September 30, 2020

Getting to Know You…Christmas-Style

ice breakerGuest post today by Chaplain Mike Mercer…

Since I am a guest-blogger here at Internet Monk, and since the audience is huge and made up of many different sorts of folks, I thought we might have some “getting to know you” time today. As your genial guest host, I hope you’ll bear with me and that we will all have a little fun.

(Sorry to those of you who, like me, always look for the exits when someone says the group is going to do the dreaded “ice-breaker”.)

Since we are preparing for Christmas, let’s do this holiday-style. I’d like for you all to share with the group:

1. Your top five Christmas music albums.
2. Your top three Christmas movies.
3. Your three favorite appetizers or snacks at holiday get-togethers.
4. The best gift you ever gave and the best one you ever received.
5. Your favorite spiritual or church memory from Advent or Christmas.

The Rules: (1) Keep it brief. (2) Keep it real. (3) Have fun. (4) Reply to others with charity and a good spirit. (5) Avoid using links—if you want to point us to something, tell us and we can Google it or search it out ourselves.

Here are my lists:

Top Five Christmas Albums
1. Carols around the World, Quink Vocal Ensemble
2. James Galway’s Christmas Carol
3. John Rutter (All his albums. If I must choose one, “Christmas Night”)
4. Carols from Trinity, The Choir of Trinity College
5. Precious Child, Thom Schuyler (Various folk and country artists sing the Christmas story)

(Look, Michael, no Sufjan!)

Top Three Christmas Movies
1. It’s a Wonderful Life
2. Christmas Vacation (“Save the neck for me, Clark”)
3. One Magic Christmas (a Disney film that we watch with our kids every year)

(UPDATE: Can’t believe I forgot “White Christmas”! Better than #3, though #3 has special family memories)

Top Three Holiday Appetizers
1. Pecan tarts
2. Stuffed mushrooms
3. Those little cucumber sandwiches on party rye

(Honorable mention: at what other time of year do we keep a big bowl of mixed nuts out to crack open and enjoy without end? One of life’s best simple pleasures.)

The Best Gift I Ever Gave/Received
1. Gave: A piano to my young wife many years ago
2. Received: When my parents gave me my first guitar even more years ago.

Favorite Spiritual or Church Memory
I have always loved Christmas Eve services. Over the years we have attended services at large mainline churches with brass and choirs, services in gothic Episcopal cathedrals with boys’ choirs and royal pageantry suitable for welcoming the King’s birth, intimate midnight services with piano and guitar music and a “crowd” of 10-20 worshipers, and services where I led and participated in music with guitars, hammered dulcimers, lap dulcimers, recorders, strings and winds. I cherish memories of many years of singing “O Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” every Christmas Eve so that our pastor from eastern Kentucky would feel at home. I look forward to the soft candlelight filling the sanctuary as we sing “Silent Night” each year. Christmas Eve, can’t beat it.

Now it’s your turn. Remember the rules and jump right in. Help this stranger get to know who’s listening.


  1. Christmas Albums:

    1. Bruce Cockburn: “Christmas”
    2. John Michael Talbot: “The Birth of Jesus”
    3. George Winston: “December”
    4. Vince Guaraldi: “Charlie Brown Christmas” (Soundtrack)
    5. Lou Rawls: “Christmas Will be Christmas”

    • Does “Poseidon Adventure” count as a Christmas movie? It is set on New Years Eve, but they climbed that big Christmas tree. “Die Hard” is actually listed as a Christmas movie.

    • I love Cockburn’s renditions of “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Mary Had a Baby.” Earthy, exuberant, and evocative.

    • I won’t be able to answer Mike’s questions because I have been “Christmas-deprived” due to the fact that my hubby dislikes Christmas music, Christmas shows and whatnot and we have been married for 30 years so I don’t get to hear/see many of the things you folks are mentioning. BUT…I do love Bruce Cockburn, dumb ox, and may have to get that album. I also checked out the clips from the Lou Rawls album you mentioned and may need that too.

    • Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas album is my favorite, and Charlie Brown is #2, though it’s getting way overplayed by everybody.

      Bruce covers Sam Phillip’s (aka Leslie Phillip’s) version of “It Came upon A Midnight Clear” where she shifts it to a minor key, givng the song a whole new, contemplative feel.
      That song was in the closing credits of a compelling Christmas movie, 1992’s “A Midnight Clear”, which was set in the Ardennes during 1944 (Battle of the Bulge).

      I highly recommend it as an allegory about war, peace, reconcilation and atonement.

  2. Christmas albums:
    1. The Vince Guaraldi Trio, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
    2. Harry Connick Jr, “When My Heart Finds Christmas”
    3. Anything by Mannheim Steamroller
    4. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories”
    5. Michael W. Smith, “Christmas”

    Christmas movies:
    1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
    2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
    3. It’s A Wonderful Life

  3. Christmas music albums
    – Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson
    – Advent Songs by Sojourn
    – The Nutcracker
    – Handel’s Messiah

    Christmas movies
    – It’s a Wonderful Life
    – Muppet Christmas Carol

    Favorite appetizers or snacks at holiday get-togethers
    – Russian tea cakes
    – sugar cookies

    Favorite spiritual or church memory from Advent or Christmas
    – Growing up in a tradition that never celebrated or even mentioned Advent, my favorite memory would have to be celebrating it for the first time ever this past Sunday in church.

  4. Tigger 23505 says

    Top Three Christmas Movies
    1. It’s a Wonderful Life (“To my brother, the richest man in town.”)
    2. Miracle on 34th St. (”Maybe I didn’t do such a great thing.”)
    3. Holiday Inn (“You’re a little flat … )

    Top Three Holiday Appetizers
    1. Cheese Biscuits (w/ Cuba NY Cheddar)
    2. Pierogi
    3. Chex Mix

    The Best Gift I Ever Gave/Received
    1. Gave: Earrings for my wife
    2. Received: The Dangerous Book for Boys

  5. 1. Your top five Christmas music albums – Amy Grant’s second Christmas album, a tie between all three Michael W. Smith Christmas albums, Jars of Clay, Loreena McKennitt, and then a tie between Steven Curtis Chapman’s OLD Christmas album, and Wayne Watsons… (so I like the old stuff – its what I listened to as a child – Amy gets top billing because she was the first and its still not Christmas without Amy to me)

    2. Your top three Christmas movies. – Holiday Inn, White Christmas, and… (though I hate some subplots in it that are unacceptable and I don’t watch those parts) Love Actually… (if I didn’t give in to picking Love Actually – I wouldn’t have a third Christmas movie – I think most of them are rather annoying…)

    3. Your three favorite appetizers or snacks at holiday get-togethers. – Chex Mix, hmm.. can’t think of anything else snacky that isn’t cookies or otherwise sweet… (Now Christmas food on the other hand – Galumkis, Pierogies, I can give you lots of choices there!)

    4. The best gift you ever gave and the best one you ever received. – best one I ever gave hmm… I gave my dad and my dog matching scarves I knit one year (I have no kids yet so my dad spoils my dog… so he got a real big kick out of it) – best gift I ever got – I’d have to go with the big copy paper box full of craft supplies my dad gave me one year when I was little – full of paper and beads and googly eyes…

    5. Your favorite spiritual or church memory from Advent or Christmas. – the kids Christmas musical “Christmas Comes to Lone Star Gulch” – it was set in prairie days and I was a Little House loving kid, plus – when we moved, the new church did the same show the next year so I was in it twice…

    • How could I forget “White Christmas”? I watch it every year over night on Christmas Eve as I’m wrapping presents. I guess I had to put the Disney movie in my list because of memories with the kids, but “White Christmas” is right up there at the top. “Count Your Blessings (instead of Sheep)” is one of the more underrated pop holiday songs IMHO.

  6. Jeremiah Lawson says

    1. Your top five Christmas music albums.
    I don’t actually own Christmas albums. I like Sweelinck’s setting of Verbum Caro Factum Est but I don’t have any unusually season-selected Christmas music I listen to. My experience with Christmas music has more to do with what stuff I’ve sung than what stuff I’ve listened to.

    2. Your top three Christmas movies.
    A Christmas Story (not very pious but I enjoy it even if Ralphie is a self-absorbed little punk)
    It’s a Wonderful Life (it’s actually a very dark movie)
    MST3K, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (what can I say? it’s been a family tradition for years)

    3. Your three favorite appetizers or snacks at holiday get-togethers.
    um, pork pot-stickers. A few years ago my sister decided that home-made Mongolian beef and pot-stickers were what we were doing for the holidays. Best Christmas meal I ever had!

    4. The best gift you ever gave and the best one you ever received.
    I think it’s a tie between giving my brother the conductor’s score for Bartok’s 2nd violin concerto and giving my niece Ratatouille. The best gift I ever received in terms of impact on my life would be my brother giving me Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier in the Dover edition 12 years ago.

    5. Your favorite spiritual or church memory from Advent or Christmas.

    In 2004 I met with my church’s music pastor and suggested we put together an official church choir for Advent. He liked the idea and a few deacons and I put together a choir for the Advent season. I wrote, arranged, and selected the music and the pieces were performed that Advent. I composed a motet on the text Verbum Caro Factum Est that was part of the choral music for that Advent season and I remember staying up as late as 2am composing that little piece.

  7. Louis Winthrop says

    1. No albums. For carols, among the few that I tolerate or even like are “O Holy Night” and that Ukrainian one that gets translated as something about bells. (Not actually a Christmas song in the original though.)

    2. “Gremlins” (a summer movie, but set in Christmas, and one of the characters relates how her father got stuck in the chimney and died, which is how she found out there is no Santa Claus), “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (Santa Claus as an axe murderer), Batman 2.

    And here’s one that I’d like to see:

    3,4,5 nothing comes to mind yet

  8. top five Christmas music albums:
    – andrew peterson’s
    – harry connick jr’s
    – alvin & the chipmunks’

    top three Christmas movies:
    – die hard
    – the green mile
    – it’s a wonderful life

    three favorite appetizers or snacks at holiday get-togethers:
    – sausage balls
    – sausage balls
    – sausage balls

    best gift you ever gave and the best one you ever received:
    – gave my mom a blue sweater once — it was the first gift i ever bought anyone with my own money
    – received a really nice mountain bike my senior year of high school (back in ’95…)

    favorite spiritual or church memory from Advent or Christmas:
    – my grandparents’ old country church always has a free-singing night right around christmas time. they encourage anyone to lead a song or two — especially the young kids.

  9. Anyone who can include “Verbum Caro Factum Est” and “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” in the same comment must be a man after my own heart! Thanks, Jeremiah!

  10. Movies:
    1) A Christmas Carol — George C. Scott version
    2) Charlie Brown

    1) Charlotte Russe

    (can I put down fruitcake as an anti-favorite? Just kidding….)

    1) singing in Advent/Christmas concerts with the Sage Chapel Choir at Cornell under the direction of Donald R.M Patterson (1980s), who inspired me to take up a (second) career as an organist

  11. For Christmas music, I like a lot of the 40s and 50s stuff. Crosby, Nat King Cole, Mathis, etc. The Carpenters are good also. But my fave is Vince Guaraldi (“Charlie Borwn Christmas”). And “Mele Kaleki Maka” [sic]. Great song. Boyz 2 Men is great also.

    A) “Scrooge” (the British version with Alistair Sim) – Sim is the best Ebenezer EVER
    B) “A Christmas Story” – laugh out loud funny even after 100 times
    C) “Miracle on 34th Street” – Edmund Gwenn (he plays Kris Kringle) won an Oscar and does a fantastic job of keeping you wondering if he’s really Santa or just a daffy old man.

    Best Christmas book ever is “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens. What a fantastic writer.

    For food, any cake, pastry, or pie. And eggnog.

    Best gift memories – my boys on Christmas morning. You can’t beat the excitement of watching your child opening a great gift and their excitement of finding out what it is.

    Best memories are my older son’s Christmas shows when he was in elementary school (Catholic).

  12. Yippie Kay Yay says

    2. Your top three Christmas movies.

    Can’t think of #3, but #1 and #2 would be Die Hard and Die Hard 2: Die Harder. There are already too many schmaltzy Xmas flicks!

  13. I really like Sara Groves’ Christmas album. Heard someone’s rendition of Silent Night in Starbucks this morning and was moved by it – particularly just listening to the pronouncement of Christ’s birth in the middle of a corporate store. He can’t be shut out. Mostly I enjoy Christmas music as a sign of the season, but I don’t go to great lengths to listen to it often.

    Movies – It’s a Wonderful Life (I know many are burned out on it but I didn’t watch it for the first time until I was in my 20s, and found it to be engaging), A Christmas Carol (one of the old versions), Christmas Vacation.

    Food – Homemade Chex Mix, Edys Peppermint Ice Cream, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (not all at the same time)

    Gifts – Church answer: best gift I ever received was Jesus… My parents always got me a complete set of baseball cards so that was always my favorite. Best gift I ever gave was writing something to my mom about all my favorite memories of childhood – she’s very sentimental and I don’t tend to be – at least not in the manner she is, so it was an effort that she appreciated.

    Best memory is candlelight services singing Silent Night as a child. Seeing my son excited about Christmas and putting up the decorations this year (3 years old) will probably become one of my favorite memories soon.

  14. Your top five Christmas music albums.

    I honestly don’t have five. Anything traditional or large band instrumental. Manheim Steamrollers is good.
    My all time favorite though is any Christmas music played by a Salvation Army Brass Band. If you Google “Chicago Staff Band” the second link will take you to some audio clips.

    Your top three Christmas movies.

    1. Love Actually
    2. White Christmas
    3. A Christmas Story

    Your three favorite appetizers or snacks at holiday get-togethers.

    1. Summer Sausage, Cheese and Crackers
    2. Summer Sausage, Cheese and Crackers
    3. Summer Sausage, Cheese and Crackers

    The best gift you ever gave and the best one you ever received.

    -Gave: I have no idea.
    -Received: A Lego Pirate Ship when I was about 6

    Your favorite spiritual or church memory from Advent or Christmas

    -My wife singing a solo in church on Christmas eve a few years back

  15. Your top five Christmas music albums:

    All of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra cds
    I have a collection of songs from the Bass Ritter animated shows (Frosty, Santa Claus is Coming to Town…) sung by the people who did them in the shows.
    The Charlie Brown Christmas CD

    Your top three Christmas movies:

    Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
    The Year Without a Santa Claus
    It’s a Wonderful Life

    Your three favorite appetizers or snacks at holiday get-togethers:

    egg nog (I like the Silk soy nog too)
    cheese ball (on triscuit)
    peppermint icecream

    The best gift you ever gave and the best one you ever received.
    Gave: a dragon marionette that got my niece started on a path fascinated by puppetry
    Received: a set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was 8.

    5. Your favorite spiritual or church memory from Advent or Christmas.

    I was at midnight Mass about 30 years ago with my sister, and the choir started singing “Adestes Fidelis” and my sister turns to me with a look of scorn on her face and says, this songs smacks of “O Come All Ye Faithful”, did they rip off the tune? And with tears in my eyes (from the held-in laughter) I informed her that no, ’twas the other way ’round, and that it was simply a poor translation of the original.

    I still enjoy Christmas, even though I’m now a Jew. I consider it a secular holiday and since I don’t much see a religious significance to decorating trees, or stringing lights (both more solstice than Christian) or, even, now Santa Claus (far more cultural than Christian even though his roots are in a Bishop), I see no reason to deprive myself of good cheer. Plus my family is still culturally Christian.

  16. Music:
    1. Bells of Dublin by the Chieftains
    2. Bruce Cockburn
    3. Vince Girardi
    4. Sara Groves
    5. Soundtrack to the movie Elf

    1. Christmas Carol–George C. Scott version (haunting–moves me every year)
    2. Miracle on 34th Street–original version
    3. Holiday Inn (the movie that introduce the song White Christmas)
    4. Elf
    5. Muppets’ Christmas Special

    1. Those little cocktail wieners floating in barbecue sauce
    2. Those little meltaway mints you only see at Christmas and at weddings
    3. Peppermint ice cream or malts

    Favorite gift received: Suede coat with fringes (think Daniel Boone) when I was in high school. Wish I still had that!

    Favorite memory: I love the quietness and awesomeness of the Christmas Eve candlelight services. A time to slow down from the fun but busy schedule and center my thoughts on what is really going on at this time.

    Bonus Answer to an unasked question: What is the worst thing about Christmases these days?
    Answer: The phrase, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Not true. I and my sins are the reason for the season. Jesus was born to pay for my sins. I am the reason for his coming. Yes, maybe just semantics, but words have meaning and carry weight. I know you didn’t ask this, but I answered it anyway…

  17. Top five favorite movies:

    #1 National Lampoons christmas Vacation
    #2 Charlie Brown Christmas
    # 3 The Claymation Rudolf The Red nose reindeer
    #4 Elf
    #5 A Christmas Story (Ralphie)

  18. Your top five Christmas music albums.

    1. A Christmas Together – John Denver and The Muppets (HANDS DOWN the best Christmas album of all time)
    2. A Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi Trio
    3. City on a Hill: It’s Christmas Time – Various Artists (like Caedmon’s Call, Jars of Clay, Sara Groves)
    4. Home for Christmas – Amy Grant
    5. The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole

    Your top three Christmas movies.
    (I am just going to skip all Christmas specials like Charlie Brown, The Grinch, etc. There are too many classics, and they are all too good to choose between. So, I consider them a GIVEN.)

    1. It’s a Wonderful Life
    2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
    3. Elf

    Your three favorite appetizers or snacks at holiday get-togethers.

    1. Hard Salami, cream cheese and sweet pickle roll-ups (DO NOT knock em until you’ve tried em)
    2. Mini ham sandwiches on dollar rolls
    3. Tangy Meatballs

    The best gift you ever gave and the best one you ever received.

    – I really couldn’t say. I just LOVE giving and receiving gifts, but I think I love the fun of it more than the gifts themselves because none stand out in my mind.

    Your favorite spiritual or church memory from Advent or Christmas.

    – Honestly, just my own personal reflections on Advent and Christmas throughout the years, in various contexts

  19. Vicki in NC says

    1. Charlie Brown
    2. Gwinnett Festival Singers – The Marvel of This Night
    3. Amy Grant’s first Christmas Album
    4. Steve Green – Joy to the World
    5. Michael Card – The Final Word

    Fave Christmas Movies:
    1. A Christmas Story — “Oooooooh fuuuuuudge — only I didn’t say fudge”
    2. Charlie Brown (Linus’ quoting Luke always chokes me up)

    Fave appetizers:
    1. Sausage balls
    2. Chex mix
    3. Cheese straws

    Best I ever got: Engagement ring 1994
    Best I ever gave: Antique leather-bound copy of Shakespeare’s Works

    Fave memories are decorating tree with hubs. He passed four years ago and I cherish these memories.

    From childhood in northern Illinois: Carolers coming to our house on Christmas Eve in a gently falling snow.

  20. Albums:
    1) Vince Guaraldi Trio “Charlie Brown Christmas”
    2) Celine Dion “These are the Special Times” (I hate Dion but this album has good memories)
    3) Josh Groban’s xmas album
    4) Amy Grant “Home for xmas” (again can’t stand the artist but good memories)
    5) Classics done by Sinatra, Cosby, etc.

    1)The Christmas Story
    2) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
    3) Elf

    1) Knorr Spinach Dip
    2) Bleu Cheese Ball
    3) My mom’s fruit salad (assorted fresh fruits topped with Coco Lopez)

    Given: my first Christmas with my wife I surprised her with all sorts of stuff. Since then we haven’t had the money to be able to do that, but it sure was fun.
    Received: I remember getting a Super Nintendo when I was young and they first came out. I was so pumped.

    Spiritual memory:
    Either the Hanging of the Greens services or Christmas Eve services. I miss these services now that I’m in Mexico. The evangelical church here does practically nothing for Christmas and it’s really sad.

  21. All of you have missed the one best Christmas movie of all time.

    Earnest Saves Christmas- “Yo Bob, breaks over.”

  22. Great idea!!

    Christmas albums–my first thought was that I don’t have any; but I do know of a bunch, that my family played every year as traditions, that still make me happy:
    1) John Denver and the Muppets (absolutely!)
    2) Amahl and the Night Visitors (makes me cry every time)
    3) Musicbox Christmas
    4) Anything by the Canadian Brass
    5) some of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums

    Christmas movies:
    1) Miracle on 34th Street
    2) Bad Santa (ever since that came out it’s been my favorite Christmas movie)
    3) not sure…

    Favorite Christmas foods–too many to list, can’t keep it to 3:
    1) Eggnog
    2) Marzipan
    3) liquor filled chocolate bottles, chocolate cherries, all holiday chocolates
    4) panettone
    5) Stollen–a pastry wrapped around marzipan

    Best gift given or gotten:
    Given: I really liked getting my husband a whoppingly expensive espresso maker a few years ago, that he picked out just to his specifications. Before that we’d been buying cheap ones and wearing them out every few years, but this behemoth is a keeper.

    Gotten: One of the few gifts that has moved me to actually cry was my mom giving me her complete collection of Georgette Heyer novels, that I had grown up loving and had just about memorized. The other was my husband buying me an electronic keyboard and having it all set up on Christmas morning; I’d been pining that our apartment wasn’t big enough for a piano, but the keyboard was perfect. And the Wii he got me last Christmas is fantastic. 🙂 And I already know what he’s getting me this year and can’t wait!

    Favorite Christmas church memory:
    They kind of all run together in my head, but when I was a teenager we switched to going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve; then coming home, putting on the music, getting out the sweets and drinks, opening presents until the wee hours, and then sleeping in on Christmas morning. I’ve been doing it that way ever since, and it is fantastic. I have so many memories of those wonderful Christmas services, with the darkness and light and bells and jubilation.

  23. 1. Honestly can’t name a one.
    2. A Christmas Story, Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life.
    3. Haystacks, Christmas Cookies, and Fudge.
    4. An engagement ring, The Nintendo Entertainment System (still have it, still play it).
    5. Christmas in India. We stayed in the Himalayas, and attended a 150 year old Anglican church for the eve and day services. It was a great blessing to spend Christmas with my brothers and sisters there.

  24. Top Five Christmas Albums

    1. The Dean Martin Christmas Album
    2. Andy Williams – Merry Christmas
    3. Herb Alpert Christmas Album
    4. Floyd Cramer – We Wish You A Merry Christmas
    5. Enchanted Christmas – Anna Maria Mendieta

    (The first four don’t sound quite right to me without the clicks and pops of vinyl. That’s why I digitized them from vinyl. 🙂

    Top Three Christmas Movies
    1. A Christmas Story
    2. Miracle on 34th Street – The original, not the gawdawful remake
    3. Black Adder’s Christmas Carol

    Top Three Holiday Appetizers
    1. Hickory Farms Summer Sausage on crackers with Hickory Farms spicy mustard
    2. Homemade eggnog with bourbon
    3. My mom’s homemade fudge

    The Best Gift I Ever Gave/Received
    1. Gave: Bought my wife a hammered dulcimer.
    2. Received: When my wife bought me Loki, our Abyssinian cat. I’d wanted an Abby since I was 10 years old, but never had one. (Close second: my wife bought me the Great Books of the Western World).

    Favorite Spiritual or Church Memory

    Christmas Eve 2008. I attended the Christmas Eve service at a Lutheran church. It was like a thousand lights went on. THIS is what worship is supposed to be like. I since left the SBC church I had attended for 17 years, and have been attending the Lutheran church for close to a year.

  25. Christmas Albums…
    1. Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Handel’s Messiah
    2. Pittsburgh Symphony, The Spirit of Christmas
    3. Robert Shaw Chorale, The Many Moods of Christmas
    4. Deck The Halls, Christopher West
    5. Various artists…Smokey Mountain Christmas

    1. It’s a Wonderful Life
    2. Miracle on 34th Street
    3. A Christmas Carol-1951

    1. Popcorn Balls
    2. Fruit Cake…yep..the old brick
    3. Yulekaka…O.K. It’s a bit more than an appetizer…but it’s good anytime. Norweigians know about this one.

    Best I ever Got…
    My wife

    Best I ever gave
    Me…we were married 3 days before Christmas

    Favorite Memory
    Honeymoon with a fireplace in the bedroom in Carmel California.

  26. Albums…
    1) the Time Life Christmas Treasury
    2) Christmas With the Chipmunks
    3) Santa Baby ’06 (a Starbucks release)
    4) Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas
    5) Ella Wishes You a Swingin’ Christmas – Ella Fitzgerald

    1) White Christmas
    2) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
    3) Elf, “Smiling is my favorite”

    1) homemade chocolate fudge
    2) country ham
    3) my mom’s cheeseball

    Gift given/received…
    1) given – the picture I’m giving my mom this year (don’t worry she doesn’t visit this site)
    2) received – Thomas Kinkade’s “Sunrise: The Cross” painting

    When I was little, my grandparents attended this little rural church in central KY and we would spend the night with them Christmas Eve. Their church’s Christmas Eve service was always amazing and stands out to me as the best spiritual memories I have. For the record, my best “non-spiritual” memory has to do with the smell of Absorbine Jr, which is a liquid used for relaxing muscles and has a VERY distinct smell. As a child, I would get so excited for Christmas my calf muscles would knot up at night and mom would have to use Ab. Jr. to relax them…

  27. Christmas Albums:
    1) Sufjan Stevens – Songs For Christmas
    2) Jethro Tull Christmas Album
    3) Bach – Christmas Oratorio
    4) Handel – Messiah
    5) Handel – Judas Maccabeus (a little Hanukkah music)

    Christmas Movies:

    1) It’s A Wonderful Life
    2) A Christmas Carol
    3) Elf


    The time leading up to Christmas is a fasting time for Orthodox, but my grandmother’s cheese balls will always be a particular temptation for me at this time

    Best Gift Ever –

    Actually a gift I gave rather than one I received: my son’s Nintendo 64 🙂

    Spiritual Experience:

    In 1974, I accompanied my mother to a community Christmas service in Holland, Michigan. It was a carol service, and a lot of the carols were very familiar. But the second to the last carol was a Scottish carol which I had never heard before. There were five stanzas in the carol, and the whole song was the best musical presentation of the Gospel of the Incarnation, Ministry, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ that I had ever heard.

    Everybody in the church was deeply moved by the song. Even my normally undemonstrative mother was in tears.

    To this day, I don’t remember that song, and I have never heard it again.

    • Got me, Matthew. Yours choices would be on my list too. I love too much Christmas music. A list of hundred favorite albums would not be sufficient to include them all.

    • Jeremiah Lawson says

      I neglected to mention the Movement 4 “Watch of the Virgin” from Olivier Messiaen’s mammoth uber-weird piano cycle 20 visions of the infant Christ. But, hey, I did mention Sweelinck. 🙂 I was too busy absorbing Bach and Penderecki’s passion settings to get around to the Advent stuff. I will eventually have to fix that. Is it impertinent to see that Arvo Part’s Berliner Mass is my favorite work connected to Pentecost?

      • Another Part fan! Can I ask your opinion of “Dopo la vittoria” which I love because it’s so, well, funny?

        I wish all the hyper-Calvinists (and this does not mean just those who identify as Calvinists; I’m looking at you Jensenists on our side of the fence, too) who bang on about St. Augustine and predestination and utter grimness could be made to sit down and listen to this; the skipping rhythms and dancing measure is not what you’d expect from A Serious Account Of Coming To Christ (but *is* absolutely perfect for the occasion of St. Ambrose baptising St. Augustine).

        Does the Magnificat count as Christmas music? If so, I’d add Arvo Part’s setting (of course!) and Vladimír Godár’s “Magnificat” (from his “Mater” CD) and John Tavener’s setting, which combines the Anglican and Greek Orthodox influences in an interesting manner (though I don’t much like Tavener as a rule).

        And of course the carol “Adam Lay Y-Bounden” (again, Mediaeval Baebe’s version).

    • I would have added plenty of Bach as individual favorites, but I guess I didn’t think of those things as an “album”. I would pretty much add the entire Oxford Book of Christmas Organ Music (obviously from a biased organist’s perspective!)—I look forward to playing those selections every year.

    • Like all your Bach choices. I only had 5 choice so had to put down what came into my head. I have hundreds of albums I love to play at Christmas from classical to Country. From violins to twang…

  28. Your top three Christmas movies.
    A Christmas Story (You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!)
    Die Hard
    The Hebrew Hammer (more Hanukkah than Christmas, but there is a rogue Santa who gets the plot rolling)

    Your three favorite appetizers or snacks at holiday get-togethers.
    Talmales (Beef, mostly)
    Biscochitos (A great southwester/mexican sugar cookie made with wine and other stuff)
    Latkes (More of that Hanukkah thing popping in, but hey, I hang with a lot of Jews)

    The best gift you ever gave and the best one you ever received.
    The best gift I ever gave was a relatively high-quality in-hole acoustic guitar pickup to my father. In 30 years that was the only time I saw him genuinely happy with a gift rather than just faking it. He’s a hard man to shop for. I knew I wouldn’t ever be able to top that with him. The 2nd-best was when I gave my grandparents the book Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. They laughed over that for two years (my grandmother’s an Episcopal deacon, so religious humor really gets her).

    The best gift I ever received is a tie between my first electric guitar and the ESV Study Bible. Both have been used more than anything else I’ve ever gotten.

    Your favorite spiritual or church memory from Advent or Christmas
    A few years ago, I went to a traditional Anglican Church for Christmas Eve after not really celebrating Christmas for several years (I had spent that time in a Messianic Jewish congregation). The carols, liturgy, etc. really spoke to me. As I drove home, the lingering smell of the incense on my coat and the lingering taste of Communion wine had me thinking about Christ’s Incarnation and stuff until the next morning.

  29. Margaret Catherine says

    Albums (the real thing, on vinyl or nothing):
    -Nat King Cole; his voice is perfect for O Holy Night
    -Gene Autry
    -Perry “Where’s the train switch???” Como
    -Alvin and the Chipmunks, though I suspect that it would only annoy me now 🙁
    – Richard Wilbur’s ‘A Stable Lamp is Lighted’ (Not an album, just a song off iTunes)

    -A Tale of Two Cities, 1934 version – they weave in a Christmas theme, and the portrayals of Carton and Madame Defarge are brilliant
    -It’s a Wonderful Life, natch
    -Any old Republic Serial. (Ref. ‘favorite memory’)

    -Mixed nuts in the shell
    -Dad’s sugar cookies and mince pie

    Given – ???
    Gotten – A pair of plastic skis I’d begged for but did not see under the tree…and then I was
    told to go look in the closet. Toy variety or not, we couldn’t normally afford gifts like that, and I was old enough to know it.

    Favorite memory: Watching the old Republic Serials. Mom would buy them for Dad every year and hide them until wrapping time; our tradition was to find and watch them when the parents were out. Would Batman escape the Cave of Doom? Would Mom and Dad come home and catch us or could we rewind and rehide the video in time? Would we get to finish our purloined bowls of cereal?

  30. Albums – Anyting traditional -Silent Night, Little Drummer Boy etc.


    – Christmas Story
    – Any of the older versions of the Christmas Carol (1950’s on back)
    – March of the Wooden Soldiers (with Laurel and Hardy – been watching that one since I was a kid in the 60’s.

    Favorite gift:

    Given – nice ring I had made custom for my wife
    Received – a left-handed Yamaha accoustic guitar when I was 17 ( I was trying to play a warped necked 1930’s Sears special) – still play it today.

  31. Your top [three] Christmas music albums.

    1. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. What the angels in heaven have on their iPods in December.
    2. Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas Album. The traditional religious songs and carols.
    3. Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas. Ella’s version of “Christmas Island” makes me want to run to the nearest holiday cocktail party and drink something with a tiny umbrella and sprig of holly in it.

    Your top [four] Christmas movies.

    1. The Godfather. For the Christmas scene in the hospital, where Michael steps up to the plate to keep his father from being murdered, in the process becoming a man and establishing his place in the family; before he goes on to destroy himself by avenging the hit. A masterpiece of suspense.
    2. The Bells of St. Mary’s. I could hardly call myself a Catholic if I didn’t list this one.
    3. A Tuna Christmas. I could hardly call myself a Texan if I didn’t list this one.
    4. The Year Without a Santa Claus. I could hardly call myself a Gen-Xer…. “Friends call me Snow Miser/ Whatever I touch/ Turns to snow in my clutch/ I’m too much!”
    5. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol. Silly fun.

    Your [one] favorite appetizer or snack at holiday get-togethers.

    Tamales! One of the best things about Christmas in the Southwest. Our Knights of Columbus chapter makes a mint making and selling them.

    The best gift you ever gave and the best one you ever received.

    Best given: Russell’s Principia Mathematica, to my husband. He almost cried.
    Best received: My firstborn. Really a Candlemas gift, but it counts.

    Your favorite spiritual or church memory from Advent or Christmas.

    Sitting next to my grandfather in the Santa Fe Cathedral, waiting for Midnight Mass to begin, the first year that I was old enough to go. I was fighting sleep and cold, determined to prove my worthiness to be there. Grandpa put his big, heavy wool coat over me. Outside was a foot of snow; inside were lights and the gleam of gold. Joy and anticipation of joy.

    When I meditate on the Mystery of the Nativity, I always go back to that moment. Maranatha!

  32. 1. Your top five Christmas music albums.
    I only have one — The Temptations Christmas Album

    2. Your top three Christmas movies.

    Trading Places
    Die Hard
    Love Actually

    3. Your three favorite appetizers or snacks at holiday get-togethers.

    Toffee Bars
    Sausage Balls
    Chex Mix

    4. The best gift you ever gave and the best one you ever received.

    Received: The Death Star in 1983
    Given: FedExed BBQ Ribs for the family of my then-gf 15 years ago

    5. Your favorite spiritual or church memory from Advent or Christmas.

    Xmas Eve Candlelight service in smalltown Kansas PCUSA church with my grandparents in law

  33. I’m going to wimp out and not answer all the questions. But I haven’t seen Family Man with Nicholas Cage on here for anyone’s favorite Christmas movie. One of my favorites.

  34. Top Christmas Movies:
    Eh…. I’m not really sure. Suppose I’ll say Charlie Brown.

    Top Christmas Albums:
    Too many to name. Though I would like to mention Kenny G- the jazz player. Good Christmas albums.

    Favorite Appetizers:
    Erm… Nuts and Eggnog

    Best Gift Given:
    I sadly admit I cannot remember.

    Best Gift Recieved:
    My car

    Best Advent/Christmas Memory:
    I can barely remember it, but I used to go to a candle-lit service on Christmas Eve (though I don’t think it was midnight service). I loved singing in the dark sanctuary, the only lights being the candles in our hands. Beautiful.

  35. Libres Para Vivir says

    Hey guys, long-time lurker here, love the site.

    I had a funny experience last night iMonk and many of you should appreciate. I am a missionary in Venezuela. Today we had a prayer time with some of our local friends and I wanted to share some Christmas music with them. Most of them have no experience with Christmas music as most of the evangelical churches here just sing the same stuff all year round and don’t do hymns anyway. I dont have any CDs of Christmas music so I went to God-tube (not something I normally do). Guess what? No videos of traditional Christmas music, although videos of major CCM artists singing newer Christmas songs I’ve never heard of.

    So I went to Youtube and found a lot of great stuff. My favorite find was some videos of Weezer doing some great versions of Joy to the World, O Holy Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and others. I thought I’d throw that out for the rockers that hang out here. Also plenty of great renditions from church choirs, pop stars, and your next-door neighbor. But what does it say about evangelicalism that I could find more Christmas music on Youtube than Godtube?

    Also, I love Elf.

  36. Movies–
    1. Best Christmas Pageant Ever
    2. Charlie Brown Christmas
    1. Bells of Dublin (Chieftains)–especially Rebel Jesus
    2. Any Mannheim Steamroller
    1. Spinach dip in a sourdough bread bowl
    2. Fudge & chocolate-covered pretzels
    3. Swedish Tea Ring
    Best gift given–????
    Best gift received–my engagement ring 47 years ago
    Best Christmas memory–
    1. As a child, having our family Christmas tree in our bedroom, and going to sleep with bubble lights twinkling
    2. As an adult, celebrating Christmas Eve each year with a Christmas & Carols service in our barn with friends, family, our church brothers & sisters

  37. 1. Top five Christmas music albums.
    Bela Fleck & the Flecktones – Jingle All the Way
    Bruce Cockburn – Christmas
    Winter’s Solstice III
    Modern Mandolin Quartet – Nutcracker Suite
    Philadelphia Orchestra, Mormon Tabernacle Choir (1959) – Handel’s Messiah

    2. Top three Christmas movies.
    Muppets Christmas
    It’s a Wonderful Life
    Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim

    3. Three favorite appetizers or snacks at holiday get-togethers.
    Sausage balls
    Butter-dill oyster crackers
    Kourabiedes (almond-shortbread cookies covered in powdered sugar – the kids used to call them “choke balls” 😉

    4. Best gift you ever gave and the best one you ever received.
    Given – 1930 Martin parlor guitar
    Received (based on excitement level at the time) – Beatles Rubber Soul, 1965

    5. Favorite spiritual or church memory from Advent or Christmas.
    Driving through the snowy, moonlit Yugoslavian countryside, Christmas eve 1975, on the way to do music outreach in Greece.

  38. Favorite Chistmas Albums
    1. Any Amy Grant Christmas album
    2 St. Martin of Tours’CD
    3. Steven Curtis Chapman’s Christmas is all in the heart

    Favorite Chistmas Movies
    1 White Christmas
    2 Holiday Inn
    3 The Bishop’s Wife (Lorretta Young version)

    Favorite Christmas snack or food
    1 Panatone(Italian Christmas bread)
    2 Cranberry bread

    Given to my Dad a VHS copies of WC Fields movies, which he enjoyed watching for years since they brought back happy memories of his youth. I even found one “Manhatten tales? which he had not seen.
    Gotten a illustrated copy of the book “Secret Garden

    Church memory
    Going to Midnight Mass (but it started at 11 PM) with one of my sisters when I was a young adult.

  39. LOVE THIS!
    Christmas Albums-
    1- Sufjan Stevens’ – Songs For Christmas
    2- Craig Duncan’s Irish Christmas
    3- Anything old school like Burl Ives, Nat King Cole, or Bing Crosby
    4- Michael W. Smith- Christmastime
    5- Andrew Peterson – Behold the Lamb of God

    Christmas Movies- (Where do I start?)
    1- Alistair Sim’s version of Christmas Carol
    2- A Christmas Story
    3- Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
    4- It’s A Wonderful Life
    5- Elf

    Favorite Christmas Snack of Food-
    1- Sausage Balls
    2- Spinach Dip
    3- Wassel
    4- My wife’s Ham Delights (Rock your socks off good)
    5- Sugar Cookie Eggnog

    Gifts given/ received
    Not sure if this is a good thing or not, but there is not a one that comes to mind either way.

    Favorite Christmas memory.
    We have a six year old girl, and 11 month old boy. Our daughter just got over her fear of Santa this year, and sat on his lap. We have a picture of her and our son on his lap. This event was not scheduled, and was a random trip to the mall at the last minute. They were both looking very rag tag, and looked homeless. Very cute picture we already have on the mantle. Love it.

    • What the heck is wassel? Ya know, if you’re going to give such obscure answers, the least you could do is offer a description…

  40. Music – any of the Trans Siberian Orchestra offerings and Brian Setzer’s Big Band record.
    Movies – A Christmas Story…..24/7.
    Food – do yourselves a favor and check out I’m privileged to live in their home base and for me they ARE Christmas. Moravian Cookies, Devonshire Coffee Cake, Sugar Cake, Grandpa Cake… just isn’t Christmas without those mouth-watering treats.
    Best gifts – for me maybe my first drum set – what a long strange trip it’s been since then. And I suppose watching my kids open presents when they were younger is the highlight for me.
    Best church memory – The massive Christmas presentations my church puts on every year. I’ve participated in quite a few as a musician. But really – there aren’t too many bad memories associated with Christmas for me.

  41. Not exactly a movie, but one of the best Christmas animations that I have ever seen is “Red Boots for Christmas”, sponsored by the Lutheran Hour.

    Favorite line from the story:

    He asked, “what would you give God for Christmas?”
    “Well,” said Gretchen, “I would give Him what I give him every day– my sins for His pardon, my weakness for His strength, and my sorrow for His joy.”

  42. This is fun:)

    Christmas albums … hmm.. well I love Christmas music but I can’t really think of an album.. maybe the Transiberian Orchestra one.

    Christmas Movies:
    1. Its a Wonderful Life.. yeah I know, but I love it.
    2. Almost any version of A Christmas Carol, *including* Mr. Magoo.
    3. Charlie Brown… yeah… that Luke quote gets me every time.

    Christmas food:
    1. Olives, one for each finger of course.
    2. Christmas cookies, especially the Swedish Stars which I can’t seem to find anymore
    3. Egg nog

    Gift given: I think it was the puppy I gave my son. The breeders actually let me pick it up on Christmas morning so I got a little snapshot of *their* Christmas morning, running around trying to get ready, rescuing one of their children from a locked bathroom, and selling a dog. LOL.
    Gifts received: Hmm… I really can’t pick one.

    I also can’t really think of a spiritual or church moment… well.. maybe the year my son played one of the shepherds in the children’s church play on Christmas Eve, that was pretty precious:)

  43. What…nobody choose “The Ref” as a favorite Christmas movie?

  44. Favorite albums:
    1. A Reader’s Digest collection that my parents had when I was growing up; I think it’s called “Joyous Noel.” Very hard to find now.
    2. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” — Vince Guraldi
    3. “The Court of a King” — The Crossing
    4. The Time-Life Christmas collection
    5. Anything by Bing Crosby

    Favorite movies:
    1. MIracle on 34th Street
    2. Since You Went Away
    3. The Man Who Came to Dinner

    Favorite snacks:
    1. My grandmother’s fudge
    2. Magic bars (the ones with chocolate chips, coconut, butterscotch chips, etc.)
    3. Peppered pecans

    Best Gift
    Given — a portrait of me, my sister, & my brothers to our father (he cried for 10 minutes)
    Received — a family tree album that my mom put together for all of us, complete with pictures

    Favorite spiritual memory
    The first time our church held communion on Christmas Eve

  45. Favourite Albums:
    1. Advent Songs by Sojourn Music
    2. Amy Grant’s first Christmas album
    3. Glory in the Highest by Chris Tomlin

    Favourite Movies:
    Die Hard, Home Alone (not sure I can think of any other Christmas movies)

    Favourite Snacks:
    I always enjoy working on a boxing day jigsaw while munching my way through lots of Pringles and Licorice Allsorts

    Best Present Given:
    A Lightning McQueen toy car to my daughter, who despite receiving exactly the same present the past two birthdays and previous Christmas, was still overjoyed to receive yet another.

    Best Present Received:
    Well I was thrilled as an eight-year old to receive a LEGO castle (

    Church Memory:
    My church had a thing about singing every carol in the hymn book over the Christmas period. So the last Sunday of the year I dubbed “Scraping the Barrel” Sunday, where we sang all the left-over C-list carols after all the good ones had been used up at previous meetings.

  46. Albums.
    1. Ray Boltz’s Christmas album (wife and I saw his concert with Aaron/Jeoffrey on the last night of our honeymoon)
    2. Vince Gueraldi Trio “Charlie Brown Christmas”
    3. Manheim Steamroller (any of them)
    4. Other Manheim Steamroller Fresh Aire albums
    5. George Winston “December”

    1. Harry Potter films (no, they don’t mention Halloween, but always seem to have Christmas or winter in it. Pretty cool considering I suffer from SAD).
    2. The Toy Who Saved Christmas (VeggieTales)
    3. Christmas Vacation

    1. Buffalo Wings (it’s not just for football games!)
    2. Christmas mints (kinda like Peppermint Patties, but better)
    3. Buffalo Wings

    Best gift received:
    Getting dumped by my ex-fiancee. Seriously. Okay, it was the day AFTER, but does it count? Otherwise I’d probably never have dated my wife.

    Best gift I gave:
    So many years of gift cards… Probably the pampering pack I gave my wife a few years ago. Heated bag of beans (microwavable), a portable massager, and some microwaveable inserts for her socks. Reynaud’s).

    Christmas memory:
    After the children’s story time at church in Texas, heading home to grill steaks for my wife and me (kids were still eating chicken nuggets, having still not learned to properly use their teeth – what few they had – for tearing beef).

  47. 1.

    This is Christmas – Garrison Keillor

    Christmas Magic – Fred Waring (Nostalgia!)

    Christmas Carol – James Galway

    Christmas at St. Thomas New York – St. Thomas (Boy) Choir

    This is Christmas – Al Burt


    Muppet Christmas Carol

    White Christmas

    Christmas Vacation

    (this leaves off many sublime and ridiculous ones)


    Russian tea cakes

    Swedish meatballs

    Moose munch


    Received -Big puffy slippers received my husband the Christmas before we were married.

    Given – Bike given to my 5 year old son. He said, “I didn’t know Santa had bikes!” It was so fun to hide in the neighbor’s garage. . .


    My son singing “Cradle Hymn” as the Angel Gabriel 12/04 in the St. Mark Christmas pageant or me playing Mary in a blue bedsheet in the Christmas pageant at Our Savior Lutheran Church, San Clemente 12/65.