Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Little Christmas Stories




[Stained glass at Parish of St. Helen Witton, Northwich, U.K.]


As I’ve mentioned here before, MY WIFE and I celebrate Little Christmas. That is, while we have our allotment of standard-issue Christmas merriment with relatives and friends during the traditional December holidays, we wait until January 6th to exchange presents with each other.

Some of you may wonder why we do this. That’s certainly understandable, given that January 6th receives little play from the merchants and media. As far as those people are concerned, the Christmas holiday is over at midnight on December 25th. It then becomes time to push Valentine’s Day candy and President’s Day car sales down our throats. However, January 6th on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar is The Feast of the Epiphany. It is sometimes known as The Feast of the Magi (the "Three Kings" of Christmas carol fame) or Little Christmas. It is the date when, according to tradition, the wise men visited Jesus and bestowed upon him the gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

Are you one of those people who wondered why there were twelve days of over-the-top gift giving in the song "The Twelve Days Of Christmas"? Well, the actual Christmas season, at least in some Western European civilizations, runs from December 25th until January 6th. This being the case, it can reasonably be argued that the 6th of January is a more correct time to exchange presents in honor of The Lord’s nativity.

MY WIFE and I decided years ago that it made eminent sense to delay our own gift giving until the 12th day of Christmas. In that way, we would eliminate much of the stress associated with what should be a joy-filled celebration with friends and family. We would concentrate on others, during the more secularly traditional Thanksgiving through December 25th time period, and then devote our efforts to each other during the 12 days following.

(This is, of course, another one of the reasons why I get so amazingly pissed off when Christmas advertising and holiday music begin in October. Not only does it do a disservice to the wonderful American celebration of Thanksgiving [which occurs on the fourth Thursday of November]; it also utterly ignores the rightful 12 days of festivity that occur at the end of December and beginning of January. My Christmas runs through January 6th, so if I acquiesce to their greedy mercantile demands, I’ll be singing a stretched out and thinned-to-absurdity Hallelujah over perhaps a 75-day period. That’s far too much water in anybody’s holiday soup.)

Since we celebrate on the 6th, I won’t be at work then, nor will I be on the 7th. And, since my only internet connection is at work, there will be nothing new in this space. I won't be spending any of my time during the holiday writing. I'd consider it slightly sacrilegious to do so (aside from the obvious fact of my laziness) and thus nothing new here on the 8th, 9th, or 10th, either. You might get something on the 11th, but only if I've got words inside of me itching to burst through my fingers much as the alien burst through John Hurt's stomach. In other words, this may be the last new entry you'll see until the 12th or 13th. Or possibly February.

I know, I know. I see veritable rivers of tears coursing down your collective faces. Just so you know how much I truly care about you, here are some crummy photos with hurriedly-dashed-off prose concerning each.



This is our Christmas tree. I took the photo without a flash, of course. I rather like it. You can't see the rest of the room, which is a mess.




Not one to leave well enough alone, here's the mess. I do kind of like the whole oeuvre of this shot, though. MY WIFE's mileage may vary. She somehow feels it's a reflection on her housekeeping skills if people see anything less than cleanliness in our place. I refuse to allow anyone to cast aspersions on MY WIFE. I'm her husband. That's my job.




I am one of the all-time worst giftwrappers in history. For some reason, the folding of paper, and application of tape to same, has not made it into my skill set. MY WIFE, on the other hand, always does a wonderful job of it. This is some of her handiwork, and lovely it is, no?




Here we see two festive cows. They appear to have had more than their share of eggnog. The bear in the beret, on the other hand (or paw, or hoof), has filled up on the multiple fruitcakes which have shown up at our door since I was so obviously needy in my pleading for you to send them. Damn bears eat anything that shows up while we're not home (which is good when it's a burglar but a horrific tragedy when it's a fruitcake.)

Even with bears chowing down on our goodies, our far-fatter-then-we-were-four-weeks-ago thanks to my great Uncle Jim (as opposed to my Grand Uncle Jim); Thimbelle, The Twinkie, and The Wrench (a family unit, with only The Wrench being a non-blogger.); and Jackie, otherwise known as Teacher's Pet. That's the order in which the fruitcakes we were able to wrestle away from the bears showed up. Actually, by all rights, Thimbelle, The Twinkie, and The Wrench should get double billing because we received two shipments of amazingly fruit-and-pecan-laden goodies from them, at separate times. And Jackie's was delightfully homemade, so she should get special mention for that. And Uncle Jim's showed up FIRST, which is always a plus, so everybody is special! By the way, I'm open to giving 75 or 80 plugs next year, so don't be afraid to join in. As long as I can still waddle to the front door and pick up the package, I'll be happy to eat whatever you send. You should probably send four or five fruitcakes, just to make sure one or two get by the bears.




This here is Simon Peter Poinsettia. I related the sad news concerning Pointy The Poinsettia's demise (it's way at the end of the story linked, so feel free to skim if you already know the story - and if you didn't already know it, now you know too much of it) and Kim, office manager to the stars, took it upon herself to give us a new poinsettia for Christmas.

Since I am the foremost interpreter of poinsettia on the planet, I asked this plant it's name while riding home with it. He (it became readily apparent he was a he when he spoke) said that his name was Simon. I conjectured that was somewhat cool in a Christmassy way, given that the apostle Peter was originally named Simon, so would he mind if I called him Simon Peter, since it makes it much easier to remember a poinsettia's name if it begins with P? He voiced no objections, so Simon Peter Poinsettia he is (although, since he's become more comfortable in his surroundings, he doesn't seem to mind us calling him just plain ol' Pete.)




Another plant, although you might not know what it is unless I tell you.

My Grandmother planted a little holly bush in front of her home some 50 years ago. This towering monstrosity, which reaches a good five feet beyond her roof, is that same holly bush today. It is as tall as the much older tree also seen in the photo. I have no doubt that, given another 50 years, it will eat the house and everybody in it, then uproot itself and start on the neighbors.




I took a number of photos while at My Grandmother's place, but this is the only one (of people) that was worth showing to you. This is My Stepfather, Bill MacDonald, and My Mom. In the background is my Cousin Scott's wife, Andrea, doing dishes.

Really, I thought I had this picture-taking thing down pat. For the longest time, I was unable to deny being the world's worst photographer, but then some kindly souls set me straight on how to focus and other such arcane necessities. I apparently need to take a refresher course. Out of the eight or nine shots I took that day, the only two that came out even reasonably well were this one and the one of the bush. No Grandma, no Uncle Rick, no Cousin Scott, no MY WIFE, no wonderful table full of pies...

Ah, well. Considering what a social catastrophe it is to have your face associated with my words, it's probably for the best.




And, finally, here is one of my favorite things of all. It is something that delights me every Christmas. It is our door covered in the various Christmas cards, photos, and greetings we've received from friends and relatives.

Every day during the season, we take special joy in looking through the mail and finding a card or two that day. If yours is in this photo, know that we truly love you for making the season brighter.

(And, if you sent us a card, and yours should be in this photo, but isn't, my most abject apologies. One of the bears probably mistook it for a left-over slice of fruitcake and ate it. You know how bears are.)

Merry Little Christmas, my friends. See you (relatively) soon with more better stuff.


41 comments:

haphazardlife said...

Actually, the 25th to the 6th is 13 days... So which day doesn't count, the 25th or the 6th?

This said, I love the idea of celebrating outside the appointed time.

And how depressing is it that valentine's stuff is for sale on the 26th...

Suldog said...

My understanding is that the 25th is Christmas, and the 12 days following are the, uh, twelve days. I may be wrong.

Lori said...

When I was at the store on Christmas eve I seen people putting Valentines stuff out...good lord...I like this idea of celebrating on the 6th...did not know that the 12 days of Christmas worked like this...something for me to ponder for next year...I love learning new things and about other peoples traditions. Happy little Christmas to you and your wife! Enjoy the time off!

Pat - Arkansas said...

I'm with you, Suldog! There are 12 days of Christmas. At my family home, the tree did not go up until Christmas Eve, and it didn't come down until Jan. 6 -- and my daddy was a Baptist preacher! My daughters and I exchange gifts on January 6; it's the "fitten" thing to do.

A Happy Little Christmas to you and YOUR WIFE.

Sandi McBride said...

We celebrate Little Christmas too and then my birthday on the 7th...it's been done that way since I was a child, my dad's family also celebrated the Magi...not Catholic by any chance are you?
Merry Christmas my friend
hugs
Sandi

lailani said...

I have had lots of thoughts of "if I had it to do over..." with Christmas traditions in the past month and one of them was that I wish I had made a tradition of doing my homes gift exchange on the 6th! Of course I, like you, wish they would not start all the Christmas push in October - it take the magic away... oh well, enough of that, I told myself I would not share my bah humbug feelings. Soooooo, have a Merry Little Christmas and enjoy a peaceful celebration!!

Craig said...

Thanks for this, Jim. Just so's you know - our tree is still up, and lit, and decorated (much like Jen and myself) (*ba-doomp!*), and will be until Friday, at least. . .

Of course, I already knew the whole 12 Days bit. We like to think of it as sort-of akin to a 'Christian Hanukkah', where you get to extend the gift-giving over several days. . .

'Course, it also means you can get yer Christmas gifts at after-Christmas-sale prices. And you get extra time to get yer Christmas cards out. . . ;)

messymimi said...

Yes, you are right, the 12 Days follow Christmas Day itself in the old tradition, with the 6th of January being Twelfth Night, like the play by Shakespeare, who called it that because that was the night it debuted.

Anyway, loved the pictures, and the stories of fruitcake, and your take on how the holidays should be. Yes to Epiphany being the gift day! Now to convince the rest of my family.

Enjoy your time off!

Uncle Skip, said...

Bacon!

I see my card up there... even though I only thought about sending one (Hmmmmmm!).

Karen said...

I love to see pictures like this! Have a restful time off!

Jeni said...

Regardless of what day you are celebrating Christmas (and I understand and like the Epiphany, Jan. 6th for your date chosen) it's quite obvious you and your wife have had a wondrous Christmas with family meals and such and that your day -tomorrow -will be a wonderful day of celebration for a most important event.
Mandy took our tree down yesterday -a bit early but, gotta take it when she does things or you might end up having to do it yourself! The kids knew nothing of her plans for the day and when they returned from school both of them asked "Where did Christmas go?" Maybe they have an inside lead there that it should be January 6th? But have a wonderful time and the best of New Year's to follow too!

Jillsy Girl said...

Thank you for the little lesson on the 12 days of Christmas. Being a Jewish girl I never understood how the song came about. I can sympathize with you even more so about "Thanksgiving Comes First", now that I am privy to this piece of history.

One more thing...did you, by any chance, see a drop in the amount of cards you received this year? Ours was dramatic! Very sad, since December is the only month in the year that opening the mailbox can put a smile on your face.

Suldog said...

Jillsy - As a matter of fact, yes, there was a drop in the number of cards. Too bad. We really, really enjoy receiving them, and sending them. I don't know if it's because of economic sadness or just because more people just plain don't use snail mail. Either way, not a happy thing...

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

I with you, Suldog, all the way. Shorten up on the merchandising.
Instead of Christmas A to Z make it A to E (Advent to Epiphany)... and call it what it is, Christmas We can all acknowledge that others celebrate whatever they celebrate, while we celebrate Christmas, all twelve days.

also: my card count was way down this year, too. There were a lot of those e-cards though. How do you hang them on the door?

I was gonna send you a fruitcake, but some bears broke into my house and stole it before I could send it off... sorry!

Jayne said...

Suldog - this is an Epiphany, indeed. One for which I wouldn't mind appraising. And turning it all off while you're celebrating is another keen concept.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, photos, and cards.

BTW, I'm getting a lot more mass email cards these days--prefaced by the standard explanation (save the trees) although I think the is just pretense for being lazy. I much prefer the snail mail, opening the envelope for the prize inside.

Oh, and I do a lot of taping, too - around the kitchen windows. ;)

Happy New Year, Happy Feasting.

Jayne

Michelle H. said...

Have a wonderful Epiphany, MLGF. I would've sent you a fruitcake if I had been given one. Aww, shucks! Maybe next year...

How long will the decorations/tree/cards stay up for you? Are you the type of person who takes them down immediately or waits until July 4th? :)

Suldog said...

MDGF - They'll come down sometime over the coming weekend, probably. Sunday evening, most likely.

connie/mom said...

As I'm writing this I notice there is no word verification so hope it can be sent.

You seem to have forgotten how Grandma's holly bush came to be. It was not planted - a few berries from a wreath fell on the ground by the door and that monstrosity is the result!!!

Moannie said...

Dearest, Jim...have a lovely day with YOUR WIFE and all your Teddies, I love that they share your space.

Suldog said...

Mom - I had forgotten that, for some reason. Even better story (and, when I re-run this at some point - as I seem to do all my posts - I'll change it!)

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. NOW!

Anyway, I hereby challenge you to a "Who's the Worst Gift-Wrapper" contest. No offense, Jim, but I'm an out-and-out LOCK.

Buck said...

I prolly mentioned this before, but the lapsed-Catholic ex- introduced me to the joys of The Epiphany. We celebrated in much the same manner as you and YOUR WIFE, even though she no longer took her religion seriously.

Enjoy your time off!

The Good Cook said...

We call the 12th. day of Christmas "Kings Day" as according to legend that is when the three kings arrived at the stable.

Happy Little Christmas.

slommler said...

And a Merry Little Christmas to you and yours as well. Enjoy your holiday!!
Hugs
SueAnn

Barbara Shallue said...

Loved seeing your pictures - and your holly bush story cracked me up. I hate that your bears ate so many of your fruitcakes though! I have a soft spot in my heart for Christmas cards - I'll never go completely digital there. I have mine attached to a fake garland wrapped around a real tree post in our house. Always the last decoration to come down.
Have a wonderful Epiphany with your WIFE!

lime said...

i wish you and YOUR WIFE the happiest little christmas. makes me grin seeing my card up there on your door. yours is hanging in my foyer with all the rest i received. i feel the same way about the smiles a simple card can bring so thanks. :)

Red Hamster said...

Heartwarming and enlightening post as always. I was never clear on where the 12 days of Christmas fell, no doubt because the original traditions of Christmas have become so junked up and watered down.

Is that a present wrapped by YOUR WIFE in that cartoon hamster wrapping paper that I was told existed but could not find in my local stores?! YOUR WIFE is not only a skilled but a trendy giftwrapper.

You write so charmingly of stuffed toy cows & bears -- for a grown man. :-)

Have a joyous Little Christmas!

Grayquill said...

I like your idea. The after Christmas Sales would save me a mint.
How do you get away with using your company computer to do a blog? Just curious?
BTW - very interesting and informative post.

Hilary said...

Merry Little Christmas to you and YOUR WIFE. You can too so take a decent picture - I enjoyed seeing each and every one of them. And I especially love that you have a photo of Mr. Rogers on your mantle.

Maggie May said...

I loved the little row of teddies and I think the parcels looked expertly wrapped.
Loved looking at your photos.
Merry little Christmas to you both.
maggie X

Nuts in May

Chris Stone said...

celebrating on the 6th is such a great idea!

and, hate to break the news, but i think Christmas decorations in stores started end of August. lol.

thanks for stopping by. I loved that run by Connolly. lol. would've been great if he'd scored.

Angela Christensen said...

Suldog, I love the notion of delaying the gift-giving til the Epiphany, and thank you for the lovely post on the topic. When my sons were small, we used to have the Kings "travel" throughout Advent - the boys would move them from room to room and place to place as the season unfolded. On Christmas eve, they would find the baby and place it in the Creche as close to midnight as they could stand. The kings traveled until the 6th, when they arrived at the Creche, too. Good memories; thank you.
Love to you and YOUR WIFE,
Angie at Eat Here

Judi FitzPatrick said...

A day late and a dollar short - merry Little Christmas! I hope you and YOUR WIFE had a wonderful gift exchange and enjoyed each-others' company during your time off from work.
Peace, Judi

Sandra said...

I admire you for liking fruitcake. I don't understand you, but I admire you anyway. And it's good that there are people in the world like you who like fruitcake so that people like me can NOT like fruitcake. Keep up the good work. :)

Uncle Jim said...

Befiting the holiday season, my Google account was hijacked by someone from Poland of all places. And on 12/22 and again on 12/25. Must have been Santa-Keilbasa.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Your house doesn't look messy at all, just filled with the joys of the season! I hope you both enjoyed Little Christmas & look forward to even more reruns of your lovely material in the new year :-)

i beati said...

I feel very certain someone will sneak into your home andrelieve you of some of those bears- no namrs just sayin- I too love cards and have purchased some real winners for next year..can't wait and some splendid new ornaments..I lvoe it all and I'm not taking down my trees so there..

Suldog said...

To answer Grayquill's question, why I am able to write my blog on a company computer, I work for a good man who doesn't mind, so long as it doesn't interfere with any actual work. It pays to have a nice boss!

Ananda girl said...

I love that your bears eat burglars!
I hope your holiday was as special and wonderful as it sounds.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Those bears!! Always into mischief ;-)) I remember your Christmas traditions, and I LOVE them!!! It makes wonderful sense to celebrate on the 6th!! I intend to do so as soon as my son is grown...Hope you enjoyed your fruitcakes...Must get your address from Jackie so I can send you a Christmas card next year...Merry Christmas, dear adopted brother!!! See you in February! Still don't know when I'll be back full-time...but I will say that my computer fingers are getting itchy... Hugs, Janine

Shrinky said...

Aww, that's a sweet tradition of celebrating your own little Christmas on the 6th, and makes perfect sense. My big sis' was born on Jan 6th, and I was born on 25th December (not in the same year, you understand), so we always have a double reason for celebration on both of those days!

Hurry back Jim, we're missing you!