I like Christmas. I like the lights, the presents, and the bonhomie.
I’m lucky enough to have a wise mother. When all my friends were going to Catholic mass or Greek orthodox or Synagogue I asked my mother what religion we were. I mean, I had (and still do) the awkwardly titled, “Children’s Stories from the Bible, Old & New Testament, Illustrated” but we never went to church (funerals don’t count)… so what were we? She told me to wait and learn and then when I’m older I could choose my own religion.
In the meantime,
We celebrated the heck out of Christmas. My brother, sister and I pretty much listened to “John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together” non-stop in December. We fought over the free poster that came with the album so my mom put it up in the bathroom. We could look at John and the Muppets as we peed. Well, my sister couldn’t.
One year, my mother decided that she didn’t like all the clean up after holidays from a natural Christmas tree so she bought an artificial one. We grudgingly agreed and decorated the robotree. A few days passed and I decided to surprise the family by bringing home a real tree and replacing the artificial one. I dragged a real one the five blocks home and began setting it up. After a few hours my brother, with the same idea, arrived home with a real tree. So we salvaged ornaments and spread them between all three trees. We loved it.
The dining room was typically set-aside as a wrapping room and we would take turns wrapping our stuff and shouting “All Clear!” when we had to run to our rooms so we would accidentally peek at our presents.
I enjoyed shoveling snow so I would shovel the walks of all the elderly folks nearby. My mom said, “Charity begins at home. Shovel our walk first.”
Once, my brother got a Shogun Warrior. These 15-inch plastic robots shot missiles, eagle-shaped scout ships and other cool things. My father told my brother, “Never point this at anyone… especially your brother.” Yessir, my brother said. And then he immediately pressed a button, which fired a plastic fist into my right eye.
We were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve. The trick was to avoid the obvious move of going for the big item first, but to go for a medium one… something you can enjoy for the night, but still have something big to anticipate for the next morning. We would wake up around 5am and run downstairs screaming and yelling. I would put on the great album, “John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together” as we unwrapped. Finally, my parents wised up and in the middle of the night would sneak into our rooms and place present-filled stockings and gifts from Santa. This usually kept us occupied and bought Mom & Dad a few extra hours of sleep.
I do remember reading a book about Santa and then asking my mom about his method of entry. “He comes down the chimney.” So, I went outside and followed the route… it led right into our furnace. “Wait.. a minute… if that’s impossible… then…” and I discovered that there’s no Santa and my parents were the sole providers of gifts. It was a moment of childhood discovery and actual deduction. But that realization did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the holidays. Giving gifts to family and friends, special foods and drinks, taking a moment to cherish (or rue) the past year, these things have nothing to do with Christmas or Santa Claus. These are humankind things. If Solstice and Christmas didn’t exist, then we’d have to invent them… which I guess we did. Happy Festivus, y’all.