Ahhhh, Memories

After days of savage hand-to-hand combat in the malls and department stores of America, we should all take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

To me, Christmas is a time for friends and family.  It is a time of traditions and memories.  And what better way to explore the Christmas spirit than in tightly constructed, yet sincere bullet points.

So here is a list of fond recollections and holiday traditions that have touched my heart.

  • Trying to get my older siblings out of bed on Christmas morning so I could open up presents, damn it!
  • Tamales for breakfast!!!  God bless our neighbors to the south.
  • Drinking beer and watching John Woo’s bullet-fest The Killer one Christmas afternoon.  Mom was a little perturbed at all the machinegun fire on the savior’s birthday. 
  • Seven-layer bars!!!  These things are like CRACK in a pan.
  • Being so hung over one Christmas Eve that I barely left my bedroom.  When I did, my grandmother gave me a look so severe, so dripping with disappointment that it haunts my nightmares to this day.  I will take that image to my grave.   
  • Millennium Falcon: Best gift ever!
  • Mom reading “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” to all us kids and pulling it off with out sounding cheesy.
  • Nog with the in-laws.
  • Catching grandma jamming a tangelo into my stocking.  That fact that Grandma stuffed my stocking instead of Santa didn’t bother me.  What did bother me was that she took up valuable candy space with a frickin’ tangelo.
  • Feeling the cool, free air on my face after being stuck in a stuffy church for Christmas Eve mass.
  • Putting up the lights on the house with Dad.  Every third light was out.  Every fifth light was a blinker.
  • Did I mention Seven-layer-bars!!!
  • Having the whole MacLean/Leonard/Haydukovitch clan over for Christmas dinner.
  • Proposing to my wife in the soft glow of the Christmas tree.

So Murderati readers, what are your favorite Christmas memories?

I’d like to wish happy holidays to Pari, Louise, Paul, Elaine, Simon, Alex, J.T. and to all the other great writers I’ve met this past year.     


12 thoughts on “Ahhhh, Memories

  1. Alexandra Sokoloff

    What a sweet post. Yes, I’m aware of the irony of calling MacLean “sweet”. But it is. I feel more Christmasy already.

    Well, as I said below, the singing was always the best. From elementary school on – visiting other schools and being in the Christmas programs, and oh, this one magical night that we did “Missa a la Samba” at Holy Rosary midnight mass… wow… chills…

    In college we’d go caroling at Ghirardelli Square and Macy’s and Fisherman’s Wharf and on cable cars, and it would be really cold and we’d all have flasks and get progressively – more joyous – as we went along.

    I was the oldest sister so of course I got to boss my brother and sister on those pre-dawn Christmas mornings – and supervise the stocking opening (we could do stockings before the parents got up). We got tangerines, Mike! Hated that! – but last year someone I barely knew for no rational reason put a tangerine into the Christmas present he gave me and I burst into tears.

    But our best family holiday tradition is getting the Weekly World News and reading it aloud to each other until everyone is rolling on the floor, weeping. Man, I’m going to miss that today.

    All my love to all the Murderati and friends, today and every day.


  2. Elaine Flinn

    Thanks for a few memories I’d almost forgotten, Mike!

    *Trying to stay awake at Midnight Mass after cooking Christmas Eve dinner for twenty-three people.

    *I miss the frenzied joy of figuring out what gifts to buy for three ‘ultra-hip’ teenagers during the late seventies.

    *The joy of having all the family together in one place again.

    *Hearing ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ over and over and all of my family trying to sing along and not sounding like a chorus of fog horns.

    *Oh, so many wonderful memories – too many to list.

    Thank you for a great trip down memory lane, Mike.

    Happy Holidays-once again – to you all.

  3. pari noskin taichert

    My stepdad wasn’t Jewish — which meant we got all the holidays for a few years.

    Christmas memories:My stepdad giving Mom really weird gifts. Once she wanted one of those hanging displays of salamis and cheeses you’d find in an Italian deli. He individually wrapped each piece of food stuff and the pipe to hang it on.

    A candlelit midnight mass in a Renaissance church in France.


    More presents.

  4. pari noskin taichert


    I forgot one more thing.

    Every year, I drive around a neighborhood near our house and look at the real luminarias. These paper bags filled 1/4 way with sand and votive candles are traditional in New Mexico. They are set out on Christmas Eve and when an entire neighborhood outlines houses and yards and walkways with them, and them alone, it’s absolutely magical.

    The electric luminarias are a travesty.

    BTW: In Santa Fe and northern NM, they burn bonfires on Christmas Eve. These are called farolitos and are also quite lovely.

  5. Mike MacLean

    Alex:I really enjoyed Fisherman’s wharf. I bet it’s a cool place to be around Christmas time. And at one point I desperately wanted to write for the Weekly World News, even pitched a few story ideas. No one answered my letters. If anyone from that fine periodical reads this blog, I’m available. (I once wrote a story entitled, “I was Bigfoot’s Love Slave” for my High School paper, The Buffalo.)

    Paul:Dude, cut it out! My wife is asking me some very strange questions because of you. People will talk. ….Ah hell, let them talk.

    Elaine:As a kid, I went to 8:00 mass and had trouble staying awake for that.

    Pari:While, I’m not a church-goer anymore (see above), a Renaissance Church in France on Christmas eve sounds amazing.

  6. JT Ellison

    What a lovely reminiscence! When are you sharing the 7 layer bar recipe?

    Christmas Eve, we burn Bayberry candles to remember those who aren’t with us anymore. That’s one of my favorites.

    I distinctly remember the moment I found out Daddy was Santa — I answered the phone in my parents room and knocked a stack of papers off the desk. All the Christmas tags were there, already written out to JT from Santa. Crushed me.

    And of course the first congnizant midnight mass when I declared “They’re singing Christmas carols! When do they do Rudolph?” Oh, to be that innocent again.

  7. Louise Ure

    Ah, Mike, thanks for reminding me of those cinnamon and raisin Christmas tamales. You could only get them during the holidays, and you can’t find them at all in San Francisco.

    My favorite Christmas memory? The year I put those little red wax-wrapped Bonnie Bell cheeses in my mother’s manger scene. After all, we were celebrating the birth of The Baby Cheeses.

    Guess I’m not much of a Catholic after all.

  8. Elaine Flinn

    For Mike & Louise & any other ‘lapsed/half-assed’ Catholics out there – I’ve found a great solution for staying awake in Mass.

    I arrive a few minutes ahead of time – say my prayers, offer my visit as thanks for so many blessings, yak a bit with the Big Guy – and then I’m out of there. He and I worked that out some years ago. He knows I don’t want to hang around and hug and shake hands. I mean, who knows where those people have been, huh?

  9. Louise Ure

    Mike, you heathen! No Christmas tamales? Try Carolina’s in Phoenix. Or El Charro in Tucson. But they’ll probably only have them until New Years. Feliz navidad!


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