinsel, and we would set to work decorating the tree. No tinsel clumping was allowed. (I still laugh when I think of how it would become tedious taking single strands and placing them on the tree, so after awhile we'd try to get by with putting a handful on one of the limbs. We never got away with it, though.)
One of my favorite things about decorating our tree was that we'd put Christmas albums on the record player and sing along with Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and others. I am a fanatic about Christmas music even today. I could never have enough Christmas CDs.
A McAllen High School tradition feeds my insatiable appetite for Christmas music. Each year, our band, choir and orchestra students and their instructors treat our entire student body, faculty and staff to a holiday concert brimming with holiday tunes. I always look forward to this concert, held the Friday before semester exam reviews, and the minute I walk into the auditorium with my students, the Christmas spirit overwhelms me. I can't help but sing along as I remember our hometown sing-a-long held at the Peoria County Courthouse courtyard each year. Even in frigid temperatures, my parents would drive us Downtown for this annual community event. We'd warm up quickly when we got home and drank a cup of hot chocolate made on the stove, still signing Christmas songs.
I don't have to don a coat, hat andscarf, and I never see my breath when I'm singing along in the McHi auditorium, but I feel the same sense of Christmas. The hours our Fine Arts teachers and their students put in to treat us to this concert is evident with each song.
The way I see it, Christmas marks the beginning of the post-Pigskin Fine Arts season. Our holiday concert. The district's annual Tuba Christmas. Concerts held throughout the district. And then, in late January, Rowe High School's annual musical (This year, their production will be Mame) and in early February, McHi's annual dinner show. These events provide our district with the opportunity to showcase our students and to share their talents with our community.
The only way I'll get a White Christmas is if I dream about it, but if I can get some chestnuts roasting on an open fire and some boughs of holly, I can deck the halls and wait for Santa. I better watch out, and I promise not to cry, and who could possibly pout after attending McHi's annual holiday concert? Not me! I'm well on my way to having myself a Merry Little Christmas. I hope you are, too.
Chris Ardis is in her 28th year of teaching, 27 of those in McAllen ISD. She is also a freelance writer. Chris is involved with a grassroots movement to transform public education called SOAR McAllen, which you can find on Facebook. You can email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.