When I was a child, we celebrated Christmas in the German tradition, wherever we happened to be. It's not that dissimilar from the American version, but there is a fairly serious twist for parents. Instead of Santa coming down the chimney with presents while everyone sleeps (wink, wink) through the night, in the German folklore, the Christkindl (literally, Christ child, though in illustrations the child looks about 10 and is fairly androgynous) comes around to the house with presents while you're at church on Christmas Eve. Every year, we had company for Christmas - my mother's friends were our extended family, and I called them all uncle and aunt (the "orphans' holidays" began a long time ago for me, and I still host them to this day). One year, when I was about 6, Uncle Keith and Aunt Joan and their father, whom I called Grandpa Arthur, were in town. Normally, the guests were charged with taking me for a ride after church, distracting me with a tour of the neighborhood's most garish lighting displays, while my mom dashed back to the house and ran around like a maniac, unearthing the presents from all the back corners of closets where they'd been hidden. This year, though, was to be a little trickier than usual, because my mom had had reconstructive surgery on her left ankle, which was encased in an enormous cast.
After church, I climbed into Keith's car with him and Joan and Arthur. We pulled out of the parking lot and commenced our tour of the neighborhood. About 5 minutes into it, I spoke up. "Uncle Keith, you'd better take the really long way home tonight," I said.
"Really? Why is that?"
"Because the Christkindl's got a cast on."
They were all so shocked that there was total silence in the car for a good thirty seconds. I really thought Arthur might cry. Isn't it funny how much harder it is for adults than for the kids, when the kids figure out about Santa? Maybe we perpetuate the myth so that we can somehow vicariously live some of that childhood joy that can only come when you're too young to be suspicious and analytical.
Anyway, it's going to be another quiet and lovely Christmas at the den of iniquity this year - 6 of us for a traditional meat fondue tonight, followed by opening of presents and general merriment. Tomorrow will see the traditional nursing of the hangover, with mimosas and silly movies to ease it along. Also roasted poultry. And hopefully snow. And a handful of people I really love, which means more than anything else.
Over and out.