Tag Archives: christmas

A Very Garrison Keillor Christmas

12 Dec

This post is written in response to Garrison Keillor’s mewling whine Leave Christmas Alone published in the Baltimore Sun. it’s from 2009 but has been once again making the rounds on social media.

Hello, and welcome to the Keillor family Christmas celebration. Emphasis on the Christ. As in Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe that Jesus Christ is our saviour, then you can leave. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that in an hour or so god will peer into my house and incinerate any non-believers and, well, I’d just rather not clean that up. Plus I don’t really feel like risking my own precious soul by allowing infidels into my house. You know how it is.

I bet those politically correct Cambridge elite won’t even tell you that the word Christmas is derived from the Old English Crīstesmæsse, or Christ’s Mass, a fact which I blame on that dilettante of the intelligentsia, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Did you know that Emerson once preached at a Unitarian church that has since tried to remove all references of god from “Silent Night”? Because both of these things happened in the same building, Einstein’s law of Cause and Effect and Spooky New England ghosts proves that they’re indubitably related.

Did you know that there’s a war on Christmas? Why, just yesterday they were burning Christmas trees in the town square. A mob had the mall Santa bound and gagged and were threatening to burn him at the stake, only to spare him at the last minute. Last week a little girl was sent to juvie for singing Jingle Bells. There’s been talk of making all of those who celebrate the birth of our lord Jesus Christ wear manger-shaped patches, the better to round us up when the real campaign of terror against Christians begins. Of course it goes without saying that when we must worship in secret; we all live in constant fear of the government coming into our churches and forcing us at gunpoint to say “Happy Holidays” instead of the good ole fashioned “Merry Christmas.”

Have you ever seen a grown man have a full-on tantrum? Well, prepare to be dazzled by the one I’m about to throw over Christmas Carols! It is wrong, wrong, wrong to re-write Christmas songs to get rid of religious stuff. How dare you steal our sacred music? I mean, it’s fine when Christians do it, like when William Chatterton Dix wrote “What Child Is This” in 1865 to the tune of “Greensleeves,” whose previous lyrics are an Ode to Henry VIII’s boners. Dix was obviously only trying to improve an unworthy ditty, whereas when you change the words to “Silent Night” you are literally ruining my life.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard the term “cultural appropriation,” but Christmas is a classic example. Did you know that lots of Christmas carols are written by Jewish men? And that sometimes non-Christians put up trees and exchange gifts on December 31st? This has nothing to do with the oppressive cultural domination of Christmas in the west and everything to do with Jews and their ilk trying to horn in on our holiday. Do I celebrate Yom Kippur or write songs about Rosh Hashanah? No, I don’t, because I for one know what it means to be respectful of other religions, unlike you and your spiritual piracy.

We Christians have been Christ-like about your “cultural elitism” long enough. And by Christ-like I mean that we have a history of killing, torturing and ostracizing those who don’t share our beliefs, stuff which is very similar to the acts performed by the actual Jesus Christ, like healing lepers and caring for the poor. Regardless of all that, it’s time we Christians stood up and said no more! Yes, all of you non-Christians are forced to endure two months of Christmas crap colonizing practically every public space, but don’t you dare try to participate! Get your own damn holiday. Celebrate Yule instead which, admittedly, looks a lot like Christmas since many of the old pagan traditions were incorporated into western Christmas celebrations. But really, I have no idea what Christianity’s history of appropriating other religions and cultures has to do with anything.

So please, come in, and let us begin our celebration. We will sit by the fire in a circle of rough-hewn wooden chairs, eat seasonal nuts and tubers, and smugly remind each other that Christmas is ours and ours alone. While you’re here, we’ll probably pull out my old notebook, bound in a leather hide I tanned myself, and completely re-write the last 2,000 years of history so that we Christians somehow come out looking like the oppressed minority. Later, we’ll come up with a list of synonyms for the word “elite” – so far I’ve got “Jews,” “Unitarians,” “People Who Say Happy Holidays,” and “That Harvard Dude.”

The nice thing about being a white American man is, well, literally everything. I’m able to be outraged by only things that directly affect me without having to think about how any of my actions or words hurt others. Everyone treats me as if my thoughts and beliefs are precious jewels to be cherished forever. I get to lull myself with some kind of weird myth about how everyone is equal now, which allows me to bellow like a cow in heat every time I feel that the status quo, which prioritizes me over literally everyone else, is becoming even slightly more inclusive. Being a white man means that, even though I’m a serial adulterer who has been married thrice, I’m allowed, nay, obliged to lecture all of you on morality and Christianity. So come in, and bask in my light. I promise not to play any awful Christmas songs –  none of that dreck like Rudolph or Jingle Bells. Here we will have only the classics, like that one carol all about killing babies. That one always puts me in the holiday spirit.

To finish, let me end with what might be the most petulantly White Dude statement of all time: if you’re not in the club, buzz off. This also applies to gentleman’s clubs, country clubs, and sock-of-the-month clubs. Buzz off, and take your faux-hymns with you. Quit trying to steal back all the stuff we righteously stole from you.

Merry Christmas, my dears. If Jesus were alive today, I’m sure he would have written a blog post just like mine. Because celebrating his birth isn’t about peace on earth or good will towards men, it’s about fighting over who owns what.

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The Feminist Killjoy Gift Guide

8 Dec

Shopping for that special feminist someone in your life? Or maybe just looking to gift something to yourself because no one else is going to get you what you really want? Or maybe you’re just looking to support some awesome indie artists this holiday season. Whatever it is you’re here for, we’ve got you covered!

1. “This Princess Saves Herself” Necklace

Perfect for the man-hating video game aficionado in your life! Fuck waiting around for Mario, slay Bowser yourself like the bad-ass bitch you are.

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2. “I Woke Up Like This” Tank Top

Channel your inner Beyoncé with this Instagram-worthy shirt. Because you are flawless, like a diamond! Although let’s be real no one else is quite as flawless as Queen Bey.

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3. Pronoun Patches

Do some of the people in your life need a reminder of what your pronouns are? Would you prefer tapping a patch on your jacket to actually explaining again to some jerk-face stranger which pronouns you use? Or maybe these appeal to you Just Because. Whatever reason you might have for wanting them, these patches are pretty adorable.

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4. “Misandry” Hand-Stamped Bracelet

Because sometimes you want to dress up your man-hating ways. Perfect for a gallery opening, a fancy dinner party, or an awkward work function!

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5. “Go Away” Toque*

Perfect for the days when you want to leave the house and not come off as “an approachable girl who wants to hear about a man’s feelings.” Or when you want to read a damn book in public without having a bunch of dudes sally up to you and tell you how literary you are. Or just whenever, because being alone is awesome.

*Toque is Canadian-speak for knit cap, or winter hat, or whatever the rest of you weirdos call it

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6. Ada Lovelace T-Shirt

Celebrate the first programmer, Ada Lovelace, and show those brogrammers what’s what.

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7. “Riot Grrrl” Sweater Brooch Set

For your extensive collection of cardigans, and because you firmly believe in riots not diets.

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7. “Fuck The Patriarchy” Banner

Because your Great-Aunt Doris is coming to visit, and you need to spruce up the place a bit. This store also has banners that say “Merry Fucking Christmas” and “Get Shit Done.” I approve of their cussiness!

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8. “A is for Audre Lorde” Tote Bag

Use this sunny yellow tote to remind everyone that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. You can also use it to remind yourself that you cannot be free while any other woman is unfree, even if her shackles are different from your own. Or just use it for your grocery shopping. Whatever.

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9. “Intersectional Liberation” Necklace

Because if your feminism isn’t intersectional, it’s nothing but bullshit.

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10. “Don’t Tell Me To Smile” T-Shirt

No one is going to tell THIS bear she’d look prettier if she smiled. At least, not if they value their lives.

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11. “Male Tears” Teapot

Concoct your favourite brew of male tears in this adorable pot. Or just use it to steep your Earl Grey (hot), whatever floats your boat.

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12. “Transphobia Isn’t Cute” Embroidery

A gentle reminder to your guests that you’re not going to tolerate transphobic bullshit. Because feminism isn’t feminism if it’s only for cis folk.

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13. “Girls Don’t Like Boys, Girls Like Aliens And Dana Scully” Sweatshirt

BECAUSE MULDER IS THE LITERAL WORST AND SCULLY IS OUR PATRON SAINT OF PUTTING UP WITH SELF-INVOLVED DUDES

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14. “Fat Babe” Necklace

Fuck yeah you are a babe and you are fat and now you can let everyone know BOTH of those things with this sparkly necklace.

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15. #Snacklife Uterus Poster

I don’t even know what is happening here, but I keep bursting into giggles every time I look at this picture so obviously I need to include it here.

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16. Ruth Bader Ginsburg Mug

Perfect for sipping male tears/coffee/whatever elixir Ginsburg drinks every morning to help her kick ass all day long.

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17. “Cats Against Cat Calls” Tote Bag

Thank god the cats are on our side because honestly I don’t know what we’d do without them.

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18. “Books Against Body-Shaming” Sweatshirt

Because reading is AWESOME and body-shaming SUCKS so why are we even having this conversation?

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19. “Ew No” Necklace

I am a sucker for anything with a deer on it and that goes double for a pretty necklace telling people to respect your boundaries

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20. “Colouring Outside The Kitchen” Colouring Book

Get your Crayola on with the likes of Josephine Baker, Nellie Bly, Rachel Carson, Soong Ching-Ling, Hillary Clinton, Claudette Colvin, Marie Curie, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Indira Gandhi, Emma Goldman, Sheikh Hasina, Billie Holiday, Mae Jemison, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, Frida Kahlo, Billie Jean King, Tina Modotti, Annie Oakley, Michelle Obama, Georgia O’Keeffe, Yoko Ono, Betty Shabazz, and Madame C. J. Walker.

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22. Hypatia of Alexandra Necklace

Celebrate the original woman in STEM with this gorgeous handmade necklace. It gives you the chance to take a deep breath and say “WELL!” whenever someone asks you who that lady hanging between your boobs is.

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23. Pink Middle Fingers T-Shirt

Re-defining the term “lady fingers” – they’re not just a fancy British cookie anymore.

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24. “Literally Anything Before Bros” Necklace

This pretty much says it all. Cats before bros. Wizards before bros. Old rubber boots before bros. Literally anything.

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25. “Valar Morghulis” Phone Case

Because when you’re busy texting in order to ignore a dude, you really want him to remember that YES ALL MEN.

Hopefully he’s a Game of Thrones fan.

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26. “Be The Leslie Knope Of Whatever You Do”

Be committed, be kind, be funny and suspend your disbelief enough to put a positive spin on whatever situation you find yourself stuck in.

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27. Wonder Woman Evening Bag

For those nights where you want to be fancy, but you still want to stay true to your comic book nerd roots.

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28. “Seahorses Against Gender Roles” Shirt

Because the male seahorse is the one to go through pregnancy and childbirth. Seahorses: fucking up gender roles since whenever it was they evolved?

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29. Vintage Feminist Button Print Infinity Scarf

Feeling a little too grownup to plaster yourself with buttons, but still want a way to broadcast your ideologies? Off to a black-tie event and need something to spruce up that little black dress? Whatever the need, this colourful scarf is perfect for pretty much any occasion and is as adorable as it is aggressively political.

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30. Feminist Harry Potter Shirts

For the feminist Potter-head in your life. This one is a twofer: the Marauder’s Map-inspired “I Solemnly Swear That I Will Smash The Patriarchy” I and the heck-yeah-I-need-this “The Fucks I Give Are Like Horcruxes – Very Few And Hard To Find.”

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Home for Christmas

24 Dec

By the time I finished high school, I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Dodge Kitchener. Actually, that’s a lie – I’d been planning my escape since sometime in my early teens; it’s just that in my final semester of secondary school, my need to leave and branch out on my own was becoming dire. Part of it was that I just plain hated Kitchener (sorry, fellow Kitchenerites – I’ve since revised my opinion somewhat!); I was a pretentious kid who read French existentialists and smutty Leonard Cohen books, and I saw myself as being too big, too smart for my provincial hometown. Part of it was that I was sure that people only thought of me as a loser geek because they were accustomed to doing so; I thought that if I moved somewhere where no one knew me, my new peers would be sure to recognize me for the super smart intellectual with a killer fashion sense and razor sharp wit that I was. But probably the biggest reason for wanting to leave Kitchener was my family.

As the oldest child in a single parent family whose siblings were 6 and 11 years younger than her, things were, well, less than stellar. For one thing, I did a lot of free babysitting duty, which made it hard to get an after school job and earn a few dollars for myself. This, in turn, made it hard to keep up with classmates whose families were better off than mine; my clothes weren’t as nice as theirs, I didn’t always get to go along on class trips, and in my last year of school, I couldn’t afford the $20 student card, which meant that I didn’t qualify for any of the student awards. Because my mother only had a certain number of sick days per year, and because little kids tend to spend a lot of time getting sick, I was often the one to stay home with my sisters when they were running a fever or had the flu. Worst of all, or so it seemed to me, I was perpetually stuck in little-kid land. Our family television was occupied with an endless loop of Barney, The Lion King and (worst of all) Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen; I wasn’t allowed to watch any of the shows that I wanted, because they were all “inappropriate” (like, whatever, the X-Files is clearly fine for all age groups), and even just suggesting that we could turn the television off and enjoy some peace and quiet was met with a chorus of screams and protests.

I mean, sure, none of this seems that bad in retrospect, and some of it even makes me sound downright whiny, but when I was 16 all of this stuff felt like a Big Deal.

So when it came time to apply to universities, I pinned all of my hopes on one way out on the east coast, nearly 1,500 miles away from my mother’s house. I received an early offer of acceptance, which I jubilantly waved in my mother’s face. When my sisters asked if they could come visit me, I smiled and said, sure, but secretly I was thinking, so long suckers. Freedom was so close that I could taste it.

In September of that year, I packed a huge rubbermaid container full of clothing and books and set out on my 36 hour train trip to Halifax. As I hunkered down in my seat, staring at the Eastern Ontario woods and listening to Tori Amos on my discman, I thought about the fact that no one on that train knew who I was. I was finally free to be whoever I wanted to be.

University life, of course, wasn’t exactly the dreamland I’d pictured it to be. For one thing, it turned out that, even stripped of all my history and baggage, I was still a loser geek. After a few years in Halifax I would find a way to make that work for me, but that first semester was tough, sometimes bordering on downright awful. For one thing, while none of the people I met had any preconceived notions about my nerdiness, the flip side of that was that they didn’t have any positive associations with me, either. Determined to prove that I was just as cool as they were, I became unbearable, trying to show how smart I was by loudly talking over people, attempting to make “interesting” and “daring” fashion choices while actually making a fool of myself, using alcohol to get over my shyness and then spending the rest of the night throwing up in my dorm room sink. By the time late November rolled around, it was pretty clear to me that I was failing miserably at convincing everyone that I was witty and cool. Worst of all, I was surrounded by people who thought that I was a huge loser 24/7. I realized that there was something to be said for having a family who was obligated to love me unconditionally to come home to every night.

I distinctly remember the moment that I realized how homesick I was. I had a part-time job working in a clothing store, and one evening, as I was folding t-shirts, I started crying when Judy Garland’s version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas came on the radio. Although I tried to be discreet about wiping away my tears, my boss noticed that I was a snotty, sniffling mess and asked me what was wrong. “I miss my mom,” I howled, running towards the stock room to hide my shameful, babyish sobs. What the hell had happened to the hopeful, confident girl who had left Kitchener just a few months ago? I honestly didn’t know; the only thing that I was certain of was that I wanted to go home.

The day after I finished exams, I flew into Toronto’s Pearson airport, then from there took a bus to Kitchener. When my mother and sisters met me at the downtown bus station, I hugged them all tightly. I could tell by their faces how excited they were to see me, and I wondered how I could have ever left people who loved me so damn much.

Of course, a few weeks at home reminded me of all the little, irritating things that had driven me away in the first place, but when the new year rolled around and I left once again for Halifax, I had a better appreciation of all the good things I was leaving behind along with the bad.

My relationship with my mother and sisters has greatly improved over the last decade. Now I love coming home to visit; it’s hard to put into words the comfort of being around people who have had the same experiences as you, who speak the same family shorthand, who understand all the in-jokes. Of course, that also means that they probably know all, or at least most, of your excruciatingly embarrassing moments, but the further I get from my teenage years, the more those memories seem funny instead of painful. And, anyway, I know enough of my sisters’ embarrassing moments to give back as good as I get, which all part of how nature intended the family eco-system to stay in balance: everyone has dirt on everyone else, and dredging up your sister’s awkward past means that your own becomes fair game. This means that my family’s golden rule is, don’t dish it out unless you’re sure you can take it, and by “take it”, I mean, laugh at yourself.

Being home this year has reminded me of just how true the old adage about it taking a village to raise a child is. We’re pretty isolated, family-wise, in Toronto; getting some time to ourselves means a lot of planning and orchestration. We’re lucky to have several fantastic babysitters for Theo, but, of course, their fantastic-ness means that they’re in high demand, and it can be tricky to book time with them. And, of course, having to pay for someone to watch Theo whenever we want to go out to see a movie makes date night thrice as expensive as it used to be, so sometimes Matt-and-Anne time just isn’t financially feasible. Here, though, we can hand off Theo to his Gran and Aunties just about anytime we want, and they, of course, are delighted by the chance to spend time with the grandson/nephew that they rarely get to see. And Theo, of course, is downright thrilled to be around my mother and sisters. He loves his babysitters, of course, but there’s really no substitute for a grandmother, is there?

After a tough few months during which Matt and I were both pulling a lot of hours at work, coming home for Christmas this year feels a lot like it did in my freshman year. I thought we were doing fine on our own, I thought that we were free and independent and grown up, but being at my mother’s house has made me realize just how much I’ve missed my family.

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Obligatory Christmas Post

21 Dec

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written here. I mean, four whole days without a blog post – that shit is, as they say, crazy.

Part of my lack of posting has been because I took some time to write a piece for the Good Men Project about rape culture, and how it affects men. The editors really liked my article (squee!), but shit kind of got real in the comments. Let’s just say that many, many people disagreed with me (there were nearly 200 comments at last count), and found me to be of questionable intelligence. Oh well. It is what it is, it takes all kinds, and so on and so forth, you know? If even one person read it and was like, hmm, maybe rape culture is a thing, a thing that seriously contributes to the fucked up ways we talk about male rape victims then hey, I guess my job here is done.

The other reason that I haven’t been posting here is that I’ve been writing honest-to-goodness fiction. Like, not even a thinly-veiled autobiography, but an actual story about things that actually never happened to me. This is the first time that I’ve been able to write about pretend things for nearly three years, so I am kind of stoked. I just hope that I’m not jinxing myself by mentioning it here.

I don’t really have much else to say. I think I’m a little politicked-out, and I’ve also realized that I’m way happier when I write about things that don’t make me go into a blind rage. I’m sure I’ll be back tomorrow being all YOU GUYS DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE LATEST ATROCITY, but tonight, in the spirit of the upcoming Christmas holiday, I want to share with you one of my favourite Christmas stories.

When I was in high school, I worked at Tim Hortons. Several times a week I donned a maroon and white striped polyester shirt and a pair of extremely flattering maroon polyester pants so that I could stand behind a counter and sell donuts for a couple of hours. While it wasn’t as bad as, say, the time my dentist didn’t give me enough anaesthetic before drilling into my tooth, it wasn’t exactly the highlight of my life, either.

One of the things Tim Hortons used to do back then was make custom cakes (they might still do this, I actually have no idea). You could fill out a sheet specifying what type of cake you wanted, what colours of icing, and what message you wanted scrawled across the top, and then a few days later you could pick up your very own delicious cake baked and decorated by minimum-wage earning teenagers.

One day towards the end of December we received what was probably the strangest order we’d ever seen. This customer wanted a vanilla cake covered in white frosting with “Happy Birthday Baby Jesus” written on it. Their requested pickup date was December 24th.

We duly made the cake, of course, snickering over it as we did so. We tried to figure out what kind of person might have ordered this cake. Was it a local, zealous religious group? Someone’s idea of a funny way to end Christmas dinner? Was someone actually planning on having a child on Christmas and naming him Jesus?

When the customer arrived to pick up his cake, I went out back, yelled, “GUYS, THE JESUS CAKE DUDE IS HERE!” and waited as just about every single employee came out front to see who this person was. He looked pretty normal, maybe a little sheepish, but really, nothing out of the ordinary.

Naturally, we asked him what the hell was up with the Jesus cake. His answer was one of the best things I’ve ever heard.

His daughter had turned three that year, so he and his wife had decided to explain the Christmas story to her. She’d been appalled that Jesus, a poor defenceless baby, had been born in a barn. After hearing the basics, she’d begun to pepper her parents with questions.

“Did he have a bed?”

“Did he have toys?”

“Did he even have diapers or bottles or a pacifier?”

Finally, she asked what seemed to her to be the most important question:

“Did he have a birthday cake for his birthday?”

When her parents answered that no, he didn’t have a birthday cake for his birthday, she’d started crying.

“That’s not fair,” she’d said. “Everyone should have a birthday cake, especially Baby Jesus”

A few weeks later, when her parents had asked her what she wanted for Christmas, the only answer she would give them was, “A birthday cake for Baby Jesus.”

After telling this story, her father had laughed, saying that he figured he’d take this chance to enjoy the fact that his daughter wasn’t old enough to ask for a long list of toys. He thanked us, paid for his cake and left. Those of us who were working that day cooed over the adorable story and then quickly forgot about it; it hadn’t been nearly as interesting or as scandalous as we’d imagined.

Thinking back, though, I wonder if that kid didn’t understand Christmas better than most of us. Because it’s not about the giving or the getting, is it? It’s not about stuffing yourself with food, or drinking too much wine, or watching corny old Christmas specials. It’s about giving to those who have not, about loving one another and, most of all, it’s about family. That kid, and her reaction to the unfairness of Baby Jesus and his lack of cake, was on to something. She knew what was really up with Christmas, probably more than I ever will.

Happy birthday, Baby Jesus. Whoever you were, whatever you were, if ever you were, I’m glad I get to use your birthday as an excuse to be with my awesome family. So thank you for that.

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See? Definitely no birthday cakes.