Friday, December 18, 2015

Encore: Deck the Halls

This year, I'm running behind on a lot of things--writing, posting reviews, finishing the clearing of our storeroom, shopping for Christmas dinner.... Anyway, for the next few weeks, I'll be posting past Christmas blogs. Some of you probably have never seen them!


I love Christmas. I love the big dinners and the music and the presents and the family all together for that one special day. Most of all I love the real reason for Christmas. I love knowing that 2000 years ago, God came to earth to live among us, to know us and to save us. I love thinking about what that first Christmas must have been like, and being able to see it so clearly in my own mind. 

I don't love so much of what Christmas has become: angry people on the roads and in the malls, pushing and shoving, jostling for position in the lines for the most popular gift items. I don't love crowds and high-pressured sales pitches and lazy bums who prefer to steal someone else's money and/or gifts instead of working for their own. 

I was at the mall just before Christmas a few years ago. It was funny, actually--as I went from one store to another, a young man attempted to charm his way to a sale: arms outstretched, big smile, big tube of very expensive lotion in hand in a bid to convince me I could not live without that lotion. Little did he know. I changed lanes, moving to the other side of the aisle, and that big smile instantly vanished. I can only imagine what I was called in that disappointing moment! 

Then there was the turkey who attempted to help himself to my cash. I felt his hand the minute it hit the zipper on my messenger bag. I came down hard on the trespassing hand. "If you want to keep that, buddy, you'd better take it back NOW." 

I think he had an accident, if you know what I mean. 

I don't love that there are some who want to celebrate Christmas even though they don't believe in God, in Jesus. And I'm not referring to religions other than Christianity. Our Jewish friends celebrate Hannukah. Our Muslim neighbors have their holy days. I don't know much about other religions, but I'm sure they have theirs as well. gripe is with atheists, the real party poopers. They don't believe in God, don't believe that he came to live in our world as the infant Jesus, but they want the holiday anyway. They want to say the more politically correct "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" so they can have all of the fun without belonging to the club. 

I wonder how they explain to their kids what they're celebrating? "Oh, we're celebrating Daddy being sober for a whole year!" 

I say to them, don't celebrate a holiday if you don't believe in it. Too bad, Mr. and Ms. Grinch. No presents for you. 

My cousin Jeff, who grew up with us, is a Jehovah's Witness. They don't celebrate holidays or birthdays. My father always said Jeff became a Witness not because he really believed in their doctrine, but because he was just plain cheap and didn't want to have to buy any gifts. Jeff bristled every year when we put up our Christmas tree. He thought we should give up our tree because HE didn't believe in it. He claimed we were worshipping the tree, of all things! Dad couldn't resist--when he'd see Jeff's truck pull up in front of the house, he told us to get down on our knees and bow to the tree when Dipstick came through the door. 

Mom complained that was a little hard on the knees. 

Christmas was always a big deal for Mom and Dad, and it's at this time of the year that I miss them most. (Dad's been gone 16 years now, and Mom 9.) They were always like a couple of kids in their unabashed enthusiasm. They'd spend weeks preparing, shopping for gifts and trying to hide them from us. We were never allowed to put the tree up until Christmas Eve, and it was always the same: we'd get some form of takeout so Mom wouldn't have to cook--she'd begin preparing our Christmas dinner that night and couldn't deal with TWO meals at once. We'd watch a rerun of A Christmas Carol on TV--always the 1938 black-and-white version. 

Once the tree was up and completely decorated, the gifts would start to appear from their hiding places. They would be placed under the tree and Dad would do a count to make sure everyone had an equal number of packages. There was never one gift per person, always at least 7 or 8, usually 10. 

I remember one year Mom was a package short. Dad quickly remedied the problem with cash. He didn't want her to know it was cash, of course, so he wrapped it around a roll of toilet paper. Mom knew it probably wasn't just TP--Dad was notorious for gag gifts. He could be very creative in his gift-giving. His Christmas tradition was a little weird: instead of a lump of coal, the unfortunate target of his ire would get a beautifully-wrapped box of poop. 

I kid you not. POOP. Usually of the canine variety. I remember one Christmas when I was in college, he actually mailed the poop to a friend who was living in Tennessee at the time. I held my breath until it was received, wondering what would happen if postal inspectors happened to open the darned thing! 

I miss those good old days. 

Collin and I are making new traditions, new memories. Collin has never been good at keeping a secret--it's like lying. He didn't get that gene, for which I am grateful. 

Trouble is, I will probably know every gift he's giving me BEFORE Christmas. The Christmas before Dad died, he wanted a self-propelling lawn mower. He had a bad heart (only in the physical sense) and was having trouble using his old mower. To haul it in Mom's Escort, we'd have to put the back seat down, so we left Collin, then 11 years old, with Dad while we went to get it. All of our plans to sneak the thing into the back yard to hide it were, as it turned out, unnecessary--Dad came to the front door when we arrived, grinning from ear to ear. I knew immediately that my darling son had ratted me out. 

I miss those days.

(Credits: cartoons are all from


  1. We have a tree up for first time in years. Hoping to get some gifts, but we'll probably wind up just buying things, like we usually do. But who knows?

    1. It is, after all, a season for miracles. We spent one Christmas in a motel room with our little tree and a dinner made by a local grocery store, shared with the front desk clerk who got stuck working that evening. We were all together, and that's what mattered most.

  2. Jeff has always come across in what you've said as a class A prat.

    1. He never was much good at anything else, but he did excel at that!

  3. I love this time of year. I don't care if someone wishes me Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Holidays or whatever. It's the spirit of the season that counts.

  4. Happy Christmas, Norma. Here's to a great year ahead for you and your son. Cheers and boogie boogie.

  5. I love Christmas the way you do. But I also enjoy the decorations, lights lots of light. The inside of my home has more than the outside I think !
    We also have new traditions now the the x is gone.
    Now that we are a home of adults we cook Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. Everyone in the kitchen cooking. But we cook simple. This year son is cooking Duck breast, red potatoes and two veggies. Hopefully I will have made some cookies or a store bought pie. Simple.
    We the eat the leftovers on Christmas Day.
    But now we have a nice brunch on Christmas morning with opening a few small gifts,
    I like it very much this way.

    I love reading this post again.
    Merry Christmas, parsnip

  6. Thanks for sharing such great memories. I have a big smile on my face....

  7. Ivy: Hope 2016 is your best year ever!

    Gayle: My parents would kill Collin and me. Most of the time, we know what we're getting for Christmas a month ahead of the big day! Like you, our home is all adults, and that makes a difference, I think.

    Hilary: Thank you! I hope your Christmas is a very happy one!

    1. Thanks. Wishing you a Happy Christmas and an Oogie Boogie, New Year.

  8. Gag gifts can be fun, but I must draw the line at poop!

    Christmas is such a special time of year. Reconnecting with friends and family, enjoying those recipes you only do once a year, the cheerful decorations....most of all remembering the birth of our Lord and contemplating His Second Coming.

    Merry Christmas Norma!

    1. There was a story on the news about a neighborhood in Utah that took a stand against package thieves. They put boxes out on their porches that looked like they'd gotten deliveries--but the boxes contained rocks, trash, broken TVs, etc. I thought about how much I'd like to see some of my neighbors (the less-than-honest ones) snatch a box full of manure....

  9. Beautiful post, Norma. I had to smile when I pictured the happy look on your Dad's face when you guys pulled up with the mower. Ahhh, the warmth of Christmas past doth warm the heart! (How did Jeff turn out??) Merry Christmas, Norma to you and Colin, and may 2016 be of good cheer all year! (And thanks for posting my post. You're a special lady!)

    1. Dad was lit up like a Christmas tree!

      Jeff? Well, William describes him above as a "class A prat." That's about the only thing he was ever any good at being.


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