so, i hate christmas. it’s no secret. those of you who know me well know that i have hated it for a long time. not the actual day, of course. i like spending time with people i care about, i like sitting around the table drinking wine and not caring about anything but being in the moment. but i hate the songs, i hate the ornaments, i hate the decorations, the stress, the evil in people’s hearts.. i hate the commercialism of christmas.

i watched the polar express yesterday because that’s what my household was watching, and i wanted to try to be part of them. it was nice. not as great as emmet otter and his jugband christmas (see last year’s xmas blog) or the all time coolest christmas cartoon, small one, which evidently isn’t on television anymore. my roommates put up their tree, so the living room smelled like pine, and i felt a little twinkle of christmas spirit, though it faded quickly..

i started to think about christmas traditions at my house, and they’re a little hard to understand because of the sheer insanity of my family. but i will try my best.

i grew up in a college town in colorado. each year, the local paper highlighted the biggest and best private homes that had lights displayed. most were tasteful, some were not. in fact, two of my favorites were known citywide and visited by everybody i knew.

the first was a photographer that had a set of life size (okay, not QUITE lifesize) dinosaurs in his lawn strung up with lights. the other was a house in the downtown area which boasted the single most insane light display this side of vegas. huge lighted slogans like “jesus loves you” covered the house, complete with a rotating model of santa, and about a thousand extensions cords. this house made clark griswold’s display of christmas seem the equivalent of changing your porch light from white to green. it was nauseating, and spectacular.

my father decided when i was about 16 that we would drive around on christmas eve after our dinner and look at the lights on houses. each year, a few people were added to the mix (including my dad’s fantastic and equally insane coworker, Dick) that one carload wouldn’t fit everybody. of course, staying home wasn’t tolerated, even though i offered to give up my seat in the car each year. by the third year, dick and my father typed up score sheets for all of us to fill out to rate each home using a variety of criteria like symmetry, color scheme, and wattage. we weren’t allowed to forego the score sheets either. they were all counted and tallied at the end of the night to declare the overall winner.

one year, my father announced that christmas eve was going to be different than usual, but he wouldn’t provide any details. my mom spent weeks brainstorming what she thought he had planned, and for some reason she became fixated that my father had hired pearl jam to perform in our backyard, despite my coaxing that it probably wasn’t the case.

when our doorbell rang during dinner that christmas eve, my father wouldn’t let me get the door. from my vantage point at the table, i could see that the man at the door was wearing a tux, and he and my dad spoke in hushed whispers. i relayed this information to the rest of the table, and my mom abandoned the pearl jam idea and became sure that my dad hired chippendales to perform for the women of the family. i tried to tell her that he was more likely a limo driver, and that having us driven around to see the lights, free to drink wine and fill out our scorecards in a more spacious setting and without the hassle of a designated driver, was a more plausible holiday idea than pearl jam or strippers, but she was resolute. as we were climbing in his limo a half an hour later, he introduced himself as “greg”. my mom called him “chips” for the rest of the night anyway.

several years passed and we carried on that tradition. drinking wine in a limo, doing chinese fire drills at stoplights, careful not to spill our cocktails, dilligently filling out our scorecards to avoid being chastized by the men, even though they never came up with a true winner no matter how long it took them to look over the scores.