Family Christmas parties, Dirty Santa, and the art of regifting

Shrimper

Every year, my husband’s family has a Dirty Santa Christmas party. There’s the pepperoni bread that all the teenagers love, the Bisquick sausage and cheese balls that are like savory truffles, and the peanut butter balls that take an insane amount of powdered sugar to make. When my husband’s aunt was alive, it was an Italian feast, even though she was from Maine and of French heritage. (My husband’s father, however, was Italian.)  

I don’t even bring food anymore because there is so damn much, and there are always too many desserts.

My brother-in-law (BIL) works for a liquor distributor, so there’s always plenty of boozea must-have for any holiday gathering where you’re seeing people you only see once a year and only because you happen to be related. 

As an introvert with social anxiety that I happen to hide very well (unless I’m around someone I think is hot or who I swear is laughing at me on the inside, which is sometimes the same person), I’m not a fan of parties with lots of people I don’t know well. It’s emotionally exhausting, but my six-year-old daughter is an excellent buffer.    

As I am not friends with any of my husband’s family on Facebook, and my husband ditched his account last year, we’re like the black sheep (my husband likes to call himself the stray sheep) of his family; in my family, I’m like the golden fleece, so think what you will about that!  

I cannot compete with my husband’s successful sisters, whose careers have been established for years, while I’m just figuring things out. Their kids are either grown or practically grown, whereas my daughter is in the first grade, and I am working on my bachelor’s degree at 38. I guess my husband and I are both late bloomers.  

So, “Dirty Santa” is always my favorite part of the party. I don’t have to mill around and mingle, as we are all sitting in a circle, opening presents. Honestly, gift giving is a lot more fun when it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s all in fun—when you don’t give a rip about what you’re going to get because you already know it’s probably going to suck.

The year I was into couponing, I tossed some Maxi pads (with wings; it isn’t an angel in need if it doesn’t have wings) in a gently used gift bag. That might have been the year I threw in a Bing Crosby CD in which he dreamily crooned about white Christmases (what the hell is wrong with a green Christmas where we don’t have to worry about dying in a blizzard?). So yes, sanitary napkins + Bing = a hard candy Christmas. 

Another year, I gave away some DVDs when a lot of the same movies I could just DVR (I will never, however, ever part with my Wings and I Love Lucy collection). Last year, I threw in some unused candles (from my candle collecting days), and this year, there’s “The Shrimper”a running gag that’s been passed around my husband’s family for years. I don’t mind getting stuck with it, as I am the queen of regifting. Most of the gifts probably end up donated or regifted anyway; I am not spending money on a nice gift so I can get a bobo present. A good third of Dirty Santa gifts were left behind last year, which, to me, shows a complete lack of regard for the hosts, who have to figure out how to (probably) dispose of them.

Since I have run out of things to regift (ain’t minimalism great?), I thank God for “The Shrimper,” as it’s recurrence keeps another item out of the landfill.

Writing prompt: The symbols of your life

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I wish I could take credit for this idea, but my Contemporary Literature professor last semester asked us to examine our life as a literary text–to search for symbols.

My name is Sarah Lea, which is symbolic of my love for baking, as well as a nod to my playful nature (when it comes to writing, anyway).  And though I’m not generally a fan of Urban Dictionary, I rather love the definition they attributed to my name:  https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Sarah-Lea

As for the things I carry, well, that always includes a tube of Revlon’s “Love is On” lipstick (symbolizing my love for anything red or retro), a pair of tweezers, and a flosser.  (There will never be a hair on my chinny-chin-chin.

In the pocket of my red purse (which my husband helped me win at a “Dirty Santa” party), I keep a USB drive, which represents my love for compact, but tangible things (verses saving everything to a mysterious “cloud”). It’s why I read physical books and not e-books. It’s why I write articles for the print version of The Corsair and not for the web (unless they ask me to or shove a story I wrote for the print edition online because they “ran out of room”).

For me, there is something more permanent and prestigious about print. It cannot be edited once it’s been printed (like an online article) and it looks so much better in a scrapbook.

A brand-new suitcase, now several years old, reveals that I never have enough money to travel, but that I hope to someday. The fact that it exists at all is optimistic, which I attribute to my Pollyannish nature. For now, the case is a storage space for my out-of-season (or “when I am skinny again”) clothes, which forecasts that a trip to Iceland or Australia (or Skinnyville) won’t be happening any time soon.

So analyze (or psychoanalyze) the symbols that make up the text that is your life.  You just might learn something new about yourself.

That Song!

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When I was a girl, every year, I’d have to listen to how much my mom hated what I called “the partridge in a pear tree song.”

I liked it because there was a certain sort of hilarity about the poor father of the bride-to-be’s house becoming a zoo with every passing day, the birds becoming shriller, the French hens becoming smellier, et cetera.

So, one Christmas, when I was a Brownie Girl Scout, I was excited to be part of the chorus, until I realized I was stuck with the stupid hens. I didn’t want to be something people ate–I wanted to be the beautiful turtle doves or the graceful ladies dancing, so I was a bit pissy about the whole thing, feeling that I’d been insulted.

Of course, it’s all so silly now, but back then, it was as important as earning the circle patch (rather than the triangle) for selling 100 boxes of cookies.

I’d thought about writing a “Suddern” version of the carol, but then, I just googled and found out Jeff Foxworthy had already done a redneck one.  So, I just based my version on what I would qualify as “filthy Santa gifts.”  (This, coming from the girl who regifted Maxi pads because she was into extreme couponing at the time.)

Even my mom might appreciate this one.

***

The 12 Days of Merry’s Hard Candy Christmas

On the 12th day of Christmas,
my not-so-true love gave to me:
12 orange creams re-melting,
11 gifts a-regifting,
10 gift certs expiring,
9 stockings un-stuffing,
8 fruitcakes a-turning,
7 cactuses a-dying,
6 socks un-mating,
5 tarnishing rings,
4 ornaments a-shattering,
3 ugly sweaters unraveling,
2 missionaries a-tracting,
& a Christmas letter from his new wife.

Boxing Day

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The shelves in the shops have been ransacked—
all but the candy,
which won’t be on clearance for another week.
There is glitter everywhere,
coating every surface like fingerprint powder—
the aftermath of consumerist crimes.

Packs of wild-eyed women grab and toss,
their carts queueing up like battering rams,
juxtaposed against a mass regurgitation of goods—
a symptom of the holiday hangover.

The joy of the season has smoked like a pipe dream,
and all that was so prettily placed
has been leveled to plastic ruins.
Broken glass,
like Kristallnacht,
has been swept under the now skeletal fake firs;
the silver has worn off the angels,
the gold off the goody tins.
None of it was real after all.
Time broke the spell.

The tableau is reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic surreality,
following the celebration of a divine birth—
ushering in the red death of retail.
Santa is hungover somewhere under the Northern Lights,
hatching his next Socialist experiment.

Few got what they wanted,
for most buy for themselves throughout the year.
The unwanted little darlings that ended up under their evergreens
are regifts for next year’s “Dirty Santa” parties.

Congealed gravy sits in the fridge,
and ham bones star in crock pot Yankee Bean Soup.
There is one last slice of pie that no one wants;
a cranberry has been crushed into the carpet.
The rubbish bins runneth over with the corpses of dead trees.

The carols have gone silent,
the bells have stopped ringing,
the lights have went out,
and the bleakness—
known as Christmas Come and Gone—
has become an oppressive presence.

Churches will be half-full (optimistically) once again,
and the snow will no longer glisten red and green.
The metallic tinsel dangles from the chandelier
like an instrument of flagellation and strangulation,
choking the life out of the year,
as it breathes its last breaths.

The lustre of Christmas is pined for,
for Christmas is a stopping place;
the New Year marks a start few of us want to make
but feel we must,
for the quest of self-improvement is a road that never dead ends,
always leaving us empty,
wanting more.

Musings on log cabin stories, stay-at-home momhood, and the art of regifting

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They say (and by they, I mean certain political pundits) that anymore, a candidate needs a “log cabin story” to relate to the voters.  I don’t believe one has to have been born in poverty get elected.  Let’s face it, even if they sprung from humble beginnings, most of them don’t relate to the common people anymore by the time they reach the higher echelons of office (they are not public servants–our taxpayer dollars serve them).

I love it when new words (I like shelfie) or phrases are coined, though I have to say, my favorite thus far is still “Bush derangement syndrome”.

I do loathe the term “mommy blogger,” though.  Stay-at-home moms are already maligned by modern society, but at the same time, I don’t believe having and raising five children is not a qualification to be elected President.  One of my favorite things that Greg Gutfeld has every said is that women are equal to men, but different.  Women don’t have to be like men to be equal to them.

I would actually prefer my husband to expect dinner every night upon coming home from work, just so I felt I was earning my keep.  When I don’t bring home a paycheck, it is hard for me to feel I am contributing to the family, even though I take care of all my daughter’s needs when he is away, and sit up later to take care of her when he is trying to sleep, so he can go in to work rested.

I feel like if he expected more, I’d be more motivated to try new recipes, but he’s happy with a peanut butter sandwich and beer.  I admit, I hate cleaning, so I try to keep everything as clean as possible all the time because that’s just less big cleaning I’ll have to do later.  I try to make as little mess as possible when I cook.  I am an anti-hoarder because I don’t want to have to worry about sorting through a bunch of junk later.  I try not to own too much stuff (no more bath towels or plates unless one breaks or we can’t use it anymore) because the more stuff you have, the more there is to clean.

I am a huge regifter, and have never bought a Christmas present for my husband’s family’s Dirty Santa parties (there’s a shrimp deveiner that’s been regifted for the past twenty-five years).  I used to collect scented candles and have far more than I could ever use, so I’ve been regifting those for the past few years.

Rather than spend money on such a thing, buy a gift for a child on the Salvation Army Angel tree.  So much money is wasted on gift-giving when people buy whatever they want for themselves throughout the year.  I’ve always found that food gifts and any handmade items are the most appreciated.  Even a phone call or a handwritten letter can be a gift.