One thing that I’m really proud of is how close my family was growing up, and how strongly they believed in the Christmas spirit. Even the slightest wiff of eggnog brings me back to the simple magic of my childhood, the calm bliss that came every Christmas. I’d like to share some of our Christmas traditions with you, reader, in the hopes that some of them may be carried on for hundreds of Christmases to come.
For instance, the Menorah-different, I know, but Mother was Jewish or at least she claimed to be, and on Christmas Eve we’d light the candles and cook s’mores over them. Some would call that odd, but we just called it good country eatin’. Then, Mother would pretend that she spoke Hebrew and wander into the city to find presents.
The townspeople had names for Mother. I tried to block them out as best as I could.
Drinking – this was a big one in our house. We’d settle at Grandpa’s feet and look in wide-eyed wonder as he put back a fifth of tequila and threw up on our only copy of The Night Before Christmas (but he never threw up on my favorite passage, because he loved me). Then, he’d tell us about how he broke his own leg to avoid getting drafted, and that Jesus would have done the same thing if he’d seen how hot our Grandmother had been at the time. Then, he’d sneeze a few times and fall into the fire. As my father was stamping him out, he’d exclaim, “Man, Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year! Now, go, kids, get your dad a beer.” Father would always try to rhyme his words, which may have been why he couldn’t find a very good job.
Christmas traditions often centered around the family, which is why my nuclear household enjoyed throwing objects at eachother. Not large objects, certainly nothing dangerous; a fire poker there, maybe a few highly breakable children’s presents; just something to let the other people know that we cared. Somewhere between the loaded breaths of profanities and anger you could hear love, and man, it sounded great. If you’re going to try this Christmas tradition, the trick is to get really mad and start crying. Then, grab and object and express yourselves. Even today, every time I throw something at my kids, I think for a split second that I hear sleigh bells.
Of course, the Christmas tree was a big thing in our household; my sister would cover it with highly flammable tinsel while I’d light the Christmas candles (we had no place for fancy lights! Besides, Father wouldn’t let us turn them on). Mom would often place angel, and staple a picture of my father’s latest mistress to the doll while she took pleasure in shoving a tree up its ass.
And as Christmas eve wound down, we’d all settle in front of the TV, warm cups of water or liquor in one hand (no alcohol for anyone under 13) and dream of living with somebody else as we watched the Lottery Man read off numbers that weren’t ours. I’d look up at the gentle Christmas sky and think of the birth of our lord and savior Jesus Christ, or sometimes I’d think about whether Canadian children celebrated Christmas in the godless land of the Arctic.
My head full of ginger dreams and carbon monoxide fumes, I’d slowly lay my head down to sleep.
And in the morning, if we were lucky, it would snow. Most of the time, it wouldn’t, but the snow was there in our hearts. We had a truce, or some sort of chemical reaction to the purity of the rest of the world.
Everything was Christmas for a few beautiful hours. We ate breakfast. We talked. We looked at each others’ gifts and exchanged astonished glances that seemed to say, “Wow, you might have accidentally put some thought into this.”
It didn’t last long, but it was a time when my family was together and familiar, satisfactory, normal. Perfect, even. Before we degenerated into less gracious human beings, before we stopped understanding the nature of the day and what it meant regardless of religion and regardless of tolerance thresholds, there was something pure there.
Then, my brother would fart.
Please, my friends; do for your children what my parents did for me. Give them a happy Christmas.