As the Grinch learned, you cannot keep Christmas from coming. And while the midnight was not exacty clear, this year, as well, it came just the same.
The tradition of ushering in the day on the night before, i.e., Midnight Mass, long ago fell by the wayside in this particular Skelly family. No one can stay up that late; they run it now til almost 2 am. Just like spending New Year's Eve in Times Square, you're shot the whole next day.
Besides, we need to save our strength for our younger family Christmas tradition, that of early morning tippling. Very affordable Spanish champange and orange juice. Two rounds and you feel just like you've been put in First Class on an early morning flight.
Anyway, Mama settles in for her long winter naps earlier and earlier these evenings. The kids still stay up all night, but not for church. June recently bought the cats their own fleecy blanket and by her bedtime they're already nestled all snug and, uncharacteristically, side by side (generally they share like Israel and Palestine), lost in whatever dreams cats dream in lieu of sugar plums.
Papa spends much of each winter evening looking for a suitable cap to wear to bed.
In the Movie The Bishop's Wife, David Niven, from the pulpit of St. Timothy's, enumerates the traditional Christmas gifts of the time (1947): "You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe." Get real, Bishop.
This year was pretty high-tech electronics. A new turntable, a new, MUCH larger computer monitor and a new coffee and tea maker that I think will scramble you an egg. And the surprise gift, Google Home. A surprise because it was an accident. JJ got two. Even in the modern world, communications within the Skelly household are none too good.
So JJ magnanimously gifted the superfluous one to mom and dad, and we've been bossing that thing around non-stop ever since. Oh yes, socks and shirts and slippers, etc. No pipes.
After what Cindy Lauper calls "the opening," we observed another old tradition: The Christmas Brunch, unvaryingly eggs Benedict, asparagus and hash browns. Checking my running log, in which I also record random particulars of my life, it's been our Christmas day breakfast fare since at least 1991.
In 2011 we had pancakes, no idea why. Probably just to break out of the mold for a minute. Funny, before 1991 the topic of Christmas breakfast is never mentioned. Maybe the kids were too young before that for a sit-down brunch.
Eating has always played a central role in our holiday routine. A ham for Christmas Eve last night (that varies), a turkey Christmas Day (that never varies) and on New Year's Day a roast pork with sauerkraut and roasted potatoes (that doesn't vary unless someone forces me). We generally don't have a crowd, so I usually get my way. June thinks I'm crazy. My mother said it brought good luck in the new year.
This year's Christmas Song Selection
"Christmas in Dixie"
"Christmas in Dixie" was released by the country band Alabama in December 1982. After the ways things went down in the Heart of Dixie recently, this felt like the fitting thing to do. A way to reflect on the values we share in common. And unless you just can't abide Country, a good tune with good harmony.
Around 3:30 p.m. the boys went out for a run, or what passes for a run for Dad these days. Pretty cold. After they finished, JJ set out on a real run. Dad returned home for more drinking. And to cook dinner
What did people used to do with the rest of Christmas day before football?
During time outs and half times and endless streams of commercials the family managed to squeeze in a couple of Christmas movies. And there was some dead time to fill when Google Help went out.
It turned out they sold so many units for the holidays (over one million) third-party music servers (like Spotify) crashed trying to keep up with the traffic somewhere in mid-afternoon Christmas Day.
Somebody must have worked through Christmas, and somewhat feverishly. They got it and back sometime before the end of the Eagles game.
By the way, Merry Christmas, Philadelphia.
And to all the rest, a fervent Skelly family wish: A Merry Christmas to all and to all, a Good Night! (But oh, Philly fans: if that's what you can do against Oakland, don't count on being overly happy too deep into the New Year.)
We were all up and cheery til about 1 a.m. Friday night. Christmas night nobody made it much past midnight. No early risers the next day either. But there's a week now to rest up.