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Going on 50 years now, beginning when I lived in Iran, I have celebrated Christmas. Or I should say, done Christmas, celebrate sounds like such a formal ritual when placed anywhere near the now loaded word "Christmas".
To me, "doing Christmas" therefore, means getting a tree, and decorating it sometime around Thanksgiving, usually the weekend after, when the tree lots are bursting to capacity and you have the best chance of finding the one that "talks" to you. The taller ones seem to talk loudest.
Decorations include the usual blown glass bulbs, lights, iconic ornaments that represent a child, or a memory, or a fond trip you took to Paris, or something you simply like to collect and display on the tree.
The tree needs an apron or a skirt, something decorative to place the presents upon.
Finally the tree gets a star at the very top. Although optional, I don't think of it as "The" star, but a star.
On the 24th, at night "Santa Claus" comes down your chimney, and if you've been good all year long or at the very minimum, most of the month of November, brings you just about everything that you carefully emailed him and included the jpeg from the website and Amazon.com model number just to make sure he brings the right ones, on your ever expanding list of toys, that you wished for this year.
The 24th or Christmas Eve is also traditionally the night you have a biggish dinner. The reason for this is twofold, first, it is always nice to have a nice winter dinner, and second it ensures the kids get nice and full and go to sleep allowing, Ahem, Santa Claus to go about his business undisturbed. dinner is whatever you want, you can go the Turkey, Duck, or Goose and mashed potatoes and gravy route, although it might be too soon for that seeing as Thanksgiving was less than a month earlier, but double up on Tom, Daffy, or Gander if you wish. Tah-Cheen or Baghali polo is just as good, and a khoresht or 2 perfectly perfect. Music can be anything you like, but the American classics of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" and "Santa Clause is Coming to Town" have a particularly fitting feel. Especially if you prefer to read this in English.
Before going to bed, a plate of cookies or carrots, and a nice glass of milk or a hot cup of cocoa is put out near the chimney or tree, so that Santa can refresh himself as he unloads package after package.
Gifts sent by friends and family members, by post or UPS or FedEx are placed under the tree the same day they arrive, because obviously, those are not from Santa Claus.
On the morning of the 25th, still in pajamas, we all go to the tree and the kids begin to open up presents, usually the youngest goes first and then we rotate for about as long as we can stand it, which at best is about 4 turns, before an all out melee takes hold and everyone goes for whatever they can find that has their name on it.
After the last present is opened, breakfast is suggested, and if everyone is ready, a big breakfast consumed, of eggs, bacon, sausage, bagels, toast, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, hot sangak, feta cheese, walnuts, hot coffee, hotter chaiee and plenty of OJ as needed.
The rest of the morning is spent playing with the toys, cleaning up the mountain of wrapping paper, while more music plays on someone's new iPod or sound system.
At around noon or later, or whenever the pang hits you, make yourself an expert plateful of last night's leftovers, and warm it up, and sit and eat, as you watch your kids play, all the while smiling to yourself, realizing that you are not at work, and still in your pajamas.
That's what Christmas means to me.
In 50 years, I have never once considered it to be the birth of Jesus, or Yalda, or any other religious or pagan ritual, as obvious as those allusions and related historical realities might seem.
Christmas is about eating lunch around 2, in your pajamas, while watching your kids play with toys.
I can't think of any better way to spend a winter's day.
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