The Christmas Curse

Ever since the Wise Men, there has been a “rule of three” associated with Christmas. Three ships a’sailing in on Christmas Day in the morning. Three ghosts to visit Ebenezer Scrooge. And in my family, the three disasters Christmas Curse.

The Curse isn’t in effect every year. Most Christmases for my family are filled with the normal holiday joys and mishaps that accompany large group gatherings. There are heirloom recipes that fail unexpectedly, or disastrous spills of red wine on something white. We forget to take family photos until the day after the big celebration, as people are leaving – exhausted and unshowered. You get the idea. Like most families, mine may be momentarily flummoxed by these occurrences, but we are able (eventually) to take them in stride with good will and humor.

Now and then, though, The Curse kicks in and all bets are off. My brother, for example, experienced the Curse as days before Christmas the furnace went out in his house, then a second furnace died in the apartment he rents to an older tenant, then his wife had an accident with the family car. Service and repairman sightings in Chicago the day before Christmas are more rare (and more precious) than sightings of Santa emerging from the fireplace with a bag of goodies. Boom. Best-laid plans for a relaxed family Christmas derailed.

I could regale you with stories of the various manifestations of The Christmas Curse over the last fifty years. But I won’t. Suffice it to say, despite these events, we’ve always somehow survived and lived to tell the tales. Usually, with enough distance, we are able to laugh about them. They become part of the cannon of family lore, told and retold as evidence of both the existence of The Curse and our family’s resilience.

This year turns out to be a Curse year. The three events happened to my parents, and all three were financially impactful. More heart-rending than the money (and this is saying a lot, because my folks are on a fixed income) was that the Curse necessitated moving the holiday celebration from their home to my sister’s. When you’ve planned every detail of the perfect Christmas, needing to renegotiate every one of those details can be overwhelming.

Yesterday, I woke in the guest room at my parents’ home and stumbled out to the kitchen for my first cup of coffee. My parents had been up for hours, making lists of things that needed to be done – people to be called, stuff to be packed for transport to my sister’s, items to be replaced as aftereffects of the three curse events. As I sat listening and huddling into the warmth of my cup of joe, I heard the following exchange:

Dad: Listen. The thing to remember is I love you and you love me.

Mom: Yes. Let’s cling to that.

Then they both erupted into gales of laughter.

And that, my friends, is the thing to remember whenever The Christmas Curse strikes: love and good will always carry the day. Fifty-plus years of experience should have taught us that The Curse has an answer in The Christmas Blessing – as the old carol says, “love came down at Christmas”.

Regardless of the cares and worries wearing on our hearts, let’s cling to that.

Merry Christmas.