Christmas is What You Make It

Christmas is What You Make It

By Patrick F. Cannon

You know Christmas is coming when ads for expensive French perfumes begin appearing on television and in print. You know Christmas is coming when stores begin opening before you’ve finished your turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Black Friday, cyber Monday – other festive harbingers of the season!

Although I don’t listen to them, I’m told that there are radio stations that start playing Christmas music even before Thanksgiving. I can remember when department stores actually closed on Thanksgiving, and used the day to decorate for Christmas. On the Friday after, many folks would travel downtown to see what Marshall Field’s had done to create magic in their windows, and begin to do their Christmas shopping. Now, Marshall Field’s is Macys, and although they still do Christmas windows, frankly they’re not up to Field’s former standards.

It’s easy to become cynical about the sometimes-overwhelming commercialization of what is actually supposed to be a religious holiday. Many folks seem to ignore this, but it’s supposed to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, although the actual date of the birth is unknown. A common theory among early authorities – and I think it’s plausible – is that it must have coincided with the Winter Solstice (which happens tomorrow, I think). What we know for certain is that people had been celebrating or at least noting the shortest day of the year for thousands of years before Jesus was born (which strangely enough seems to have been somewhere between 6 and 4 BC!).

Why not celebrate before the coldest and darkest time of the year begins, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim or Druid?  Can’t you imagine those ancient Britain’s dancing around Stone Henge singing Druid Carols? How we actually celebrate the season is entirely up to us. If I confess to any philosophy, it would be existentialism, which simply posits that existence is absurd and can only have the meaning we give it. Some Christians would call this “free will” (see Kierkegaard for the Christian branch of Existentialism).

What I’m trying to get at with this pretentious twaddle is that Christmas is what we choose to make it. To some, it’s about chasing down and giving presents (and, by extension, getting them). Others see it as purely a religious festival, and decry the commercial aspects. Most people fall somewhere in the middle. While my wife Jeanette and I (mostly her I must admit) do try to give thoughtful gifts, getting them is not too important to us. Short of getting a Ferrari, there’s not much I really need. The real joy is opening them with family.

Beginning with Thanksgiving, family events are central to our holidays. Last week, we attended a Christmas concert at a local church with daughter Beth and son-in-law Boyd and his sister Cathy, followed by dinner out. This week, we’re hosting Beth and Boyd again, with my niece Eve and her husband Tim (my niece Ellen, with way too many other relatives, has fled to Florida, along with my son Patrick, who was here for Thanksgiving). The very next day, Jeanette’s best friend Ro and her husband Jim are coming for dinner.

We spend Christmas Eve with one of Jeanette’s nieces, alternating between the families of her two sisters, Mary and Geri. Christmas Day this year will be just us and Beth, Boyd,  Boyd’s sister Cathy and their nephew Riley. Exhaustion won’t quite have set in, so we’ll spend New Year’s Eve with our good friends Barb and Ed Swanson (as we have for many years), followed in the morning by brunch with Mary and Geri and husbands John and Dominic. That should do it (I think!).

I see that this has turned into a kind of Christmas letter in reverse, telling you what’s going to happen instead of what happened in the past year. A change of pace may be in order. Following is one of the more notable missives we got last year, from the famous Yokum family. I’m doing last year’s because for some reason we didn’t get one this year. Rumor has it that the entire family has jointed the Trump Administration, which seems plausible. Anyway, enjoy and Merry Christmas!


Happy Holidays, Folks!       

Well, another year has passed, so I thought I’d bring you all up to date on the family as the holidays approach. As usual, there wasn’t a dull moment for our relatives. First the bad news: old Uncle Abner won’t be with us this year – once again, the Parole Board turned him down. I guess he’ll have to serve the full sentence. Heck, he’ll only be 70 when he gets out. If he watches his health, he ought to be able to enjoy some of the cash he has stashed away. He still refuses to tell me where it’s hid, despite me telling him inflation is eating away at it, and I’d be happy to invest it for him. Oh, well, he’s as cantankerous as ever.

Daisy Mae is pregnant again. Not sure who the father is this time either. As you know, all her kids look just a little different. I call them the rainbow coalition. She’s a worker though. Taking an online course in beauty culture, using money borrowed from the government. She says no one every pays off them loans, so it’s like a free education. Aren’t these young folks smart?

As you know, young Georgie is in the army. He made it all the way to corporal before he got busted back to private for drinking on duty. At least they didn’t give him a dishonorable discharge like his brother Amos. I guess they treat drunkenness and attempted murder different.

You probably heard that Aunt Nellie got married again. You kinda lose track, but I think this might be number six. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that her former husbands all died suddenly.  At least they all left her some money. Maybe she’ll have better luck this time. So far, the new husband looks healthy enough.

I’m proud that the family remains on the cutting edge of social change. Cousin Charlie announced that he was changing his name to Charlene. Guess we’ll all have to bone up on our pronouns. I suggested to Charlene that the beard might be considered odd for a lady, but he’s (she’s?) quite fond of it, reminding me that the carnival that comes through town still features a bearded lady. So, it looks like a career change might be in the offing too.

I’m sure you’ve seen all the media stories about son Ralphie. As you know, he’s the only member of the family to graduate from college – and Harvard no less. He’d already graduated by the time they found out he’d phonied up his transcripts and ACT scores to get in, and by then were too embarrassed to go public. Ralphie says the trick is to get in. After that you don’t have do much, since they think you’re already smart enough.

Anyway, Ralphie’s now holds the record for the greatest Ponzie scheme in history. Unlike old Madoff, he got away to Russia with the dough before it was discovered, so all that education sure paid off.  That picture of him and Putin riding those white horses bare-chested made all the papers. Funny though, when we tried to get a passport to visit him, we got turned down. I complained to our Congressman, and he told me he was surprised too, since he thought they would be happy to see us leave the country. Not sure what he meant by that.

Finally, I hope you won’t believe that story about wife Rosie being found naked with the preacher. She told me it was just a new way or praying; something about going back to the innocence of Adam and Eve before they ate the apple. She said it made her feel so good she might try it again.

Well, that’s all for this year. You have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. As for me, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Yokum family.

Copyright 2018, Patrick F. Cannon










One thought on “Christmas is What You Make It

  1. We are spending the Christmas holiday with the Yokum family here in Mayberry. Elmer shot a few squirrels this week and Thelma will roast them on an open fire. They used to distill their own hootch but like most things these days, they’re been gentrified, so it looks like home brew for the beverage. Clarence and his twin brother Clarence hope to perform a live Nativity scene, if they can catch a raccoon.

    The most memorable Christmas we had was a few years ago in Rome, where we were hosted with then teenager Julia at a convent of Spanish nuns. Christmas there is a pretty low key affair, compared to what we do here. As it’s the major Catholic feast day of the year, the emphasis is religious rather than commercial. Romans don’t start observing Christmas as we do the day after Thanksgiving, as they don’t have Thanksgiving, but on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The holiday follows the Advent calendar and continues to Christmas day and through the twelve days to the Epiphany, when most of the gift giving takes place, delivered to kids by a witch representing an old women who gave the three wise men directions.. In Rome the highlights are the elaborate creches in the many churches, midnight mass on Christmas eve, and the Christmas market in Piazza Navona, where you can buy a variety of tacky items like straw brooms to sweep away bad luck and black candy resembling lumps of coal for kids who have misbehaved, maybe customs carried over from Saturnalia.

    Here Christmas is indeed what you make of it. And what one makes of it tends to be discreet, so as not to offend too many people. Otherwise the default mode and common denominator is the commercially fueled, jingle bell-enhanced, colored light-illuminated shopping spree that starts with laying siege to big box stores on Thanksgiving night to exchanging on December 26 all the unwanted stuff you received. For some reason women seem to really enjoy this. Our Christmas culture is further shaped by the music industry and Hollywood, as suggested by the top Christmas songs ( and movies (, which provide something for everyone, slashers and sentimentalists alike.

    For us it’s a time to reconnect with far-flung family, share a few special meals and support the work of mostly local charities. Christmas comes to us as a gift, at a time when we most need it.

    Anyway, apologies for this long-winded and tedious comment, Pat. Your topics are always interesting and thought-stimulating. You all have a merry Christmas, now, you hear?!


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