What Christmas Means to Us

Neither of us spend Christmas with our family, spending it instead with each other and the ad hoc, unlikely family we have assembled here in Philadelphia—good friend and dog walking buddy, Shirley; Daniel who is a pain in the ass but who I have known since God first coughed the universe into existence; Lloyd and Sandy who used to live across the driveway.  They are the core group. The rest is an ever changing mix of new friends and acquaintances. This year we had a colleague from work and her son. When
they arrived, I hugged Wendy and shook 5 year old Levi’s hand. “Merry Christmas,” I said.

“We don’t celebrate Christmas,” Levi responded.

His response made me think about Christmas. We’re not particularly religious so for us it is not so much about the birth of Christ. It’s not really about what’s under the tree, either. It’s more about what’s in our hearts. And who’s around our table. It’s about being grateful for what we have and have accomplished.

Our Christmas tree tells our life story, it tracks our history alone and together: there is the “Our First Christmas Together” ornament (1997); there is an ornament for our first house (1999), and this one (2007). Each dog we have had gets an ornament each year. We lost Coco in October and her memorial ornament
Remembering Coco
got added to Channing’s 2005 memorial ornament. There is a 1950s ornament from my great Aunt Casilda Figuroa. One of my most cherished ornaments is a papier-mâché IKEA ornament. I bought it as a set of twelve many years ago when money was tight. I keep it to remind me of what it was like to struggle to pay rent and bills. We hope to add a “Just Married ornament one day (come on Pennsylvania!).

So, for us, Christmas is a time for remembering―where we’ve been, friends we've made, many of whom are gone. It’s a day of celebration with friends, and a time to gather around the tree and give thanks for the men we have become, the friends we have made and what we have accomplished alone and as a couple.

I hope you had a great Christmas and may all your dreams come true in 2014.
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