Keep Christmas with You
December. For many the holiday season is their favorite time of year. Office parties. Ugly sweater parties. Hanukkah parties. Family parties. Parties, parties, and more parties. Others view the holidays a little differently—forced merriment they say.
Personally, I really like the holidays; everyone seems a little nicer, a little friendlier. Everyone is optimistic about the new year ahead, thinking things will improve, and for a brief time, actually believing they will.
What I really love about the holidays are the many traditions I have with family and friends. Traditions that started years ago and traditions that started more recently. Some of them still exist today, and some we have grown out of.
My family is very large, and very Italian. I am lucky to have more cousins than I can count, many of them not just cousins but true friends. In our 20s, because we didn’t get to see each other enough around the holidays, we held a separate “Cousins Christmas Party.” These parties, at our cousin Michael’s apartment in Brooklyn, usually numbered around 25. Just cousins plus a boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé or two here and there.
The night revolved around the secret Santa gift exchange. In true competitive fashion, it was a White Elephant gift exchange: when it was your turn to choose, you could either pick from the unwrapped pile of gifts or steal an already opened gift. Stealing a $20 gift from a family member is just as much fun as it sounds.
When I started teaching, my students’ families were extremely generous around the holidays. I would receive dozens and dozens of gifts as these thoughtful families tried to figure out what to get for a youngish, single, male teacher. As a result of their generosity, I was able to hold my own “regifting” holiday party. I would invite friends over and place all the loot on the table for redistribution, first-come, first-serve.
Past NYC traditions with certain friends have included annual treks to the Rockefeller Center tree and yearly trips to Broadway matinees during the week of Christmas break. There was also the annual Toys for Tots party each year on a Sunday early in December. Always a fun evening, and an excuse to get dressed up, it’s on many a gay’s yearly “to attend” list.
Definitely one of my all-time favorite traditions involves my friend Frank. Both of us love the Charles Dicken classic novel, A Christmas Carol. So each year we would search out a new production of the story. We have seen Danny Pinaturo from Who’s the Boss play Tiny Tim in a queer-themed production at the Stonewall Theater. His Tim was HIV-positive and without health insurance. I both loved it and cried my gay eyes out.
In the years we couldn’t find a theater production, we would watch one of the many film versions. My favorites are the 1984 George C. Scott version, The Muppet Christmas Carol with Michael Caine, and—wait for it—the Lifetime tear-jerker Ebbie, with Susan Lucci as Elizabeth “Ebbie” Scrooge.
The theme of redemption, that it is never too late to be the person you want to be, has always resonated with me. It also can resonate quite deeply with a young queer person not yet out of the closet, waiting for their real life to begin.
What is it about traditions that I and so many others love and crave? Maybe they provide a sense of belonging and a sense of comradery that might be missing during the other 11 months? Maybe being a part of something special makes us—in turn—feel special?
What I love most about traditions and honoring them year after year is the feeling each of them provides. Christmas is not just one day, not just one holiday. Christmas is a feeling, an emotion. A feeling of peace, kindness, and goodwill towards our fellow humans. Those feelings we have on Christmas can stay with us long after December 25th.
As Big Bird and his fellow Muppets sing on the Sesame Street Christmas Eve special: “Keep Christmas with you, all through the year. When Christmas is over, save some Christmas cheer. Those precious moments, hold them very dear. And keep Christmas with you, all through the year!” ▼
Robert Dominic splits his time between Brooklyn and Rehoboth Beach. He writes for publications including Instinct Magazine and his blog, The Gays of Our Lives.