Our tale of resistance and woe picks up right where it left off. I had been exiled to the basement, vowing revenge for my parents’ disgusting crime of Christmas befoulment:
1. The decorations would not go up until December 10.
2. The Muppet Christmas Carol would not be watched Christmas Eve. We could watch it the 23rd if we wanted to, but on Christmas Eve we would be doing other things.
3. The gingerbread house would be done much later in the season.
4. The lights on the tree, when it finally would go up, would be all blue.
That night, I held a meeting under the blankets in my sister’s room. It was the inaugural meeting of the Christmas Resistance Movement (CRM).
My three sisters were the only ones old enough to understand what was going on, and they were almost as mad as I was. Like any good demagogue, I harnessed their rage to my own ends.
Have you ever seen the movie Red Dawn? It was along those lines. A guerrilla campaign against our grinchly oppressors was hatched. Morale at the meeting was high, and we closed by singing banned Christmas carols. Phase One was to begin the day after Thanksgiving!
My siblings and I do not really celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s more a distraction from the Day After, when we put up the Christmas decorations. My parents, however, were determined to enjoy their vacation pigging out on pie.
Phase One called for the Christmas Resistance Movement to wake at 3 am and begin dragging Christmas boxes up from downstairs. We were going to have the whole house decorated by the time my parents got up! They can’t stop us!
Except they did. My dad was waiting for us in the living room with the wooden spoon.
We feared the spoon. Even I, the Fearless Leader of the CRM, ran screaming from the room when I saw it.
Dad gave us a stern talking to later in the day. My sisters’ will to resist began to crumble, so I was forced to come up with Plan B.
At that time our TV was upstairs. Dad rarely came to the basement, so the risk of detection was minimal. I stole a bunch of paper, crayons and scissors, and we all went to work.
I should point out that at this point in time the basement, other than our rooms, wasn’t finished. We had empty ceilings and bare studs on the walls. It was hideous. We tried to make it beautiful. Dad destroyed all pictures of this challenge to his authority, so I had to draw it instead:
Snowflakes and colored strips of paper hung from every stud and exposed pipe. Various seditious slogans celebrating Christmas hung on every wall. If you look closely in the basement today you can still see remnants of our rebellion high up in the ceiling. It was perhaps the proudest moment of the Christmas Resistance Movement.
Mom and Dad saw it the next day.
I am beginning to realize that I was not an easy child to raise.
Like any resistance leader, I was hoping for an overreaction from the parental Gestapo. I wanted them to ground us, send us to our rooms, and rip down all of our hard work. I was certain that my siblings would rally to me, and that a revolution would soon follow.
Mom and Dad were too smart. They said nothing. We were not punished, but as December dawned there were still no real Christmas decorations in the house.
So I came up with Phase Two. Mom and Dad went for a walk the first weekend in December, and the CRM sprang into action. We drew protest pictures and hung them on their bedroom door. Then we ran like scared rabbits to the basement where we nervously sang more carols to keep our spirits up.
The pictures were, I am now ashamed to say, rude and extremely disrespectful.
Mom and Dad again said nothing. I was running out of ideas. My father’s will was like iron; it did not bend, it did not break, and every attempt to break him only further stiffened his resolve to see this through to the bitter end.
Mom, however, was another story.
She loves Christmas. She was willing to go along with Dad because she too had felt the season was out of control; but her resolve began to crater under her children’s onslaught. It was December, she reasoned, and yet the house looks like it does in March. It’s depressing. It also helped that Dad went a little too far when it came to the calendar.
The star on the calendar’s tree was put up on December 1, and Santa Claus was put on the tree the night of Christmas Eve just before we went to bed.
Before the kids could riot, as we were perpetually close to doing this year, Mom grabbed Dad by his neck.
The calendar stayed the same. My mother’s treason won that battle.
Mom did convince Dad to put up the decorations in time for my sister’s birthday on the 8th. The tree was blue.
There was a great deal of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth from the CRM. I briefly considered becoming Muslim rather than celebrate Christmas in such a garish fashion. Even Mom doubted the tree’s new hue before coming around.
Mom was becoming concerned about the lack of family camaraderie this Christmas. If my father were the Soviet Union, crushing all resistance and hope out of their subject populations, Mom began to more closely resemble the East German officials at the end of the Cold War, when they threw open the gates of the Berlin Wall and brought the whole Iron Curtain down by accident.
The day we did the gingerbread house had been pushed back much further than normal that year, and she decided to surprise us by making it twice as large as normal.
It now looked like our house! She even bought blue M&Ms for a tree in the window. Everyone-Dad, me, the Christmas Resistance Movement- all agreed to the compromise. We decorated the gingerbread mansion in sullen silence.
The attempted cease-fire failed. The gingerbread recipe was not capable of withstanding the greater weight requirements the larger house demanded. In addition, our house is very humid, further weakening an already unstable support system. Mom, my sister and I watched a week later as the house collapsed in on itself like a dying star.
I sank to my knees, weeping uncontrollably. My sister vanished for hours. We found her later hiding in the attic, rocking back and forth silently. Even Mom spent the rest of the day in a funk.
It was a metaphor for the whole season, and it broke us. The CRM disbanded. We gave up hope. Only token resistance was offered when we watched the Muppet Christmas Carol a day early.
We thought we had lost. Christmas was forever changed. The happiness and magic of our childhood was gone forever.
To my shock, however, that Christmas was as good as it had ever been. We had as much fun and enjoyed it just as much as if the tree had been multi-colored. The day was just as magical as it was when we watched the Muppets on Christmas Eve. The gingerbread house, despite looking like an earthquake had struck, tasted just as good.
I learned a powerful lesson that year, perhaps the lesson Dad and Mom were trying to teach. Christmas, in the end, isn’t about traditions. It’s about family. It’s about spending time with the ones we love, and being grateful for the Son of God who allows us to spend eternity with them and Him. Christ suffered for our sins, died for us, and now lives again. The restored Gospel allows us to be sealed for eternity. That is what Christmas is for.
The next year, though we kept the blue tree, Mom and Dad let us put up the decorations the day after Thanksgiving and watch the Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. We’ve done it every year since, and we have come up with a compromise that suits everyone.
Merry Christmas, everyone! Because of Him, all our days will be merry and bright.