Feliz Navidad

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Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Boney M. returns for Christmas

Take a quick moment to look at the last name in the byline. Now, when I tell you that I have a complicated relationship with Christmas, it should be fairly obvious what I’m talking about.

As someone who wanted to blend into the crowd as a kid and just keep my head down, having a name like Elves during the holidays was just an invitation to be subjected to “jokes” from the type of kids who didn’t really need much excuse to engage in such behaviour. The name was like putting up a ridic-yule wreath on the front of my house or the un-ironic wearing of a reindeer sweater in junior high.

One of my most vivid memories is of a restaurant full of people at Disney World laughing when they announced over the intercom that the Elves reservation was ready on the Christmas Eve I was ten – my face was as red as Mickey Mouse’s pants. I still intrinsically associate Christmas with embarrassment.

BUT, there’s a part of me that LOVES Christmas; checking out the over-the-top light displays in the neighbourhood, sampling the seasonal craft beers available at the LC, seeing folks who are home for the holidays, and finding the perfect gifts for friends and family.

Which brings me to my selection for this playlist: Boney M.’s “classic” chestnut, “Feliz Navidad.”

My mom loves this song (and the album it comes from, 1981’s aptly titled Christmas Album) with a fervor that rivals my distaste for it. Listening to the Euro-disco arpeggios and drum-machines that start the song, my hackles are instantly raised – the fake pan-flute sound of the synth brings to mind Zamfir, and I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of Zamfir.

“Feliz Navidad” was the Christmas soundtrack for a great portion of my youth, and then one year… silence. While taking the decorations and tree out of storage, my mother discovered that her copy of Christmas Album was missing. Having voiced my distaste for the album frequently over the years, she cast a suspicious gaze my way and blamed me for the disappearance. She would continue to blame me for nearly two decades and the mention of wanting to play “Feliz Navidad” but being unable to became as much of a Christmas tradition as drinking eggnog and eating Turtles in our house.

As much as I benefited from not having to listen to Boney M. at Christmas time, as god is my witness, I had no hand in the disappearance of the album and continued to plead innocence each year the accusation was put up along with the tree and tinsel. Then—about four or five years ago—while rifling through used vinyl at a Goodwill store, I found Marcia Barrett, Liz Mitchell, Maizie Williams, and Bobby Farrell (the group’s West Indian vocalists) staring back at me. The Christmas Album had returned.

It may have been summertime when I found the record, but I instantly knew I’d found my mom’s Christmas present for the year. With access to a USB turntable, I was able to rip MP3s from the vinyl and burn a CD-R of the album so that while she’d have a replacement for the missing LP, she’d also be able to play the album on the stereo that had replaced the turntable on which she used to listen to the Christmas Album.

The look of surprise on my mom’s face that Christmas when she opened her present and the smile on her face as those opening notes played suggested she finally did believe I had no hand in the disappearance – if I had deliberately removed “Feliz Navidad” from my life those many years ago, why would I then go through the trouble of bringing it in out of the cold and guaranteeing that I’d be hearing it each Christmas once again? As much as I can’t stand that song, selfless giving is the true spirit of the season, so I’ll suck it up yet again this December as my mom hits “PLAY” and then “<<” over and over.

For those of you who celebrate it, to quote the song: “I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas.”