Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate
Aspen CO Colorado
So it’s the holiday season and blah, blah, blah.
I thought that when I married into a Christian family, I might finally be able to get into the Christmas spirit.
I was so excited for our first Christmas together that I probably went a little overboard. I probably upped the ante more than I should have. This is a family that gives new meaning to the words “low maintenance.” This is a family that would think giving someone a lump of coal is the funniest thing in the world and would laugh about it for years, going, “Remember that year Ryan gave Aaron a lump of coal?” They don’t need much. They are pretty much happy with whatever they’re given.
As a Jewish princess who is so spoiled that she got her parents to celebrate a holiday they don’t even believe in, I thought that for our first Christmas together, we should go big. I got Ryan a flat-screen TV, for crying out loud. I convinced everyone to go in on an iPod for his mom. I made photo albums for everyone in the family. It was my idea to get his dad a set of really nice knives. It was my first legitimate Christmas, goddamn it (er, “gosh darnit”), and I was going to show everyone how it’s done.
Everyone nervously thanked me for the gifts, all the while thinking to themselves, “How can we ask her for the receipt without sounding rude?”
Imagine my surprise when, on that first Christmas Day, there was no gift-giving going on whatsoever. There wasn’t even mention of it. Sure, there were wrapped presents under the tree (little did I know they contained presents from Ryan’s dad, aka “The Grinch,” who loves to buy gag gifts), and there was indeed a tree with lights and ornaments on it (yay). I had every reason to believe it was game on.
As the day progressed and still no gifts, I was a little confused. I decided maybe they’re one of those families that open their presents at night.
So we had dinner, and then we played a game, which is what people from Minnesota do. They just love those party games that are designed to make you interact and laugh and have fun. What a concept. In my family, we always believed we were so funny and clever and interesting that we didn’t need that. The sound of our own voices was enough to entertain us for hours.
One year, Ryan’s uncle went so far as to rent a bingo machine for Christmas Eve. I won $2.50 that night, and you would have thought I had just won “Wheel of Fortune.” I was ecstatic, screaming and stomping my feet and getting all hysterical like I had just seen The Beatles play in concert.
On this particular Christmas, the game of the night was Mexican dominoes, which, in case you didn’t know, can go on for hours. So by the time they finally left, I was about to lose it.
“When are we going to open the presents?” I asked, trying to feign my exasperation.
Ryan’s parents sort of looked at each other and shrugged. “Tomorrow, when our granddaughter is here.”
I wanted to scream and throw myself face down on the couch and bang my fists and kick my feet and yell, “But I want to do it now! Just because she’s 7 and I’m 40, you have to do everything her way? Life is so not fair!” But I didn’t.
My parents are the worst. They are not shy about letting me know how much they hate Christmas. If you are ever caught in a shopping mall or a grocery store with my mother when Christmas carols are playing, you are in trouble. She will mock those songs and curse like a sailor about how much she hates Christmas carols, and you will never be able to listen to a Christmas carol ever again without thinking of her.
We never really celebrated Christmas. We’d just go skiing every year and wait in line with all the other grouchy, disgruntled Jewish families who thought they were going to have the whole mountain to themselves on Christmas morning. Then we’d go out for Chinese food, and it would be the same scene all over again, only this time it’s waiting an hour for a table and then eating greasy Peking duck and moo shu pork with splintered wooden chopsticks, drinking bottle after bottle of tasteless, yellow Chinese beer.
So I thought it would be nice for Ryan and me to create some Christmas traditions of our own. Maybe that way, I could overcome the childhood trauma I endured, like finding out Santa Claus wasn’t real and like that one time my parents told me there is no such thing as God.
You don’t have to buy me any fancy presents, OK? I mean, I really don’t need an iPad or those Sorel boots with wedge heels and leggings sewn onto them. I so don’t need a new duvet that’s big enough to actually cover both of us at the same time or flannel sheets or snow tires so I don’t die when my car goes nose first into the Fryingpan River. And I definitely don’t want a Vitamix or one of those KitchenAid blender things. It’s fine.
It’s OK that there are no stockings on the mantelpiece, no wreath on the front door, no tree and no lights on the house. I don’t mind that there’s no eggnog to drink, no Christmas music playing over the stereo, no Advent calendar on the fridge.
I don’t even care than I’m Jewish or that I was raised by atheists who don’t care about this overrated, overpriced, commercialized holiday. I can do Christmas like nobody’s business – as long as you don’t ask me to sing.
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