Tag Archives: holiday

ghosts of christmas past

the other day at work, we were chatting about our favorite christmas songs. although i’m as secular and irreverent as it gets, i love me some christmas music. i have a whole christmas playlist that i add/delete from my ipod on a seasonal basis because it takes up a fair amount of space.

anyway, my favorite christmas song is “have yourself a merry little christmas.” whenever i mention that, the typical response is “oh. that’s kind of a sad song.” and i agree – it is a little melancholy, which is what i really love about it.

the holidays aren’t just fun and games and presents and glitter. i think there’s a lot of emotion wrapped up there too, and some of it is sad. i can’t be alone in this – otherwise, how would we have these wistful and wishful christmas songs?

i think a lot about what christmas was like growing up. my brother and i were very lucky kids. we always had wonderful christmases. our parents did things like the family-christmas-tree-getting excursion (very griswald, i know!). we’d head up to arlington for a day of hay rides, cider, and choosing our very own tree to chop down (we usually chose a douglas fir). we did an annual day at a food bank where we helped assemble christmas food baskets for people in need. my parents helped us put out the eggnog and cookies every christmas eve, and never laughed at my insisting we include carrots and apples for the reindeer. snug and freshly pajama’d, we’d read “’twas the night before christmas” before bed, and we’d wake to a bunch of presents under the tree. stockings first, then breakfast, then prezzies.

i think a lot about christmases spent with my first serious boyfriend and his family. they always welcomed me over to share in their christmas eve festivities. i remember little things like how they always opened all their presents on christmas eve (which i found equal parts horrifying and hilarious), and then on christmas day they’d open all their stocking presents which were always stuffed inside of paper grocery bags instead of actual stockings. then they’d go to a movie (horror of horrors!) and have turkey, having done a honeybaked ham on thanksgiving (so backward! so adorable!). despite our differences, i loved being a part of their festivities and being exposed to something so different from what i did with my family. i bought his parents beautiful ornaments every year. sometimes i wonder if they still use them.

for me, the holiday sadness comes with having most of that magic and sparkle and ritual left in the past. it’s nothing anybody does intentionally – it’s just growing up. i do my own tree now, very different from my mom’s – it’s more dr. seuss than classic christmas. i put up stockings for vindaloo and me, and because i am completely that crazy dog lady, i only fill her stocking after she’s already gone to bed. i’m delighted by how she heads immediately for it in the morning, sniffing out whatever new toys and goodies hide inside.

slowly but surely, i’m creating my own christmas rituals. they’ll never be what they were when i was a child, but they have meaning all the same.

the sadness is part of it for me. listening to “have yourself a merry little christmas” and reflecting on christmases past, looking at my tree or wrapping presents for my nephews and nieces…it’s one of those moments where happiness and sadness meet in the middle. if i hadn’t been such a lucky child, if we hadn’t had such loving parents and solid christmas traditions of our own, i might not feel the sadness at all. but really, without the sadness, how do you truly know how to measure your happiness?



’tis the season for tipping, apparently. i was listening to talk radio the other morning on my drive to work, and they started discussing tipping practices during the holidays.

first off, i’m putting this concept in the category of “nobody tells you this.” i’m actually creating a new blog tag for that very concept, all the things you’re just supposed to know but that nobody ever tells you. you know, the proverbial nobody.


so the idea that during the holidays, you are meant to increase your tip amount for all types of services. now, this i get. i get that you would want to be more generous to others during the holidays. if you normally tip 15% to your waiter, you might find yourself upping that to 20 or even 25% for great service. i do this, and it makes sense to me.

what i don’t understand is the idea that during the holidays, you are now supposed to give tips to people you never tip normally. seemingly random positions that really have nothing else in common other than they do something for you. your mailman. your doorman. your newspaper deliverer. your personal trainer.

can postal workers even accept tips? as public employees, i’m pretty sure they aren’t allowed to take money. newspaper carriers and doormen? they’re doing the same thing they do every day that you already pay for.

but wait, now that i’m thinking about it, this sort of calls into question the whole tipping system. why do some positions get tips and others don’t? why do we tip waiters and cab drivers, but not newspaper carriers or doormen?

dwight schrute would tell us to only tip people who perform jobs that we ourselves are incabable of performing. dwight can deliver food, so waiters don’t get tips. he can cut his own hair, so no tip for the stylists. he does, however, tip his urologist, as he is unable to pulverize his own kidney stones.


i guess the part that irks me is the arbitrary nature of it, and how you’re supposed to know who to tip and who not to tip.

the other piece is that while some people get christmas bonuses, i don’t. as a public employee myself, my holiday pay looks exactly like any other time of year. we don’t even get cost of living adjustments these days. so the holidays find me spending lots of money on gifts for friends and family, but i’m not seeing any extra income during that time of year. the idea of adding on tips for everyone is overwhelming. i think i’ll stick to what i know and where i already tip. everyone else? that’s what christmas cookies are for.