Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Very David Sedaris Christmas

A commonly-asked question around December regards Christmas traditions. It is fully expected that everyone grew up with certain traditions that their family did every year at Christmas time. Often these include watching Christmas movies, classics such as "It's a Wonderful Life," "A Christmas Story," and "Rudolf the Reindeer," among others. Other traditions include when different families open Christmas presents and eat a big dinner. When people who participated in Christmas traditions grow up, these annual events are not just fun for them, but symbolize Christmas and everything about it. They create Christmas itself, as well as that that sometimes-elusive Christmas Spirit.

In 2005 my family went to Hawaii for Christmas. Coincidentally, Jason was at BYU-Hawaii that year and his family went to visit him at the same time. Our families spent a lot of time together that Christmas break in Hawaii, foreshadowing the then-unknown future in which our families would be united forever through our marriage. Minus Hawaii.

It was that Christmas when our family discovered something that would change our lives forever, and would be an essential part of Christmas for me every year since. And it's not eating a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish for Christmas breakfast, which I did. It was that Christmas when my mom, in a Honolulu hotel room if I remember correctly, first read David Sedaris's Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and consequently his story "Six to Eight Black Men." She was laughing so hard she couldn't breath and nearly fell off the hotel bed, so we made her read it to us. We were changed forever.

Now in my adulthood I look back fondly on the Christmases of my youth, and remember our family traditions. When Jason and I were engaged friends and advisers stressed the importance of creating traditions in our new family, especially Christmas traditions. They urged us to accept our spouse elect's family traditions and cooperate in creating an amalgamation of both families' traditions, as well as creating new ones. People always had a look of concern on their faces when they told us this, as though they personally knew a couple who had split up over whether or not you should leave cookies and milk out for Santa, a tradition which I think really just depends on where you live and what the likelihood is of mice or cockroaches getting to the cookies before you can sneak out and eat them yourself.

Ever since Christmas 2005 reading or listening to David Sedaris's Christmas stories has been a necessary aspect of my Christmas, and this year, though he has listened to it before, Jason grasped the full beauty of them. I think it's safe to say that our new family will be strong now that we have such a timeless Christmas tradition of listening and reading to "Six to Eight Black Men" and "Santaland Diaries." I hope you enjoy them too.


"Santaland Diaries" can be listened to in four parts here.