not your usual holiday season

Holidays haven’t meant much to me for awhile.  They are just another day I’ve had to work.  Usually for holiday pay, so I can’t complain too much.  After all, I like money.

But Christmas–for completely random example–used to be pretty magic.  I hung onto the Santa thing for a pretty long time.  And even after I knew ‘the truth,’ my dad made sure to save a present or two for under the tree Christmas morning.

As jaded and bitter as I am, I get a little giddy around Christmas time.  Sure, I get no presents.  Yeah, I don’t get to spend it with family and friends.

But there’s always a Christmas special on TV.  And most likely a Christmas episode of your favorite show.  Also, Will Ferrell’s “Elf.”

This year, I’ve been exposed to some unusual Christmas tradition already.  It began this summer, when my fellow server/bartender Claire told me about her childhood tradition.  It wasn’t Santa.

It was the Christmas Spider.

A brainchild of her father, the idea is that this charming, ethereal, and–though this is speculation on my part–giant spider comes once a year in place of Ol’ Jolly Red, and leaves presents for the kids.  While the presents may be in plain sight, who gets what present isn’t as clear.  That’s because each present is at the end of a long, LONG string of “webbing.”

In order to discover which present is yours, you must follow the “web” all through the house, winding it up, until it leads to the present.

I think this is absolutely genius.  As Claire has no children and her father has passed, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind you making it your tradition.  Just do me a favor, make sure one day she and her dad get the credit.

Another tradition I’ve never been privy to until this year is the company Christmas party.  Now this make shock everyone but:  the only corporate Christmas parties I’ve seen were depicted on film.  From “The Santa Clause” to “Muppets Christmas Carol,” the idea of a company Christmas party has fascinated me.  One wild night of debauchery and drunken tomfoolery ending with someone’s secretary in your lap, right?

Eh, not quite.  But pretty close.  Though I work for a restaurant of a ski resort of a prominent realty group, that realty group puts on a hell of a bash.  Delicious food, a candy buffet, prizes, free drinks flowing, complimentary suites at a lakeside hotel, and–exclusive to this year–a casino theme.

And while nobody puked in their hat or left with someone other than their spouse, it did have its moments of debauchery.  Tears were shed, lovers were spurned, and maintenance staff hit on higher-ups.

Fortunately, I had volunteered to take a pair of Peruvian students back up north before 6 a.m. the next morning, thus keeping my wild side in check.  (The chatty front desk attendant and her black sheep brother turned out to be one of the best parts of the trip!)  Although, I originally drove down with my new General Manager, I have yet to see if we bonded from the 2-hour roadtrip.

Shortly after my return to the North Shore, I found myself welcome to another tradition I had yet to experience:  a holiday musical put on by the joint effort of local first- and third-graders.  Just one of the many parenting experiences I get to oversee by living with a family.

It was painfully fun to watch.  Though I knew better, I had the feeling the whole production was thrown together earlier in the afternoon.  I cringed when my cousin’s daughter had to sing in a quartet and when his son had to deliver the final lines.  Not because it was a cacophony, but because I was certain they were going to forget.  I starred in many a play as a child and this was my biggest fear.

Yet, their lines went off without a hitch and I felt myself gaining a fatherly pride.  But then the youngest, Tyler–who had previously been picking his nose throughout the entire performance–tore off his sash like a tie at the end of a work day and handed it over to the music teacher.  He then proceeded to climb up the auditorium seats to where the fam and I were sitting, roadblocked only by the sound engineer and her setup.

It wasn’t a total disaster, but it wasn’t a total success either.  At least there were cookies.  And they were good.

At the end of the day, it really is the simple things, isn’t it?  This revelation has kept me going through the holidays, whichever shift I get stuck with.  Whenever I think about what I’m missing, I remember There’s always cookies.

No, not really.  I remember that sometimes–a lot of the times–it’s not about the main event.  Usually, it’s the planning and the tear-down where the memories are made.

And leftovers taste just as good with a wallet full of tips.

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