Around this time of the year you hear Christmas songs galore, and it seems as though you can’t go into a store without hearing something related to Santa or Christmas.
Working in retail, workers are exposed to this joyful music 24/7 during their shift. In being exposed to this music, you would think it would bring joy and cheer to the workers. But really, it does just the opposite.
“I actually get very annoyed during work and it sometimes has a negative impact on my transactions with costumers,” says Rebecca Shuh, a junior at HHS. “I used to always listen to Christmas music around the holidays; however, listening to the same song over and over can get annoying,” explained Shuh.
Most retail stores put their music on a CD on repeat due to company rules, especially the workers who work in a younger aged store, since stores need to appeal to their customers.
Not only can this music have a negative effect on teen employees, but adults as well.
“I like to hear the music at first, but after so many days it really can get to you,” says Amy Schmiet, store manager at Justice in Howell.
Ms.Schmiet explained how even some customers complain about how repetitive the songs can get in one transaction, making their shopping experience a negative one.
Christmas music is something everyone enjoys; however, too much of something is rarely a good thing.
It seems like every holiday comes with an endless amount of calories to devour. Festive meals and tasty desserts are a staple in every family’s holiday celebrations and traditions. The holiday season is a perfect time to get together with loved ones and splurge on sweets as much as possible before the New Year. One of the major factors associated with the holiday season is the holiday weight gain. Everyone wants to like the number they see on the scale when the holidays are over, but the temptation to eat nonstop at parties is overwhelming sometimes. Here are some tips and tricks to avoid gaining the extra, unwanted pounds this holiday season:
1. Take the small plate.
The more space your plate has, the more food you will be able to eat. Eating small portions of appetizers will give you more room to enjoy dinner. It is best to use portion control and eat small amounts of things to allow your stomach to have enough room to try a variety, instead of large, unnecessary amounts of food. There is also no need to go back for seconds on appetizers. Save the extra space for the main dinner meal and for desserts afterwards.
2. Don’t stand next to the food at the party, mingle with guests.
It’s common for people to have conversations while snacking, but try to avoid making food your main focus. When food is around you will be more tempted to snack. To have less temptation you should distant yourself from the food table. A study from the University of Rhode Island found that your stomach takes 20 minutes to tell your brain that you’re full. So, instead of standing next to the snack tables eating until you’re feeling full, mingle with guests and enjoy the company.
3. Make smart, easy choices.
Do you really need that second cookie? Or that can of soda? The hardest part of parties is that it seems like there is always an endless amount of food and beverages to indulge. If you get hungry and have already eaten a large portion of unhealthy food, you should reach for some fruit or vegetables (without the dip). Don’t allow yourself to go hungry at a party just to keep your calorie intake low. It’s important to balance your meals to get the proper nutrition your body needs.
According to a report written by The New England Journal of Medicine, the average weight gain during adulthood is about one to two pounds a year. Those few pounds don’t seem like a lot to be worrying about, but those holiday pounds will start to add up quickly. Overall, you should be having fun and enjoying company with loved ones during the holiday season, so do not pressure yourself by trying to follow strict dietary guidelines in order to beat the holiday weight gain. Just eat a balanced amount of foods.
This year seems to be the year of country music. Three of the top country artists, Blake Shelton, Scotty McCreery, and Lady Antebellum, released Christmas albums this year. They all feature twangy country covers of Christmas classics that we all know and love, and all feature at least one new original Christmas song from the artist.
Scotty McCreery’s album, Christmas With Scotty McCreery, has 11 songs, including two new songs, “Christmas In Heaven” and “Christmas Comin Round Again”. The latter describes different family situations and how Christmas brings out the love in all of them. “Christmas In Heaven” is a beautiful song about, well, exactly what the title says. The lyrics about a lost loved one show maturity on McCreery’s part. McCreery’s doesn’t stray too far from the originals on songs such as “Let It Snow”, “First Noel”, and “O Holy Night”. McCreery’s personality shines through in the upbeat songs, “Jingle Bells”, “Holly Jolly Christmas”, and he channels his inner Elvis on “Santa Claus Is Back In Town”. Every song is delivered with the deep Southern drawl we came to love in his American Idol performances.
Lady Antebellum’s On This Winter’s Night features one original song, the title track, and a variety of covers. The title track, a slow Christmas ballad featuring a children’s choir, could easily become a new classic. The group takes very few risks on the album, except on their cover of “Blue Christmas”, which they put an upbeat, twangy twist on. The album is very strong vocally and features a lot of piano and guitar, in addition to faint jingle bells in songs such as “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”.
Last but not least is Blake Shelton’s Cheers, It’s Christmas, which leads the pack with four new songs, and a Christmas rendition of Michael Bublé’s “Home” featuring Bublé on the track. The songs also features a variety of other stars that Shelton duets with, including his wife, Miranda Lambert, and her group Pistol Annies. One of the songs, “Time For Me To Come Home”, features Shelton’s mother. She also helped co-write the song. “Santa’s Got A Choo Choo Train” is a fun, upbeat song the whole family can enjoy. “Oklahoma Christmas” featuring Reba is an instant country classic. The last original, “The Very Best Time Of Year”, talks about everything that makes Christmas great, and has a hints of Christmas classics mixed into the lyrics. Shelton puts an original country twist on all of his covers of classics, such as “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Winter Wonderland”.
While there may be many country Christmas albums out there, the ones out this year are especially great. They have great covers of all the classics and new songs that have a high chance of becoming someone’s new favorite holiday song. So if you love country music, which we know most Howell High School students do, hop on iTunes and download these festive new albums.
On Saturday, December 15, at 6 p.m. the annual world concert known as TubaChristmas will be held at the Livingston County Courthouse Amphitheatre. Tuba, Sousaphone, Euphonium, and Baritone Horn (high school and above) players are invited to participate and play Christmas carols, all while letting their talent shine.
TubaChristmas is an international event that is held at various times in hundreds of different cities and countries during the Christmas season. TubaChristmas was conceived in 1974 as a tribute to the infamous William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas Day. Through Bell musicians reflect on our heritage by identifying performances and experienced skills.
Traditional Christmas music presented at the first TubaChristmas was produced by American composer Alec Wilder. Wilder composed many solo and ensemble compositions for the Tuba and Euphonium. Through Wilder, and all masterful composers, we articulate our gratitude and embrace these instruments with their compositions and contribute to the ever growing melodies.
In fact out of the five years Howell has been running this event, 15-year-old freshman Jack Crilly has participated in four.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be my fourth TubaChristmas. It’s an excellent, excellent concert. The music is written just right. The director takes his time and goes through all the preparations plus neat work that they have to do. I find it more of an honor because the Tuba is considered the bass and what disgusting people play is the stereotype of a Tuba player,” says Crilly. “Yet to have a whole bunch of neat people with different characters, just meeting other people is half the fun of it.”
Likewise 16-year-old junior Daniel Crisbgy has certainly made his appearance more than a few times. Due to another event that night he will not be returning to make a fourth appearance.
“Throughout the event I feel like I am a part of something. Since I won’t be going this year I feel like I’m going to miss out on something that I don’t want to miss out on. For the newcomers I would say don’t be discouraged because the music is hard. It’s a lot of fun, with good music too,” Crisbgy says.
Not only is this a wonderful way to show our gratitude to those who strive to excel through their talents, it’s also a way to donate to the not-for-profit foundation called The Harvey Phillips Foundation. This Foundation focuses specially on musical instruments and facilitates its goals by providing scholarship assistance.
“It’s for a great cause. It’s just an amazing experience. It’s really fun, it really is. You sit around with a whole bunch of friends, you freeze your mouths off onto a metal mouth piece, and you have fun with it. I mean you’re not the most comfortable when you do it but having fun doing it is what makes up for it,” Crilly says.
Above all it’s a wonderful event to take part in and a joyful way to spread early Christmas cheer.
“It’s almost like a family feeling,” says Crisbgy. “Everyone is there together.”
This year at Howell High School, a group of leadership students have gone above and beyond expectations of the class. Amber Hardesty, a senior at HHS, along with other students, dedicated her time in creating a charity organization involved with the Salvation Army.
The charity event will take place in first hour classrooms of teachers who would like to participate at the 10-12 and freshman campuses. The theme will go along with Christmas as each class will get a stocking to fill with toys and other needed valuables.
“The classes want to fill up as many stockings as they can,” Hardesty says.
These stockings will be organized by equal value, around $20, by the Salvation Army participants and handed out to needy children who are in the database and/or signed up.
“Each teacher will be assigned to an age group between birth -18, so we don’t miss any children,” Hardesty says.
The timeline for this event will be from November 26 through December 7. The goal for the school is to fill 200 stockings, and they will also be accepting money donations as well. Around 30 teachers have accepted this challenge for their class but not all teachers have responded. The email to contact for information is firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’re really excited because we want to make a difference in kids’ lives that normally wouldn’t get it; I also think if we can accomplish this it will make our school look better in comparison to some of our stereotypes,” Hardesty says.
The students will be advertising this event more as well as making announcements so everyone at HHS is aware the event.
The group is encouraging everyone and all to participate in this organization and help give back to those in need for the holidays.
“Everyone deserves a holiday even if they can’t afford it,” Hardesty says.
Ali Nash, a senior at HHS, thinks this charity organization could really lift up some spirits this holiday.
“I think it’s really great what they’re doing and kids are definitely going to benefit from it,” Nash says.
Nash is also involved in the leadership class but designated to a different committee. She also knows the importance of giving back to the community with leadership class.
“The class really allows us to help out others and this event shows everyone at school that,” Nash says.
Nash will be participating in this school charity event and encouraging her classmates to keep the school pushing to donate as much as they can to this organization.
“I’m going to go through all my toys that I played with when I was a kid and donate them all. I think everyone should.” Nash says.
“This event is to help people out in the holiday season,” Mr. Aaron Metz, the leadership teacher, says.
The students dedicated to this event have put all their efforts into it and have organized it almost completely on their own.
“I just gave the students some options and they determined the event they would do,” Mr. Metz says.
It’s clear that students here at HHS are eager to help the less fortunate out for this holiday season.
“I hope that leadership class will continue this event after this year!” Nash says.
On Friday, November 23, at 7 p.m. Howell High School’s own Marching Band will once again be playing around downtown Howell for the annual Fantasy of Lights parade.
Fantasy of Lights has been a seasonal tradition to bring a bright start to the holidays. Even though this parade only appears one night a year, the ones who are involved are sure to make it a night to remember. HHS’s band director, Mr. Jason Smigell, is extremely excited every year for his students’ performance. He is determined to make this year even better by his students not playing one or two songs, but three Christmas songs interchanged along the way.
“My band students are of the few who don’t have lights on them, but we provide musical entertainment,” says Mr. Smigell. “We are going to perform a medley of tunes.”
Two of the three songs that will be played are Deck the Halls, and Good King Weceslas. The third is a surprise.
From a combination of Mr. Smigell’s classes, half of them are in marching band. From at least the past 12 years, these young enthusiastic musicians keep the parade fresh by playing different music with different groups of classmates. However, there is one element that simply never changes.
“It’s always a challenge to get them to come in the day after Thanksgiving,” Mr. Smigell grins. “When they are all supposed to be on vacation to come in and do a parade, I’m always really thankful that they take the time to do that.”
Senior Christina Szkrybalo has been in Marching Band and Color Guard for two years and played in Fantasy of Lights last year. She does not mind bringing herself to the parade and looks forward to the event. She loves bringing joy from music and anticipates positive results from the lively entertainment provided.
“We have a blast. We have those songs to rock out with and have fun. Seeing everyone’s reaction to the music and everyone sing along, plus seeing their faces when we change music is really cool,” says Szkrybalo. “I like being in the band because we get to perform for the city of Howell and go out in public to show off how beastly we are.”
As a fellow Marching Band member since middle school, senior Kayla Gibson is also proud to promote Howell’s holiday spirit.
“Being in the band is just really fun and having everyone cheer for you feels really good,” says Gibson. “I love the holidays and want to represent Howell, even if it is on vacation.”
As usual, Santa Clause will be appearing in the parade, donations will be accepted, and the applied volunteers will be running in the Thanksgiving 5k. Highlander Way’s Marching Band is going to be there as well. In addition, HHS’s Highlander Choral is going to perform at the Court House. Mr. Smigell can’t wait to spread the word and special holiday cheer.
“It’s one of the largest events crowd-wise that we do outside of the high school. It is good exposure for us giving back to the community,” says Mr. Smigell. “Can’t wait to see everybody there!”
As the hit made famous by Andy Williams says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Christmas is both a religious holiday and a cultural celebration. Although Christmas has only been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870, it has been celebrated for more than two thousand years. Traditions are a big part of celebrating Christmas. Some of the most commercial and well-known traditions are, of course, decorating the Christmas tree, hanging stockings, and baking cookies for Santa.
With only a few days before Christmas, Howell High School students have been busy spreading Christmas cheer and celebrating with their own family traditions.
Senior Alli Buttermore really cherishes the great family togetherness that is brought upon by this world-wide holiday. “Every year my family gets together to bake homemade sugar cookies and make our own icing. We spend all day decorating the cookies together while we listen to Christmas music,” says Buttermore. “Ever since I can remember, we have been doing this as a family, and for me it’s one of our best traditions. It really gets me into the Christmas spirit.”
For Howell High School junior, Alissa Byington, Christmas Eve is a special time for herself and her family. “Every year on Christmas Eve, my mom gives my sisters and me one present to open before we go to bed. It is something we look forward to all December,” says Byington. “And of course, because I have a younger sister, we always support her in anxiously waiting for Santa Claus.”
Many families celebrate with a cultural influence. Sophomore Kaite Rabel and her family goes to her grandmother￢ﾀﾙs on Christmas Day. Her grandmother follows a German custom. “My grandmother hides a pickle ornament in the tree, and whoever finds it gets an extra present,” Rabel says.
For many people, the meaning of Christmas expands much larger than Santa Claus and a Christmas tree. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, a spiritual leader who forms the base for their religion and worship.
“During the day of Christmas Eve, my family and I all dress up and go to church. There we always sing a lot of Christmas music and forget about the problems of the world, if but for simply an hour,” said Alex Swain, a Howell High School senior. “It’s a great time that we spend together.”
As years go by, beautifully wrapped presents, cookies, cards, carols, and of course the spirit of Santa Claus, will always be some of some of the favorite memories of Christmas.
You’re driving along, your favorite Christmas station playing on the radio, listening to “Jingle Bell Rock” or “Sleigh Ride” or something similar – happy, joyful Christmas fun. The song ends, and the opening notes of “Christmas Shoes” starts playing.
You know the song, right? “Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please/It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size/Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time/You see she’s been sick for quite a while/And I know these shoes would make her smile/And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.”
Does anyone even like this song? I have literally never met anyone who actually likes it. “Oh god no, I cry every time,” is usually the answer someone gives when asked about it. It is probably the most –skipped Christmas song on Pandora Radio.
The man singing it is telling us how it was Christmas Eve, and he was waiting in line at a store to pay when he noticed the dirty little boy in front of him, holding a pair of shoes. When the little boy steps up to the register, he tells the cashier how he wanted to buy the shoes for his mother, who apparently had been sick for awhile and time was
running out, and he wanted her to look pretty when she met Jesus that night.
By this point in the song, if I was dumb enough to actually leave the song on, I am in tears. And Christmas is not about driving silently with tears in your eyes while listening to a little boy singing about his dying mother.
“He counted pennies for what seemed like years/Then he said, ‘Son there’s not enough here”/ He searched his pockets frantically/Then he turned and he looked at me/He said Mama made Christmas good at our house/Though most years she just did without/Tell me, sir, what am I going to do/ Somehow I got to buy her these Christmas shoes.”
The narrator tells us that the little boy just didn’t have enough for the shoes, how he counted his pennies frantically until the narrator stepped up and paid for him. The song then switches to children’s voices, which of course is universally acknowledged as heartwarming and emotional, singing the chorus.
The singer comes back and tells us how the little boy must have been sent from God to show him the true meaning of Christmas.
This is the song’s excuse for making people cry.
“The true meaning of Christmas.”
Giving. How sweet.
Now let me get back to “Jingle Bell Rock.“
The snow drifted peacefully onto the beautifully decorated trees, which lit the way for the various vehicles to amble down the trail and enjoy the Christmas season with their loved ones. Howell Area Parks and Recreation has been developing this tradition for the past five years.
The fifth annual Holiday in the Park is a half-mile rustic drive through the Howell City Park, the hills lined with a hundred trees decorated for the Christmas season by local families, businesses, church groups, and service organizations.
“We determined that we wanted to do a winter activity – something with a winter theme,” Debbie Mikula, director of the Howell Area Parks and Recreation Authority since September 2007, said. “We’ve seen a number of different drive-throughs and thought we could do one in this beautiful park.”
This year, there are a hundred trees to enjoy, along with an additional five to six trees already decorated on the property. The trees took a lot of effort to decorate.
“We enlisted the help of about fifty organizations and families,” Mikula says, remembering all the hard work that went into making the Holiday in the Park event. “We tried to get trees in the place – live trees, not ‘K-mart deers.’”
The holiday event opened on December 2. The opening ceremony consisted with a horse-drawn carriage and Santa, and cookies and hot chocolate for the kids. When it got dark enough, the kids wrote on sky lanterns and sent them into the sky. Mikula laughed, “We tell them they’re heading to the North Pole for Santa Claus.”
The Holiday in the Park is open until Christmas night, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every evening. According to Mikula, the best place to view the trees is from Lakeside Park.
“You can look right across the lake,” Mikula says with a smile. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Many thanks go to the businesses and local families who helped to orchestrate the entire event. A few are the Howell High School Interact Club, the City of Howell, Mallard Pond, and the Howell Beautification Committee. Also, the Psau family deserves some recognition for helping set up the event five years in a row.
“Once it’s done, seeing the light on the kids’ faces, I know it was all worth it. But decorating,” Mikula laughed when I asked if decorating was her favorite part. “No. The decorating takes a lot of staff and energy – it’s a good two to four weeks spent getting everything ready before the opening ceremony.”
Don’t wait too long to spend some time with your family this Christmas. The Holiday in the Park is only open till December 25. The cost is five dollars per vehicle. Head over to the Howell City Park at the corner of Thompson and Barnard to spend quality time with your family and friends this holiday season.
The snow is falling gracefully as the night air begins to chill. A family is gathered in the living room around a glowing fire. Together they watch their favorite Christmas movie. This is an example of a Christmas tradition, which students and teachers carry out year after year.
One of the first movies that people love to watch this time of the year is A Christmas Story. This movie is about a boy named Ralphie recalling a Christmas when he wanted a Red Rider BB gun. A famous line from this movie is, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” For freshman Kyle Downes, at Howell High School, this is his favorite movie to watch this time of the year.
“There isn’t a part in the movie I don’t like, it’s so funny,” Downes adds. Every year, right before Christmas, Downes can remember watching this film. “A Christmas Story just never gets old and everyone loves it. It also doesn’t hurt that it is set in the 50’s,” Downes says.
Another Christmas favorite, that hasn’t been around forever, is Elf. Starring Will Farrell, his character is a human that grew up with Santa and his elves. Upon figuring out that he really isn’t an elf himself, he travels to New York City to find his real dad. Even though it was just released in 2003, it is quickly becoming a favorite.
Every year, on the day before Christmas Eve, Vanessa Swain, a sophomore at HHS, and her family sit in the living room together and watch Elf. “I love Elf because of Will Farrell; he makes the whole movie funny. My favorite part is when he tries to get on the escalator in the mall,” Swain says.
Movies can bring inspiration to people sometimes. “I remember when a few years ago when me, my brother and my sister tried to reenact the big snowball scene in the movie. It was so fun even though it didn’t really work,” Swain says with a smile on her face.
Featured in a song and made a movie, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is a house hold name around Christmastime. “It’s my all time favorite Christmas movie,” Rachael Near, a junior at HHS says. When Near was about four, she watched it usually a week before Christmas with her mom. “I like how it teaches you to not judge people because you never know what they can accomplish,” Near says. She liked the movie so much that her mom bought her all of the toys of the movie, which Near still has today. “Watching the movie now brings back fond memories that I shared with my mom and I will always cherish those,” Near Says.
Alyssa Kurzyniec, a senior at HHS, says that her favorite Christmas movie is How the Grinch Stole Christmas or popularly shortened to The Grinch. She likes to watches it every year on Christmas with her entire family. The Grinch has been around for a very long time. Before the Jim Carry version, released in 2000, there was a cartoon version by Dr. Seuss. “We like the new version better because it’s more like real life,” Kurzyniec says. She likes the character Cindy Lou Who the best because she truly believes Cindy Lou Who’s saying that no one should be alone on Christmas. “The Grinch just gets you in the Christmas mood,” Kurzyniec says.
One of the all time funniest Christmas movies is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. For history teacher, Mr. Martin Leftwich, it is by far the best Christmas movie. “It’s hilarious, gets me every time,” Mr. Leftwich says. It has recently become a tradition for Mr. Leftwich to watch the movie with his family after they go to get their Christmas tree. “I know exactly how hard it is this time of year dealing the family drama,” Mr. Leftwich says.
With such a big family in the movie, it is very easy for people to relate to the movie and laugh.
“Watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation gives me the satisfaction that my zany family is closer to normal than I realized,” Mr. Leftwich says.
Some movies make you feel a little cozy inside, some make you laugh, others can teach you lessons, while still others make you thankful for the family that you have. Christmas movies will keep on being watched every year to keep favorite memories alive.