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"For Kids At Heart: Mmm-Mmm Christmas will put you in the holiday mood"

by Mike Osegueda
T
he Fresno Bee, Friday, December 23, 2011

Nate Butler's Christmas isn't everybody's Christmas.

It's one filled with Christmas carols, homemade ornaments, old Christmas cartoons -- and not so much religion.
GARY KAZANJIAN/THE FRESNO BEE

"Some people might not like that," says Butler, a longtime local musician, known best, perhaps, for his piano playing. "They're saying, 'You're celebrating the commercial aspects of Christmas.' No, the aspects that were fun when I was [a] kid."

The whole idea behind Butler's annual Mmm-Mmm Christmas gathering is for adults to celebrate Christmas like they were children again.

This year's installment -- the 20th annual -- is Dec. 23 at Starline.

Not much has changed from the Mmm-Mmm Christmas program over the years. Butler sets up a big table with construction paper, glue sticks, plastic scissors and glitter, plus a bare Christmas tree, so people can create then decorate. Old Christmas cartoons play throughout the night.

He and a few of his elves (namely Tom Magill and Glen Parrish) lead the crowd in singing Christmas songs.

"When we do 'Jingle Bells,' " Butler says, "we have to be sure to do the 'Batman smells' chorus."

Mmm-Mmm Christmas started when Butler was doing holiday shows at Club Fred, back when it had just opened. He was doing a Nate Butler Christmas concert and people in the crowd just started singing along.

It evolved from Butler performing for Christmas to Butler leading a community Christmas party.

Over the years, Mmm-Mmm Christmas has jumped around to various venues such as Zapp's Park and, like this year, Starline.

And Butler admits he missed a few years along the way -- we've all been a little bah humbug before, right? -- but always comes back to Mmm-Mmm Christmas because so many people enjoy it.

He does too.

"Something I get a lot, and it's my favorite, is when people say 'I wasn't in the spirit yet this year and I am now,'" Butler says. "I always get at least one person who says that every year, and that's always what I'm going for."

That, and to feel like a kid at Christmas again.

"I'm an adult," he says. "But I'm still a big kid. I remember what it's like to be a kid at Christmas. I think some adults forget."

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