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by David Todd McCarty | Monday, December 21, 2015

 

Santa Claus.

I didn’t believe in Santa Claus as a kid. Ever. It just wasn’t part of our culture growing up. You might think that’s sad, but I never felt like I was missing out on anything. Frankly, I think I would have been pissed once I found out I was being lied to. I was that kind of kid.

My parents were Conservative Evangelical Christians when we were growing up. They’ve loosened up considerably as they’ve gotten older, but in my formative years they felt it was important that we lived apart from the world, and that meant that we celebrated the birth of Christ in a traditional manner without the intrusion of Santa Claus and his merry elves.

Of course, that’s not really true since we had a Christmas Tree, decorated with Santa Claus figures, reindeer, elves, red bows, popcorn strings and every other pagan ritual that had been coopted centuries earlier by the Christian Church.

It was a traditional, American, Christian Christmas. We knew well the story of Jesus and his arrival on earth. The Angles, Mary, Joseph, The No-Vacancy Inn, The Manger, The Shepherds, The Wise Men and even mean old King Herod. It was a story made safe for Children, without the immaculate conception, infanticide, barn birthing and the fact that the wise men showed up two years later, before being left in church, growing up to live a life of poverty and ultimately be murdered in the most painful way imaginable so that we didn’t have to go to hell.

So we would be watching Rudolph The Red-Nose Reindeer and my mother would walk into the room and announce, “You know that’s not why we celebrate Christmas….” We would all moan and say, “Yes Mom. We know. It’s just a show. Can we please just watch it?”

The upside, I guess, was that we knew the truth. We knew where the presents came from. They came from our parents, and grandparents and friends. None of that magical nonsense for us.

The downside, I suppose, is that we never had a concept of anything but a fictional, fairy tale Santa. For that matter, we never believed in the Tooth Fairy and certainly not the Easter Bunny, a decidedly harrier story retold about a zombie Messiah coming back from the dead, rather than a rabbit bringing toys and chocolate to boys and girls in little baskets filled with plastic green grass.

But it was what we knew and we were happy and we knew we were loved.

So there’s that.

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by David Todd McCarty | Sunday, December 20, 2015

 

Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve in my parents house was not a time for presents, egg nog, extended family or any particular food item. It was the night before the event, not the event itself.

Our main tradition on Christmas Eve was to go to church. We’d grumble a little maybe, asking if we really needed to go, but really, it was the best service of the year. Unlike the Catholics, Christmas Eve service didn’t count for Sunday service. It wasn’t a Mass. It was an extra service. Special.

I grew up Orthodox Presbyterian. The Christmas Eve service was always very traditional. The pastor would tell the Christmas story. Maybe some kids would recite a few Bible verses. Maybe a small choir would sing. But mostly, the pastor would read from the Bible, say a few words, and then the rest of the service would be devoted to lighting candles and singing Christmas carols.

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by David Todd McCarty | Saturday, December 19, 2015

 

 

Christmas Presents.

I love packaging, which is why I used to like wrapping presents so much. I would spend hours and hours wrapping each present by hand (how else would you wrap them?), using brown paper and twine, raffia bows and handwritten notes. I hung tags from them and decorated the outside.

I think it was my first Christmas with the woman who was to become my wife and her three children, I had spent a lot of time, thought and money buying presents that year.

I don’t think I went overboard on the kids. I got them each a few nice things, but I wasn’t trying to win them over or anything, and they were all pretty young. I was, however, trying to impress the girlfriend.

I meticulously wrapped each gift with brown kraft paper. Then I hand-wrote a small card for each gift, explaining why I thought it was a good gift. Each card was enclosed in a handmade envelope. The package was then wrapped in a raffia bow and the envelope hung from the twine.

What can I say, I was in love. It was one of my best Christmases ever.

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by David Todd McCarty | Friday, December 18, 2015

 

Christmas Shopping.

There is a story that is very much a part of the lore of Christmas in my house. It involves my mother and she doesn’t even remember it happening.

She was in Macy’s buying a pair of gloves for someone, presumably by father, and there was a line at the register. It was the height of the season and tensions were high. The cashier was apparently getting frazzled and by the time my mother got to him he expressed his displeasure.

“I’m sorry,” he said after snapping about something. “I’m just tired.”

“Well,” my mother countered. “We’re all tired dear.”

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by David Todd McCarty | Tuesday, December 15, 2015

 

Christmas Music Is Awesome.

There are a lot of things I hate. There is a lot of music I hate. But I love Christmas Music.

Sometimes, when I’m in my car alone, even in the middle of the summer, my iPhone will kick out a Christmas jam, and I just let it go. You know why? Because I love Christmas music.

My wife will tolerate certain types of Christmas music only. And I’m not allowed to start before Thanksgiving and I rarely make it past Christmas Day. I don’t even get until New Year’s Day. There have been years when the decorations are in the attic and tree is at the curb by New Year’s Day. If you don’t want to find yourself out there on the curb, lonely with the disheveled Christmas Tree, you learn to turn off the music.

But in my car, all alone, I start in October. I’m not usually the instigator. There is a local radio station near my home that I swear has started on October 15, the past two years in a row.

Normally, I’d probably wait until after Halloween, but I hate Halloween and there are absolutely zero good Halloween songs. So why not a Christmas Carol or two?

Christmas Carols can be divided into three categories: Classics, Novelty, and Modern.

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by David Todd McCarty | Monday, December 14, 2015

I fucking love Christmas. I do. I love everything about it. The carols, the decorations, the weather, the movies and tv shows, giving gifts, the food, hell—sometimes—even the Church service. But I’m a traditionalist. And by that I mean, I like Christmas the way it was when I was a kid. I like an old fashioned Christmas with all the trimmings. Let me explain.

There are rules, so let me start with rule number one.

 

The Christmas Tree.

A fake Christmas tree has about as much likelihood of making you happy as that fake fireplace on your TV has of keeping you warm. You might as well be that uppity couple who live next door to the Griswolds, Todd and Margot, who live in an antiseptic, plastic existence and who appreciate nothing about the spirit of Christmas.

And I don’t want to hear that you’re allergic. Get behind me Grinch!

There’s a lot that goes into a Christmas Tree. For starters it is so much more than its shape. It’s the smell, the way your hands are sticky after putting it up, and even the mess. You have to water them, even though it doesn’t seem to do much good and your pets think it’s their personal water bowl for the season no matter how much you yell at them. They shed like a nervous Chow and when you’re done with them they all look like a plucked chicken. But that’s not the point.

The effort is half the experience when it comes to a Christmas Tree, so first, you have to go buy your tree.

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