On December 2nd, I invited you to write about Christmas. What you wrote surprised me.
While so many more of you responded than I expected (we had eighteen entries for a grand total of 14,502 words, thirty-eight, single-spaced pages), the most surprising thing was what you wrote about.
Christmas, according to Andy Williams, is the most wonderful time of the year:
There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago
And when I asked for your Christmas stories, I expected these glorious tales of “Christmases long, long ago.” However, I didn’t get them.
Brene Brown says, “When you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating stories of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.”
Christmas is the season of connection. But the tales I got were about disconnection.
Stories about growing old. Stories about feeling superior to the neighbors because they had tacky Christmas lights. About parents failing to create the Christmas experience they had growing up for their children. Stories about losing parents to age and Alzheimer’s. About relatives who have been killed or imprisoned. About dirty, homeless women freezing in the snow.
About Christmas traditions dying off as grandparents pass.
About conflict among family and within life itself.
Stories about cancer.
Is This Really Christmas?
Instead of stories of connection, you told stories about yearning for it and failing to find it. And I saw you coming to the end of your stories wondering if they were good enough, if they were “Christmasy” enough. I saw, in your stories, this question, “Is this really Christmas?” It may have been December 25th, but where was the cheer, where was the peace and goodwill among men.
If this was Christmas, why did it hurt so much?
Before I announce the winner, let me just say thank you. Thank you for sharing these stories of pain. In a world that fills Christmas with tinsel and big packages paid for by debt, thank you for saying that Christmas isn’t meant to cover up the pain of life. Thank you for asking, “Is this really Christmas?” And most of all, thank you for saying a resounding, “Yes!”
Yes, but not because it’s the same time it was last year. It is Christmas because this is the season when we share ourselves with those we love, whether we have pain to share or joy, cancer or health, death or life.
Christmas is the season of giving. Not of presents but of ourselves.
Now comes the required speech about how difficult it was to choose a winner of the “Show Off” Contest, December edition; how you are all really winners, if you think about it; how honored I am to be in the midst of such wonderful writers.
It was difficult to choose a winner. You are all winners because you have written. And I am honored.
What I’d like you to do, though, is regardless of whether you won or not, during this Christmas season make sure to read your story to those you love most. Stories, like lives, are meant for sharing. They are the vulnerable parts that need to get out. I hope you’ll gift those closest to you this glimpse into your soul.
The winner of December’s “Show Off” Contest is…
Patricia W Hunter’s story about The Worst Christmas Ever.
The runner up is…
Marianne Vest’s Blue Christmas Lights.
Marianne story was deceptively simple, exquisitely told, and veiled complex issues about childhood and how we treat our neighbors. Wonderful.
And honorable mentions to…
TomDub’s Christmas Bells and Carillon, which was probably the best example of what I talk about above.
Ken Fallon’s The Christmas Tree Fiasco (I laughed so hard).
Jeremy Statton’s story about Christmas with a homeless woman. Great story about courage.
And Oddznns Vietnamese New Year, which I love because of its glimpse into a world few of us can even imagine.
You can read these stories and more here.
Huge ginormous massive THANK YOU to everyone who shared your writing. I hope you will share again next month, but more than anything, I hope you share your pieces with your family this Christmas.