A Polka Christmas

My earliest recollection of Christmas is from when I was just 4 or 5 years old.

We lived on Park Avenue in Albany, New York, in a house owned by my uncle Jack. We rented the first floor flat in the house and my cousins lived upstairs.

Our Christmas tree was set up in the dining room and, under the tree, my father had set up a train on tracks that ran in a circle around the base of the tree. The dining room table had been pushed to one side to make room for the tree, and the table itself was dressed with a festive holiday tablecloth. The table was decked with special Christmas candleholders and candles decorated with holly leaves and berries. We never lit those candles, but used them again and again for many years.

On the buffet on the north wall of the dining room we set up a nativity set, first rolling out a layer of fiberglass angel hair sprinkled with glitter, and then setting the wooden stable and clay figures carefully in place. The figures, themselves, included the Baby Jesus in His manger, Mary, Joseph, the three Wise Men, a Shepherd, an Angel, a cow, a camel, and several sheep. A bulb burned inside the stable and illuminated a star cut in the front of the structure.

On one particular evening close to Christmas, my father brought out our Victrola and set it up on the floor in front of the tree. He brought out his 78s of Polka music, placed one of the brittle black discs on the machine, and set the needle on the disc.

We listened to the Beer Barrel Polka:

Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun,
Roll out the barrel, we’ve got the blues on the run,
Zing Boom Terrara,
Join in a glass of good cheer,
Now it’s time to roll the barrel,
For the gang’s all here!

We listened to the Tic Tock Polka:

Tic Tic Tic Tock goes the clock on the wall,
As we’re dancing the evening away.
Tic Tic Tic Tock Goes my heart with the clock,
Beating time while the music is gay.
Tic Tic Tic Tock is the rhythm that plays,
And I know it’ll make you feel blue.
Tic Tic Tic Tock goes my heart with the clock,
‘Cause they know I am dancing with you.

And we listened to the She’s Too Fat Polka:

Oh I don’t want her
You can have her
She’s too fat for me
She’s too fat for me
She’s too fat for me
Oh I don’t want her
You can have her
She’s too fat for me
She’s too fat
She’s too fat
She’s too fat for me

My father and I sat on the floor for what seemed like hours, listening to polka after polka.

Most of those old 78s are probably long gone, either broken or too badly scratched to be playable anymore. But the memories remain.

Written for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Day 15. 

Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko

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2 Responses to A Polka Christmas

  1. Jasia says:

    Those have got to be 3 of the best Polkas ever. What a wonderful memory to have.

  2. jewelgirl says:

    Polkas are a blast! The the city where I live had a polka band
    at every dance hall and a beer barrel to go with it!
    I always envied the couples who would hop/bounce/jump the polka steps for hours.

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