Keeping it simple helps guarantee a good holiday

Do not try this stunt from A Christmas Story at home.
Do not try this stunt from A Christmas Story at home.

Growing up in a military family, one tends to embrace the fleeting nature of, well, everything.

Changing schools every couple years, moving all over the country and having a parent or two disappear for weeks at a time on assignment makes a kid resilient, even when it comes to things like celebrating holidays.

The last time my two sisters, my parents and myself were all in one place for Christmas was probably the early '90s, and that was a random one-time occasion when my oldest sibling briefly lived in Alabama. Upside: I got to pay tribute at Hank Williams' grave. Downside: I had to spend Christmas in Alabama. But I digress.

I never had a holiday gathering with my grandparents when they were alive, nor with my array of East Coast cousins, aunts and uncles. Since reaching adulthood, my sisters and I spread out across the states, three different time zones, and while we enjoy visiting each other, none of us embraces the hell of flying during the holidays. So we don't see each other for Christmas.

And you know what? It's fine. Better than fine.

We exchange gifts. We talk on Christmas Day and catch up with each other's kids. We compare notes on our holiday meal choices. And then we get back to our lives, and the traditions we've forged with our own little families.

For me, that means a low-key morning opening presents with my partner, her daughter and sometimes her mother. It means snacking on cinnamon rolls, drinking too much coffee, perhaps mixing in a little NBA action between screenings of A Christmas Story and Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas. There might be nachos. A nap is always good, as is an evening whiskey poured into one of the "good" cocktail glasses.

Being a newspaper guy pretty much since the mid-'90s, I've worked my share of Christmas Day shifts. I've definitely worked more Christmas Eves and day-afters than I've had off. Maybe that helps me appreciate the simplicity of a Christmas spent at home with just my immediate family. COVID-19 demands such behavior this year, and I'm happy to oblige. Because even when we're not in the midst of a pandemic, if I can get away with only wearing pajama pants all day, Christmas is a success. ♦

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About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied...