Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Very Beery Christmas

My family is not what you'd call "traditional."

When I was growing up, the observation and celebration of Christmas was about as traditional as we got. For my father, a Presbyterian minister, this time of year was always especially busy, filled with church related events and services. My mother, ever the crafty hostess, threw awesome Christmas Eve parties at our house every year, complete with piles of food, eggnog, tipsy adults and kids giving the skies their undivided attention, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sleigh NORAD assured us was passing overhead.

So it is that now, years after moving out of my parents home and perhaps even longer since deciding not to call myself a Christian, I still get a pang of nostalgia when it comes to Christmas. With my father now living in the far-off, dusty plains of Oklahoma, I have no inclination to attend Christmas services. It feels disingenuous. I have to find new ways to celebrate the season that don't make me a hypocrite. This year, I went to the solstice bonfire at Olbrich Park. My roommates threw a holiday party and erected an evergreen tree in the house (a far more pagan symbol than most Christians might like to admit).

But when it came to Christmas Eve, well, I'll say that I went about as non-traditional as possible. And gosh darn it, I enjoyed the heck out of it.

We gathered in that most cosmopolitan of Wisconsin cities--La Crosse--and after visiting with my brother's wife's family, my siblings and I descended upon that most time honored Midwestern gathering place: the bar. And we got drunk.

I've never been drunk on Christmas Eve before. But as we sat in the darkened, smoke-filled (damn do I miss Madison at times like that) bar, watching "Pump Up the Volume" on mute and listening to Richard Cheese, Portishead and Ministry on the jukebox, I felt oddly cheery. There amongst the lost souls, we had comeraderie and good spirits and I had (most of) my family. We toasted being together, the year passed and the year ahead, and had a merry ol' time together. And that, I think, is what it should be all about: giving thanks, enjoying your moments on Earth, and maybe getting a little tipsy while Christian Slater mouths "Talk hard!" on a flickering television set overhead.

(photos: top right - my sister and me, with her chihuahua; center left - me shoveling snow in my PJs)

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