Monday, December 19, 2011

Memorable Christmases

As a sidenote in this past Sunday's sermon, our pastor said something interesting. Do you realize that the only Christmases that are memorable are the ones with, let us say, "unexpected" developments? But the happy Christmases are the ones we forget.

The context for this remark was what Mary must have thought when told by the angel Gabriel that she would be bearing a child. Mary was smart. She knew very well what could have happened when everyone found out she would be bearing an out-of-wedlock baby. She could have been disgraced. She could have been an outcast. She could even have faced a brutal death by stoning. Certainly this was not your ordinary day! But it was, you must admit, a remarkable one. Ordinary days are forgotten. Remarkable days are not.

Our pastor mentioned the opening line of Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Similarly, happy Christmases (or any other celebratory event) are thoroughly enjoyable and a blessing in every way, but they're all alike. It's the celebrations where we experience unexpected twists (bad or good) that make them memorable.

For example, when my youngest brother turned 14, my parents threw him a party and my mother indulged in a beautiful store-bought cake for him. It was a magnificent creation. Wanting to surprise him, she kept the cake in its box upstairs in a closet.

When the time came to produce the cake with a dramatic flourish, she slipped upstairs... and a few moments later we heard a blood-curdling SCREAM. Alarmed, we all scrambled upstairs. There we found my mother near tears, with a cake smashed at her feet.

She had picked the cake box up by its edges and after a few steps, the box collapsed in the middle and fell to the floor.

Well, I hate to say it, but we all howled. It was hilariously funny. Being a good sport, my mother and brother scooped the cake remains onto a platter, brought it downstairs, stuck in fourteen candles, and proceeded from there.

But we have never forgotten that cake. I can't remember any other birthday celebration for any of my brothers except that one. All the other celebrations went smoothly, you see, and therefore we forgot about them.

So what kind of "memorable" Christmases (or other celebrations) have you had? Tell us!


  1. In my house it isn't really Christmas,until the animals knock over the tree while stealing the candy ornaments.One year I made a white chocolate nativity.A half hour after I set it up I noticed that somebody had bit the heads all off and set it back up.We still laugh about that to this day.That's when I knew I was raising a couple of heathens.

  2. Every year, for as many years as I can recall, right before Christmas, my stepsisters would go to the packages and shake, turn, and try to guess what was in the gift boxes under the tree. They got masterfully good at accurately guessing what was in that box, and thus would spoil the surprise factor when the gift was to be opened on Christmas Day.
    My parents starting getting wiser after a couple of spoiled surprises and began to double box the gifts.
    To counter that maneuver, my stepsisters then resulted to slipping the presents wrapping off, sneaking a peek at the present, and then re-wrapping the box and carefully placed it back under the tree.
    This pre-Christmas behavioral practice of impatience and dishonesty just took all the enjoyment of family sharing and the surprise and delight away from my parents and from me!
    I get sincere delightment from watching others receiving and opening their gifts, as well as from opening my own.

    I was the eldest of the brood and had finally had enough of this dishonest foolery!
    So, the next year,
    I declared a NO gifts under the tree policy until Christmas Day.
    In order to keep my stepsisters from then hunting all over the house and garage for the presents, it required us to keep them in our car trunk.

    We, including my sisters this year, were all anxiously awaiting the Christmas presents to get passed out.
    My stepfather went to retrieve them and couldn't find his car keys.
    We thought he was joking with us.
    Nope! We actually didn't get those presents until 2 days later, when a locksmith was finally available after the holidays to cut a new set.

    Those presents and that occurrence was the most memorable of all. We had a beautiful Christmas without any "bought gifts".
    We celebrated the Best Christmas ever, together.
    To this day, my sisters agree too.


  3. He he! This is so true! A few years ago our Christmas gifts (which we purchase in the US and have sent down here in a container shipment each year) arrived the day after Christmas. It took us a couple days to get all the gifts collected (we also have lots of other stuff in the container), and so we were having our Christmas morning gift exchange a few days late - and that day was a regular work day in Honduras. After being interrupted several times by people at the door while we were trying to open our gifts, we decided not to answer the door anymore until we'd finished . . . but we all had to be very quiet, or people who came to our door would know we were home and not answering the door. We'll never forget the fun of whispering and shushing one another through our entire "Christmas morning."

  4. My best Christmas ever was the year my son was hit by a car on Christmas Eve. He broke his shoulder and leg badly enough to require an external fixator being surgically put in. We spent a week in the hospital and another six months in physical therapy.

    My son lived and kept pretty much full use of his leg. While I regret the pain and fear we all felt that day, it made us realize that Christmas is about having your whole family around you, not gifts and treats. I was more grateful of my blessings that year than I had ever been before.

    Someone asked if I was upset because my Christmas was ruined. I just smiled and said that Christmas was about a child. My son lived and blesses our lives daily. The original Christmas child did too. We need to remember the reason for the season.

    God Bless.

  5. I was thinking recently that it's the unusual things that stand out, so maybe instead of planning the "perfect" Christmas celebration, we should do something crazy! Of all the beautiful trees we've had in 34 years, I remember Christmas in the house we built in the mountains west of Denver (we'd been married 2 years). We had about 3 acres with lots of trees but we didn't want to cut any of the pretty ones. So we found a scrawny, thin tree and used ugly, but we left it up until February 14 and took it down on Valentine's Day. Then about 10 years ago we bought a 10' tall tree which fell over on my head after it was decorated. Fortunately only a few ornaments were smashed, a few broke but we still hang them and remember that evening like it just happened (we tied the tree to the stairs after that). Sandy

  6. One of the funnest Christmases things I remember was a silly Monopoly game. The thing that makes a game good in the first place is the talking and laughing with everyone while you're playing.

    This time, we started realizing that we were so distracted with the talking and laughing that we were missing when someone landed on one of our properties and would forget to ask for our "rent." It's an unwritten rule for us that when the next person begins their turn, you can no longer ask for your "rent."

    Pretty soon we started forming secret alliances with each other, and paying off each other under the table not to "tattle" when they landed on someone else's very expensive property. It became more fun to see what we could get away with while the "property owner" was being distracted with all the happy chatter.

    Whenever someone missed out on their "rent" it would be pointed out and we'd all fall over ourselves laughing. What a hoot! I'm laughing right now just thinking about it!

    Just Me

  7. Many years ago in a town now filled with those too dim to escape, my father and I had a battle of wits...and I won!
    I was 12 and the previous two Christmases I let it be known that I knew the contents of most every Christmas present before the ritual opening. I wouldn't let on to the intended giftee but I did whisper to my siblings.
    Naturally my parents were astounded when word reached them that I knew what was in their carefully planned surprises.
    My parents surmise was that I had been sneaking downstairs very early on Christmas day and unwrapping the gifts. There is some truth in their assumption. For years I had always crept downstairs very early Christmas morning to view the Christmas tree and all the gifts in silence. It was very comforting. Unwrapping the gifts to view the contents is not only impractical but insulting. Impractical because re-wrapping all those gifts perfectly, in the dark, was beyond a 12 year old boy and insulting because I considered it a violation to unwrap someone else's gift. The obvious answer is that I was a snoop!
    Nevertheless, my parents thought I was opening gifts early Christmas morning and so Dad set up a sting.
    I had no clue what he was going to do but I was sure that he would try and prevent me from getting downstairs.
    3 AM came around and I began my trek 12 feet down the hall and then downstairs. I was very quiet and very slow. I made the assumption that Dad lay awake listening for me, their bedroom was next to mine at the end of the hall and their door was open. I was very quiet. As I slowly made my way down the dark hall I felt something on my leg. A trip wire! I followed it with my fingers and discovered that it crisscrossed down the hall and continued on to the stairs. Later I discovered that the wire was tied to a battery operated buzzer. It took me 40 minutes to navigate the hazard, in the dark, but I succeeded and was rewarded with a beautiful Christmas tree and a little comfort.
    Later that day I told my Father what I had done and he immediately denied that I had made it downstairs. He still denies it to this day. It seems that he had laid awake listening for me.


  8. My Dad was a paratrooper captured at Normandy on D-Day later tortured by the Gestapo in Paris. He told me this tale of his Christmas in 1944.

    On work details to a local farm Dad and friends were to dig potatoes and help with chores to get extra food for their fellow Kriegsgeferan (POW's). Usually a nice German sergeant from the camp would guard them in the fields or the barn when they slept at night. Not a bad thing, to go do some farmwork, get away from the war. Even the farmer would see that the GI's got some shnapps and extra chow at the end of the day. It wasn't luxurious mind you, but it was certainly less prison-like.

    One particular weekend Dad's farm detail was to be guarded by a German fresh from the Russian front. Not a likable fellow, as Dad put it. Extra marching, a boot in the butt for no reason, basically a Duetsches Uber-Dick. Any way, Dad and his buddies didn't want to see such a good thing as the farmwork detail ended too soon so they decided to take action against the enemy. Since Dad spoke the Duetsche-sprechen better than most, he talked to the farmer's family and hatched a plan for a seasonal offensive in retaliation for poor treatment by the German guard nick-named Ivan the Terrible.

    With a few bits of Red Cross parcel remains and some provisions from the family's kitchen and their help, a little cake was made. Dad talked to the little girl and her mother and they made 2 little flags, American and German, from paper and a couple of sticks to top the cake with.

    On Christmas Eve, all was set up in the barn and as the time for evening rollcall rolled around, Ivan the Terrible came to check on the POW's. He found a flag-topped cake and a bunch of Americans who began to sing "Silent Night" for thier captor.

    Dad told me Ivan started to cry.

    Things weren't so bad after that.

  9. Christmas truly was the best time of the year for me. I lived in a family of 7 and we did okay, but my folks were always pinching pennies. However, my Dad would set aside a few dollars of his paycheck every 2 weeks during the year so he and my Mom could buy us kids some really nice Christmas gifts.

    Christmastime was also when we had See's Candy. The ONLY time of the year when we had See's Candy, on Christmas morning. So of course I thought Santa brought it! You can imagine my surprise when I was shopping with my Dad one day in a Mall near our home and saw a sign on a store that said: SEE'S CANDIES. I was 6 years old and I was shocked! I asked my Dad, "Can you buy See's Candy in a store any time you want? Doesn't Santa make it?" My Dad thought quickly and replied, "This is where Santa gets it! Come on, I'll buy you a piece." Which he did. I was quite fascinated to be in the place where Santa got his candy!

    I still love See's to this day. As far as I'm concerned, it's the BEST. But being a type 2 diabetic, I still only eat it at Christmastime, so it's one of the things I really look forward to every year at Christmas. I may be 66, but I'll never stop being a kid when it comes to See's Candy and Christmas! --Fred in AZ

  10. I have two memorable holidays to tell you about. One was when the Father in Law broke his back and a couple of ribs when the horse he was on Christmas eve bucked him off unexpectedly. Since he was freshly injured, but allowed home, we rearranged the living room to include a special lazy boy for him.

    Mother in law always wraps as many packages as she can because she loves Christmas so much. For example, if she were giving a batch of towels as gifts, each one would be wrapped up individually. So we had started a tradition of counting packages and gave the job to the father in law. Needless to say, he was off count all day long. Every once in a while he'd 'wake up' from his pain killers and say, "Ok, that's package number ... 8 right?" We'd all howl with laughter because we were on package number 42.

    Later on during dinner we were all laughing about some joke, and his plea for us to stop laughing because it caused him pain only made us laugh harder. None of us wanted to cause him pain, but it's a whole family of jokers, and he's one of the biggest ones, so it was a painful, but funny Christmas for sure.

    The other event was at Halloween. My grandmother always made any costume we kids asked her to make. My 4 year old brother wanted to be a pumpkin, so she made a pumpkin costume that had balloons inside it, but nowhere for his arms to stick out, so the sisters were supposed to carry his bucket.

    On our way down the driveway, he tripped and fell down only to roll down the whole driveway because he had no way of stopping himself. He was screaming, the sisters were laughing and the adults were racing after him. To this day 45 years later, it still makes me howl with laughter.

    Great post Patrice, it's so much fun to share.