Mannheim Steamroller Christmas

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas

by Chip Davis


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Do you hear what I hear?

From the founder of Mannheim Steamroller, the music group that has redefined Christmas with their innovative sound, comes a heartwarming novel about the spirit of the holidays -- complete with an exclusive Mannheim Steamroller CD!

When Evan Darling realizes that his children have become so focused on gifts that they've completely lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas, he knows he has to do something to help them see the wonder of it all. As a blizzard rages, Evan sits the family down and tells them the extraordinary tale of a young boy's magical experience during another blizzard long ago. When that boy was ten years old, he, too, thought Christmas traditions were pointless and dumb. The only thing he liked was the music. But when a magical snow globe opened his eyes to the magic of Christmas and the perils of greed, he found himself waging a dramatic battle to save Christmas for all time. It's time for Evan's children to learn the story of that brave young boy and to discover the mystery of his identity, for it is the story that inspires Evan himself to hold Christmas so close to his heart.

Enhanced by original music and Christmas favorites performed by Mannheim Steamroller, this magical story provides the gift of a moving, uplifting Christmas experience to families everywhere.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439152591
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 11/19/2008
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Chip Davis, a Grammy Award-winning composer and musician, is credited with introducing what has become known as New Age music more than twenty-five years ago. He is the creator and leading member of Mannheim Steamroller, which has sold more than twenty million copies of their four holiday albums, and is founder and president of American Gramaphone, a record company. He lives with his wife and children near Omaha, Nebraska.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Evan Darling trudged home from school, kicking at snow banks and grumbling. Only 4:30, and the afternoon sky was already dark. It had been snowing all week and the toboggan run at the end of his street was perfectly packed. But there was no way his mother would let him go out sledding alone tonight, and his dad would be working late at the store, as he had every night since the beginning of December.

Cold water seeped in over the top of his boot as he tried, but failed, to clear a huge slush puddle near the curb. Evan longed for spring. He imagined the big green field behind his house, freshly mowed — perfect for an after-dinner baseball game. He thought about how his dad always made sure to leave work early so they could play a game of catch before dinner. Stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, Evan closed his eyes, letting the thick snowflakes melt on his lids. He pictured sunshine, white fluffy clouds, new green leaves against a bright blue sky. He opened his eyes. Bare tree branches stood in black silhouette against the overcast sky and piles of snow — turned gray and sooty by traffic — slopped up and over the curbs. Evan sighed, feeling as though spring might never come again.

With cold water squishing in his boot at each step, Evan turned onto Main Street. The little shops lining both sides of the street were bustling with people rushing in and out, their arms full of bags and packages. Dark-green pine garland twisted around the poles of the streetlights, which were just beginning to flicker on. Small white lights framed the windows of some shops, while bright red and green flashing lights bordered the doorways of others. Cars moved slowly down the street, carefully navigating around the many shoppers crossing the road.

Above the street, stars outlined in tiny white lights hung on cables stretched from one side to the other. Main Street glowed with Christmas spirit, as if to cancel out the advancing darkness of the winter afternoon. But Evan's mood was as gloomy as the snow clouds piling up in the late afternoon sky, and the blazing lights and cheerful decorations did nothing to lift his spirits.

In fact, as far as Evan was concerned, the whole Christmas thing was completely out of control.

Take the annual Holidayle Elementary School Christmas pageant, for instance. Evan's class had had to stay late to work on their number. Even though the performance for the whole school was tomorrow, half the class still couldn't remember their lines, and the other half only wanted to talk about all the presents they were expecting to get on Christmas, which was just three days away.

Evan had made the mistake of saying that he'd hoped Santa would bring him a new CD player for his room, and a couple of the sixth graders had overheard. They had teased him mercilessly before hurling him into the snow banks outside of school. Not because of the CD player, but for saying he'd hoped Santa would bring it. Evan finally said he just pretended to believe because of his little sister, but even as he said it, it felt like a betrayal. The idea of Santa — who Evan pictured as taller and thinner, kind of like Professor Dumbledore from Harry Potter, only in long red robes — was one of the few things Evan thought was really special about Christmas. Santa — and Christmas carols.

Evan loved Christmas carols. Listening to songs like "Silent Night" or "White Christmas" gave him a warm feeling that started in his chest and spread through his whole body. He knew all the words to all the songs that had to do with Christmas, and he loved to sing them. To Evan, they were like magical incantations that conjured up the very season.

Sure, some of them made no sense at all, like "Here We Come a'Wassailing." He thought that maybe wassailing was some winter sport, like parasailing, only in the snow. But it didn't really matter what it was about — he still loved the song.

Evan began to hum as he walked down the street. By the time he'd worked his way through "Joy to the World," he was feeling a little better. At the end of Main Street, Evan saw another Christmas sight that made him smile. He broke into a jog and crossed over to the parking lot next to the local pharmacy and market.

The parking lot was empty of cars. At the far end, an old camper with a flat trailer attached to the back was pulled up next to the building. A little distance from the trailer, a metal barrel that had been sawed in half held a small wood fire. Two large logs sat on either side to serve as chairs. From the middle of the lot to the sidewalk, rows and rows of fresh-cut fir trees leaned against sawhorses. Evan walked between the rows of trees, admiring how the fresh snow tipped their branches. The tall trees screened out the bustle and noise of the streets beyond, and Evan imagined he was deep in a forest.

"Merry Christmas, Evan."

Evan jumped at the sound of the voice, even though he expected it.

"Hey, Leon." Evan turned around and smiled. "Merry Christmas to you."

Leon Tannenbaum was the most unusual-looking grown-up Evan had ever seen. He was thin and small, not much taller than Evan, and had shocking red hair that stuck out in random tufts from under his tattered winter hat. He had twinkling blue eyes that all but disappeared in a web of wrinkles and creases when he smiled, which was almost constantly. He wore many layers of brightly colored winter clothes, not seeming to mind that the bright green stripes on his pants competed for attention with the bold red and white diamonds on his sweater. He completed his costume with several gaily striped scarves wrapped around his neck and gloves with the fingers cut off.

Every year since Evan could remember, Leon Tannenbaum and his trailer of fresh-cut trees had pulled into Holidayle a few days before Christmas and set up shop in the parking lot. Evan's family had never bought a tree from Leon. Instead, Evan's dad always insisted on following the family tradition of marching out into the woods behind their house, cutting down a fresh tree, and dragging it home. Still, Evan looked forward to seeing Leon every year, and Leon never seemed to mind that Evan wasn't a customer — he always seemed genuinely glad to see him.

"Got a new CD to lure the customers in," Leon said, grinning widely. He knew Evan loved music and they often compared notes on their favorite versions of Christmas songs. Leon ran over to the large boom box that sat on a makeshift table near the sidewalk, twisted the volume to high, and stood expectantly, his head cocked to one side as a lush melody filled the air.

"It's a medieval carol," he said, waving a hand in the air in time to the music.

Evan had never heard anything like it. He listened and heard strings and bells and maybe a flute. When the singers came on, Evan couldn't understand the language they were singing in, but it didn't matter. He closed his eyes and let the music swirl around him. Breathing deeply, he smelled pine trees and wood smoke and fresh snow.

"It's what Christmas is all about, isn't it?" Leon said softly.

Evan opened his eyes and nodded. "It's perfect," he agreed. "But I can't understand what they're singing."

"It's in Latin," Leon explained. "An ancient language for an ancient holiday."

Evan tried to picture an ancient Christmas — a celebration in a time before electric tree lights and shopping malls. Frankly, he couldn't imagine what people ever did.

"Have you got time for a cup of hot cocoa?" Leon motioned toward a thermos sitting next to the boom box.

"Not today," Evan said. "I'm already late. My mom probably has about a million things for me to do — just 'cuz it's Christmas. You know how it is."

"I'll take a snow check then," Leon said, waving good-bye.

Evan jogged down the street. He could get home a lot quicker if he cut through the woods behind the parking lot — his house was right on the other side. But it was already dark, and the woods were hard enough to navigate in the snow in daylight. Sticking to the main roads, he soon arrived home.

The white colonial house sat on the last lot at the end of a dead-end street. There was no missing it; Evan's mom had gone nuts decorating for the holiday. Huge evergreen wreaths swathed in red ribbon hung from the upstairs windows, illuminated by floodlights set into the lawn. Another enormous wreath decorated the front door. Electric candles glowed in all the windows facing the street. The lamppost at the edge of the lawn was wrapped in red-and-white to look like a candy cane, and wire sculptures of reindeer, wrapped in little white lights, were posed along the path leading up to the house.

Going around the side, Evan let himself in the back door and dropped his backpack on the kitchen floor with a thud. His mother stood at the open door to the oven, shoveling trays of cookies onto the wire racks. She didn't even turn around. His younger sister, Elyse, was sitting at the kitchen table frosting gingerbread men as if they were on an assembly line: swipe the frosting, stick on two raisins for eyes, three cinnamon dots for buttons, move to another tray. She never looked up from the rows of cookies, lined up like soldiers at attention.

Evan pulled off his knit cap and scratched his head until his brown hair stood up in spikes on the top of his head. He hated the itchy wool hat with its snowflake pattern and matching mittens, but his grandma sent him an identical set every year for Christmas. Dropping the hat and mittens on a chair next to the door, he shrugged out of his parka. He inhaled deeply. The spicy smell of gingerbread filled his nostrils. Okay, so maybe there was something else to appreciate about the Christmas season — his mom never baked like this at any other time of year. He walked over to the island in the center of the kitchen and broke the leg off a cooling gingerbread man.

"Mooooom! He's eating the gingerbread men!" Elyse shrieked. With sticky fingers, she snatched the half-eaten leg out of Evan's hand.

"Evan James Darling!" His mother nearly dropped the tray of cookies she was putting into the oven. "Those are for the second-grade party tomorrow!"

"Sorry," Evan mumbled, crumbs spraying out of his mouth.

"You're about to be very sorry, young man," his mother snapped, staring pointedly at the puddles of melted snow that dotted the kitchen floor and pooled around Evan's boots. She pushed her light brown bangs back, leaving a trail of flour across her forehead. She was wearing an apron that was decorated with Christmas trees and teddy bears, but she didn't look very festive. She looked hot and tired.

Behind her mother's back, Elyse stuck her tongue out at Evan and went back to decorating.

"Sorry," Evan said again, trying to slip out of his boots without dripping any more water on the floor.

Evan's older sister, Kelly, came to the door of the kitchen, pointed to her mother, and held her finger to her lips.

"Be quiet," she mouthed.

Kelly was already dressed in her parka and was carrying her boots. As she began to tiptoe toward the back door, Evan and Elyse watched her silently cross behind their mother's back. Kelly put her hand on the doorknob and began to open the door slowly.

"Where are you going, young lady?" Evan's mother didn't even turn around. She just bent down and put another tray of gingerbread into the oven.

"To the mall. I need to get a present for Mitch."

Mitch was Kelly's boyfriend, and as far as Evan could tell, the only thing she cared about besides how her hair looked.

"I thought you got Mitch a sweater."

"He can't use a sweater in Mexico," Kelly said. "I thought I'd try to find him a snorkel at the sports shop. It's not too late for me to look for a new bathing suit, either."

Evan began inching out of the room. He knew what was coming. Kelly had been begging their parents to allow her to go away with Mitch and his family. They were leaving on Christmas Eve day and wouldn't be home until two days after Christmas. Mitch's family went on a different vacation every year at Christmastime. Evan had overheard Mitch's dad saying that Christmas was just a long weekend off from work, and they might as well take advantage of it and go somewhere really great. Mitch told Evan that they had gone to Mexico once before and that it was really hot, and he'd spent all Christmas Day in the pool and playing his GameBoy in the hotel room.

Kelly had been pestering their parents about this trip since the beginning of December.

"What's wrong with wanting to do something different for Christmas for a change? Why do we always have to do the same things?"

"We've discussed this over and over again, Kelly. You're not going away over Christmas. It's a time to be with family." Evan's mother always started out calmly.

"And friends. And loved ones," Kelly pointed out.

"And family." Evan's mother turned around to face Kelly.

Please, Evan thought, don't roll your eyes.

Kelly rolled her eyes.

"You've been to the mall every day for the last two weeks. I could use a little help here," his mother continued.

Don't say "whatever," Evan silently pleaded.

"Whatever," Kelly said sullenly.

Evan winced.

"That's it. Take off that coat," Evan's mother's voice rose. "You're going to stay right here tonight and help us finish up some Christmas chores."

Kelly shrugged out of her coat and slumped into a kitchen chair. She began eating the raisins that Elyse was using for eyes.

Christmas chores, thought Evan. That's all this dumb holiday is good for. A bunch of things that you're supposed to want to do just because they're called traditions: chop down trees, bring 'em inside, string them with lights, make eggnog, shop all the time until you've bought tons of stuff that no one wants — like socks and underwear — drag in holly and pine garland, decorate the house.

Evan frowned as he remembered the worst Christmas tradition of all: the ball of mistletoe.

Last year Amanda Rose, who lived across the street, had planted a big kiss right on Evan's lips. Evan had stood there frozen — turning as red as the velvet ribbon decorating the banister in the hallway, where she had trapped him — as all the adults laughed. He shuddered and rubbed the back of his hand across his mouth.

Traditions, phooey. What's the point of them anyway? Why not just celebrate Christmas in a new way every year? Maybe Mitch's family is on to something.

Copyright © 2003 by Mannheim Steamroller

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