Dan Gartley, bass player for GRAMMY-nominated band Sanctus Real, shares his favorite Christmas memories.

Sanctus Real members (l-r) are: Mark Graalman, drums; Dan Gartley, bass; Pete Prevost, guitar; Matt Hammitt, vocals; and Chris Rohman, guitar.

I love Christmas. Well everyone loves it, but I really do. I listen to Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas album all year round I love it so much. I feel this way because it’s the one time in the year we all go home. Isn’t it great? College students back in their old upstairs bedrooms. Young married couples sorting out diplomatic compromises to share time between both families. Coffee tables moved to unfold pull-out couches. Air mattresses purchased and blown up in laundry rooms. Evergreen trees. Gingerbread. Wassail recipes. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye on TV. It’s all so great.

For my family, the Christmas season starts at Thanksgiving with my dad’s family on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan (A result of my own parents’ diplomatic solution, no doubt…Thanksgiving in Michigan, Christmas in Ohio). I cherish the tradition and so far I’ve never missed a year. Then, about halfway through December, it’s my birthday. I love having a birthday in December because the perks of Christmas come with it for free. Everyone’s jolly and warm despite the weather. Homes and shopping malls all across the country are decorated for me. Thank you everyone by the way. You don’t have to go through the trouble. No. Honestly. You’re too kind.
Then Christmas Eve is when my mom’s family gets together. If they can, they stay all the way through New Years Day for the traditional pork and sauerkraut dinner; the finale of the full Christmas season. Mom’s brother and sisters have always lived scattered from coast to coast. Places like San Francisco, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Boston. They’re a bunch of travelers, and I’m beginning to think my career choice was slightly hereditary. Despite however many miles separate them, Ohio has always been home base and Christmas Eve when they land.
Since my family tree is so spread out for most of the year, we’ve become really good at making our time all together count. It’s like they say, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” It’s true and Christmas time is more important and special for us as a result. The family roots are enriched. The old photo albums are pulled out and reminiscing takes place until the wee hours of the night. I watch five baby boomer siblings joke and bicker with the same level of maturity as my younger brother and I. They transport to an older, wonderful world that I can only imagine. A world before computers. A world where fast-food is a new invention. A world where people write checks for groceries and pay cash for big purchases. It sounds really great. It’s memories like these that are my favorite of Christmas.