Christmas Regiment

We had a strict Christmas regiment when I was growing up but even though we were supposed to be Catholic, religion had almost no part in Christmas.  It all started when the Sears Christmas catalog arrived in the mail, we would fight over who got to look at it first.  We were each expected to make a detailed list for my Aunt June (who lived in New Jersey), she wanted the page number, item number, price and description of everything we wanted.  My parents would then review the list to make sure we weren’t getting too greedy before passing it on to her either when we went to visit her and my Grandmother or they came to see us.  Next we would get money from Aunt Dorothy who lived in Missouri; our parents gave this to us when it arrived so we had money to do our shopping.  When we were little my Mom would make us thank Dorothy on the phone, so we did what any kid would do and say “thanks” and hand the phone back.  Now I see how unappreciative we really were but I never met Dorothy so it was weird, I guess it’s true, you can’t buy love.  Something I need to remember with my nephews, nieces and now grandchildren, you have to put time in and visit, not just send money or stuff.

The tree went up two weeks before Christmas; there was an exact specification for how it was assembled.  Starting at the top as each branch was added the lights would be looped so that there would be lights all the way to the center of the tree.  My mother then added the garland at which point we would all hang the glass ornaments on the tree.  Smallest at the top down to the largest at the bottom and nothing was allowed to stick out they all had to be hanging.  Finally, we added a layer of tinsel that would cover the entire surface of the tree.  So, during the day with the tree lights off, it almost looked silver, but with the lights on the tree would sparkle in three-D with all the colors and depth you can imagine.  This is still what I consider to be the right way to have a proper Christmas tree but it’s a lot of work.

The weekend before Christmas, June and my Grandmother on my Father’s side would come for dinner and drop off a big load of Christmas lute.  Then, there were the Christmas shows, mostly cartoons, Charlie Brown’s Christmas and my favorite, The Grinch.  On Christmas Eve we would go to my Grandmother’s house (on my Mother’s side) in Queens for a long pot luck party (later on this was moved to our house which was much better, since I first posted this I found out from my mother that the move was made because my older sister wanted to bring her boyfriend and my grandmother wouldn’t have it, so my mom moved the party).  Some of my relatives would open gifts but we knew not to ask.  My parents would let us open one gift if our other relatives were insisting but that was rare.  That night dragged on forever and all we wanted to do was get home and go to bed so Christmas would finally arrive (if this was a movie the picture would blur and fade to black.)

My sister would be quietly waking me up at like two in the morning saying “get up its Christmas” (we didn’t know it but my parents probably just got to bed after setting everything up.)  We were allowed to have our stocking as soon as we got up but we couldn’t wake up our parents.  We would usually have a bag of Hershey’s kisses and some small toys in our stockings so we would be getting hyped-up on chocolate in the middle of the night while we tried to figure out who got the most lute under the tree which was now overloaded with all the cool stuff.  Bicycles were obvious since they weren’t wrapped and albums were easy to spot.  Finally, we would hear the stairs creek as my parents came down and the excitement was almost unbearable but wait, we can’t start until they brew a pot of coffee (can you blame them).  Then finally we would tear into the gifts.

My father worked for the airline (TWA) and didn’t get holidays off, people got places to go on holidays too, and he would have to leave for work at around 5AM.  Most years he would arrange to be off but there was one year that we finished opening gifts so early that my father actually went to work.  That way one of the other guys could be off for Christmas since we had already finished the essential family Christmas gift opening.

My mother had the best concept for Christmas dinner, leftovers and cold-cuts.  As kids we loved it we could eat whatever we wanted whenever all day long and not have to sit through a formal dinner.  My mom got a day-off from her work as cook/waitress/mom.

So, there it is, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.
God bless,

So to answer Tony’s question no you can’t open just one (


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