Among all of the great holiday songs we’ll hear this season, only one is guaranteed to pop into my head unprompted: a rendition of “Jingle Bells” by three barking dogs.

It’s a holiday tradition for me, oddly enough; one of those curious yet important things I remember from holidays past — at the expense of so many other things that seemed so important at the time.

The Jingle Dogs filled the radio waves every day during our school holiday break as I sat in a fish house in the middle of a frozen lake in Minnesota. The local radio station (we had only one) played the song every afternoon right after an exciting edition of “Turkey Shoot,” a game played by a call-in listener who, while listening to a variety of taped bird calls, called out “stop” in the hopes of anticipating the call of a wild turkey. Done successfully, the listener would win a frozen turkey from our small town’s grocery store.

And then it was time for the dogs. There’s just something about three dogs barking the tune to “Jingle Bells” that I’ve found hard to forget over the years.

I have plenty of other holiday memories, too, but they’re also not the ones you might expect.

I remember setting aside time every year with my sisters to watch the original “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” television show, the one with the clay-like “action” figures and the Burl Ives-inspired snowman who rides over the snowy countryside on a Norelco electric razor.

I remember the decorations my mom still hangs around the home where I grew up: always exactly the same hand-colored decorations from our grade-school days hung in exactly the same spots.

I remember in a warm, fuzzy sort of way our seasonal family get-togethers: people talking and laughing and eating and covering topics from farm crop prices to Aunt Somebody’s latest illness.

For all that I remember, though, there are a few things I’ve forgotten. I remember few of the gifts I’ve received or given, regardless of their cost. I don’t remember who has or hasn’t sent us a holiday card. I don’t remember how late in the season we finished shopping, or whether a friend wound up with more presents than I did, or whose hair or outfit didn’t measure up at the holiday parties.

All of the things people will spend so much time worrying about this holiday season, all of the expensive things that seem necessary to make this year’s holiday special, everything that seems so painfully important and time-consuming … my family and I probably won’t even remember them by next spring.

Instead, I’ll still be thinking about a frozen expanse of ice, a cherished haze of family, and a song with three barking dogs.


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