Telling stories is an important part of the Christmas tradition, or at least they are in my family.
Family stories or reminiscences are part of that tradition. Remembering an uncle who mixed up the chocolate pudding with the gravy and had a chocolatey-turkey dinner, or a cousin who hid all the vegetables from the Jello mould in Grandpa’s slippers.
Some tales are funny, like the relative who wrapped a box with a $20 bill inside in so many layers of duct tape it took an hour to open.
Other tales are more remembrances of events that happened. Such as the time it took three hours to come home on Christmas Eve from family dinner. This is a trip that normally would take an hour. Three hours in a minivan filled with four kids under 10 who only wanted to play with their toys and to know if we were home yet. Santa only asks for milk at Christmas?
I try to remember the good stories instead of the bad, and that does get easier the more years that pass. Finally, a fading memory and rose-coloured glasses have some benefit. Family stories are important, and so are the classics.
Re-reading classic Christmas stories helps to get me into the spirit, especially when the world outside is no help.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is one of my favourites, although I don’t appreciate my kids comparing me to the central character.
I’ve never had gruel, and while I do occasionally get acid reflux, I don’t believe in ghosts, and the only Marley I know of is Bob.
Still the story of someone forced to look at their past and try to change for the better has a great redemptive quality that brightens the season for me. Can someone change overnight? Maybe, maybe not. But change is possible.
Another favourite is The Boy with the Box by Mary Griggs Van Voorhis. This story is about a teen who unselfishly gives up spending his Christmas money on a top-end pair of skates, to buy a pair of skates for another teen who was doing a good deed for his family. A form of paying it forward for others, just with $5 skates instead of Tim Hortons Coffee (note, this story was written in 1916).
My absolute favourite Christmas story is The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (not the chocolate bar). It is a story of a young couple who each sell their most valuable possession to buy the perfect gift for the other. An ironic comedy that has been in print and on TV. I prefer the Al Maitland narration of the story that is played every Christmas Eve on As It Happens on CBC Radio.
This year, as with last year’s Christmas season, feels different celebrating. We’ve taken two steps forward, and now two steps back when it comes to global events and the local impact.
But, while it may be different again, some things like the classics, and being with family in whatever way we can, can help make this Christmas special in its own way. Merry Christmas everyone, and thanks for reading.