The year the cat ran up the tree and couldn't get down. The dog thought it was play time and ran full speed across my living room and launched into the tree to "play with the cat." I have an English Mastiff that weighs about 150 lbs. right now. The tree stood no chance. Ornaments...ornaments everywhere. The cat bolted as soon as the tree hit the ground and the dog followed. There were crushed presents, shattered ornaments, and pine needles everywhere. That was the last year we had a real tree. Bought a fake, fold-out one the next year so the cat no longer sniffed around and climbed into it. It didn't really ruin Christmas but it definitely wasn't a good way to spend Christmas morning.
2010 Christmas. I had found a big lump on my neck December 4th, diagnosed with cancer around the 15th. I was just a teenager so I had no idea what it all meant; they had the diagnosis wrong before the biopsy so I didn't trust them when they told me I was going to be okay. I started chemo on the 24th and puked my way out of the hospital. The next day I was too sick to go downstairs and see my family that had visited. It was an awful time, but December 26th was the best day after Christmas ever thanks to a football player from Kansas State who called and explained everything that was happening. (He had the same type as me.)
September 2013, my son was born. Early November 2013, we went to visit my dad, who had terminal lung cancer, and that was the last time we saw him. About a week after that, my husband basically collapsed and it turned out his intestines had holes in so he had emergency surgery. December 2013, my dad died. A few days after that my husband ended up on life support. On Christmas night, I was sat down and told I might need to get his papers in order because it was likely he'd be gone with the year.
I've never really been able to process the loss of my dad because of what came after. I had a three-month-old baby and a frightened four-year-old to keep safe. I still go to text my dad, or I see something I want to buy for him, or someone with his build or hair colour and I can't breathe.
Every year, my mom’s grandma stays at our house for Christmas. Her husband passed almost 30 years ago, and most of her/our family is estranged after fighting pretty nastily over details of his will. She was 85 that year and was super proud of her excellent health—would always brag that she’d never had to take medication other than a multivitamin in her life. Like usual, Great Grandma comes to our house, and we make fudge, listen to Christmas music, et cetera. She loves games—for decades she’s started out each morning with a pastry and a round of Solitaire—and we were all gathered around the table playing one of her favorite card games. I was sitting to her left, my mom sitting left of me, around the dining room table. We’re playing the game and I look over at her and she’s weirdly frozen, a faint smile on her face. I was confused and frozen, just staring at her.
My mom looked at her and screamed, jumping over me and grabbing her. She’s yelling “Gram! Gram!” and starts sobbing. My brain connects that something awful is happening and I call 911. I was so calm, I don’t know how I did it. My mom was literally screaming next to me (her gram is her only family she still speaks to). I tell the dispatcher we need an ambulance, my grandma has had a stroke or something, I’m giving them information and as I’m on the phone, I kneel down next to my Gram, who hasn’t moved. She still has this frozen half-smile on her face and her eyes are glazed over. I looked in her eyes, put my hand on her hand, and mouthed “I love you.” I watched her eyes unglaze, like for a second they looked like someone was behind them, and she mouthed it back. “I love you.” And then she went completely unresponsive again. I kept talking to the dispatcher but it was so surreal. I thought those were her last words to me or to anyone. To make an already long story short, her blood sugar went out of whack and she had an unresponsive episode. After Christmas, she started having more and her health has started failing. She’s not allowed to eat her morning pastries and she doesn’t have the energy to play Solitaire anymore. It’s really hard to watch, and we think this might be her last Christmas. But we were really lucky to have gotten her back that day. We all really thought she was dying. And I will never forget how it felt to watch her come out of the episode for a few seconds to tell me she loved me.
The first Christmas my (now ex) husband and I spent together, we decided to buy a real Christmas tree for our apartment.
To cut a long story short, it transpired that the tree was covered tiny black worms that fell out all over our sitting room floor.
In all my Christmases I've never seen worms on a tree like that before, it was honestly horrible and I don't really mind bugs or wormy creatures. We had to get rid of the tree asap, it was too stressful thinking of the worms continually dropping off the branches onto the floor.
One time my family forgot to get me anything for Christmas.
A), I know, f*ck me, right? And B), I was like I think maybe 20 at the time. I'm not looking for pity. Still, though:
I was home for the holidays. I had been "on my own" (I.e., living in an unbelievably sh*tty apartment one town away) since I was seventeen and due to familial whatever I didn't see them much. But so I was there: me, my brother, my sister and her boyfriend (who was living there; my mom collected strays), and my mother and stepdad.
Christmas morn. Tree trimmed, stockings hung. The whole nine. Tradition dictated that we each took turns receiving a gift, starting with the youngest (sis). She gets a present. Her boyfriend gets a present. My brother does. My turn comes around; my mom loots around under the tree but can't find anything.
My siblings joke about how I didn't get anything because I've been a baaad widdle boy. My mom admits that there's less under there for me, but it's because I'm not around and they don't know what I need. I tell her that it's fine, to skip me that round.
She gets a present. My stepdad gets one. Back to Sis; back up the roster to me. Nothing.
My mom and stepdad start having furtive conversations along the lines of, "did you...? I mean I thought we... We must have..." I say it's fine. My mom insists that I am absolutely going to flip when I do in fact see the one thing she... she swears must be... wait... I say it's fine.
Ten torturous minutes later. Five people have small piles of loot they have silently accepted and placed down, unwrapped, in front of them. My mom is almost invisible behind the tree; my stepfather is rooting around under the couch and behind the china cabinet. I'm sitting there, willing my grown-ass-self not to cry.
My mom lets out a whoop of triumph, brandishing a label-less, cat-mauled package. She tells me that she's so sorry, shopping was an absolute nightmare and that they owe me the One Big Thing they must have forgot, but in the meantime--
I let the claw-marked wrappings fall away. Inside are a really nice pair of wool socks, with the name "BRIAN" sewn into the ankle.
"Brian" is the name of my sister's boyfriend.
I went upstairs to use the bathroom. After that I lay on my brother's bed for a while. At some point my mother came up and said that it was just a dumb accident, and that it wasn't like they'd done it on purpose, and that would I just come downstairs and stop acting like a goddamn baby, for god's sake.
I did, and showed my brother how to get the battery into his MP3 player, and went home and got high and watched Die Hard.
It was Christmas Day in 1997 when I first came to Houston and was staying with some old friends at their apartment until I could stand on my own two feet.
They had flown north to visit family while I stayed here, alone. I didn't have a car and figured I'd walk around until I found some restaurant, Burger King, McDonalds, anything open where I could grab a bite.
I walked for several miles and nothing was open, not even the corner convenience store.
2008: I came down with swine flu and had to wear a surgical mask. My deadbeat dad went to jail. And on Christmas morning I found my beloved pet parakeet dead on the bottom of his cage. My neighbors looked out their back window that day to see a sobbing 17-year-old in a pink bathrobe and SARS mask saying a funeral for a dead bird in the middle of a blizzard.
A few weeks ago, my wife told me that she felt like we were losing the passion in our relationship. Today I saw in our phone bill that she texted some dude she works with over 4000 messages in the month of November (around the time she started to become distant). Here's the catch...I proposed to her exactly one year ago today. She is my second wife. The first one cheated on me while I was in Iraq.
Nine-year-old me ran into my mum & dad's room excited to open presents. Unfortunately as I was running in, I tripped over a rug and smashed my teeth against my parents bed post. Blood was everywhere. I lost one tooth (luckily a baby tooth) and fractured my adult incisor.
I had to wait six hours in hospital for a specialist to arrive. Didn't get to open any of my presents, and had to drink my Christmas dinner through a straw!
We still have the bed post, with three clear distinct teeth marks.
This one. My wife and I are separated but haven't told her family. I'm staying with them and trying to keep up appearances. We are both angry with each other all the time. I don't want to be here. I don't want it to be Christmas. I feel like crap and I don't have anyone to talk to about it.
Last year. My grandma died, and all of the adults (including me) were grieving. We had to hide it so that the children didn't figure out what was going on. It's extremely hard to hide your grief 10 minutes after your grandma dies so that kids can open up their toys.
So one year my brother unwraps a swimming fin. Just one. A broken sun dried swimming fin. My dad apparently didn't know about this "gift" my mom had picked out. We were so broke that year that my brother got something my mom found on the beach. My dad yelled at her, "Christ, Laurie! What is he supposed to do with that!? Swim around in circles!?" My mom broke into tears and apologized to us kids for having such shitty presents.
My brother and I laugh it off now, but that story still breaks my heart.
Last year around December time I had to have rather uncomfortable surgery on my arse. It took three months to heal and required daily dressing changes so I spent Christmas morning desperately trying NOT to sit in a waiting room at the local walk-in centre.
I was acutely aware of the fact that I didn't want to be there and chances are the nurse who would have to change my dressing didn't want to be there either, so I decided to inject some levity into the situation by writing "Merry Christmas" across my butt cheeks with a sharpie. Turns out my arse is not that big however, so I had to make it "Merry Xmas" and since I was doing it with a mirror before leaving it ended up looking more like random squiggles than Christmas cheer.
In the end I got a trainee nurse who it turns out had no sense of humour, nor any idea how to change the dressing. I had to lie face down with my Christmas arse on display for twenty minutes while she worked out how to (roughly) pull a ribbon out of my buttock and then another ten minutes while she found someone else to put a new one in.
My boyfriend of two and a half years broke up with me by text on the night of Christmas Eve two years ago. It was pretty shit having to smile around my family the next day as if nothing had happened (I'm gay and so my parents didn't know about the relationship). We ended up getting back together until the following February, when he asked me to step out of the middle of my friend's party to break up with me.
Eragon just came out and me and my entire family just went out to see it. We lived a block or two away from the movie theater so we were going to walk there. My dad, my 2 siblings and I were waiting on my mom after she just went back into the house after a fight with my dad. I was only 11 years old and I knew of things like divorce, so whenever my parents got in a really bad fight I would ask of they were getting a divorce. Naturally, they said no every time but I was always still worried. This time when I asked my Dad he didn't gave an answer. When my mom finally came out we walked in complete silence, the only sound coming from the crunching snow under our feet. After the movie we came home, opened our presents with the same Christmas cheer that we always do (or that we used to) and the kids went to bed. My parents stayed up, talking. But talking turning into fighting and by now I had gotten used to tuning them out and going to sleep.
12:00 AM: I'm woken up to my Mom coming into my room, crying. I ask what's wrong and she said, "Your father and I are getting a divorce." That is and still continues to be the worst Christmas of my life.
A few years ago, it's all bit blurry to me. We were super tight on money. My mom was never home because she had to work long hours just to pay the car insurance, or electricity bill. Our power was out for about a week before, so we had no food in the fridge.
My brother and sister were at their fathers house. My mom got some information from my therapist and went to a church up the street from us (we're not religious but they were a huge help). We got two bags of donated toys for my brother and sister. I used the money I got from other family members to go buy food at the dollar store. It may not be as bad as some, but it really hurt me to see my mom struggling so hard to make it by. We're so much better now, and I couldn't be more grateful.
So I was dating a guy for a few months when Christmas rolled around. He had recently started a new job that required travel and this was before smart phones and built in GPS in your car were common, so I splurged a bit and got him a Garmin to help him find his way. Thoughtful, useful, but not too sentimental; it felt perfect for where the relationship was at the time.
Due to schedules, we couldn’t get together until a few days after Christmas. In my haste to go see him, I walked right out the door without his gift. I didn’t realize it until I got to his house and I felt terrible, but he said, “No worries, I’ll give you your gifts now and I’ll just get mine later.”
Cool. So he goes into the other room and comes back with two wrapped gifts. I noticed some of the paper was messed up like it had been rewrapped, but didn’t think much of it in the moment. I carefully unwrapped the first package.
It was a MMA magazine. That had clearly been read. I do not like MMA. Not even a little bit. Nor have I ever expressed interest in MMA. Not once. He, on the other hand, loved all things MMA.
Trying to move on, I politely thanked him, set the magazine down, and refocused on the next gift. It was a DVD. A Forrest Gump DVD. With the cellophane wrapper missing. Now don’t get me wrong, Forrest Gump is a solid choice. Except, I already owned a Forrest Gump DVD. And now here I was suddenly the proud owner of a second copy that appeared used.
I again thanked him and sat there quietly, trying to wrap my head around how he could have arrived at the conclusion that a used magazine on a topic I didn’t like and a secondhand DVD of something I already owned would make for good Christmas gifts. He also got a little quiet, then sheepishly volunteered, “I, uh, got bored so I watched the movie yesterday.”
I just stared.
“And then I, uh, hadn’t seen that issue yet… so I went ahead and read through it. I think you’ll really like it!”
I slowly responded, “So… you got me a magazine because you wanted to read it and then watched the movie you got for me because you were bored?” His only response was, “Well yeah, I guess so.” I left not long after.
The next day, I returned the Garmin for a full refund. About a week later, he called and said he didn’t think it was working out. “No problem,” I said, “I don’t think it’s working out either.”
As we were wrapping up the call, expressing well wishes and all that, he paused for a beat and said, “Hey, uh, were you still going to give me that Christmas present?”
One year we celebrated Christmas Eve at my aunts husband's mom's house. I was maybe five or six and my sister was nine. We were looking forward to Christmas even though we never got much, a couple cheap toys and some candy, but it was Christmas so it didn't matter. So here we are at a complete strangers house, feeling out of place and awkward because we can tell that everyone's confused about why we're there.
After we ate everyone sat around the Christmas tree to receive their presents. Every other kids name was called at least three times, me and my sister just waited as the pile of presents slowly got smaller. Eventually there were no presents left and we hadn't gotten a single one. Nobody noticed and they commenced with the opening. We got to watch all the other kids squeal over their new toys knowing we weren't gonna get anything. Eventually my sister pulled me to the other room where we played pretend by ourselves until my nanny found us and brought us home. The next morning there was still nothing but an empty box underneath our Christmas tree but my sister tried to make me happy by giving me a sock puppet she made.
After getting kicked out of home I got into a rut of drinking excessively and made my flat mates quite angry. It got to the point that they said they didn't want me around for Christmas. When my grandmother found out, she convinced my stepfather and my mother to let me back for Christmas day. Not only the most awkward Christmas I had, but it was the worst because I was left out of every photo, ignored by nearly everyone apart from my siblings and whenever my family did look at me it was with a look of disgust. I haven't been back since and haven't seen any of them since.
Christmas Eve 2016, my boyfriend picks me up to go to his family’s get together - they’re very close and a lovely family. I’m excited and decked out in a new sweater and have a bottle of wine to give go his mom. On the drive, he goes, “So... today might be a little sad. My uncle was hit by a car about an hour ago and has a lot of brain damage... he was flown to a hospital.” I was immediately sad, as was he. It was terrible and tragic, but I had hope that he would pull through and survive and we could still have a decent day. Then as we were about a minute from his house, he gets a call that his uncle didn’t make it. Boyfriend stays strong, says “okay” and doesn’t break down or anything and says he’ll be home soon. He tells me he wants me to stay with him and support him and his family during this awful day. It was really, really hard and the whole family was upset. The man was a great guy. Turned out he was intentionally killed by a man on drugs who swerved to hit him from the other lane while he was out walking.
As if that isn’t bad enough, the next day is Christmas and I’m at home with my parents. My elderly grandmother (my mom’s mom) is the only other family member we have, and she lives alone in her house about 10 minutes away from us and is fiercely independent. Sweetest and most selfless woman I’ve ever met. Mom makes a phone call to her to wish her a Merry Christmas. She doesn’t answer, but my mom thinks, oh, maybe she slept in today. She tries to call again an hour later, and still no answer. As my parents are finishing up the cooking for our holiday meal, my dad calls grandma and says that if she doesn’t answer, he’ll drive down and go inside to see what’s up. Third phone call, still no answer. I stay home with our dog while my parents go to check on my grandma. I call my boyfriend and he comes over to my house and I prepare for the worst and put away the uneaten food. About half an hour later, mom calls me and says they’re in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. They found my grandma face down on the kitchen floor, but still breathing. She had a broken hip from her fall and had suffered two heart attacks before passing away while in hospice a few days later.
Overall, a terrible Christmas. It made my boyfriend and I super close, given our shared tragedies and days of endlessly comforting each other. Christmas is a tough subject for both our families now. We’re really not looking forward to the holidays this year.
My mom got a call Christmas Day that one of the members of our church had tried to kill himself and his kids by burning down the house. The kids survived, I guess their dog woke them up, but he died. Apparently he was going through a mess custody battle with his ex-wife and decided to be a fucking asshole. It shook the whole community because we all knew him as such a nice guy.
When I was about 7, my grandad died late at night on Christmas Eve. My parents didn't want to "ruin Christmas" so my Mum tried to keep it together all day for our benefit after what was obviously a horrible night for her. She finally broke down over Christmas dinner and my Dad took me and my bro into another room to break the news. Huge respect for her for showing that strength.
My ex-fiancé dumped me less than a week before Christmas, just sent me an email calling everything off. Not just the wedding, everything. It was like the world fell out from under me. We'd dated for six years, and through a lot he was one of the few constants in my life.
The worst I can remember is when I was ten, when I wrote a letter to Santa asking him to help my mom quit smoking (I believe it was around then that D.A.R.E. started). My mom, of course, read the letter, and she took me aside and told me never to bring that up with her again.
December 12th, 1999. Eight-year-old me, drowsy from having the family's favorite dinner (homemade chicken chalupas). I pass out excited for the next day of school. Another day closer to Christmas! I doze peacefully, dreaming of all the Pokemon cards and memorabilia I will get in less than two weeks. I sleep for maybe two hours when I'm woken up violently.
It's a firefighter. My room illuminated by red and white flashing lights, I panic and think our apartment is on fire. He picks me up out of bed, throws me over his shoulder as I cling to my precious bear-bear, and keeps telling me everything is going to be ok. Outside of our apartment is crawling with uniformed officers, firefighters, and what I now know as military investigators, being that my dad was in the military.
I am led to my neighbors apartment, who happens to be my best friend. He greets me with enthusiasm, and we go off to play some Super Smash Bros on his N64. Staying up late playing video games on a school night? F**k yes. We play for an hour or so, then his mom pops in and grabs my friend and says my mom has to talk to me. He is led out, the light is turned off. I sit on the bottom bunk of a room only illuminated by moonlight through the window. I remember it being a cold, clear Arizona night. My mom comes in, quietly, somberly. She sits next to me. I can see her face well now. Her eyes puffy, her nose red.
I say nothing. I don't understand. Where did he go? I saw him just a few hours earlier. I knew he had a stressful job, he seemed down when he got back, ate dinner and watched tv with us. His usual custom after dinner was a cigar and a glass of wine on the back porch. I hugged him goodnight, he told me we'd go roller blading the next day. He's gone though.
"Daddy was very sad, and he hurt himself. He died an hour ago." She reached out to hold my hand and I saw blood on her sleeve. My dad's blood.
My dad died that night, a self inflicted gunshot behind his right ear. We had just decorated the Christmas tree that night. I have not celebrated since then until this year.
Don't take your loved ones for granted, folks. Hug 'em a little tighter, tell them you love them one more time, because schizophrenia or not, you never know..