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In my family, Christmas is the king holiday. It’s like all the other family events, except even more so. As we come up on Thanksgiving and I hear people everywhere absent-mindedly humming Christmas carols, the thought of my dad always sneaks into my head. Christmas was his holiday.
We always go to my maternal grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving, but as soon as we come back, the Christmas preparation begins. We unearth the boxes of decorations from the basement; in the boxes are Christmas linens, Christmas CDs, musical snow globes, silver and wooden candlesticks, crèches- not to mention the tree ornaments, stockings, and lights. The first weekend, we usually put up the lights; my mother hated watching because it was scary for her to see my dad on a forty-foot ladder, leaning out to the side to clip another light onto the flashing.
A week or two before the actual event, we go caroling. My grandparents met in the Glee Club when they went to Cal, and they started going caroling with their friends from the club after graduating; with their descendants, the original group of carolers has expanded. Ultimately, we end up at the Pecks’ house for goose dinner and the last song: “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light” from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. We return home happy, exhausted, and full of cider to begin Christmas preparation in earnest.
My dad would take a full week off just to get ready for Christmas- we host about forty people every year Christmas Eve. He would put on the Bing Crosby Christmas CD, often singing along to it as my family cleaned and decorated the house. We scrubbed the banisters, washed the windows, polished the furniture and raked the leaves, all so the decorations could stand out in their full glory: pine garlands wrapped around the banister, red and green candles everywhere, Santa towels in the bathrooms, logs in the fireplace lighting up the beautiful, hand-embroidered stockings- but most of all, the tree. The beautiful, nine-foot-tall Douglas fir, bedazzled with lights, blown-glass angels, and my favorites, the little polar bears and penguins playing with miniature red toys.
I don’t really remember what we eat Christmas Eve, aside from my mother’s homemade eggnog. It’s the magic of all the green and shiny things sparkling in the candlelight that embellishes my memory, the singing of carols, the feeling that everyone is happy for that one night.
I don’t miss him so much on Christmas itself; I have so many duties as hostess that I am too busy to think about him much. But anticipating the holiday, I miss him. I miss his rumbling baritone singing “White Christmas”; I miss going to buy the tree with him, hearing him say, “This one! This one is PERFECT!” I miss going to San Francisco for last minute shopping for my mom’s presents. Mostly, I miss his enthusiasm for the holiday, the one holiday that nothing could possibly mar. Often, I think the world is a sad place, but then, I remember that my dad’s Christmas still lives although he no longer actively participates in it, that maybe I can help more people participate in it. And I smile.


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