It’s a Chancellor Kind of Christmas

Christmas is my favorite time of year. Yes, I know how cliche that sounds. I definitely inherited it from my mother. She always made Christmas such a big deal. We got way more presents than we ever deserved (we still do). She just loves to search and find the perfect gift for someone. I inherited that as well. I love sentimental gifts and I know she does too. I’m good at getting my siblings to all come together to pitch in on the perfect gift for her. Last year it was a quilt made out of all of the Christmas pajamas she has gotten us over the years. The year before that, we did a photo shoot and had a giant canvas print made for her. She cried both years. The downside to these awesome gifts is that this year I didn’t really have anything to top them. Don’t worry, Mom, I still think we got you a good one. And I’m hoping it sets a precedent for something we can do every year.
I love Christmas because I love presents. There’s no denying that and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Right now I’m sitting here typing this on the new computer by husband got me for Christmas. It’s awesome. But more than getting presents, I love to give presents. I know that might sound like bull, but it’s true. Like my mom, I love finding the perfect gift for someone. There’s something about watching a person’s face light up as they open the perfect present. And you know when you’ve gotten a good home run gift. I think this year I’ve done a pretty good job of getting my family gifts they will enjoy.
This is one of the only aspects about my husband that I don’t love. He is not a gift person. He doesn’t really enjoy getting gifts and he doesn’t enjoy giving gifts. It’s just never been all that important to him. I love it and I thrive off of it. When I agonize over what to get someone and he responds with, “Just get them a gift card,” it hurts my heart. I hate gift cards. They’re too easy and so impersonal. You don’t have to really know someone to get them a gift card. Cash is the same way. There’s a time and a place for giving those as gifts and sometimes it’s just unavoidable, but Christmas is never that time. At least, not when I’m the one doing the gift giving. 
 
Christmas at the Chancellor household is always an event. We have a big dinner Christmas Eve; usually steak or turkey, and Mom makes everyone’s favorite desserts. Unless you want an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. . . don’t ask for it. She’ll get offended that you didn’t request her Chocolate Chess Pie or her Oreo Truffle. She’d never admit it out loud, but she’s actually very sensitive. 
Once everyone is so stuffed that we literally can’t move from the table without rolling off of our chairs, Mom brings out one present for each of us. It’s Christmas pajamas. It’s always Christmas pajamas. Every year. For as long as anyone can remember. Yet, every year she tries to convince us it’s not. She’ll say things like, “Well I hope you guys brought pajamas to sleep in because I didn’t get you any this year.” We always roll our eyes because we know better. She’s fooled Sarah and Jake before, but they both married in and it took them a little while to grasp the fact that she always makes that threat. In fact, Jake still packs his every year, just in case. After we all change into our pajamas (it takes awhile because we have to roll ourselves to the bathroom, and the pajamas probably fit a big more snugly than they were intended to), we sit down and guess who’s who.
 This will take a bit of explanation. Mom never puts our actual names on the gifts under the tree. She chooses and theme every year, usually a TV show, book, or movie, and assigns us characters from that particular story. For instance, one year she used Hunger Games characters. I was Katniss (duh)…Ok so I don’t actually remember who I was that year, but I think I was Katniss. And if I wasn’t I should’ve been. Last year she did characters from The Princess Bride (one of the greatest movies of all time, and also a pretty good book).  What Mom does is she assigns characters and she doesn’t tell us who is who. We have a contest Christmas Eve to see who can get the most right. The key isn’t to understand which character is most like the person; you have to get inside Mom’s head and think the way she thinks. She picks one trait of the character and matches it to one of us. She doesn’t think holistically, which drives me insane. I’m a literary nerd. I love analyzing everything about the character, so I always over think it. Jake usually wins this contest, because he’s good at observing people and figuring out the way they think (it’s a little creepy). This year she did Modern Family characters, and I’m pretty excited about this one because I think I’ve figured us all out. We’ll see, though. The winner gets a gift card; last year Jake won a gift card to Best Buy.
After we guess who’s who, we usually play a game. It’s kind of become a tradition for everyone to gather around the game room TV and play Dance Central on the Xbox. Jake and Dad hate it; getting them to play is like pulling teeth. But the rest of us have a lot of fun. There are a lot of embarrassing videos of us dancing together and making ourselves look like idiots. It’s great. Then we watch a Christmas movie; The Grinch, Elf, Saving Christmas, whatever we feel like watching. We usually don’t stay up too late, because we start Christmas morning pretty early (like, 5 AM). Also, Santa still comes. Don’t judge. We’ll take it as long as we can get it.
Growing up, my brother, sisters, and I would always have a sleepover in the same room on Christmas Eve. When Jake and I started dating he joined in on this tradition. Once we got married he put his foot down and we got our own bedroom. This year Sarah will join in for the first time. I’m excited for her to really be involved in the whole shebang. And trust me, it is a shebang. That’s the best and most descriptive word I could use to give you the best image of Christmas at the Chancellor’s.
One thing I love most about this shebang is the fact that it never shifts its focus from what Christmas really means and why we celebrate it. We read the Christmas story in the bible, we remind each other that this holiday was created for a very special Child who would one day be King. A Child who would take on the sins of the entire world and bear that punishment so that we don’t have to. When I was little we would make a Happy Birthday cake for Jesus every year. That’s one tradition we’ve grown out of, but we will never grow out of acknowledging the center of the celebration.
 
I love it. I love everything about it. I love how excited and happy Mom gets. It’s the happiest day of the year for her and her joy is infectious. I love how one of my younger siblings (usually Logue or Jami) will wake me up periodically in the morning asking, “Is it time yet? Is it time to go see what Santa brought?” Even now that we’re all pretty much grown up, one of them still wakes me up this way and it warms me into the deepest core of my soul. I love that no matter how old we get, we always become children again at Christmas. Everyone should be like a child at Christmas. It’s a holiday that was made for children, literally. There’s so much of my family’s Christmas traditions that I want to share with my kids one day. 
Right now, Jake and I are sitting here playing around with the gifts we got each other; me this laptop and him the new Playstation 4 with the Star Wars: Battlefront game, about to start our day and get ready to go over to my parent’s for the night. I’m excited and I’m happy. This is the best day of the year for me. Everyone has days where their family drives them insane and I am no exception to that, but on Christmas we are happy and we get along. I don’t care how childish and cliche it sounds; Christmas is magical. It has a way of bringing people together, of inoculating joy, of bringing out love. So today, I am ready to bask in the joy that is Christmas.

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Courtney Livingston

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