Christmas is the culmination of the accumulated stress and financial strain. After a month of worry, spending money we don’t have on things people don’t need, dealing with the logistics of the post office, and forced gatherings of loved ones into a tiny room, even the most hearty of men can be broken. It’s a wonder we managed to survive.
Christmas Eve was our culmination. As kids, Christmas was a big event, with lots of food and even more presents. My mother would spend hours making her famous lasagna (the secret recipe having been handed down to her from the side of a dried noodle box) as well as other festive side dishes of baked vegetables, and maybe even a dessert of blackberry cobbler. In the morning, my father warmed up his own famous croissants, dripping with butter. Then the presents. Afterward, the boys assaulted the gifts under the tree like starving wolves before a fawn.
Now, things are very much the same, only more compressed. Mom still made the lasagna (two this time; one vegetable and one beef) and the baked veggies and dad still made the croissants, but everything was crammed into a single night of Christmas gluttony. My daughters and her cousin tore into their presents like starving wolves before a fawn while the adults handed out presents politely, secretly comparing to make sure they didn’t get the shittiest present (dad took that honor with a wall hanging of what appeared to be a malformed salamander). Then came a dessert of rolled cake with cream cheese icing. After the orgy of over-consumption settled and we tore our eyes away from our ever-growing midsection came the reflection, a time were we stare at the wasteland of wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and unwashed dishes and think, “why the fuck do we even celebrate Christmas?”
The following day, after breakfast croissants, a few more presents from Santa, and a lunch of lasagna, we had to think about dinner. My mother suggested that my wife and I go out that evening, but I pointed out that it was, in fact, Christmas, and it would feel a bit strange being apart from family on that day. I said that knowing my father, now divorced and living his boyhood dreams of having no responsibilities, went off camping while my brothers went out-of-town to see in-laws. That’s when my mother decreed in a voice the brooked no argument:
“As far as I’m concerned, Christmas is over!”
It was said with such finality that all I could do was nod. That’s when we decided that tradition could go screw itself and order a take out dinner of Indian food. Paneer Kulcha, Chicken Tikka Makhni, Lamb Roganjosh, Saag Paneer, Vegetable Pakore, Samose, Malai, Kofta, Dal Makhni, Raita and Pilaf Rice with Naan – this is the new tradition is in our house it was said. The tradition of Christmas as being a family get together over hot ovens and stress may have finally reached a breaking point.
So if variety is the spice of life, then I’ll have curry.