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One party down; the rest of the holidays to go.

By Hannah Wallace

The makings of a good Christmas party: Homer Santa, Channukah "party songs," The Christmas Shoes DVD and chocolate-covered bacon (with nuts!).

Well, Chrappy Christmas went down just about as smoothly as something like that can go. Good turnout—about 25 people total, I think—and things seemed to flow around the house pretty well. (This was a problem on Halloween, when our Dexter setup and the warm weather made everything feel cramped and closed-in.) No stories to tell you of outrageous behavior or hookups or even marathon condiment fights—just good, old-fashioned mingling and merriment. Every once in a while I’d look up and see hockey players chatting with high school friends chatting with kickballers. It may be low-key, but that kind of social mixture is the most difficult thing to achieve—and I could take credit for that, sure, but again, it’s the people that make the party.

Oh yes, there was boxing.

Bud the Beerslinger was so popular for Halloween that we had to bring him back--in the Christmas spirit, of course.

So, now that that’s gone off without a hitch, I find myself…surprisingly prepared for the holidays, actually. Presents are purchased and wrapped; house is…cleaner than it was 48 hours ago, at least; work projects are getting pretty well taken care of in preparation for a week off. All signs are pointing to a wonderful, relaxing holiday.

Everybody will come over for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner at my place, for which Mom brings all the fixings for a quick preparation of spaghetti carbonara. (That tradition dates back to my teeny tiny apartment in Indian Beach, where boiling water was as complicated a culinary maneuver as we had room for.) We’ll open presents Christmas morning at my parents’ house and relax there throughout the day. Then we’ll all head to Mattison’s Riverside for Christmas dinner—also a new tradition, since last year’s dinner there was a hit with everyone. And then we’ll head up to Huntsville to do it all over again with the Cheetah Club clan. Tell me that doesn’t sound perfect.

During our Chrappy preparations, because we also have normal Christmas decorations that we’d put up anyway, we like to say that if anyone thinks our décor is tacky, then it’s on purpose—for the party, of course (whether or not it was intended to be). But it occurs to me that that’s not the only reason the line is blurred. I think Christmas is supposed to be about our little oddities (or idiosyncrasies, if you prefer). Kind of like Thanksgiving, how everyone wants the cranberry sauce in the shape of the can, ‘cause that’s how it always used to be. At some point the things that were just a joke make their way into our affections anyway, and we forget that some little ritual used to be a send-up of holiday traditions, and now it’s become one.

Chrappy decor.

I think sometimes I worry that I’m not doing Christmas just right, and I wonder if anyone else feels that way—nothing major, just that you’re not quite living up to the capital-S Spirit of the Season, and that honoring family and tradition has to be all serious and reverent. Like even when people are laughing we need a slow camera pull back from the window and the syrupy music to indicate that this is, indeed, a meaningful time to be treasured and precious memories and Folger’s moments and blah. But what we really want to do is get the church giggles in the middle of mass and go home and make fun of Mom’s Normal Rockwell compulsion until she falls down laughing, and we quickly follow. Y’see, those really are the moments to be treasured.

It’s probably the same reason everyone affectionately refers to their family as dysfunctional during the holidays—we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Y’see, even when it’s all in jest, you can’t escape the sentimentalism. Or I can’t, anyway. I hope everyone’s holidays are as ridiculous and irreverent as you remember them being, and I’ll see you all in 2010!