Holiday Stories to Bring the Cheer December 24, 2019 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Hi all, I thought I'd contribute to the community by asking this question: what's a favorite holiday moment of yours? It can be silly, sweet, hilarious, anything that brings you a moment of cheer when you remember it. Best wishes during this season and hugs to anyone that wants them.
posted by fairlynearlyready to MetaFilter-Related at 10:15 AM (44 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

One year, my family was going on a 2 week cruise that started in San Diego a couple of weeks before Christmas. We hadn't been on the boat long when they announced that sailing was delayed for an hour, but recommended that passengers head up on deck to watch the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. So we went up on deck, not knowing exactly what we were going to be watching, but it turned out to be the harbour filled with a conga line of boats all festooned with Christmas lights and displays sailing around in circles. There was everything from mega-yachts with their own (highly decorated) helicopter on board to a guy in an aluminum fishing boat yelling "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" through a megaphone.

It was unexpected and spectacular and so very, very fun to watch.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:45 AM on December 24, 2019 [16 favorites]

I have two from Christmas Eves of my childhood, which were spent with my Mom's family.

Christmas Eves were usually spent making tamales with my cousins. One year we were goofy and put one string of meat in a tamale. Our Grandpa ended up getting that one, and got mad. We all apologized to him.

Several years later, my cousins and I participated in the tradition of playing a very bizarre version of Poker that started with my Grandma and her sisters. Betting was done with pennies, and there usually were 2 wild cards. Very often my Grandpa would have to tell us who won, after we explained what the hand of seemingly random cards meant. We had to explain to my Grandma (who spoke pretty good English, but Spanish was her primary language) what a Suicide King was when my cousin declared it to be one of his wild cards. I believe that was the year I won 81 cents on one hand, because my hand had more natural cards than wild.
posted by luckynerd at 10:51 AM on December 24, 2019 [5 favorites]

One of mine is that the first Christmas that my now-wife and I were together, I was so excited about the Christmas gift I was making for her...that I flat out just told her what it was on the phone like 2 weeks before the holiday. Completely unintentionally. I was so mad at myself! She said, "...did you just tell me what my Christmas present is?" And I yelled, "No! Goddamnit!" And she just laughed and laughed. We still laugh about it. The gift, a little found objects art robot, is sitting in our living room on the bookshelf right now. That was 12 years ago.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 11:07 AM on December 24, 2019 [22 favorites]

I grew up Jewish in a place where we were pretty especially sparse, but we did honor the beloved traditions of Jewish Christmas: Chinese food and a movie. My warm, happy holiday memory is the first time I went to Grand Sichuan in Chelsea (NYC) on Christmas day, being in this place where a gazillion other people did Jxmas.
posted by less of course at 11:19 AM on December 24, 2019 [13 favorites]

I grew up unknowingly Jewish in a family that celebrated Christmas. My grandparents would come, turn the heat up too high, my parents seemed to hate it (even though my grandparents were not terrible people) and my mom, the Jewish one, would wander around muttering "Not my holiday" while my grandmother bossed her around in the kitchen making the bland midwestern holiday meal "just so." My father wasn't really a picky eater but he did like holiday meals to be one specific way and lord help anyone who didn't like things dad's way. Which is to say that when I was a kid, holidays were a little stress-filled and not super fun.

My parents always had separate bedrooms but they would share a room when my grandparents came so my grandparents got their own room. And one year, somehow, the surly tomcat we had snuck into what was usually my dad's room and shit in my grandmother's shoe, somehow (he backed into it? I do not know). It shook up the aggravating holidays in a way that I enjoyed and I literally don't remember anything else that happened that year and my parents split up soon afterwards and we got shuttled around between houses after that. But whenever we get together now, for Hannukah-with-small-presents-and-a-lot-of-food, we'll always mention "Hey remember the time the cat shit in Grandma West's shoe?"
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:39 PM on December 24, 2019 [43 favorites]

I used to work at Disney in FL. I did lights for some of the nightclubs on Pleasure Island which was the "adult Disney" spot. Basically a collection of restaurants and nightclubs open every night of the year no mater what. As a childless person, I worked A LOT of Christmas Eves, shifts that inevitably dragged on and on forever, due to the fact that absolutely no one came out clubbing on Xmas Eve. Until the the Christmas Eve the big group of strippers showed up from Miami.

Normally Disney management made an effort to keep everything that went on in the nightclub fairly tame, like a PG rated movie. You know, cause even though it's adult Disney, it's still Disney. But this Christmas Eve I guess management was in a much more lenient mood, because those strippers got lit and got nekkid and danced like no one was watching, and nary a manager said a word about it. Of course all the lighting techs, and the security folks, and the DJ were watching and cheering and throwing our leftover Mardi Grass beads out of the DJ booth to the dance floor.

Best Christmas Eve ever!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:37 PM on December 24, 2019 [23 favorites]

We moved into an old farmhouse in Maine, from Sharon, Massachusetts, when I was still in kindergarten. It had no heat and no plumbing, and we moved there in November. For a while, we sat around the stove, warming our hands in the morning.

I remember going to the outhouse in the ell, which was the unheated covered hallway between the house and the barn. It was a 2-seater, and there was a little hand-painted sign hanging there, of a guy flushing himself down the toilet, with a the saying, "Good-bye, cruel world!" For some reason, we kids thought that was funny as all get out, and my brothers took it and put it in their room.

My Dad eventually got the place right, a new furnace, two new bathrooms, one in sky blue and one in pastel pink. I'd spend hours in the pink bathtub, playing with my Barbies, until my fingers got wrinkled and my Mom would tell me time to get out.

I used to love lying under the Christmas tree. We had a silver tinsel tree, and a color wheel. I'd lie under it, and watch the colors go around, over and over. I was maybe in kindergarten or 1st grade. I'd asked my Mom for a doll that had hair pieces. Her hair pieces snapped into place on her head, and I just had to have it, along with all the other hundreds of presents that I'd made a list of, from the Sear's Wishbook. I just remember lying there, under the tree, looking at it, the colors going around, it was my favorite thing.

Then, Christmas Eve. we always went to Midnight Mass. We had an old Ford Bronco, and my Dad would set us up little chairs in the back, because there was snow, and our Buick station wagon couldn't make it, see. I remember sitting on a little wooden chair, shivering, riding to church for midnight mass.

We got there, and a boy had gotten sick, so they asked if I could be one of the Wise Men. I was thrilled. They piled my hair up onto my head, and I got a robe and crown, and walked down the aisle and gave my present to baby Jesus. I was really psyched, because usually only boys got to be Wise Men.

My Mom always had a little gift for us to open on Christmas Eve, and I don't remember any of it that year, I just remember the warmth of watching the color wheel go around in the dark room, and the thrill of being a wise man at the church.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:08 PM on December 24, 2019 [42 favorites]

Being about five at my grandmother's house. Big Mama (who was 5' and maybe 100 pounds) and all the family was in the kitchen or the den while I played with She-Ras on the white shag carpeting in the sun room. While everyone was busy after dinner, I found a potted tree someone gave Big with little chocolate bottles stuck to it like ornaments. I was told they were for grownups but I had some anyway. I got very sleepy and sat watching the spinning star on a Stroh Light sign because it was beautiful.

When I was a young teen, I was Mary in the Living Nativity on the front yard of our church. There wasn't competition or anything; I had been an angel for a couple of years, so I could ask. I don't know what year it was, but it must have caught me either before or after one of my terrible edgy spells. I wasn't pious, and there wasn't anything to being Mary, but secretly I felt honored. It was nighttime, and people stopped to take pictures. You couldn't see well from the tent, what with the bright lights pointing at us, but across the road was the cemetery, which is deep. It is only ever lit up by the reflection of light on polished tombstones, and I could see some of them. I had a sense of myself in time: a maiden, playing Mary, across a dark road from death. I was extremely Goth in my way, and this appealed to me very much.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:15 PM on December 24, 2019 [16 favorites]

I told my Christmas tree story in the other thread so I will not repeat it or link to it here. Instead I'll tell the story of the toilet paper...

My mom is an Irish immigrant, raised to be a housewife, with no education beyond high school. She doesn't read much and aside from sewing and knitting when I was little, she's never had much in the way of hobbies other than extreme Catholicism. She was an ok cook and she could mend our clothes and stretch a dollar, but those are the only real skills I knew she had. I know she was smarter than I thought, and I suspect with some education she could have been just about anything. Little did I knew she was a closet engineer.

If there was one consistent thread throughout my childhood and teenage years, it was that my mom was always on my case about not changing the roll of toilet paper when it was finished. Our spare toilet paper was kept in the bathroom closet, a couple steps away from the toilet in our only bathroom, but that was too far for me to go so if I finished off the roll I would just leave an empty cardboard tube on the toilet paper holder. Before the divorce there were five of us, my mom the only woman, and I grew up not realizing that women used toilet paper for everything, where as men only needed it for #2. At the time it seemed like no big deal, something my mom could do because that's what moms did, but I have grown to understand the error of my ways. As a grownup with a wife and a house with two and a half bathrooms, I always change the paper.

About once a week I would hear the cry from the bathroom "Jimmaaaaaaay!!! You never lost it! Why can't you put a new roll on when you're finished?"

One Christmas morning, after the divorce and after both my brothers had moved out it was just my mom and I exchanging gifts together. I was probably about 20 years old and still living at home. I don't remember any of the gifts I received except one.

It was my last gift and I opened it to find four rolls of toilet paper. There was also a folded up piece of paper. I unfolded the paper to find very detailed instructions in my mothers writing, including hand-drawn technical drawings, explaining the proper way to change a roll of toilet paper. I had no idea my mom was capable of drawing blueprints.

I was impressed in a way I had never been impressed by my mother before. We had a good laugh over it and continued on with our day. It was one of the most memorable gifts I'd ever received and I wish I still had the instructions, I'd have framed them and displayed them in my bathroom today.

Later that evening, my mom would go to the bathroom only to find the toilet paper holder stabbed through the roll, perpendicular to the axis. I was never very good at following directions.
posted by bondcliff at 4:18 PM on December 24, 2019 [38 favorites]

I have a complicated relationship with Christmas due to a very broken home, but the year I was six was crazy. My paternal grandparents hosted the entire extended family at their house in New Jersey, including all 12 cousins. All the kids were strictly banned from the living room until Christmas morning. We didn't see the tree or anything. The suspense was terrible. Then when the morning arrived, they let us all in and there was the most spectacular huge tree practically buried in a mountain of presents. Grandpa sat by the tree and solemnly doled out the presents in rota fashion while we all oohed and ahhed. It took FOREVER. I can't remember everything I got but it was quite a little pile and included a kid's phonograph. In my memory the splendor of that tree and pile of gifts is like a scene from Tsarist Russia or something. In reality I'm sure it was just a decent-sized tinsel-strewn tree in a split-level house in Jersey.

Then my dad and I drove back down to Florida with all this stuff piled in the car and when we got down there he had the top down on the convertible and we went into some store to pick something up and while we were in there someone stole all my presents out of the car! He felt terrible and took me to a toy store and I got to pick out a whole new pile of presents. By that time I was honestly kind of burned out on acquiring things and missing my mom and remember feeling a little lost in the store and not knowing what to get.

The End.
posted by HotToddy at 5:15 PM on December 24, 2019 [19 favorites]

My mother had these 4 figurines that spelled NOEL. I would reverse them to spell LEON.

During the energy crisis is the 70s, didn't have alot of money so my dad gave me his coin collection. It was the best and I'm looking at that picture of Numismatic tears, priceless until silver hit 40$ and ounce and I bought a kayak.
posted by clavdivs at 5:38 PM on December 24, 2019 [9 favorites]

The first Christmas my wife and I were together, we had her family over Christmas morning. We wanted to make sure it was a wonderful Christmas, and in an effort to start some new traditions my wife decided to roast some chestnuts in the oven.

So about mid-way through the morning, as we were opening presents and enjoying coffee and treats, there suddenly came a series of loud bangs and crashes, and we all went into a panic until we realized it was coming from the oven as the chestnuts (which we hadn't known to score to relieve pressure) began to explode. Christmas afternoon was spent cleaning the oven.

We've never tried to roast chestnuts since...until this year. If we survive, I'll check in.
posted by nubs at 6:17 PM on December 24, 2019 [13 favorites]

I spent a lot of Christmases at my aunt and uncles house in Chicago, and every year on Christmas Eve, we’d go over to my aunts best friends family Christmas party, one of those things where there’s a big family, but my aunt and her friend were so close, we were all considered family, too. It could have been incredibly awkward, a long haired, left wing Jewish kid at a conservative polish super catholic family Christmas party, but they always welcomed me totally and completely. Every year, there was a blind gift exchange, and I always ended up getting exactly what I needed, a wallet, a belt, whatever, but it was always the thing I needed at the time.

A couple of years ago, I went back to the states for Christmas for the first time in probably a decade or more, bringing Mrs. Ghidorah and her sister for their first American Christmas. They’d met my aunt’s friend on a previous trip home, and she’d immediately told them she was their aunt as well. Just like 30 years ago, the whole family was immediately and totally welcoming to the two of them, patiently and lovingly working through language barriers, and just being incredibly kind and warm. It was probably the best part of what was a pretty wonderful trip home.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:14 PM on December 24, 2019 [16 favorites]

When I was a child, we used to have family Hanukkah parties with the extended family on my mom's side. I do mean extended - my sister and I had no first cousins at that point (my oldest first cousin was born when I was 13 years old), but we did have lots of second and third cousins who also lived in the Chicago area, and most of them came to the parties. We'd generally rent a banquet room in a restaurant, have dinner, and sometimes one of my older cousins who was into genealogy would tell us about his latest family tree discoveries. The best part happened after dinner: my grandparents owned a store, and they'd bring big brown bags overflowing with gifts for all the kids. Alas, as I got older, some of the relatives died or moved away, and we stopped having the big parties. Lots of good memories from those days, though!
posted by SisterHavana at 7:14 PM on December 24, 2019 [7 favorites]

This is actually my mother's memory, but since it took place on Christmas eve, it seems appropriate to tell it now. She and her family emigrated to America from Germany in 1930, and I should note that Germans do their main Christmas celebrating on Christmas eve. Times were tough, money wise, both because they were new to America and because of the Depression. So, my grandfather would wait till the last minute to buy a Christmas tree, on Christmas eve, and buy one of the leftover straggly ones, because it was cheap. He would then modify the tree to relocate branches to fill in bare spots, carefully drilling holes in the trunk and cutting and moving branches into the holes to make it look as nice as possible. He and my grandmother would then decorate the tree and light it (in early years using real candles) behind closed doors, and then Santa would come with the presents. My mother told of the wonder of her and her sister seeing the door opening to reveal the (now) beautiful tree with presents waiting to be opened. More than any present though, what she always remembered most about those Christmases was the care with which her father modified those straggly trees into something beautiful.
posted by gudrun at 7:23 PM on December 24, 2019 [32 favorites]

These are great, thank you all for sharing your memories.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 11:23 PM on December 24, 2019

Based on this AskMe thread about films that define the aughts I just watched Mean Girls and 25th Hour back-to-back. I'm seeing some similarities between them.

I have never seen Die Hard and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is still my favorite Christmas movie.

When I was a kid me and my sister were never allowed breakfast cereal whose first ingredient was sugar. My current Christmas tradition is to pour the crumbs of the Christmas cookies my mom sends me into a bowl, cover them with milk and eat them like cereal. I consider it reparations.

I'm really enjoying the quiet and solitude of this holiday week. I'm letting my brain take the wheel and working on its schedule. I'm sleeping all day and staying up all night and working on my infinite to-do list in the circular, late-night manner that seems most natural to me.
posted by bendy at 12:07 AM on December 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

Aw shit, I'm posting comments on the local paper's website about how best to help homeless people.

My links to services that can save the taxpayers a ton of money are consistently marked CONTENT DISABLED.

My current post is AWAITING MODERATION. I'm probably on a list at the local paper.
posted by bendy at 1:28 AM on December 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

When I was a kid my family would help a local organization deliver meals to people who needed them on Christmas. They also had sit down meals for whoever could make it over to the basement of a local church.

It was always nice to run into the other Jewish people in town doing the same thing.

This year an old boyfriend of mine died unexpectedly. The first time I spent with his big Irish-American Catholic family was for the christening of his nephew and the second time was for Christmas. As a Jewish person and as his girlfriend meeting his parents I was apprehensive to spend Christmas with them. His family welcomed me with open arms and his mom gave me eight little gifts wrapped if I remember correctly hannukah themed paper. And they introduced me to “A Christmas Story” and it was lovely. I remember those days with such warmth.

Knowing that someone is gone is so hard but I’m holding those memories tightly today.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:52 AM on December 25, 2019 [14 favorites]

I called my grandma out for racism
posted by fluttering hellfire at 1:43 PM on December 25, 2019 [18 favorites]

I used to work for one of the smallest Whole Foods in the country. One Christmas, I'd decided not to fly across the country to be with my family because I hadn't gotten enough time off to make it worth my while (don't get a job in the grocery business if you want time off over Thanksgiving week or Christmas week!) so I signed up to work Christmas Eve. Most of my co-workers were planning on driving the two hours to the airport/nearest major city where most of their families lived.

By 5:00, we were all psyched up to be off by 8 and go home early- until we looked out the window. Snow had been falling for a lot of the afternoon but it really started coming down that evening. At 8, when everyone finished up and was ready to leave, we got the news that all the highways out town were covered with 30 inches of snow and shut down for the night. No one could leave to go see their families.

All of us who were working that night, management included, were in our 20's and had hung out outside of work before. So we decided to go to someone's house a block away and have a Christmas Eve dinner! My manager bought a bunch of produce and cooked us all a delicious vegan meal, and we got pretty drunk and watched Elf and played more drinking games and then went outside in the snow at midnight and did shots and toasts to baby Jesus. It was a lot of fun, and saved everyone's evenings from being wasted.
posted by mollywas at 1:50 PM on December 25, 2019 [19 favorites]

So, I’m doing the holiday alone this year, and I cooked my Xmas dinner in a La Creuset dutch oven that my mom got as a wedding gift, and I don’t use it much, but, when I do, it reminds me of how much I love and respect her. All is right with the world, drunken mess that it is, on this particular night.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:15 PM on December 25, 2019 [11 favorites]

A couple of weeks ago two racists attacked and killed people in a kosher grocery in New Jersey. Nobody is sure why they picked it, although there's speculation that they had intended to attack a Jewish elementary school a few doors down.

One of their victims was a store employee, Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, an Ecuadorian immigrant and by all accounts a lovely person. News reports say he was killed helping a customer escape - the customer was shot too, but survived.

I understand that there's an ongoing GoFundMe campaign to help his wife and daughter, but this report on Twitter caught my attention:
Before Jersey City hero Douglas Rodriguez was murdered, he was saving up to keep his promise to his daughter Amy to get her a computer, printer & play station for Christmas. Today Rabbi Shmuel Levitan of JC
& the Jewish community of JC made sure the promise was kept!
Chabad is a Hasidic group. Like other such groups, they've inherited a strong historical memory that Christmas is the time when Jews need to make themselves as inconspicuous as possible because it was one of the peak seasons for antisemitic violence. They certainly don't celebrate it in any way: this is literally the first time I've seen a Chabad representative even acknowledge that Christmas exists. I haven't seen any indication that Rabbi Levitan was connected to Douglas Miguel Rodriguez or the store in any way, and I haven't seen any other acknowledgement of this very low key event. It just looks like he wanted to do a nice thing for the family in a way that would honour the deceased.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:25 PM on December 25, 2019 [32 favorites]

The first Christmas I spent with my now-husband (we were engaged, but not yet married) I surprised him with a new bicycle. I had a friend who worked in the bike biz, as did I, and my friend cobbled together a really sweet mountain bike for very little money ($70? I think). I snuck the bike into my apartment on Christmas Eve day, and forbade my fiancé to even crack the door of my roommate’s room (she was gone for the holiday). On Christmas morning, I closed the bedroom door and made him wait a couple of minutes. I very carefully wheeled the bike into the living room, holding the back wheel off the ground so the freewheel noise wouldn't give anything away.
Finally I led him into the living room with his eyes closed. When he opened them it was like a really happy little kid get exactly what he wanted. It was his first-ever brand new bicycle.
That was over 25 years ago, and the memory still makes me smile.
posted by dbmcd at 2:33 PM on December 25, 2019 [18 favorites]

I remember canoodling in the show on Xmas eve, in a big city park, with my then-boyfriend (who is still a friend, and definitely a good egg). We were both wearing long, warm army coats, so we spread one out on the snow-covered grass, and covered ourselves with the other one. It was close to midnight, we were really into it (and into each other), and then the church bells started ringing out all at once, all around the park, far away and nearer, the sound muffled and softened by the snow. It was beautiful.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:55 PM on December 25, 2019 [15 favorites]

Too tired to think about past Christmas so have a moment from this year.

So Mx. brook horse and I both knew that I knew what they got me, because I saw them at the counter at Gamestop and there's only one thing they could be buying at Gamestop. They still wanted to wrap it without me seeing, but when I picked it up after they wrapped it I immediately realized...

Me: "Did you put it in a binder?"
Mx. brook horse: "Noooo!"
Me, pointing to the bookcase: "That green binder, that was right there, and is now gone?"
Mx. brook horse: "NOOOoooOOoOoo!"

Anyway, it was Kingdom Hearts III. In a green binder. It was a valiant effort to disguise it but unfortunately I had just moved the binder earlier that day and it was still in my short term memory.
posted by brook horse at 6:58 PM on December 25, 2019 [8 favorites]

Chestnuts: roasted. Casualties: zero.
posted by nubs at 8:22 PM on December 25, 2019 [24 favorites]

We just watched the movie Klaus and it was lovely and sweet if anyone wants another holiday pick! We all really liked it.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 11:19 PM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

A few memories, working backwards in time chronologically:

* I grew up in a small town in Connecticut that was....shall we say, religiously homogeneous. So my first December in New York City (during my first year in college) brought some unanticipated culture shock; I was used to all of the shops decorating for Christmas in early December, but that was not the case. Even though I intellectually understood that "oh, yeah, it's more diverse here and people are probably focusing on Hannukkah because that comes first", it still felt a little un-holiday. So I was low-key bummed out for that first couple weeks, between that, and it being the last couple weeks of the semester and having a lot of shit to do for finals, and the like. One weekend I was in an even more foul mood because I'd had a cold, and I'd had a bit of a spat with some of my friends. I'd earlier volunteered to be the one to get up early and go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to buy a bunch of advance tickets for an exhibit a bunch of us would be seeing in January, so I had to wake up early one Saturday and do that. I went to the subway in this cloud of cold/finals-anxiety/miffed at friends/un-holiday-feeling induced funk.

And when the subway pulled in and I stepped on...inside I saw three of the merriest department-store Santas I'd ever seen, just casually sitting in the car along with everyone else. All dressed up for work, but otherwise sitting there like regular passengers - staring into space, reading the paper, hunched over cups of coffee. There were a couple of kids on the car as well, sitting with their parents, and staring wide-eyed at them, looking a combination of excited and confused and like "I have so many questions right now".

I sat a couple seats away from one of the Santas and just watched the faces of people as we rode into the stations or as they got on. All of the kids who saw them lost their shit. All of the people who got on the car and saw them each time would grin big. One of the Santas got off two stops before me, and when he got off, he stood, grabbed a sack, and announced to the car, "Ho ho ho, Santa must go!"

Another one got off the same stop as me, so I caught up to him on the platform and thanked him for cheering me up by osmosis. He just chuckled and asked what was up. "Eh, early morning," I said, forgetting everything else that was going on. He chuckled again and advised me to have a second cup of coffee, then raised his own cup in salute and went on his way. I was indeed in a great mood the rest of the day.

* In high school: one of my friend circle was in the hospital for something that I no longer remember, and it was close to Christmas. We discovered that her hospital room looked out onto a courtyard with a little pine tree she could see through her window. So one night we all gathered to make little paper chains and ornaments and then we snuck onto the hospital grounds to decorate it, so she'd see it when she woke up. We also all did the Charlie Brown Christmas dance around it before leaving.

* One December when I was about eight, the phone rang at our house. Dad wasn't home from work yet and Mom was in the middle of something, and I was just into the old-enough-to-competently-answer-the-phone stage of childhood, so I went ahead and answered.

And as soon as I said "h'llo?" the person on the other end of the phone started singing. I didn't recognize the voice, and I didn't recognize the song - it was a Christmas carol, something Medievalish-sounding, sung by a woman with a lovely voice. I just sat and listened to her as she sang through the whole song. When she finished she simply said "Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas," I said back.

"Good bye!"

"Bye," I said, and we hung up.

I have no idea who it was, what the song was, or what that was about. I don't think I even told my parents about that at the time; it was just a sort of cool thing that happened, the kind of small magic that you think just sort of happens all the time when you're a kid, and it probably slipped my mind before I could tell them. I think whoever it was, this is just what she did - randomly call people and carol at them over the phone. I've been now and then tempted to do that myself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:00 AM on December 26, 2019 [16 favorites]

My little cousin's first favorite fictional character was The Joker. Probably because my uncle is into comics and I guess the kid just gravitated to the bright colors or something, but he wound up having a joker themed cake for his birthday. A couple years ago he got some Batman action figures, and while the rest of us were still opening boring shit like vacuums (stoked) and fancy chopsticks (SO STOKED) this kid is playing with the figures and says, and I swear this is true:

"You aren't the good guy Batman, it's me"

And then has the Joker figure kick Batman off the table.

This year he got a Harry Potter blind bag wand. He legit said "I hope it's Voldemort, but Death Eater would be OK."

He got Voldemort and you have never seen a kid so happy.

He'll play Iago someday, mark my words.
posted by East14thTaco at 7:39 AM on December 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

This year he got a Harry Potter blind bag wand. He legit said "I hope it's Voldemort, but Death Eater would be OK."

He got Voldemort and you have never seen a kid so happy.

When my brother showed my niece and nephew the original STAR WARS movie, my nephew (age 4 then) was CONVINCED that Darth Vader was the hero. He even maintained this belief during EMPIRE, and my brother actually had a little come-to-Jesus talk with him about how "Hey, buddy, you know Darth Vader's not a good guy, right?" He said that my nephew agreed, but looked dubious. Then when he showed them RETURN OF THE JEDI, and Vader threw Emperor Palpatine to his death, my nephew jumped up out of his seat and hollered, "I KNEW it! I KNEW Darth Vader was a good guy!"

(The best part of this story is that my brother told me this in his presence, and my nephew even interrupted to excitedly tell me that "I saw Darth Vader save Luke!")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on December 26, 2019 [12 favorites]

nubs never checked back in. I am feeling sad now about the 2019 Christmas roasted chestnuts massacre.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 12:57 PM on December 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

This doesn't have much of a plot to it and my memories are a bit vague because I was so young at the time, but my family, through my whole childhood, had a tradition where we swapped hosting duties of Thanksgiving and Easter every year between our house and my aunt's. In 1987, we were due to host Thanksgiving at our house but we had just moved to a different state a few weeks prior and it was simply unfeasible to prepare a big dinner for 4 adults and 4 children. On top of which, one of my cousins arrived ill (nothing contagious) and could barely eat anything. So that was the year we all ate at Big Boys. It's one of those disastrous holidays that we all look back on with great fondness.
posted by acidnova at 1:46 PM on December 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Bittersweet: The year my husband and I unexpectedly flew home for Christmas because his dad was dying. One thing led to another, and we found ourselves having a midnight family singalong with my mom and brother to the Mountain Goats’ “No Children.”

It was strange and sad and full of angry grief, but also oddly somehow comforting. That week was exactly like that.
posted by snowmentality at 4:12 PM on December 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

nubs never checked back in. I am feeling sad now about the 2019 Christmas roasted chestnuts massacre.

You missed it!

Chestnuts: roasted. Casualties: zero.
posted by nubs at 8:22 PM on December 25 [16 favorites −] [!]
posted by peacheater at 4:25 PM on December 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

This Christmas I worked. They brought in a feast from a Japanese restaurant and then we played a game where you unwrap a big ball of saran wrap to get random prizes like lotto tickets. Only about an hour break total but I laughed and laughed and ate a really yummy meal. I adore my coworker family.
posted by gryphonlover at 11:12 PM on December 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

My favorite thing about the holidays: ten years ago some close friends moved from our town to one about four hours to the southeast. Meanwhile, one of them has family about four hours to the northwest of us that they visit for Christmas. Ever since the move, we have made shameless use of our convenient halfway-point location to con them into staying with us for a few days on either side of the holiday, every year. I think we actually wind up with more face time than their relatives do. We play board games and stay up late talking, they spoil our cats. It is reliably cozy and delightful.
posted by eirias at 6:48 AM on December 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

I always try to go to a service on Christmas Eve. Every time, I walk in thinking "this is going to be trite and silly" and then by the time we do the third carol I am tearing up. Something about a cold night, and children, and darkness and candles, and singing.

I'm not technically a Christian anymore but god I love carols and I love to sing them with other people at Christmas time.
posted by emjaybee at 1:31 PM on December 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

I grew up Jewish in a place where we were pretty especially sparse, but we did honor the beloved traditions of Jewish Christmas: Chinese food and a movie.

I grew up secular in an ancestrally Christian family, but we are not very ritualistic in any regard (i.e. there are usually presents, but trees and big meals are optional, and decoration beyond maybe a tasteful wreath on the door is tacky indeed). I did spend one Christmas with my friend Leah, who was kind enough to introduce this goy to the traditions of the Jewish Xmas you mention. I had a blast.

An old bandmate of mine, now about fifty, tells me that the gradual opening of more and more things on the 25th really is taking away a lot of the special aspects for him as a Jewish person. He has mentioned that travelling on December 25 1977 from their small town (where they were almost alone in their Judaism) into my small city (pop. 318,000 at the time) to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind, they ended up eating supper at the bus station cafe, as it was the only thing that they could find open.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:54 PM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

I just had a pretty memorable Christmas. We spent it as we usually do, with my in-laws in their charming home in the mountains of Appalachia. The scenery was beautiful, as always, and frankly, I really love my wife’s parents. Since my own parents have passed, my mom just five years ago, right before Christmas, this time of year has been kind of tough. But the way they’ve welcomed me into their family has been beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed or even heard described for the treatment of a son-in-law. This year was no different.

My brother-in-law’s family, however, we’ve recently had a strained relationship with. I told a story a couple of years ago about how we hosted their kids over Christmas one year when his mother-in-law was dying of cancer at their home in the same Appalachian town. And we tried really hard to salvage that Christmas for their kids, in spite of the fact that their other grandmother was dying in their home. She passed away on Christmas Eve night and the kids found out the following day after Santa has visited. It was still a terrible Christmas for those kids, but I felt really proud of my kids being so kind and loving to their cousins over what was clearly a very difficult period for them.

Later that year my son came out as trans, and when we told my brother-in-law about it, he seemed accepting, but he and his wife didn’t want to tell their kids for reasons I still don’t quite understand, but it really hurt my son, and my wife and I were furious about the result, which was they wouldn’t let their children be around our kids because we refused to ask our son to pretend to be a girl again, and we wouldn’t allow them to use his dead name anymore. So for almost a year, we didn’t see each other.

Earlier this year, they reached out and apologized admitting that their fear about their children’s reaction was overblown, and they finally told their children about their “new” cousin, and of course, their kids had no problem with it. So this Christmas we finally got to celebrate as a whole family again, and that was pretty awesome. It was good to hug my brother-in-law and sister-in-law again and to finally spend some time together. And it warmed my heart to see their kids playing with our kids again.

But as awesome as that was, my very favorite part of this Christmas was I finally got my kids books they really loved. Typically my wife and I decide together on a big gift for both of our kids, so this year my daughter got a new laptop and my son got a new iPhone. And then my wife will get them a couple of things she picks out and I’ll get them a couple of things I pick out. And I almost always include books, not just because I think it’s good to encourage their reading habits, but also because when I was their age, books were my favorite gift. They still are. But for the past three or four years, the books I gave them were duds. I don’t think they thought much of any of them, in spite of my having put a lot of time and thought into finding them. But this year was different.

My daughter loves Manga and specifically the magical girl genre. For the past two years, she’s been obsessed with a particular series based on an animated series called Pretty Cure, or Precure as the fandom calls them. The thing is, while that series is really popular in Japan it’s not well known here in the states, and Precure merch and books are impossible to find. Earlier this year I had to be in Portland for a conference and when researching the area where the conference was taking place I noticed there was a Japanese bookstore, Kinokuniya, not far from the hotel I’d be staying at, so when I arrived for the conference one of the first things I did was head to that bookstore to see if I could find any Precure stuff. I went to the counter but neither of the two clerks had heard of it but pointed to the imported book section on the second floor where it was possible they had a book concerning that series. The books were all in Japanese so I had no idea where to start, and I wasn’t even sure if I would recognize the characters, so I pulled up images on my phone and began to compare them to the covers of the books to see if I could make a match. After about half an hour of comparing my phone to covers I found not just one, but two books. One a complete history of Pretty Cure with all the various generations of characters, original drawings, concept art, style guides, as well as art from important episodes and story arcs. The other a compendium of the studio that created the series, with about a third of that book focusing on their biggest success, Pretty Cure. For my son, the search was a bit easier. I Goggled “Trans Men Graphic Novel” and eventually came up with a book titled Gumballs by Erin Nation, and it was perfect for him. Not just the story of one person’s transition, but also with a variety of narratives concerning the experiences of trans men. It was both informative and hopeful.

So Christmas morning when they both reluctantly got to the predictably book-shaped gift from Dad, they both were amazed and delighted by their gifts. I finally found books they not only liked, they loved. I felt like I won Christmas this year. They're both still rereading their books as I write this. I finally gave them books they love like the books I loved for Christmas.

One last thing. When I was in Portland for that conference I suggested a meetup on IRL and at the resulting breakfast, I got to see cortex, Secretariat, Wolfster, and Kat Allison. It was also there I took this awesome photo of cortex trying to moderate a megathread about Trump and declawing cats. So I guess it was a successful trip on two fronts.
posted by Stanczyk at 7:10 PM on December 27, 2019 [20 favorites]

Santa brought my son a train set for Christmas this year. He's 2.5. When he unwrapped it, he responded excitedly as he had of several previous gifts: "It's a box!!!" Then imagine his excitement when he pulled the paper off some more and discovered "It's a box with a picture of train!!"

Oh, also, he loved the streetcars. Like so much so that in addition to playing with them, he keeps putting them back in the box and re-enacting the original opening of the gift.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:44 PM on December 27, 2019 [19 favorites]

Ok, both of the last two comments were The Best, though in different ways.
posted by praemunire at 8:56 PM on December 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

When I was little, I thought winter snows were the best. Mounds piled to the sky, crunchy sounds under my boots, licking my fingers and getting stuck to metal fences. Mama sent a picture of me in my snow suit. I looked like a pink gumdrop.

I loved to fall asleep under the tree. My parents lost me once for a wee while, half hour no more, till they heard me singing to myself. But that’s not the good story. While settling in under the tree, I found a new gift. One of the neighbours or titas must have dropped something off. Something about the shape of the box, the paper, the weight, who knows what happens in the mind of a 5 year old, but I had to know what it was. Immediately.

So I devised a Plan. The best way to figure out what’s inside was to peel back the bottom corner. That meant the wrapping paper had to tear a little.....

Christmas morning, Papa starts to hand out presents. Notices a curly corner, then another and another. Parents amused and kinda furious, cousins and siblings kinda grossed out.

Hence, the “no licking the edge of presents till the wrapping paper falls apart” rule in the family.
posted by lemon_icing at 4:03 AM on December 28, 2019 [9 favorites]

When I was 10 I got my first pair of glasses. It was during the Christmas season and I was astonished to discover how colorful the world was, especially things like Christmas trees covered with ornaments. I was sufficiently nearsighted that everything had appeared fuzzy and out of focus before only I hadn’t known that. Suddenly I could see well. The edges of objects were clearly defined and sharp; colors were vibrant. I spent at least a week just walking around amazed at hoe differently the world looked. That was the best Christmas present I ever received. Every morning I am grateful still after I wake up, blink at all the fuzziness surrounding me, and then put on my glasses.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:41 AM on December 28, 2019 [15 favorites]

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