We had a tradition where you would draw a name so you didn’t have to buy gifts for everybody. Each couple wrote specifically what we wanted. One year, we wanted a 12-inch white lampshade. I don’t quite remember why, but we interpreted what another couple wrote to mean they had pest control problems, so we bought them mouse traps and a fly swatter.
That year, whenever we would open their cards, dead flies and insects would fall out. It became a long-running joke.
One day, we got a package, and we opened it and found a dilapidated shade from the dump. Then we got another box and another box with lampshades, about 15 boxes total. We tied all the lampshades together to the back of the car, like we were newlyweds.
The next Christmas, we got a series of boxes, and the second had two little mouse ears and tails.
— Al Hixon
My wife, Oya, used to take our daughter, Yuki, to a nearby shopping mall to sit on the lap of the shopping mall Santa.
Three-and-a-half decades ago, we of course did not have enough money to invite the fellow Santa to come to our home and personally deliver gifts and place them under the tree for our daughter on Christmas Eve, so that was my job! Every Christmas Eve, I put on a Santa outfit, appeared out of nowhere (as far as Yuki’s perception went) rang the bell, shouted “ho, ho, ho” and placed all the goodies for Yuki under the tree, in front of her eyes.
Yuki thought I was the real Santa when she was 4 and 5.
But when she was 6, I did exactly the same, and Yuki looked as happy as she did in previous years. Unseen by me, however, different thoughts than in previous years were running through her mind.
But, being a girl of a tender heart who would avoid hurting the feeling of others at all costs, Yuki said nothing when I was performing my Santa job that year (1980). Soon afterward, however, she secretly told Oya that she saw two things in Santa this time round that made her wonder:
First, she saw on Santa’s wrist a watch that she always saw on her Daddy’s wrist, noting that it was my Rolex that was a gift from my older brother.
Second, she saw in Santa what cannot be anything other than Japanese eyes.
Yuki, by then, was old enough to know, at least vaguely, that the real Santa could not possibly deliver all the goodies that all the kids in the world deserve in one night.
Oya told what Yuki told secretly to her (after Yuki’s consent). As a reward for her astute observation of my Santa job and her mature attitude, we gave her a bonus gift a few days later — a stuffed dog she named Scruffy.
Her love for dogs grew as she lived with Scruffy, and she started longing for a real dog. She started taking Scruffy with her to school, a couple of blocks away, not by carrying it in her arms but pulling it chained! Scruffy walked to and from school. Like some grownups’ efforts, it paid off! Yuki got a real dog the next Christmas.
— Yusuke Horiguchi
About three years ago, we had Christmas at my son Baron’s house in Bradenton. He had a big German shepherd, and my oldest granddaughter brought her two big dogs along. We were in the living room watching a Christmas show and put the dogs in the garage. They got out, so Baron and his son, Ben, went out to get them and put them back in the garage. We couldn’t figure out how they got out because the button was way too high for them to jump up and reach. But then they got out a second time and a third time.
Finally, Baron took the dogs out and put them in the yard. Then, he realized he had the garage door opener in his back pocket, so every time he sat down, the door would open. We’ve never let him forget that.
— Shirley Beachum
I worked for a national trade organization, and the big Christmas bonus gift each year was a turkey. We would have this big truck of frozen turkeys come in, and we would each line up to take our turkey.
I took it home, and about an hour and a half into cooking, I said, “Something smells weird.”
Bob said, “Turn up the fan.”
The entire inside was rotten. There had been a blizzard, and we found out after the fact that the truck had languished for days before it got out of the snow, and the turkeys had been refrozen. Everyone’s turkey was rotten. We ended up having spaghetti and meatballs that year. It took days to get the smell out.
— B.J. Bishop
We adopted William, a spaniel mix whose curly golden hair made him look like the Cowardly Lion from “The Wizard of Oz,” from an animal shelter right before Christmas when I was in seventh grade.
William loved hunting for squirrels, although he could never catch them. When we put up the Christmas tree, he would stealthily circle the tree for hours, thinking he would find a squirrel. I was sitting in my bedroom, doing homework and heard a loud crash and the sound of glass shattering, followed by my mom screaming “DAMN YOU, WILLIAM!” Yes, in his quest to catch a squirrel, he knocked over the Christmas tree, breaking most of the Christmas lights and ornaments.
Lucky for William, he was so cute that my mom couldn’t stay mad at him for long, and Santa still brought him presents for Christmas.
— Robin Hartill
We were going to a party, and my husband, Trevor, was holding a pizza. It fell facedown on the ground, and he managed to slip it back on the tray, perfectly intact. People enjoyed that pizza, never knowing what happened to it.
— Linda Gillott
I remember walking up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Christmas Eve with a German friend who was only in town for a few days. It was bitter cold, and light snow was falling. Fifth Avenue looked like a wonderland with colored lights and decorations everywhere. We passed by a Protestant church and stepped inside for a moment to get some relief from the cold. A few minutes after we entered, a Christmas organ recital began. What a Christmas Eve!
— Mary Elizabeth Carey
Measure for measure
Forty-five years ago, my two oldest sons and I went Christmas shopping. We had completed everyone on our list and were preparing to return home. However, the boys said they had to buy me a present but had no money left. Being a good mother, I gave them $10 (remember, this was 1969) to buy me a gift while I waited in the car. One of them asked what to do if they did not have enough money, and I said to come get more from me. Then, he asked what to do with any money they had left, and I told him they could just keep it. Imagine my surprise when I opened my present of measuring spoons that cost 39 cents!
— Margaret Noble
A Tree to Dye For
When we (my sisters, mother and father and I) were younger, my mother would get a flocked tree (a tree that’s sprayed to make it look like snow is on it). One year, she decided to get a pink flocked tree and then decided to dye our poodle pink to match the tree. It was a wonderful Christmas. I just don’t know how much the dog enjoyed being pink.
— Madelyn Spoll
Guest of honor
This Jewish girl learned to love Christmas as an 11-year-old. My father had a friend and employee who was the oldest of 12 and now married with younger children.
Every Christmas Eve, she put her kids to bed, trimmed her tree and had her family over for a great party. I got to learn how to trim a tree, one piece of tinsel at a time. I loved it and felt so special being old enough to do this.
This tradition continued for about 10 years. Over time as I became a teenager, I got to go to midnight Mass with her younger brothers and sisters who were my age. I also remember having the very best eggnog in my life at these parties.
— Arlene Skversky
The short stick
The costume store gave me the Mrs. Claus costume for someone 5’-foot-1 not 5-foot-8. It looked like I should have been working at the Cheetah Club.
— Marnie Matarese
In 2008, I met my granddaughter Annika, who was adopted from the Ukraine for the first time. Her parents brought her here to Longboat Key, and she was 2 ½. We had seen her over Skype, but this was the first time we saw her in person.
My granddaughter calls me Papa, so Annika took to me instantly because at her orphanage, a worker always said, “Some day, your papa will come to you.”
— Bill Upton
Santa’s little spy
My daughter, Laura, was about 7, and we were living in Connecticut. She wanted a play sewing machine, but I went to the Singer shop and bought her a beautiful old, black sewing machine with gold lettering — a real sewing machine.
We waited until the kids went to sleep and then hid the presents in the attic. Just a few days later, we asked the kids what they wanted from Santa Claus. She said “a sewing machine that’s black with gold.”
Busted…It was obvious she had seen it.
— Commissioner Lynn Larson
About 25 years ago or more, we were here over Christmas break with our sons, Bill and Rob, and word was out that Audrey Hepburn was here and going to the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort for dinner. We usually dined at Euphemia Haye on New Year’s Eve with our boys. We went early so we could come home and they could go out with their friends after dinner.
Of course, I figured that Audrey probably went out early as well, being that I felt we were kindred spirits and would choose to do the same thing. I had already had a sneak peek of her on the beach. But, I so idolized her that that wasn’t really enough.
So, on the way home from dinner, I made the kids stop at the Colony.
So, as I walked into the Colony, guess who was coming out? You guessed it: Audrey Hepburn. I turned and discreetly followed her out, and my husband, waiting in the car, said that when she smiled at the doorman her face just lit up and it was exactly the way she looked on the silver screen.
I didn’t speak to her — I didn’t want to bother her or intrude on her privacy — but I have cherished the memory ever since.
— Fremajane Wolfson