When I was a kid, I really wanted to believe in Santa. We didn’t have a fireplace, so I hung a stocking on the wall of our apartment, and took daily assessments of whether I was naughty or nice, thinking he would surely visit me on Christmas Eve. When morning came, I ran to the stocking and looked inside, but it was empty, like the dark abyss of my childhood.
I was friends with a lot of the journalism kids in high school, and when they asked me to share a Christmas memory I had one year, this is a paraphrase of what I submitted to be published. I can’t believe I thought I wasn’t emo.
Luckily, my Christmases started looking up when we moved out of the inner-city apartment into the suburbs. My parents felt super guilty about not giving me any traditions, when I had to hear about it from all my friends, and then listen to them talk about their presents for all of January. So one night before Christmas, my dad came home with a couple of huge boxes. One had a plastic tree inside, while the other had all kinds of tangled lights and wacky ornaments. It was a display tree from Walmart, priced to sell at $30, decorations and all.
Even though we would never adopt Christianity or the consumer side of the holidays, that tree made me feel super proud and connected to American culture. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that if you were a kid without a Christmas tree in Ohio, your lifestyle was seriously worth questions by everyone in the neighborhood. Over the years, we amassed a huge collection of ornaments, including some gorgeous handmade pieces. When my parents moved house a few years ago, they sold it all at a garage sale.
I really can’t think of a single tradition of my youth except putting up the tree. I’ve never seen A Charlie Brown Christmas, I don’t eat anything specific each year, and I don’t get gifts (although I take the opportunity to craft for friends) .I don’t know if I would teach my children to believe in Santa, but I know I’ll be making hella holiday rituals for my family. And my kids would probably rather go without a tree, but I’m really excited at the possibility of getting a gold one for my first house. I can’t resist that twinkle!