Merry Little Podcast

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An exploration of all things Christmas from the Internet's longest ongoing celebration of Christmas at MyMerryChristmas.com

Episode Date
Family History in Christmas
27:22
Family History in Christmas
This was our Christmas tree hunt as a family in 1972. The could very likely be the Christmas of one of the stories shared in this episode.

Family history in Christmas is something everyone has. In fact, the stories of family at Christmas can possibly be the most cherished family memories we possess.

In this merry episode of the Merry Little Podcast we take it to a very personal level when it comes to Christmas history as we discuss the sharing and retention of our family Christmas stories.

We have all been there when it comes to these things. We’ll sit around at or after the funeral of a loved one and we’ll tell their stories. Each life is unique, so these stories in simple and great ways carry supreme value not because they may be unusual but because they involved people we love.

How much more special is that when you combine the stories of family with the celebration of Christmas?

~ Family History is a Thing ~

The pursuit of family history is one of the most popular Internet hobbies online. FamilySearch.org claims more than 200 million visits a year as they continue to add billions of new records online of ancestral research value.

Across the globe as millions work to find their roots through hard data of names of people, places and dates of life transitions there is one component that can hardly been indexed and cataloged and searched online: personal stories.

I’m no different than anyone else. This episode is as much about creating a family record of a few of our simple Christmas stories as it is a means of creating a podcast for you, Merry Listeners. These podcasts, after all, are a personal archive me and some day, after I’m pushing up daisies, they will no doubt be of value to people who might call me their ancestor.

So this is an episode of personal history — of Christmas celebrated.

What can you do to preserve your family stories of Christmas? After all, not everyone has a podcast, right?

~ How to Get Family History in Christmas Recorded ~

Of course there are many ways. But the hardest part does not seem to be the creative effort it requires. It’s actually just the time and effort to just make a record.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Use the season to create the record. When family is gathered “roll tape!”, as they say. Set up the video camera or flip on the phone and just start talking.

2. Give family history as a gift. It can be as simple as a frame picture or photo album to copies of an old journal. These personal gifts tend to not only be long-remembered and cherished but they also spur good discussion and memory sharing in families.

3. Involve the young and the old. Storytelling is an art that has never gone out of fashion. Add that element to your holiday meals and gatherings.

There are a billion ideas out there. But the honest truth is that once you share and create records they tend to take on a life of their own. We just need to get them started.

Oct 25, 2020
Classic Christmas Movies that Suck
26:30

Classic Christmas Movies that SuckClassic Christmas movies are those that get watched year after year. We all have our favorites. And we all have those that maybe we can do without.

In this merry episode we take on some truth-telling about some classic Christmas movies that everyone knows and most like but movies that nonetheless really suck. Is such a thing possible?

We think so and yes we go there.

Lest you think I’m just a Christmas movie Grinch consider that complaining about Christmas movies is something of an art on the Internet. There are a lot of people out there who cannot stand certain Christmas movies. I know it’s shocking.

When it comes to bad Christmas movies most publications play it safe and make lists of B-grade Christmas movies like this one.

Not us. We go there — to the Christmas big leagues. We’re talking genuine Grade-A top flight CLASSIC Christmas movies that suck.

It is an interesting thing to think about. Christmas movies are really like no other kind of movies. There will always be diversity of opinion when it comes to any movie, Christmas or otherwise. But like hanging stockings or drinking eggnog, there is a tradition of having to endure replays of the same bad Christmas “classics” year after year.

We note in this episode about the growing trend of Christmas podcasting and how many new podcasts are out there. The great majority of them pursue movies as their topic. But would any of them really take on this topic? Movies are a sacred cow of Christmas that we think needs some tipping.

For many of this old Christmas films we grew up with them. As kids, maybe we did not know they were bad.

I can recall seeing A Christmas Story with my family when I was a teenager. We all thought it was a great movie, especially because it was a movie we saw with my Dad in a theater – a rare event. Even more rare was that he enjoyed it so much. We thought he was taking us because it appealed to us. We were surprised — and I think he was surprised — at how much he laughed at it. Of course, my father was a child of the 1940s. It makes sense it would connect with him.

Imagine my shock years later when discussing that movie with a friend. She was a young school teacher at the time. When I brought the movie up she immediately frowned. “That’s a terrible movie,” she said. “No child should ever see on a screen an image of Santa sticking his boot in a child’s face.”

It never occurred to me that was a bad scene or that it would affect someone. But I saw her point.

Movies in general are things we will never agree on.

But Christmas movies, for whatever reason, seem to get a pass in many ways.

In this episode we take a look a Christmas movies that play every year that should have been forgotten long ago.

Will we bring up one of your favs?

Do be shy in commenting what you feel — that is what makes this discussion always so interesting.

Oct 14, 2020
10th Anniversary of the Merry Podcast
0:00

This special episode marks our 10th anniversary of the Merry Podcast. What better way to celebrate International Podcast Day?

Given the harshness of our times  in 2020 we thought the best way to celebrate this milestone would be to take a look back at some of the best moments of the Christmas community online. In other words, we’re not making this episode about us – it’s about YOU!

If you’re down, weary, worried, concerned, fed-up, or depressed this episode is for you. You will smile. You may laugh a little. You could even shed a tear. But you’ll feel better. You WILL feel the Christmas Spirit.

In this episode we get another great conversation with Ballcoach, one of our cherished members of the Merry Forums of MyMerryChristmas.com. He delivers once again a great conversation that’s all Christmas – showcasing in no small measure just what Christmas community online means.

Then we take a look back at Merry Podcast history. The world has changed a lot in just a decade – and so has the Merry Podcast. We discuss some special podcast contributions that have come from our members, including a great Christmas memory surrounding one of the classic songs of Christmas.

And speaking of music, there’s plenty in this episode to enjoy that will uplift and inspire.

We take a look as well at the community efforts of Santa’s Sleigh – our coordinated little crowd-sourced outreach to folks in need.

Can it really be 10 years already?

Look at the Christmases we have had!

Sep 30, 2020
Scrooge
0:00

Scrooge is the most recognizable character in the history of Christmas, second only to Santa Claus. The mere mention of his name immediately brings to mind images that are both good and bad.

His story – A Christmas Carol – is known around the world, in multiple languages, and in nearly every corner of the world. Every year, it is a story told and retold on stages large and small. It is a story read and re-read by Christmas fans everywhere.

Charles Dickens did not invent Christmas but he did invite Scrooge, a difficult man who reflects all of us more than he contrasts with us. In fact, the long we study Ebenezer Scrooge the more we begin to see all that we share in common with him.

Who played him best? Was it Alastair Sim? Was it Michael Caine? Was it Patrick Stewart?

We found that the better the Jacob Marley, the better the Scrooge. In fact, we delve a little into the necessity of having the right Marley and how he makes Scrooge that much more interesting.

In this new episode of the Merry Little Podcast we examine Scrooge and the many performances given to us of Scrooge on film. We discuss his creation and just what his character means to those of love Christmas.

We are also introduced to the first new Christmas music of the 2020 season. You hear the first new offering from Jim Brickman, a great new Christmas original titled Winter Waltz:

Jim Brickman

We are also fortunate enough to have a sneak peek at a new album by Luke McMaster and his new song, Christmas Present:

Luke McMaster

Sep 24, 2020
The Victorian Christmas Part VI
0:00

Our series on the Victorian Christmas concludes with an in-depth look at the stuff of Christmas – the décor, the music, the food and the celebration.

We also get a good look at the fads, which include the runaway tradition of Christmas cards that, for some, got a bit out of hand. The dialogue, the poetry and the debates of Christmas cards are discussed as part of an exploration of the relationships between men and women – and they their gift giving differed during the late 19th century.

We also share the unforgotten classical Christmas music of the Santa Claus Christmas Symphony, a masterpiece written before Jingle Bells in the early 1850s and we explain why it hasn’t achieved the well-known status of other Christmas music of the time. You can hear this great piece of music via this video:

The Victorian Era closes with the well-known story of Virginia O’Hanlon and her query “Is there really a Santa Claus?” You know that story.

But what you might not know is why she could have posed the question in the first place. We explore the blow back that developed late in the 1890s not only to the idea of Santa Claus but also to the idea of the Christmas tree, Christmas decorating and holiday gift giving.

No discussion of this time would be complete without exploring the food of the time and we cover the big items of Christmas turkey, cookies, eggnog…and rum.

Images of Christmas during the 1880s and 1890s:

Sep 01, 2020
The Victorian Christmas, Part V
0:00

The Victorian Christmas is named after England’s Queen Victoria. Victoria very famously and quite unexpectedly became Queen around the age of 18 or so. She was young, pretty and different compared to England’s royalty of the past. Her coronation took the world by storm and was big news, especially in America.

She was an iconic figure during an expansive time. But did she really do anything for Christmas?

Modern historians on both sides of the Atlantic credit Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert, for influencing Christmas in the 19th Century. Biography.com, Wikipedia, History.com, the BBC and Victoriana Magazine are all examples of credible publications making such claims.

In this shocking episode we have to debunk that and expose the truth that when it came to Christmas England’s Queen Victoria and Prince Albert actually contributed little.

Victoria’s story was pushed by an American woman’s magazine who used a London newspaper’s image of Victoria’s Christmas and changed it. The magazine “Americanized” the Royal family shown in the picture. Here are the pictures side-by-side:

Queen Victoria Christmas

Is this 19th century “fake news”? Can you spot the differences? Did the new image actually mean anything? How many people of 1850 actually saw the picture? And more importantly did the image inspire Americans to actually go out and bring Christmas trees into their home?

This episode explores what actually happened with the evolution of the Christmas tree in America – and what really drove it. We take a look at Christmas ornaments of the time — and how they differed between the UK and the US.

This episode tells the story of the Little Match Girl, the Holly and the Ivy, and the “rugged individualism” of American Christmas decorations and Christmas Eve traditions. Exposed as well is yet another version of the Christmas pickle story and just what stocking stuffers during the 19th century looked like.

And, back by popular demand, is another salute to the American Christmas tradition of pumpkin, including a classic American story of General Ulysses S. Grant that you just have to hear.

In all, this is a surprising episode of the Christmas stuff of the Victorian Christmas. And there’s more yet to come!

Sponsor of this episode:

Aug 17, 2020
The Victorian Christmas, Part IV
0:00

The Victorian Christmas had it all. In this episode, it takes a dark turn thanks to the powerful lessons brought on by the American Civil War.

Is it wrong to say this is an important episode?

Candidly, I tell you few episodes have affected me as emotionally as this one did. It was necessary to dig deep into journals and letters from this time period. What they went through, how they felt and what they said is frankly haunting.

Thomas Nast Civil War ChristmasChristmas was, up to the time of the war, a more joyous time.

For these years, what happened with the war turned Christmas into a sobering, reflective time for everyone.

Nobody was immune and all had to endure Christmases that were frankly painful for what they missed. But Christmas was also a heartfelt teacher during these years. Their lessons are ones we simply cannot ignore.

Nobody teaches us more about the tragedy of the times and the meaning of Christmas — and Thanksgiving — than the singular and surprising figure of Abraham Lincoln.

We explore Lincoln’s personal Christmas history like few have ever done. While it is not noted at all by most historians we give Lincoln his due not because he was a huge fan of Christmas but because he understood the joy and the pain of Christmas to nearly every generation around him.

He saw it — and he reacted to it in brilliant, significant ways.

Lincoln partnered with a much younger but infinitely talented man named Thomas Nast. The Victorian Christmas would be marked by the imprint of Santa’s image that Nast left behind.

Though Lincoln’s tenure was brief his impact on both Thanksgiving and Christmas should never be forgotten. He helped shape what we call today the American Christmas.

The Civil War was also a huge turning point in technology. We explore all of that in this episode. How trains changed mass transportation — and Christmas. And how what was bought for Christmas shifted so quickly after the power of industries adjusted to post-war life. We learn that Christmas turned from the homemade to the store-bought largely due to the advances brought on by the war.

We explore how the war left emotional scars that are still felt today. We dig into the numbers of the Civil War. And we break it all down to a very personal level, as well.

If you listen to only one episode in this series about the Victorian Christmas, make it this one. That’s how important it is.

Aug 13, 2020
The Victorian Christmas, Part III
0:00

The Victorian Christmas is defined by many diverse things over a 60-year period of the 19th century. In this episode of the Merry Little Podcast we explore the struggle the media had in defining the very face of Christmas during the Victorian Era – Santa Claus.

Moore’s poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, made very clear who Santa was and what he looked like. But from the start of the century to the end, Santa evolved into two really different looking men — thanks to the media, to product producers and merchants who all laid claim to him.

This episode explains why and how that happened.

We also delve into Christmas for the American slave, the song O Little Town of Bethlehem, and we share the names of great Christmas influencers of the century that we don’t hear much about any more – namely the writers Edgar Allan Poe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

This episode also touches on the emerging 19th century trend in recognizing Thanksgiving as an official holiday. Although Thanksgiving had enjoyed better than 200 years of celebration in the United States it really came together with Christmas in the mid-19th century as part of one very meaningful season for Victorian celebrants. Thanksgiving, too, brought its share of superstars to the 19th century Christmas table.

This episode happily features the brilliant work of Tom Mucenieks with his song titled Jingle Bells: Sad Christmas. See his slinks at:
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xc2HRnNnK8o
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/toms.mucenieks/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/toms.mucenieks2
Twitter: https://twitter.com/toms_mucenieks

Episode sponsor – Christmas Hall of Fame:
Christmas Hall of Fame

Aug 08, 2020
The Victorian Christmas, Part II
0:00

The Victorian Christmas is a complex thing. In this merry episode we pull back the layers to expose great music, great events and great traditions of the time. Not surprisingly much of it has survived and it influences our Christmas today.

For example, one of the great traditions of the era was sleigh rides. This was another holdover tradition from the 18th century but one that seemed to gain steam and attention in the quickly evolving media in the 19th century. That tradition gave rise to music associated with sleigh rides, most notably the song Jingle Bells. We explore the history of Jingle Bells and dispel the myth that the song only became popular after the advent of sound recordings.

That’s just not true. The song was a hit out the gate and it quickly became a favorite of Christmas. We explain how that is true and why it matters in this episode.

Curious enough, so much of the music of the Victorian Christmas was centered at Church. Even the very secular song of Jingle Bells debuted in a church. Churches were central to the celebration of Christmas in the 19th century. We explore why that is true and why it is important.

Dovetailing with all these religious and cultural things of the 19th century was the overarching theme of the Magi. The Magi were a popular theme in song, in worship, in art, in stage plays and especially music. All of these is discussed in depth.

There is a lot to learn about this time in Christmas history. And we’re not done yet. Part three discusses the rockstars of the 19th century and how all of them had ties to Christmas.

We’re pleased to feature the music of the Gardiner Sisters in this episode and we’re grateful for their gracious contribution. Please visit them at this slink to hear more of their music.

We are grateful as well for our sponsor of this episode, Magic Christmas Ornament.

Magic Christmas Ornament

Jul 29, 2020
Christmas Community Online Part 1
0:00

In this special edition of the Merry Little Podcast we get a little personal.

We often get asked about the Merry Forums and what makes it so special. This episode gives you a look into that world.

Added in 2004, the Merry Forums has been a gathering place for people online to celebrate Christmas together. In this episode one member of our forum family, BallCoach is what he goes by, asked if part of Christmas in July he could include a few personal conversations between him and other forum members.

That’s clue #1 about the Christmas community online. Folks are always stepping up — always contributing in creative ways.

I didn’t have a thing to do with this at all — other than putting it up here. In this conversation BallCoach talks with BradMac, a man we affectionately have dubbed Da Mayor of MyMerryChristmas.

What you are going to hear is pure Christmas between two guys who have known each other for years yet have never met in person.

It’s all Christmas. I guarantee you’ll smile, you’ll laugh — you may even shed a tear as they do what everyone on the Merry Forums does best: they share Christmas.

Thanks to BallCoach and BradMac for sharing this with us. This is the first in what we hope are several conversations that BallCoach has for Christmas in July.

Jul 21, 2020