“It’s Christmas Eve! It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be.”
– Bill Murray in Scrooged.
My Dad loved to tell a Christmas story that a minister friend told him years ago. A group of first graders were lining up to take their places in a Christmas pageant and the minister was asking them what part they hoped to play – shepherd, one of the wise men, maybe an angel. One little guy piped up and announced that he hoped to be “Round John.”
Round John and the Christmas pageant
“Round John,” the minister said with a surprised look on his face. “You know,” the little guy said, “like the song – Round John virgin.”
I was once in a Christmas pageant – surprisingly as an angel – and wearing my nifty little costume, a cape-like affair with a row of tinsel-like material glued or sewed to the fabric. While waiting to make my entrance, I was sitting on the floor, back against the wall when my tinsel-like material came in contact with an electric outlet. I’m often still as oblivious as I was at age six. Sparks flew. A smell of burning fabric filled the room. The angel was sparking, but spared. No one died, thankfully. The show went on. My mother was appalled.
Family lore holds that our tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve dates to when my brother was discovered under the tree at 3:00 o’clock on Christmas morning ripping into his presents. He had simply decided he had been in bed long enough, damn it, it was time to get on with the main event. Mom and dad, probably still a bit groggy from one too many Tom and Jerry’s, heard the commotion and lit up the living room. Reprimands to brother Rick quickly gave way to smiles and a cup of coffee. Christmas came early – very early in the morning that year. Mom, needing her beauty sleep, decreed that henceforth Christmas would come even earlier – on Christmas Eve. Good call, Mom.
My mother made fruit cake. Now, before you seize up and start thinking, “I know fruitcake – also known as the brick doorstop” learn about her fruitcake. By the way, there is no truth to the rumor that there are really only about 500 fruitcakes in the entire world that are perpetually re-gifted. That is an urban myth, at least I think it is.
No store bought fruit cake for us…
I can tell you this: my mother’s fruitcake was precious, good stuff and none of that neon electric colored, store bought fruit for Mrs. Johnson. She used fruit cocktail – from a can. Her fruit cake was dense and moist, soft and substantial. I loved it. She knew I didn’t appreciate the chopped walnuts that her recipe called for, so – love you Mom – she always made me my own loaf of fruit cake sans walnuts. She would drizzle a little powdered sugar frosting on top. Oh, the memory.
I’ve had floating islands in fancy restaurants, clafoutis to die for, cherries jubilee and mousse aux chocolate, but would trade them all for one more slice of Mom’s fruit cake. It probably tastes better in my memory than it did for real, but she did go to the trouble of leaving out the walnuts. Love is a sweet taste.
Merry Christmas and thanks for reading…Now…Come let us adore him… Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth …
PS: The new Bill Murray Christmas special is very sweet, a little weird and full of funny stuff. Have an eggnog and watch while we count our blessings.