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Two years ago, Top Comments published a collaborative diary for Christmas that asked everyone to "write something about the holidays." As Tuesday is my traditional TC evening, I thought I'd gather us around again to make more collaborative magic.

Saying "Christmas or Solstice or Hanukkah or whatever your end of year short-days-long-nights season of birth and hope celebrations, if any" sounds really awkward, but it's what I mean when I suggested these two general questions as starting points:

What is your favorite memory from your childhood winter holiday tradition?


How do you celebrate (or not) the season differently than when you were growing up?

Now, being TC writers just handed an open-ended start, everyone went in different directions. Below the fold is beauty and pain and love and heartache, all in one place. Please grab your favorite December beverage and join us, and contribute your own thoughts in the comments.


Here at Top Comments we strive to nourish community by rounding up some of the site's best, funniest, most mojo'd & most informative commentary, and we depend on your help!! If you see a comment by another Kossack that deserves wider recognition, please send it either to topcomments at gmail or to the Top Comments group mailbox by 9:30pm Eastern. Please please please include a few words about why you sent it in as well as your user name (even if you think we know it already :-)), so we can credit you with the find!  

In no particular order, and any typoes or formatting errors are mine alone.

Dragon 5616:
My Favorite Childhood Christmas Memory

My brother and I shared a bed for the first eight years of my life. So when one of us awoke on Christmas morning, the other was sure to be quickly awakened as well. We would make our way through the tiny central hall with the floor furnace, glancing longingly at the living room door that shielded us from Santa's bounty, and into our parents' room where we would awaken my mom. She would get up, put on her robe, remind us not to peek in the living room yet, and head out to make coffee.

That was our cue to hop in the bed with my dad. It didn't take long for two squirming boys to set him grumbling, and he'd roll out of bed and head for the bathroom. My sister would soon join us, and we'd lie in our parents' bed with me (the youngest) in the middle, pulling the covers up to our chins, inhaling the fragrance of comfort, and urging our parents to hurry as we literally quivered, our eyes shining with excitement.

That's it. That's the moment. I felt like I was inside a nesting doll, secure in the layers of love that surrounded me, yet incredibly free at the same time. I was so lucky. I wish everyone could feel that way tonight.

When I was very young, the great excitement of Christmas was finding out what Santa Claus brought me.  Another toy car or truck was always welcome, as was a new Lego set.  Maybe there would be a game I wanted, or maybe something I hadn’t even thought of.  There were the other elements of the tradition as well:  Church, food, family, decorations, cookies, and so on, but when I was young, I was a greedy bastard.  (I even remember getting up very early one Christmas morning, finding the presents under the tree, and, unable to wait for anyone else to get up, opening one present.  That was a no-no.)

I don’t remember how old I was when I started to give members of my family presents for Christmas, but I must have still been in elementary school.  I don’t remember what those presents were anymore, whether I made them or bought them with money I saved from my allowance.  But I do remember the feeling I got when I saw the reactions of the people who got my gifts saw what I got them—and that was a much better, more satisfying feeling than the one I got from tearing through the presents given to me.  Despite the fact that I can remember absolutely no specifics about what I gave to whom, or how old I was, I do remember how much better I felt giving gifts than receiving them.

I became quite imaginative in trying to determine what I should get each person in my family, and for years I was able to surprise them, and sometimes play tricks on them.  Once, I had bought a poster for my father through mail-order, but the poster had not arrived by Christmas.  So I wrapped the message that the poster had not yet arrived in a small box, which was then put into a bigger box, which was put into a bigger box, and so on, until there were about 10 nested boxes, each one wrapped.  He laughed when he finally got to the inner-most box and read the message, because that was the sort of thing that he would have done.

In recent years, however, I have lost my gift-giving imagination.  The struggle of trying to find a unique gift for each particular person, something that they didn’t even know they wanted, is terribly vulnerable in the age of the gift card.  I’ve gotten lazy.  And I don’t know my nephews (for example) as well as I ought to.  Twenty years ago, my middle nephew went crazy over the transformers and teenage mutant Ninja turtles.  Now that he’s on Wall Street, well, not so much.  Maybe a Brooks Brothers gift card?

The whole business of gift-giving has become much less important to me than being with family and preserving our traditions.  So, as you read this, I am in my sister’s house in suburban Baltimore, probably just having returned after Christmas Eve mass.  (We’ve gotten too old for midnight mass—how sad is that?)  I will be amazed yet again that I was not struck by lightning entering or leaving the church, and in the evening the boys and I will probably play a round or two of canasta.  Or maybe a game of Scrabble with my eldest nephew, who is impossible to beat.  This is what Christmas has become for me these days.

Tara The Antisocial Social Worker:
My least favorite Christmas memory still had a happy ending.  My wife Packrat woke at 4:00 in the morning with chest pains.  I called an ambulance, and our teenager Kali slept through the sound of the paramedics tromping through the house.

It turned out not to be a heart attack, just a bad reaction to mixing meds, and they sent her home with orders to drink Gatorade to get her potassium up.  Goddess bless the person working at the conveience store where I found some on Christmas morning.  Packrat's parents came as planned for Christmas dinner, and her brother stepped in to do the cooking so Packrat could relax.

Only later did I realize what a debt I owed to the people who fought for domestic partnership laws (this being the 90's, when marriage equality was still a pipe dream).  Because Packrat was on my insurance, we didn't have to worry about whether a trip to the emergency room would bankrupt us.  And the hospital included me in all discussions and let me be there to hold her hand.  In another state, I might have been left pacing the waiting room, wondering if the love of my life was alive or dead.

So it's important to me to pay that gift forward, keep fighting for the day when everyone has a right to marry their beloved, and when we have a health care system where no one has to ask "can we afford it?" before calling the ambulance.

Not wanting to bore anyone with terrible childhood memories, I'll pen something about Christmas in my adult years which was just about the same.  

As a nurse, I worked holidays.  It's an expectation, a part of the job that no one likes to think about, that no one tells dewy-eyed future nursing students when they ask about "what it's really like" to be a nurse.  It just is what it is.  We have to be there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (yes, weekends, too).  Same for doctors, police, firefighters, electrical and gas workers, EMTs, AAA emergency service, ambulance drivers, and anyone else whose workplace never shuts down because they perform a vital public service.  And I expect that all of those workplaces face the inevitable fights over who works the holidays.  

I ended up working all the holidays because most nurses had kids and made compelling cases to the supervisory as to why they needed the holiday off.  As a single nurse, they found it easy to schedule me every time "because you don't have a family" (did they think I just flew in from Neptune?).  Even when I worked for Milwaukee County and was covered by a union contract, supervisors would routinely avoid giving me and other single nurses our quota of holidays off during the year.   Complaints were always met with "do you really think you deserve the holiday off more than this mother?".  

Working the holiday wasn't a picnic either.  We were short staffed because every possible staff member was always allowed to have the holiday off.  And there weren't pleasantries from patients or visiting friends and families who seemed to blame us for the fact that they were in the hospital during the holidays instead of at home.  Complaints about hospital food magnified because special diets and dietary restrictions don't take the holiday off either.  And, because we weren't in the room providing private duty nursing to every single patients every single desire there were even more complaints.   Staff members used to wink at one another in solidarity with a "ho-ho-ho" and "Merry Christmas" because we were all experiencing the same unreasonable complaints.

As a result, I really didn't celebrate Christmas or other holidays.  While the extra holiday pay I got in the private sector took some of the edge off working the holiday, the straight time as a public employee was a real kick in the teeth and an indication of the disregard the government had towards its employees.   My sister used to chide me about working for the county since she, the maker of toilet seats, always got a large bonus every year while I never got so much as a cookie.  My cousin, a cleaning lady, also got a juicy $1000 every year as a bonus for her services to a large company.  Somehow the meme about lazy, overpaid government employees mooching off the taxpayers never includes the fact that we don't ever get bonuses or extra pay for working holidays.

As a result, I get outraged at how many people who don't have to be at work are being required to be at work by their greedy bosses.  While I understand the need for the rare drug store and pharmacy to be open, the rare gas station to be open, and some restaurants and the occasional grocery store to be open, I don't understand at all why just about every large corporation (yes, Wal Mart, I'm looking at you) insists on having their stores open.  

It's hard to work holidays even when you understand the 24/7 need of some occupations.  It's even worse for someone to be required to work, usually at sub-par minimum wage, when there isn't a pressing need for their place of work to be open.  These businesses are tearing people away from their families for no good reason.  It's not just heartless, it's inhumane.   And it will only stop when people refuse to step one toe into those businesses.  If money isn't made, they'll close, like they should, for the holidays.  

So, I'll keep pushing to make sure that no one who doesn't need to be working is required to work on holidays.  It's the decent thing to do for someone who has seen the "working" end of the holidays.

I wish a very Merry Christmas and the best of everything in 2014 to all of you.

Ed Tracey:
As I wrote in a recent New Day diary, I have never had a blue Christmas ........ and at age 57, that's saying something. Part of the reason is that we hold a birthday party for three of our old chums who have birthdays during Christmas week ... and now, an old friend's new wife makes it four. This year will be year 38 that we've done so .... a few years back (due to a snowstorm) we had to hold it over the Presidents' Day weekend. Long after their birthdays, of course .... but the event has the air of a reunion, as people who have relocated elsewhere often stop by while visiting family. We give out gag gifts, too ... so festive, even a mediocre Christmas otherwise can turn bright.
Christmas happens to be one of my least favorite times of the year. As an environmentalist, I get sick seeing the garish and gaudy lighting displays that are a huge drain on the resources of the Earth. As a Jew, the "in your face" nature of the holiday just rubs me the wrong way year after year. All that being said, we do have a quote-unquote "tradition" in our family, as I am sure many other Jewish families have: we have what we call a "Jewish Christmas." Every year, my family goes out for Chinese food and a movie, the two staples of a Jewish Christmas.

I have no idea how or when this particular tradition got started. The reasoning behind it is fairly simple though. Since most years Chanukah falls nowhere near Christmas, there is really nothing to celebrate on that particular day. Since there is nothing to celebrate and because who really wants to stay home when there is no school and everything on television is just Christmas related or marathons of TV shows that you can watch on regular basis anytime of the year, we Jews started going out. Except there was little outside that was open due to the holiday. Essentially the only places open are businesses run by non-Christians and apparently movie theatres. Food choices are notoriously slim considering most people are going to be eating at home. The two main choices are inevitably restaurants run by Asian-Americans and, of course, Jews.

It is no secret that Jews (especially ones from the Northeast) love Chinese food. Most places serve large family-style portions which allows the matriarch to push the rest of the family to have not just thirds but fourths. If the phrase, And movies, well you really need to not move for a few hours after that kind of meal. Thus a secular-religious tradition began: the Jewish Christmas aka Chinese food and a movie. We look forward to it every year. Lately, however, I've noticed a disturbing trend. When I was younger, few people ventured out on Christmas Day making performance of the tradition fairly relaxing and enjoyable. Most movies were things that had been out for a couple of weeks or were potential Oscar nominees from earlier in the year out for a second run hoping to catch some buzz before the nominating committee made their choices. Recently more and more movies are being released on Christmas and not just family oriented films (e.g. Les Miz from last year) which is driving numbers of people whom I would have thought would be eating dinner with their families at home out to the movies. It's as if our little tradition is being assimilated by the behemoth that is Christmas itself.

I leave you with the perfect song for how this makes me feel. Be aware it is NSFW (a couple of curse words at the end)

This is a weird Christmas for me.

Normally, I'm in Pennsylvania by now spending the holidays with my family, which consists of my mom, my brother and sister-in-law, and my four nephews. We are not a very tight-knit family most of the year. And my being 1,200 miles away in Houston doesn't help matters much. Christmas is that one time in the year that we all come together and get closer to that Norman Rockwell conception of what a family should look like. We have our traditions--getting up early and meeting at my brother's house, opening presents, and eating a feast my brother (a wonderful cook) made from scratch. Then sitting around the TV and watching The Christmas Story (oh, how I both love and hate that movie) while laughing and reminiscing about old times.

This year is different. Money is tight for everybody. Because of circumstances both beyond my control (my laptop dying and my phone being stolen) and within my control (getting a cat), I can't afford to go home, and my family can't afford to pay my way like they did last year. So it is my very first Christmas away from my family.

Christmas, for me, is less about presents and food and more about family. Actually, it's all about family. For me, Christmas is a time to enjoy the warmth of that family you often take for granted.

It used to be that I had to go to Pennsylvania to experience that warmth that comes with being a part of a family. Many people complain about their in-laws--for almost the duration of my relationship with my boyfriend Louis, I haven't had in-laws to complain about. For nearly two years, his parents have been fluctuating between denial and outright rejection, from not knowing I exist to not wanting to know me. In the meantime, my own conservative Christian mother has made the transition to full acceptance. Both Louis and I were convinced that such progress would be a long, long time coming in his family.

We were both wrong. After Louis finally convinced his parents to meet me, things began to change--and not slowly, either. Where we used to have to meet in hotels just to see each other, I am now welcome in their home any time. Where I used to be terrified at the idea of accidentally meeting them, we now go out to eat as a family, and his mom is not shy about throwing basil leaves in my pho because I'm not getting enough green. When I arrived at their house a few days ago, his mom greeted me at the door with a "Hey baby" and a hug, and his dad--who doesn't speak much English--welcomed me with a big smile and a firm handshake. Things have moved so fast that my head is still spinning. But it appears that I am truly part of the family now.

And I am grateful to be able to spend Christmas with them. With a new family, of course, comes new traditions. One holiday tradition that he is particularly proud of is the making of the mini cheesecakes. The dozens and dozens of mini cheesecakes are then given as Christmas gifts and taken to holiday parties. I felt privileged to be a part of the tradition this year. It turns out that they're a little harder than I thought--not the process of mixing and baking (that's the easy part), but making them aesthetically pleasing. This is doubly difficult when your boyfriend is a perfectionist.

Usually, he opts for cherry mini cheesecakes, but this year we made them with strawberries and blueberries. As I said, mixing up the cheesecake batter is easy enough. Four packs of Philadelphia cream cheese, four eggs, a cup of sugar, and a tablespoon of vanilla. Then, several mini muffin pans are lined with paper mini muffin cups, each of which gets a Nilla wafer (which will act as a kind of crust) in the bottom. Then comes the difficult part. The batter has to be evenly distributed to each cup--not too much, though, and not too little. And if you drip a little batter on the side of the cup, Louis will have your head.

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It was all just a little too stressful for me, so I decided to do dishes after my first tray. I thought my tray turned out fine, but tell that to him.

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Then, the cheesecakes are baked at 325 degrees for 20-30 minutes. After which we topped them with the fruit, which also proved to be difficult since strawberries come in such different sizes. In all, we made about 130 mini cheesecakes. Or, 125 after my taste-testing.

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Although I would like to be spending Christmas with my own family, I can't really complain. The holidays are different this year, but different isn't always a bad thing. New family, new traditions, new memories. It's not a bad Christmas after all.

Dave in Northridge:
I certainly don't have any childhood memories, since I grew up in a Jewish home, and I was always at home for Christmas and of course, we didn't do anything for Christmas Eve. But Jim grew up Catholic, so we did stuff. The first year, we were in the Bay Area, because I was doing graduate work at Stanford. We went into the City, and had the most wonderful dinner at Chez Michel before it expanded into two rooms (IGary Danko occupied the space when Michel retired), and then instead of finding the highest Episcopal church in the city, I insisted I wanted to see what the Catholics did for it, so we went to St. Mary's Cathedral, and it was a bore. I don't know whether it was the following year or the year after, but by then we were living in New York and we both went up to Boston (parents) . This time, he knew where we should go to Midnight Mass. I don't remember where we had dinner (French on Beacon Hill is what I come up with), but then we just walked down the hill to the Church of the Advent. Wonderful. Ritual, I guess you could call it pageantry, incense, and my high school music teacher who had to tell Jim how much I knew about classical music as a child. It was High Episcopal for the rest of the 1970s. We stopped giving each other presents fairly early (we wore the same size clothing well into the 1990s) but dinner Christmas Eve (and Midnight Mass when there was someplace to go) was our present to each other. As elegant as possible. I didn't go overboard for myself last year, and I probably won't this year either -- well, maybe dried mushrooms and a heavy cream splurge -- but we're back to it not being my holiday any more.
The Christmases of my early youth were about as idyllic as they came. All my paternal family lived very close by, so the celebrations with my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, remain a joyful memory. We would all gather on Christmas Eve to have a huge feast, the adults getting tipsy on Grasshoppers and us kids completely out of our minds with greed in anticipation of Christmas morning. We would wake our parents at an inhuman hour and tear into our presents like monkeys on a cupcake. Late in the afternoon, we would all return to grandma and grandpa's house for yet another feedbag. I treasure those Christmases.

All that came to an end just before Christmas in the December of 1973. I was 11 and my brother 13 when our parents sat us down in the living room, the tree glowing in the window, and told us they were divorcing. My father left that evening. It was never disclosed to us exactly what transpired, but over the years I've picked up enough of the story to understand how and why it happened as it did.

Christmas became a dreadful time of year for me during my teenage years. My mother wasn't welcome at my grandparents house, so she would stay home alone when my father would pick us up to take us to Christmas Eve dinner. We would stay home with mom for all of Christmas day. Everyone did the best they could for us under the circumstance, trying to make it a pleasant time for me and my brother. We both dutifully played along, but I was sure that I would never be able to look at another Christmas tree without getting a knot in my stomach.

It wasn't until after I grew up and left home that Christmas would reenter my life. I was making new friends, friends who became like family to me. Friends who didn't associate Christmas with an acrimonious divorce. The merriment rubbed off enough to jar loose all those beautiful memories I had long forgotten, when Christmas as a young child was magical. I guess my heart grew three times larger that day (which is really dangerous and can kill you) because I've welcomed the holiday back into my life and into my own family. I hold it, celebrate it, and raise my glass to toast to its good health. Merry Christmas, my friends. And a Happy New Year.

Christmas was always a happy time at our house, as my parents got a lot of joy out of the holidays. Baking, entertaining, presents for the kids (myself and sisters), the usual stuff.

One of our Christmas time traditions, usually on Christmas eve itself, was to all get in the car and drive around, looking at the houses decorated with lights. Back in those days, more houses were lit up than you see nowadays. In the community where Partner and I live now, there are some houses decorated, but it is much less a tradition now.

As for Partner and myself, our own tradition is to go out to see movies at this time of year. This year there seems to be plenty to choose from, and we will be making pretty much a daily trek to the cineplex. Maybe twice on some days. This will continue until New Year's.

Other than that, we have been entertaining at home, and being entertained at the homes of friends. Neither of us have family in the immediate area, and this year we decided to stay close to home for Christmas rather than travel. So this year, we see less family, but more friends. It all works out.

For most of life, Christmas was about piling into the car and driving up to Charlotte - first to see my mom's side of the family then, because also from Charlotte, my father's. This holiday tradition hardly skipped a beat after my parents divorced, though afterward the spanking with a belt frequency went to zero. I rather appreciated that alteration in my lifestyle after the age of four. One remembers beatings long after they stop, I can vouch for that.

So, alone of my immediate family, I rather liked my dad better after the divorce. Mom and older brother certainly did not. I saw him in controlled doses, under circumstance he knew could be altered instantly and permanently if he ever acted out. He only lost his cool once and the only victim of that outburst was a broken jar of mayonnaise.

But let's talk of the happier things: My mom's family is very Presbyterian, very proper, very serious. Things are done, just so. People say and do and are things, just so. The good news is the Christmas feast was predictably wholesome, tasty and had the same menu every year - and no one minded at all. The was turkey and ham. There was sweet potato casserole. There were always green beans and red potatoes cooked with a slab of bacon fat. Uncle Bob always said the blessing and it was neither brief nor vainglorious. I think 30-40 seconds is about par. Presents were passed out, it always seemed to take a long time. Sweaters figured prominently I learned to like sweaters as a child. I own one now and it's old. I suppose I never got into the habit of buying my own sweaters. Maybe I will get one for Christmas this year.

Ah, the changes. My dad is dead a bit of 17 years. He never met Mrs K. He never met his grandkids, not mine or the ones my older brother eventually had. And speaking of grand-people, all of mine are gone, the last in 2011 - my mother's mother, at age 100 years. So, we don't drive to Grandmother's any more (and it was always, ALWAYS Grandmother. Never Grandma, and absolutely never-ever Granny); actually, that had become my Aunt Donna's house for the last 15-ish years of her life.

And that's a rather big change. My aunt had retired to take care of my grandmother. And that retirement was a second career, caring for exactly one patient. Oh, and hosting the various holiday gatherings. So, once Grandmother passed away, so did the Christmas gatherings. It was as if that side of the family died.

The Kendrick clan still gathers. Since there are so many brothers, less my father, and they are all grandfathers now, there's so many kids. The Kendricks are, well, a strange mix of very churchy and ribald. They run the ideological range from, ahem, Republican to Tea Party to Theocracy Would Be Nice to Who Cares The Rapture's Nigh. Then there's us, haha.

But they're family. And they still have gatherings. The food isn't so just-so as my mom's family insists upon... but the Christmas feasts take place, pizza and spaghetti and buffalo wings and all. People even remembered to bring salad and vegetable sides and that most Southern of veggies - cole slaw - for the balanced diet thing you read about on the Internets.

And in a nutshell, that's what's different now. I grew up preferring my mother's family gatherings, despite the disdainful glares from elder relatives for Practicing Christmas While Child. I liked it because better food, classier, a sense of tradition and taking the time to take care and pride in the preparation and the experience. In other words, the holiday was taken seriously, even if we kids had to sneak outside to have any fun at all. And we'd still get disapproving glares through the windows, because People Might See Us Goofing Around.

I suppose I find myself liking my father's family gatherings now. One, because they're serious about keeping the family connection going, not the trappings and routines.

And two, because they're the only game in town now. For all intents and purposes, my mother's family Christmas gatherings died with Grandmother.

Yet I must amend all of the above. There is a Christmas tradition I prefer most of all, though I once thought it a chore. I hate traveling for the holidays.

Yet every other year for as long as we've known each other, MKK and I go to her family's gathering. It used to be Michigan, then Oklahoma and now Texas. I didn't like going so much at first. I couldn't even say way at first, but now I can.

I didn't like seeing a family gathering that worked. I had grown up in dual contexts where either all conversations had subtext (my mom's family) or no meaningful text at all (my dad's).

Yet here were smart, interesting, engaged people who loved each other, doing Christmas like it was supposed to be done.

It made me.... it made me feel small, ashamed, even more bitter and marginal for such a long time. Like seeing sunlight for the first time in ages, or ever. Or hearing Mozart after all the music you ever knew was nursery rhymes. Or tasting a fresh pear after canned fruit cocktail in syrup.

It took a long time to grow accustomed to being part of a family. To truly feeling a part of something bigger and better than myself.

And I know I always had these things - many families, many intersecting and overlap. Some are a sojourn for a few years, those families if you will of work and fellowship that stay close and dear then run their course. I regret more than a few of those endings, same as I do the unnecessary demise of one half of my natural family's even bothering to meet up for Christmas.

It does not mean I don't love them, any of them, even those I will never see again. What they said still matters. What I imagine they say and feel and do, wherever they are this Christmas Eve, yet matters to me greatly.

If it didn't, I wouldn't miss the fellowship that once was, even as I remember it fondly.

Merry Christmas and Auld Lang Syne, every one.

Wishing you light and peace.
As a non-Christian who celebrates Christmas, this year is particularly nice because of the ages of my children. My youngest boy is 5 and in full magic and awe mode. He loves gifts (obviously) and the festive atmosphere, but he is really into the process. Advent for him has been almost as much fun as Christmas morning will be, with a beautiful calendar full of hidden sweets and other hidden treasures. He also made an advent chain in school, each day cutting off a paper link and counting the days. It's delightful to watch him take it so seriously. Last Sunday, when he and his brother got to light the candles he was was very serious. "It's an important job," he said "and I am the man for that job."

My oldest son is 10 and this may well be his last true childhood Christmas. He also loves the process and gets into making the house cozy and decorative. We played chess last night and drank tea from some beautiful Christmas mugs and he insisted on Christmas music while we played. "The old ones, Dad, not the new ones. The new carols sound like Top 40 crap."

Chip off the old block, he is.

Best thing about the oldest, though, is he still believes in Santa. Truly, he does, and it is perhaps the most wonderful and heartbreaking thing about this year. We know next year things will be different. It's like the last indulgence of being a baby.

I can be humbug sometimes but this year I am feeling the spirit. We are so fortunate not to have money woes this time and have been able to do a little more, not so much on gifts but on food, travel and general seasonal atmosphere. It's a warm feeling and has brought all of us a measure of joy and to remember.

Tomorrow, after presents and a restful day at home with the two Moms, my wife and kids and I will have dinner at the home of a close and longtime friend. There we will join her mother, godparents and another couple for a Christmas dinner party. We usually do Thanksgiving with them but were unable this year, so Christmas it is and everyone is looking forward to the evening. For a bunch of great cooks, bakers and conversationalists, it is shaping up to be a fabulous evening.

2013 has been a great year for myself and for my family. So many fortunate and positive forces have combined to push us a little further ahead in life and for all of these we are tremendously grateful. Most importantly, we have our health and financial security. My wish would be for everyone, everywhere, to be so blessed.

I am also thankful to the many friends I have made here on Daily Kos in 2013, my year of coming out of the lurking closet. Thanks to the Top Comments team for inviting me into the fold. You all are a fabulous and intelligent bunch and a source of much humor and knowledge. You make 9:00 pm Central a great thing, every night.

Here is to wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Joyous Yuletide, Fabulous Festivus and/or whatever else may suit your winter feast. My 2014 bring success, joy and health to one and all.

UPDATE: The little guy just lost his first tooth tonight!

"Call the Tooth Fairy and tell her to call Santa so I can get an extra present!"

Oy vey...    

One of the great challenges of our generation is in ‘dealing with’ the idea and the reality of ‘corporate personhood.’

Of course, corporations are NOT people, and the expansion of Constitutional protections already seemingly enshrouded in the Constitution are worsening dramatically. We are seeing corporations and organizations use their ‘corporate mouthpiece’ to make the voices of their owners and administrators much more powerful than they could possibly be as individuals. Thus, we have Chick-Fil-A making corporate statements reflecting the hatreds and bigotry of the corporate owners. Thus we have Hobby Lobby choosing to insert itself into what should be perfectly private and protected health care decisions of its female employees and their families. Thus we have the Salvation Army spreading bigoted messages, rather than messages of love, respect and validation. (And, as you know, these are far from the only examples! Sad to say.)

We have political campaigns built around defending the integrity of institutions (institutional personhood, guaranteed NOWHERE), like marriage. Newsflash: marriage is not sentient. Marriage has no ego, no ‘self-image,’ no ‘feelings’ to offend. Marriage has no preconceptions about itself, about its nature, about its goals or purposes. Simply, it doesn’t give a damn. No changes that could ever be made can affect that in any way.

I thought of that because of so many stories this time of year about a supposed “War on Christmas.” Newsflash: Christmas is not sentient. It has no ego, no self-image, no feelings to offend. It cannot be disrespected. It doesn’t give a damn. It cannot be ‘defeated,’ it cannot be killed, it will never grow depressed, whether people celebrate it or not.

There is no such thing as ‘holiday personhood,’ nor should there ever be. Peace on earth, good will toward humankind? If people take that seriously, the ‘War on Christmas’ meme should die for good, because the two are mutually incompatible.

Ours is a family that has always celebrated Christmas. It has always been a secular holiday, the religious significance has never played a role for us, just fellowship with family and friends. Sincere good will. Loving times. Sharing. Thinking of others before and more than ourselves. It is a love of that tradition that keeps us going, that gives it meaning for us.

We could care less if others celebrate similarly or differently. We do not care if others like Christmas or not. It is FINE if they do not! Only Christmas itself cares less than we do. Celebrate any holidays with your loved ones as best suits you! No criticism will be forthcoming from this quarter!

Best wishes to you all, always.

My favorite memories from Christmases of Childhood Past are all similar enough to be one memory, and involve freezing in the cold, eating comfort food, and going to sleep unwillingly early or staying up late enough to watch Midnite Mass from the Vatican (pre/post initiation into the Adult Conspiracy)...

Around 5pm we'd all bundle up and go over to the Woodstock Village Green, where decades (70+ and counting!) of people have gathered to sing carols and wait for Santa to arrive. The part that makes it magical is this: Santa arrives via a different method every year. I remember reindeer and camels and I think an elephant one year. He's parachuted in, arrived via giant candy cane tubes and... the list goes on. Only the 5-person Planning Committee and the Fire Department are in on the secret so everyone is surprised. Once arrived, Santa handed out stockings to all the little kids (and those of us who sometimes went to get stockings for little siblings who weren't there), and then we'd head back home for a quick supper of either stew or meatball subs. Quick, easy stuff. We'd all disappear into rooms to finish wrapping the presents we didn't get to that afternoon, although it wasn't until I joined the Adult Conspiracy when my sister was still little that I discovered Santa stayed up waytheholyhell late assembling stuff and getting it under the tree! However, discovering that also meant joining in on the other late-night activity, watching Midnight Mass from the Vatican on TV while playing Santa. We'd eventually go to sleep and wake up WAY too early to open presents.

Fast forward to today, and as I sat down to catalog the differences, I discovered that really, there aren't that many. Yes, I'm Unitarian Universalist now instead of Roman Catholic, which changes the holiday for me from a celebration of the birth of one-third of a tripartite God to a cultural/spiritual celebration of the season of hope and rebirth as the world shifts from long dark to increasing light. I have two decades of traditions from Mr. Brillig's side of the family folded into my own, and I don't have a nearby extended family to reliably spend every holiday with.

And yet the similarities are there: We'll spend the afternoon wrapping presents, then attend the 5pm Christmas Eve service at our church, where we sing carols and re-enact the Nativity story in our own fashion (this year K2 will be the Innkeeper and once again will delight at the live chickens in the “stable”). We come home and with our godsons' family (who happen to be K2's godparents as well) will have the same meal we always do: cheese fondue. Sure, this year we're adding in a beef and broth version as well as cheese, but who's quibbling :-). The kids will head to sleep and Mr. Brillig and I will wrap presents, fill stockings, and watch Midnite Mass at the Vatican. I am especially eager this year to see Francis' first service; wondering if it will be as different as the rest of his papacy has been. Then we'll go to sleep too late and be awoken too early by the kids.

I found this picture while going through old albums of my Mom's:
 photo Dec0416_zps226c0d5f.jpg
I was 3 ½ and two things stand out for me: First, family legend says my Dad finished assembling that play kitchen about a half hour before I got up. He dutifully pretended to be fully rested, but no. Not even close :). I remembered this kitchen even before I saw the picture, and thought of the story every year as Mr. Brillig and I tumble into bed praying the kids sleep past 6. Second, see that yarn doll on the tree with the red hat? It hangs on my tree right now, one of 4 or 5 ornaments from my early childhood. Maybe someday it will hang on a tree and one of the kids will be telling this story. Let it be so.

May each and every one of you - the writers, nominators and readers that make up our TC family - be blessed this night and always.

Brillig's ObDisclaimer: The decision to publish each nomination lies with the evening's Diarist and/or Comment Formatter. My evenings at the helm, I try reeeeallllyy hard to publish everything without regard to content. I really do, even when I disagree personally with any given nomination. "TopCommentness" lies in the eyes of the nominator and of you, the reader - I leave the decision to you. I do not publish self-nominations (ie your own comments) and if I ruled the world, we'd all build community, supporting and uplifting instead of tearing our fellow Kossacks down.
From Dave in Northridge:
You would expect that Hunter's diaries about The Twelve Months of Crazy would produce some gems, and Dave the Wave's rewriting of The Twelve Days of Christmas in the April diary is one of them.
From Crashing Vor:
Commenting on my remembrance of Mikhail Kalashnikov, thestructureguy made a case for our most-needed invention.
From Dragon5616:
In catilinus's New Day diary, navajo offered an oldie but a goodie about a photo caption contest featuring jotter, Mrs. jotter, and Malacandra.
From BeninSC:
I liked this comment by JaxDem on '24 notes' and honoring those who serve us so faithfully in the military.
Flagged by gchaucer2, this comment by citizenx features a picture of ... 'lost cat.' ::wink::
Trying to mine quickly so I read this comment by elfling for its content alone, which was remarkable. As most of you know, elfling is one of the site's main developers. But this comment gives insight into her fine political heart and mind.
From Yours Truly, brillig:
I.. umm... collated this diary today, and just stuffed myself stupid on cheese fondue and new for this year thinly sliced beef cooked in broth fondue?

Top Mojo for yesterday, December 23rd, first comments and tip jars excluded. Thank you mik for the mojo magic! For those of you interested in How Top Mojo Works, please see his diary FAQing Top Mojo.
  1) Pick your Palin: by jayden — 127
  2) It puts the "craker" in Cracker Barrel... n/t by JeffW — 76
  3) So, what can we do? by NBBooks — 65
  4) But if we no longer need oil who will be blow up? by cskendrick — 56
  5) The Progressive Caucus we have now, it seems, by Jim P — 56
  6) Keep peddling that salt and grease, boys by Dallasdoc — 53
  7) Between Romney by side pocket — 53
  8) Rec'd for title by Mark Mywurtz — 52
  9) What kills me about this place? by Ellid — 52
10) or... RELEASE THE CRAKER! by dougymi — 51
11) Jesus ain't the reason for the season ... by chrississippi — 50
12) Judge Shelby did the right thing here. by commonmass — 49
13) He was brilliant and they screwed him over . by indycam — 49
14) I try to be a fair-minded fellow, by Crashing Vor — 49
15) I loved playing with plain old wooden blocks. by blue jersey mom — 48
16) If Sandra Fluk is a slut for wanting birth control by Marnie1 — 48
17) Well, it's Deja Poo All Over Again ... by dmhlt 66 — 47
18) From our house to yours by arizonablue — 47
19) Hi Triciawyse, hope you are feeling more comfy by Portia Elm — 46
20) Hell, Bloomberg could end homeless across by jpmassar — 44
21) It really is a big 'effing deal! by Eileen B — 44
22) Happy Holidays everyone! by jennyp — 43
23) The toy is gone by BOHICA — 43
24) Happee Moondai(I guess) by triciawyse — 43
25) The Slinky! by Dave in Northridge — 43
26) Nice to see you Jill Richardson. by Pluto — 43
27) Thanks Tricia, you too! :) by jennyp — 42
28) And fundamentalist Mormons must be... by Meteor Blades — 42
29) This one has legs, methinks. by Ian Reifowitz — 41
30) b cairful ov da sooper dooper by KrazyKitten — 41
31) I had a stick that I liked a lot. by Indexer — 41

Top Pictures for yesterday, December 23rd.  Click any image to be taken to the full comment. Thank you jotter for the image magic!
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