Last Thanksgiving and Christmas my wife and I were lucky enough to let our family and friends know that we were expecting our first child. We did it by adding a stocking to the mantle with care next to my wife’s, our dog’s, and mine. It was a great experience for us to tell those who we couldn’t wait to share the news with and to let others slowly figure out why there was an addition to our normal decorations.
Growing up in Montreal, my family has celebrated the holidays in Florida for as long as I can remember. Our holiday trip was a much needed break from the very long and very cold Canadian winter. Last year was no different and I was in Palm Beach with my parents, my husband and my daughter. Christmas Eve was a beautiful sunny day and we were all enjoying the weather by the pool. After a leisurely swim, my husband sat down to relax on his lounge chair when he stepped on a wasp that stung his foot. We called the pharmacy and treated the sting just like they recommended, but as the day went on his foot was swelling bigger and bigger. Several hours (and a lot of convincing) later, we were on our way to the ER on Christmas Eve! While we had to spend the majority of Christmas Eve in the ER to treat my husband’s allergic reaction to the sting, we learned an important holiday lesson – Christmas Eve is a great night to go to the ER!
I was at college in Atlanta, and surprised my mum for Christmas by showing up on her doorstep, back in England. My dad and I planned it all out. She didn’t recognize me because I had grown my ‘fro out, and she wouldn’t let me in the house.
I have always been a huge proponent of the holidays. I Christmas-caroled, I decorated, I listened to holiday music as soon as Halloween was over, and I believed faithfully in Santa even when my peers told me Santa was a fraud, until one fateful Christmas Eve. I was also unlucky enough to have a really bad case of asthma. On Christmas Eve when I was ten years old, I was in bed early so that I could wake up at 5:30 am to run downstairs and delve into whatever Santa had been gracious enough to put in my stocking. Unfortunately, I woke up at 10pm, unable to breathe. I had left my inhaler downstairs, so I frantically ran down to find my parents. What met my eyes changed everything. My aunt was guarding the stairs, and my parents were bent over the stockings, filling them out of a grocery bag. I was shocked, disheartened and disillusioned. Christmas was never the same.
Christmas Day, as it is with most families, is a time to spend with loved ones. The laughter, the food, the presents and the conversation all come together to create a spectacular atmosphere….or so I thought.
Christmas Day ’99. I was seven years old at the time so naturally when 3 in the afternoon rolled around it was time for me and my cousins to open presents. We were down in North Haven, CT for the day to spend time with my father’s side of the family, and my cousin and I had just opened our new remote control airplanes. I, being the impatient little booger that I was, had to let it fly right away. But it was cold….really cold! I didn’t want to have to bundle up like the brother from A Christmas Story so I ran up to my cousins room with the airplane in hand.
I run to the first window I see, completely ignoring the fact that there was a massive AC unit still in the window (why it was there in December, I still have no idea – lazy relatives perhaps), and open it up. As I extend my arm to throw the plane, the AC unit crashes to the ground and literally explodes into 1,000 pieces. I run to the bathroom in embarrassment (and shock) to try and hide from my family. Now there was no doubt in my mind that everyone had heard the crash and I knew it was only a matter of time before the knock came.
“JOSH! GET DOWN HERE!”
Papa Tammaro was not happy to say the least, but it was a Christmas story that is retold each and every year. The day that I was too consumed by a remote control airplane that it didn’t matter that the window I was opening had an AC unit in the middle of the winter.
I reluctantly (kidding) was given a stray (super cute) kitten when I used to live alone before I got married. The black, orange and white tabby cat was named “Boo,” as I got her around Halloween. Fast forward to Christmas time and she learned quickly to climb on the bed and fall asleep between my feet. This routine went on and on for weeks leading up to Christmas.
As a restless sleeper, a small kitten between your feet sort of cramps your sleeping routine. I could never get her to her to stop doing it. However, on Christmas Eve, I went to bed late and woke up with Boo nestled between my feet on Christmas morning. Because I had little sleep and needed to get her off me so I, myself, could nestle in for a couple more hours, I decided to move her. I got creative.
I stretched my legs and quickly whipped them in the air and in the process, turned Boo into a flying kitty. She flew across the room, landed on her feet and immediately leaped into my Christmas tree. The Christmas tree wavered and slowly leaned over, crashing to the floor, breaking ornaments and light bulbs.
Guess I should have let Boo sleep.
For the holidays, the SA staff gave my husband Ron and I an overnight stay at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York. My birthday is on January 3, so when we checked in, we told the concierge we were celebrating the holidays and my birthday. He asked if we wanted tickets to Jersey Boys, which had just opened. We said of course, but we had 12 minutes until curtain. In true Four Season’s style, they whisked us into a car and we were in our seats in 11 minutes. What a lovely and fun holiday surprise!
Every year, the large Ryan family (Grammy had 12 kids) gathers at one location on Christmas Eve and then one family member dresses in the Santa costume and comes to the house with a sack full of gifts for all the small children. Anika was only 1.5 when she first met Santa last year, and she is still a little scared whenever his name is mentioned.
Two years ago, my brother, who is a Marine, surprised my sister and I and came home early from Afghanistan. My brother, Chris, wasn’t supposed to be back until the second week of January. On Christmas Eve, my family and I got together and went out for a nice dinner. When the “waiter” came over to take my drink order, I looked up and realized it was Chris.
For the past few years, my family has decided to take out the notion of over-giving for the holidays. Instead of going to the malls or shopping online, we go up to Rockport the day after Thanksgiving and buy one present for each other. We start the day off in a café down the street where we all meet and discuss what we would like. Then, we shop at the local stores on Rockport point. The shops are all very small and unique so the gifts need to have some thought into it. At the end of the day, we head to a restaurant in the area and then exchange the gifts.
I have an unusual phobia. I’m afraid of adults I don’t know in full character costumes. The Easter Bunny at the mall, Mickey Mouse at Disney World, mascots at sporting events, and yes, even Santas - all terrifying to me. Of course, this is an embarrassing phobia for an adult woman to have, so I don’t talk about it. Ever. A couple of years ago, I traveled with my husband to Maryland for Thanksgiving. We were looking for things to do during the weekend, so we went to Historic Ellicott City, which was established as a railroad station town in pre-Civil War times. It features a railroad museum. My husband used to work at this museum when he was a teenager, so he wanted to show me what it was all about. We spent a little while walking around the exhibits and impressive model train displays before we decided it was time to leave. It was not until we were working our way to the exit in an impossibly long line, that I noticed signs for “Santa’s Workshop.” I realized I was being funneled directly into a close-encounter with a Santa. I began to sweat profusely and shake. I asked my husband if there was another way out. He said there was not and assured me that I had no reason to be afraid. Unfortunately, phobias cannot be reasoned with. Normally, I wouldn’t have such an acute reaction, but this was a surprise and I would no choice but to be greeted by this “Santa.” Inching slowly, ever-closer to the subject of my horror, by the time we actually reached “Santa” I had worked myself into a full-blown panic attack. Tears streaming, gasping, shaking, “Santa” greeted me with a concerned look and I ran crying out of the building when he reached for my hand, pushing aside children and senior citizens.
A few years ago, my aunt Liz wanted my cousin (she was six at the time) to stop eating cookies before dinner, so she told her that Santa wouldn’t come if she continued to eat the cookies because there wouldn’t be any left to leave for Santa and his reindeer. My cousin really didn’t know what to do with herself. She was so terrified that Santa wouldn’t come that she ran from the kitchen, crying. Liz followed her to make sure she was okay and returned shortly saying that she had calmed down. About 20 minutes later, right as we had sat down to dinner, the telephone rings. My grandfather answers the phone, all of us watching, and he said “Liz… it’s the police on the line for you.” Liz gets up from the table, terrified something has happened, and answers the phone. She talks to the police for a few minutes and hangs up the phone. As it turns out, my cousin ended up calling 9-1-1 after my aunt checked on her to say that Santa was missing and she thought that the police could find him if they bought cookies. Definitely an emergency for a six year old.
We spent the Christmas holiday in New York City at Trump Towers my senior year in high school. My family (six kids and my parents) was leaving the hotel to walk around on Christmas Day when we noticed my little brother was missing. Moments later all of Trump Towers was being evacuated because the fire alarm was going off. Without a doubt, we knew it was my brother. Had to be. We walked around the corner to where the emergency exit was to see my brother standing there with the door open, his hand right below the sign DO NOT OPEN ALARMS WILL SOUND EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY. Without any reaction since this was totally something that would happen to my family and has actually happened before (Disney, Animal Kingdom Lodge circa 2004) we casually, without speaking to one another, turned around and walked back to the crowd of people evacuating the building putting on a, “Oh what the hell is going on, this is so frustrating…” front.
Merry Christmas Trump Tower visitors,
The Mucci rat pack
As a disclaimer, my sister and I have a long history of waking up really early on Christmas day. One year, when we were much younger, we were staying at my grandparents’ house in Ohio with all of my dad’s side of the family. On Christmas morning, my sister, who was nine at the time, read her watch upside down (at least, that’s what she tells me), and concluded that it was 7 in the morning, so we went downstairs excited that Christmas could commence. My uncle doesn’t sleep well, and we saw a light on downstairs and figured someone else must be awake too. Unfortunately, it was actually 2 in the morning, and we must have been making too many excited Christmas noises, because my mom came rushing down the stairs and reprimanded us. Needless to say, everyone thought it was a lot funnier the next day when the whole family was informed of our mistake.
When I was younger, my family spent a lot of time celebrating the Jewish holidays with our family friends and my parents’ colleagues. Although I was brought up in a cafeteria Christian household, I developed a strong affinity for Judaism, to the point that I began taking it upon myself to celebrate the holidays (the ones that a gentile shiksa was capable of understanding that is…). Being part of an incredibly liberal family from Cambridge, my parents of course fueled the fire and gave me a beautiful Menorah for Christmas in my early teens. I still have it to this day, and continue to light it during Chanukah (I even know part of the prayer!)