Category Archives: Christmas

Ruined on Christmas

On this Christmas morning, I sit alone next to the slumbering iron heat of the wood stove and beneath the towering green sparkle of our Christmas tree and worry that becoming a writer has ruined me.

In the years that have flowed beneath similar trees, a book would be in my hands, the pages turning rapidly as I became lost in the new smell, and words, of another adventure, another mystery… or something darker. All my family and friends knew that a book was the gift certain to bring real pleasure to my Christmas morning.

Now the unfamiliar position I am in this morning is two-fold. For the first time, I am one of the first to creep out of bed to see the unwrapped joy lying about the foot of the tree. This is a change that feels right. I am of an age that sitting quietly and waiting for the world to awaken gives me comfort.

The second difference to this Christmas is not comforting at all. A book is in my lap and the pages are turning; that is how life should be. The words on the page weave their magic and attempt to draw me in.

But I find myself resisting; the new writer in me either looking for flaws — or the secret to this author’s particular brand of wizardry. I’m enjoying the book, but I am not pulled into another world.

Then I am drawn to the keyboard with a need to record these thoughts, all the while jealous of the reader sitting alone under the tree, lost in some wondrous story… the reader I was in years gone by.


Filed under Christmas, Personal, Writing

Our Silliest Christmas Tradition

Christmas lights pretending to be flowers.

‘Tis the season for tradition — eggnog, candy canes,  a wreath on the front door, a Christmas tree in the living room — these are touchstones of the season,  common constants that help subconsciously prepare us for other, sometimes absurd, customs that are revived every year at this time. In the meals we eat, the decorations we hang, and the clothes we wear, tradition rears its sometimes silly head and makes us do things that are somehow embarrassing and heart-warming at the same time.

I’ve heard of many, shall we say unusual, traditions that rival those in our family: pantyhose stockings hanging on the mantle, deer jerky left for Santa instead of cookies and milk, the Christmas steak and shrimp dinner, immediately putting on any gift that is wearable, watching Die Hard on Christmas Eve; I’m sure your family has at least one odd custom of its own. The comical variations of the “Santa Hat” alone are too numerous to mention. (For those unenlightened masses, a Santa Hat is what the person handing out the gifts must wear. This is often passed from one person to another throughout the process of digging the Christmas tree out from under a mountain of brightly wrapped gifts.)

I’m not exactly sure how all of our own family’s traditions came about, but there are several that I find downright comical.

The first has to do with Christmas stockings. (This came from my wife’s side of the family.) For us, Christmas stockings are used for replenishing all the personal hygiene items that we may have used up during the year. The stockings may be hung from the chimney with care, but we pack those red felt suckers chock-a-block full of toothbrushes, toothpaste, lip balm, tissue packets, soap, foot powder, deodorant, skin lotion, combs, and other assorted items that you usually pick up at the pharmacy when you’re getting low on them during the year. Instead, we use Christmas to stock up on all that stuff. Thrilling isn’t it?

Christmas gifts.

Image via Wikipedia

Of course, one of the neat things about this tradition is the rare occasion when some incredibly special gift is slipped in among the dross. Imagine you’ve opened everything under the tree and been secretly disappointed that your husband hadn’t delivered anything memorable. You go through your stocking gifts opening up all the standard stuff that you could have bought in fifteen minutes at CVS. Suddenly, Christmas is saved! (Along with the aforesaid husband.) When you get to the bottom, you find a ruby and diamond ring wrapped in a piece of tissue paper.

Our second silly tradition is of my own devious creation. Almost every year since we were married in 1976, I am usually involved in some home improvement project or another. That project was usually started long before Christmas and had been dragging on… and on… and on. In those years, I usually will work ridiculous hours trying to finish up some dramatic portion of the project in the wee hours of Christmas morning. Then my wife would wake up and be surprised that the kitchen cabinets finally had doors, or a new light fixture had been installed. This allowed me to get Christmas gift credit for something that I was obligated to do at some point anyway. Believe it or not, the same woman has remained married to me for almost 36 years despite such nonsense.

I get to our family’s final silly tradition with a mild sense of melancholy. Many years ago, when he was in his mid-teens, my eldest son gave my wife a piece paper that listed nine great golf gifts. That’s it, that was the gift. My wife has never played golf, except the miniature kind; neither has my son. It was just a silly joke on his part. The next year, my wife gave it back to him, packaged in a way that made him thing he was getting something special. He gave it back to her the year after, and a tradition was born. That little piece of paper went back and forth for years. One year, my wife stole it back from my son and gave it to him two years in a row. Another Christmas it went missing, only to turn up the next, providing an even bigger surprise for the recipient. For myself and my other children, this annual battle of the nine golf gifts provided an amusing undertone to the annual opening of Christmas gifts. But in recent years we’ve been disappointed, for this tradition has died.

It didn’t expire from any neglect or a lack of desire to continue said tradition. With all the changes and moving that has gone on in all our lives over the past several years, the list of nine great golf gifts has gone missing, apparently for good. We all mourn the loss of that silly piece of paper. It had become, like all good traditions, a bridge to the past, to times that we felt connected to more closely as a result of observing a seemingly ridiculous little custom.

So I want you to celebrate, and revel in, your silly family traditions. No matter what they are, you’ll miss them if they ever go away.

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Filed under Christmas, Personal, Writing

Zapped by the Christmas Spirit

Zapped by the Christmas Spirit

In some years, the spirit of Christmas comes over me gradually. Around Thanksgiving, joy and goodwill accumulate in my heart at about the same rate as the pounds being added to my waistline. During the years of creeping Christmas, I am aware of the change in the same way I notice the extra weight. In the back of my mind, I know they both are growing; the increasingly warm, sweet glow from one lends me an air of contentment that I think is visible to the world; I know the world can see the increasing inches added to my belly. The knowledge that the wonder of the season will fade much faster than my holiday paunch is a bittersweet spice that adds an urgent but undefined taste to the succulent holiday meals, colorful wrappings, and bright lights.

There have been years that I never found that Christmas spirit at all. Work pressures, illness, financial issues; the reasons varied for why, on Christmas day, I would find myself dredging up memories of how that seasonal cheer felt, so that I could present a smiling face to family and friends. The result was like splashing a fresh coat of white paint over a dirty wall. I was certain the imperfections would bleed through; the stain of a forced gaiety more obvious as a result of the contrast with those whose spirit was heartfelt.

A big little reason for Christmas cheer

This year I kept expecting it to come early. Because of the presence of my newest grandchild in the house, early snowfall, the excitement of my book release, and the planned visit of my eldest son, I anticipated a long and jubilant immersion in an ocean of holiday cheer. Day after day, I patiently awaited the magnetic pull of Christmas.

And, day after day, it didn’t come. I did a ten-day fast just before Thanksgiving and afterward, stayed at a proper and consistent weight; that hasn’t changed despite the temptation of holiday treats. I wondered if my lack of Christmas spirit this season was somehow tied to my lack of a growing waistline.

Don’t get me wrong – the late fall and early winter has been among the most exciting, rewarding and joyful periods in my life. Still, until last night, that extra spark that could light my inner Christmas fire had yet to be kindled.

Then, during my run last night, it hit me like a lightning bolt out of a cold and perfectly clear night sky. The electric thrill pushed me in happy anticipation toward home, eager for the happy days ahead. My rushed and sappy Dailymile post was the result of an overdose of Christmas spirit…

White satin was rent and scattered along the shoulder of the road as I ran out into the chilled evening. An unexpected moisture hovered above the ground and tickled my face. Faint embers burned low upon the darkening horizon as the night sky became a blanket of black satin spread with millions of crystal shards. I whisked my way through a dim landscape, entranced by the narrow necklace of gems that sparkled across the northern fringe of the earth; city and sky decorated for the approaching season of joy. An early Merry Christmas to all my DM friends.

I call it the writer’s version of a sugar-rush. Such hyper-flowery prose would likely drive an editor crazy.

Yesterday, we trudged through snow to claim a fresh tree from the flanks of the Snowy Mountains. I danced with my six-week old grandson to the magical sounds of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra while my oldest son performed a different magic in the kitchen. Later in the evening, my wife and I went shopping for a few extra Christmas surprises; little things, but I believe thinking about the want and needs of others, and trying to fill them in any way possible, is part of what makes the season special.

In the wee hours of the morning, while the house absorbed a transcendent stillness from those who lay dreaming within, I sat alone on the sofa beneath the bare tree, reading a book while the crisp, eager, evergreen scent wafted around me, feeding my new-found spirit, and whispering “Merry Christmas”.

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Filed under Christmas, Personal, Symbiotic