“A Christmas Story.” The Detailed Account Of One Oregonian’s Christmas Tradition.

Christmas. The whole year has been slowly coming closer to this grand, much-anticipated moment. The malls, the people, and even the earth–all have done what they can to prepare themselves. One lady is particularly ready, she’s even been listening to Christmas music since October despite the judgment of her peers. She has planned out the theme of the Christmas tree, after a year’s worth of deliberation, thought and Pinterest searching and has executed the plan with extreme precision. In addition, every Christmas activity she could think up has been written down and attempted to have been followed in exactness preceding this day. Finally, Christmas is here, and she is more than ready. Yes, that lady is me, and this is my very detailed and historically accurate account of me and my families Christmas tradition.

Everything really starts on Christmas Eve. And with family. And much to my delight, my family has always started our celebration on the 24th. We all have been incredibly intentional to try to get jobs that don’t require us to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas, (and hopefully we can keep that up for a while more.) Anyways, it’s Christmas Eve morning. That means we have all driven out of the city and up the mountain to my parents house near the top of the tree covered hill. Everyone has either skipped breakfast or eaten very light, in order to make room for the meal at lunch. About half of us are still fresh-faced in our pajamas, and the other half are fully decked out in our Christmas garb and holiday makeup look we have been waiting to try out since last Christmas. *cough cough* (me.) We start by sitting together among the stalkings hung around the fireplace in the room we basically only use on this day. And then we break out into song! Christmas carols, horribly sung, with some of us fully serious, determined to honor the sacred moment, and some more of us unable to hold back the laughter of how awful the sound of a non-musically gifted family bellowing out carols is. (Again, me.) After our special band has finished, or has slowly disbanded due to apathy and coffee breaks, we commence into opening our stalking presents. Generally they are flung to us by “Santa” (our dad) and opened in a frenzy, all of us too excited to contain ourselves over the delight of receiving new toothpaste. Following this fiasco, a second one usually follows, a game called: “how-hard-can-you-throw-paper-wads-at-someones-face-while-not-hurting-them-too-bad-but-just-bad-enough-to-be-funny.” Maybe that’s just my game… I don’t know. Following this, we congregate into our much more used living room to begin opening our presents for one another under the tree. This is usually done much more slowly and methodically, as we are all solemnly aware that part one of our Christmas celebration is already over. Generally at least one of us has a present that we are all too excited for someone to open, and have hidden in that special place at the back of tree, so that after “all” the presents have been opened, they can cheesily declare, “Oh, looks like there is one more present back there that didn’t get opened. Who is THAT for?” Once THAT present has been opened, then and only then is that ceremony finished.

That concludes Christmas Eve morning. Next, we all gear up for the day or unashamedly re-apply our red Mac lipstick for the entirety that others are getting ready, and together drive down to my Grandma’s house. Now grandma, (my dad’s mom), has all the holiday spirit one could ever contain without being a real, North-Pole Christmas elf, and much to me and my sibling’s delight she has never stopped treating us like children when it comes to Christmas time. There we are met by her beaming smile, dirty hands, and festive apron as she rushes over from her cooking to hug us as though it hadn’t been since last Christmas. My uncle is always close by to greet us as well.

Here, we each take upon different jobs–all very important. Some of us test the quality of the sofa, others help out with the last bit of cooking, baking, and table setting, and still others bravely accept the duty of testing the Christmas cookies for Arsenic. This job is always taken very seriously, despite the historical fact that no arsenic has ever been found in the cookies. Then comes the grand lunch! The table is gushing with ham, mashed potatoes, yams, rolls, deviled eggs, vegetables, and more. Then I cry, because I can’t eat most of these foods. (Just kidding. Kind of.) On the bright side, I’m left with more time to observe, as I always have an ongoing bet with myself about who will eat the most food, and I’m usually right. And no, I cannot disclose that information, it’s above your pay-grade.

Following a long and delicious meal, some instantly collapse into a food coma, others are helping clean up the table, and the rest of us are making a plate of food to take to one of the neighbors down the way, John. Little is known about him, apart from the fact that he is single, aging, and is named John. The rest of the day is somewhat repetitive of the beginning–yet totally different. We all retire to the less used room in my grandma’s house, surrounded again by stalkings for each of us. Here, the Christmas story is read again, but always from a different book of the Bible than was read from in the morning. (My father, being a Bible teacher, very much enjoys sharing the Christmas story from a different angle each time.) Following this, the stalkings are of course opened, and the fuzzy socks I never fail to receive are put on and worn back into the main room where the rest of the presents under the tree are opened.

A “Santa” is always selected to disperse the presents, and that Santa is faced with nearly unbearable pressure. He or she must control the entire pace of the Christmas present ceremony, and must ever-remain calm while nervously trying to hand out presents in fairness, so one particular person isn’t receiving copious amounts of presents all at once. He searches through the pile, his palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, every present he grabs reads the same name: Matthew….Matthew…. MATTHEW! Others narrow their eyes in suspicion at the delay, as Santa digs around the tree bed in desperation. LISA! Finally, and just in the nick of time, he presents her with the present, then goes back to his risky job, while continuing to be heckled by various family members to either, “pick up the pace!” Or commanded to “slow things down a bit.” Few can make it long in career paths as demanding as this. After all of this, we all sit around and chat, eat more cookies, nap a bit, Snapchat those who are napping, play some games, chat some more, and finally head home and retire, all, like children, exhausted and elated at the thought of waking up on Christmas morning.

Christmas morning we all wake and prepare to go to my other grandparents house (my mom’s parents.) It starts at 10 AM sharp, where we will meet our aunts, uncles, cousins, and all who dare for the cutthroat competition soon to commence. We have each brought a present and put it under the tree, and numbers have been handed out to the lionhearted competitors. Once all have opened a present depending on number order, the real game begins. In just twenty short minutes of dice rolling, all will have experienced incomparable joy, heartache, jealousy, fury, terror and betrayal. It’s any man’s game as long as the dice are rolling, and there are but one or two gifts that are truly desperately wanted by the group. While you hold the desired present, though stricken with terror at the thought of it being stolen, you cannot help but experience such elation at the thought of it being within your grasp. That is, until it stolen from your very clutches at the lucky doubles rolled by your Uncle Brent. Your gift has been traded, and you are left with, Oh God, PLEASE, no! The flashlight kit!!! The Solaray ZX-2XL Tactical flashlight. 1600 Lumens and a zoomable focus that will remain turned off in the utterly forsaken corner of your room until next Christmas unless you can roll your way out of this one. When the game ends, sometimes there are brief moments of despair, or secret, illegal bartering and bribing among players, but all end up mostly happy deep down.

Following this comes the Christmas meal, another serving of turkey and ham, cheesy potatoes, veggies, rolls, and salad. Once this has been eaten and digested, people must decide whether they are so full they need to nap or so full they need to go on the Christmas walk. Either way, all are full, and both naps and walks are eventually taken. Then, the basketball game is turned on, and Balderdash is pulled out. Balderdash, another cutthroat competition, requires a mix of both humor and intelligence, all of which the family excels at, that is, if “their brain is working,” and if they’ve “had enough coffee.”

When the day finally ends, all leave with full tummies, happy tears and warm hearts. Additionally, each with the grateful awareness of the blessing of family, and no matter how variant our personalities, how different our careers or interests, how far apart we are in either beliefs or distance, we will always be family. And all would agree this is the best gift to return home with, especially the one disadvantageous person with the Soloray ZX-2XL Tactical flashlight.

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