Monitor Board of Contributors: A child’s guide to Christmas
You are about to experience your first Christmas, Grandson – maybe the strangest holiday season of them all. (Holidays are special occasions when grownups stay home from work and serve good food and you have to dress up. Think of Christmas as Thanksgiving, only more complicated.)
Here’s a brief guide for getting through the Christmas season unscarred for the rest of your life.
1. Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, you will be asked repeatedly to interact in various ways with a bearded old fat man in a red suit. You may be asked to sit on his lap at the mall. You may be asked to send him letters listing all the toys you want for Christmas. You certainly will have Christmas stories featuring the bearded old fat man read to you as you’re dandled on your daddy’s knee. There’s probably also a Facebook destination where you can use your iPhone to have constant contact with the man. In all of this, try not to get sucked in or you’ll be sorry. That’s all I can say for now.
2. The next thing you will notice is the Christmas tree. It will not be clear to you why otherwise sane and caring adults will bring a recently harvested, once-healthy tree into your living space, balance it precariously in a small saucer of water, hang a whole lot of interesting stuff all over it, and then continually harass you to stay away from it because you could tip it over and electrocute yourself and stain the carpet. Just try your best to humor these people and leave the damn thing alone. It will be impossible, but you have to try.
3. Then there is the business called Posing for the Christmas Card. If you’re very lucky, your parents will set the family camera on a tripod and take the picture in the privacy of your own home – probably in front of the Christmas tree (see 2 above). This will only take a couple of hours. If you’re unlucky, the whole family will dress up, get in the SUV, and drive to the studio for a visit with the Professional Photographer. This will take the better part of a day.
The Professional Photographer will be a strung-out sweaty man who has no patience with children; and although he will have lots of really interesting stuff around to play with, he will not want you to touch it because it’s there only to make the photographs he will take look more interesting. He will yell at you because you’ve touched his stuff, and you will cry, and your parents will be distressed because a bawling kid won’t look that great on their Christmas card, and the photographer will want to take the picture anyway because there are other families waiting impatiently, and then you will all put your winter coats back on and go home. Avoid this if you have any say in the matter.
4. Maybe not this year, since there’s no evidence that you understand human speech yet, but certainly in the future you’ll be asked repeatedly what you want for Christmas. This is a tough one. Ask for too much, and people will think you’re a self-centered materialist. Ask for too little, and people will wonder what the hell’s the matter with you. Here’s a thought: Just say, real seriously, “What I want is unimportant. The real question for me is, ‘What can I give, and to whom?’ ” People will think the Second Coming has arrived. It worked for me. At age 3, I got my own manger (see 6 below).
5. You will be asked to sing Christmas carols over and over again as soon as your parents think you can carry a tune – probably earlier, because parents think it’s really cute when their little kids sing off-key. If you’re too enthusiastic about this, you will be required to learn a musical instrument so you can play Christmas carols over and over again. Choose wisely.
6. You will also hear stories about The Little Baby Jesus in the Manger, also known as the Christ Child and the Wee One. There’s some hard-to-believe stuff in these stories, but not as much as in the story about the Bearded Fat Old Man in the red suit. And you won’t be asked to sit on His lap or write Him cute letters.
7. Then there’s the wonderful story by Charles Dickens known by its full title as A Christmas Carol in Prose, being a Ghost Story of Christmas. If you read it before age 6, it will scare the bejeezus out of you (see 6 above). Go ahead anyway. It’ll keep your mind off that tree (see 2 above).
8. There are also other holidays in December that call for celebration. Here are a few, all real events: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bathtub Party Day, Put On Your Own Shoes Day, Pearl Harbor Day, Human Rights Day, International Children’s Day, Oatmeal Muffin Day, National Flashlight Day, and Make Cut-Out Snowflakes Day. Most of these are a lot easier to get through than Christmas.
9. There are lots of other Christmas-related matters you’ll need to watch out for as you get older. In no particular order, these include:
∎ The elves (Dopey, Grumpy, Sneezy, etc.)
∎ The reindeer (Dopey, Grumpy, Bonnie, Clyde, etc.)
∎ Rudolph the ninth reindeer
∎ Neighborhood caroling
∎ Midnight vespers
∎ Marzipan and stollen (two inedible Christmas foods)
∎ The whole chimney thing
∎ The “Messiah” sing-along
∎ The Christmas stocking
∎ The lump-of-coal threat
∎ The true meaning of Christmas
∎ The snack for Santa
∎ “Santa Baby” with Eartha Kitt
∎ “Batteries not included”
∎ The Opening of the Presents ritual
∎ The Return of the Presents ritual
∎ The Advent calendar
∎ The creche and the little wisemen and shepherds (usually inedible)
∎ The lights strung all over the outside of your house
∎ The politics of Christmas-Card mailing
∎ The Santa Surprise.
That pretty much covers the basics, kid. We can go into detail later.
(Larry Chase lives in Andover.)