Getting through the marathon and final 100 yard dash of the holidays is challenging enough. Instead of something new, we’re looking back on our treasured traditions. Hope you don’t mind.
The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, plastic figurines litter the yard, Dolly Parton’s holiday radio is at the top of my Pandora stations … ‘Tis the season to be Merry! (That’s my name. No shit.)
First, for those of you who don’t know my family, they’re a little bit crazy when it comes to Christmas. I mean, I didn’t come up with the saying, “Have a Hupe Holiday!” own my own. The joys of Christmas run deep, on both sides of the family. DSS ordered a favorite Christmas memory, but I opted to reflect on this magical time of year while Home Alone is on in the background.
My grandpa Hupe put up outdoor lights and figurines. My uncles, my dad … it’s legit in our blood. Kids, don’t you want a house you can be proud of? Sure you do! I could tell you plenty of stories about helping Dad, testing bulbs, getting figurines out of the attic, making an annual trip to the Christmas section to find what would be the new additions to the yard. Our operation was no joke, people. Let me put this in perspective for you. One year I brought a couple buddies to help us execute the display. My sister and I got into a disagreement about where Santa No. 11 should go and Jolly Ole Saint Nick, aka Big Rog, gave me my walking papers. His exact words were, “Matt, get your friends and get the hell outta here!” I am still the only person in the family to be kicked out of Christmas decorating. It’s that serious.
I took the knowledge I absorbed over the years with the old man and applied it to my own home. After countless hours spent bulb checking, circuit blowing, figurine staking, it became second nature. And I’m happy to report that in my second year as a homeowner I was awarded first place for my display by the neighborhood association. It was a major award! I know my grandpa was looking down, proud and probably noticing which little lights were out.
On Mom’s side, the Christmas crazy comes through in baking, ham balls, taco dip and sentimental gifts. Every year, for as long as I can remember, we’ve gathered at my folks’ on Christmas Eve to shovel all kinds of calorie-loaded, butter-soaked goodies into our fat faces and get our cheer cranked up. I have so many memories here, from my uncle’s parents having a snore off that was caught on camcorder. (It was the 80s, so you know it was the kind that made you look like a local news reporter when you propped it on your shoulder.) To my aunt giving me a Christmas peanut one year because I was supposedly bad (I don’t buy it.) Or the annual butt shot of the oldest sister, who’s the designated Santa, as she climbs around pulling gifts out from under the tree. My mom has three sisters. They’ve collected an ornament every single year for God only knows how long, so there is always the opening of the ornaments, which signals the grand finale. Oh, and how could I forget … there’s always the one gift that someone gets that makes all of them cry … and they all cry the same. It’s a packed house, full of family, food, drinks and shuffling from room to room to avoid hearing the same story eight times. It’s our tradition and to me it’s the moment Christmas begins.
Trying to think of a favorite Christmas memory isn’t easy. There’s just too many options. I mean, I got my dog Babe for Christmas and she meant the world to me (I think she rides next to Santa in his sleigh now), DSS got engaged on Christmas morning, I got an Atari for Christmas … How can you narrow down a field like that? Well you can’t. It’s impossible. My favorite memories have nothing to do with gifts and honestly every memory is a treasure. It’s seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces to see what Santa brought this year. And the excitement on my mom’s face as she tries to focus her special eyes on what in the hell her grandkids are opening and hoping that they love it. It’s getting together with my dad and my uncles and listening to them belly laugh for hours. It’s having breakfast with my family Christmas morning while my old man seeks everyone’s approval for the new casseroles he whipped up. It’s listening to my aunts talk about health issues, recipes and grandkids, and having some drinks and cracking up with my cousins.
Christmas is so special because it brings out our inner kid. We all have that one memory of that one gift that just took things to the next level. How did Santa know? So embrace your inner kid this Christmas, enjoy your family, your friends, tell that stranger you hold the door for Merry Christmas, sing as loud as you want on Christmas Eve at church … because you know what, when Santa squeezes his fat ass down that chimney this year, why shouldn’t he see the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse? Oh, and if he happens to have a little beagle with big ears with him, give her some love for me, would you?
Merry Christmas to you and your family! Enjoy every second of it.
Love, Just Matt
I am a Christmas junkie. I live for the high of giving the perfect gift, the rush of sneaking things under the tree and the dizzy delight of too many treats chased with cream-drunk coffee. My family knows these instant gratifications will be followed by a sad yuletide crash, complete with 48-hour stretches in the same sweats, a dent in the couch from my cheeseball-lovin’ lard ass and loads of seasonal self deprecation.
Truly if you don’t like Christmas, I fear you are dead inside. Black. Hollow. Cold. Dead. Just know that if you tell me you aren’t that into it, these are the thoughts I’m having.
When I close my eyes I can feel the still, quiet buzz of anticipation in the room. My nose fills with the plastic film of wrapping paper and the punched up pungent aroma of pine. It’s like the tree knows this is it, the big show. I love all of it … well, almost all of it. I could do without shopping and cleaning for company.
The memories are deep and long, and each is too precious to push aside. There was the year my brother fell down the stairs as we went searching for Santa and I thought he was dead. The year my sister ate all the chocolate in her stocking and barfed all over Mom’s new couch. Getting dolled up in big fancy Christmas dresses and singing Sandi Patty. My dad’s matching jammie sets. The year my brother had mono and slept through the whole thing. Me and Hank’s first Christmas as a married couple, and our first Christmas as parents.
And while I don’t like to play favorites, and seldom do (that’s a lie), I would be remiss not to take this opportunity to relive the morning Hank asked me to marry him.
Mairlyn don’t play when it comes to Christmas. Though we’d been together for five years, my boyfriend had never been to our family Christmas. That was Mom’s rule. As Matt said earlier, everyone who drove past our home during December knew how the Hupes felt about the holiday. The same could be said for anyone who stepped inside. Garland and stuffed Santas and bowls of striped candies covered every wall, every surface, every banister. So when my sister said she wanted to go get extra decorations for the family room, I was a little surprised. But she’s a Hupe by blood, so I went with it.
We were about 30 minutes into opening gifts on Christmas morning when Hank walked into the entryway just outside the family room. I saw him and had one thought and one thought only: Who died?
I knew Hank and I were going to get married from the day we met. It was really just a matter of when. We talked about it from time to time and he always said the same thing. “I would never ask on a major holiday or when I know you’re expecting it.” No ring at the bottom of a glass of champagne on Valentine’s Day. No princess cut peeking out of an anniversary souffle. And absolutely, without a doubt, 100 percent no Christmas. And so, when I saw him there, with the most sober face I’d ever seen him wear, I immediately went to death.
Of course the only thing dying was my bachelorettehood. When I walked back into the room, ring on the right finger, my brother was crying. Turns out he and I were the only ones who didn’t know this was coming. Everyone else had been in on it. And Hank got to stay for Christmas. He was officially locked in. I remember how my heart dropped, and then quickened and then swelled. It was a Christmas to remember and I’ll never forget.
I wish you all a weekend filled with tons of twinkle lights, magical moments and giggling children. May their naps be lengthy and their meltdowns be minor. And above all, I wish you peace and … you guessed it, wholeheartedness in the new year.