Recently, I was accused of hating Christmas. That is just not true. First of all, I don't go around hating things. That sounds so intense and passionate, and everyone knows that I am bland and wishy-washy and have no strong opinions whatsoever.
And there are actually things I love about Christmas. Such as peppermint mochas at Starbucks (and that's saying a lot, since normally I hate Starbucks) and candy canes and hearing non-denominational winter songs in stores like "Let It Snow" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." (Yeah, I realize that last one isn't non-denominational, but it's really about the heartbreak of missing loved ones, so I'm sticking to my position.)
And I love looking at Christmas lights. The gaudier, the better. This was our second year visiting Christmas Card Lane in Rancho Penasquitos, and it was even better this time. Last year, it had rained, and the streets were pretty but deserted. This year, we went on Christmas Eve, and while everyone else seems to have done the same, we were super-smart and parked outside the melee. Then we walked through while all the cars went about 5 miles an hour. Walking is the way to go, because we spent nearly two hours admiring all the trouble people had gone to. Most of the houses have themes, like Dr. Seuss or Disney princesses or zombies. The houses are lit up like Vegas, but they also have characters and and trains and music. Some of the families had fires going in their driveways, movies playing on portable screens, or cookies on offer to passerby. Santa even tossed Jarrah a candy cane across moving traffic, and though it smashed in the street, she was very, very happy and briefly stopped saying she couldn't walk another step.
And I love something else, something more personal, that has become a tradition for us--spending Christmas day with Mary, Paul and Joy. For five years now, we've been invited to afternoon dinner (lupper?) with them and their extended families, and it's always the loveliest of times. There are two little girls in fancy red dresses running around (at least until they decide it's time to spend the rest of the evening in their underpants--wonder how long that will last?) and lots of turkey and stuffing and cranberries and sweet potatoes and wine and pie and cookies and fudge. The latter comes from our kitchen, because it just doesn't seem like Christmas to me without fudge. Making fudge is not a typical behavior of Jews in captivity, but I have the most scrumptious recipe and everyone does love it so.
This year, I experienced another Christmas tradition, one that I will not be adding to my list of loves. When Mary asked if I'd like coffee, I lost my head and said:
Sam: Thanks! And can you put a splash of eggnog in there? Is that done?
Mary: Sure. Do you want regular egg nog or light eggnog?
Sam: I don't know. Which do I want?
There was a wrinkling of noses around the room, and the consensus that I wanted regular. A short time later, Mary handed me a Santa mug with a frothy whipped concoction that looked delectable indeed. I was impressed with my own daring. I took a sip. Um...WOW.
Sam: Oh...my. That's quite a...taste sensation. So this is a beverage that Christians enjoy? (general mirth) What's that...interesting aftertaste?
Someone informed me the aftertaste was "fake rum." Okay, maybe I would like it with real rum. I sniffed my libation, and to the fake taste was added an even more pronounced fake smell.
Sam: Well, I guess if I were Christian, I might like it, but not so much.
Paul: Apparently, Sam, you are egg-nogstic.
Okay, that was the best joke of the day. Paul got an air fist-bump (he was across the room) for that one. Someone give him a prize. Just not an eggnog latte. Even though he's Christian and might appreciate it more than me.
Each year, there's a lot of laughing and hugging and ripping of wrapping paper, and somewhere between my caffeine buzz and my sugar coma, I take a moment to appreciate the gifts of the past year, less tangible than good friends, a warm house, yummy smells and gift cards, but somehow a cotton-batting snow-white glitter-sprinkled fluffy base for all that stuff, and oh so much more.