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

by Mike Osegueda
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.

"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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