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I still can't get into the Christmas spirit. For my first three years of college, the thing that made coming home for winter break nice -- and eased my disappointment at leaving my friends for five weeks -- was that as soon as I got home I was plunged into Christmas. The house was all decorated with candles and fake pine stuff, and the first Christmas cards were taped to the archway between the dining room and the kitchen, and it just felt festive.

This year that didn't happen. I don't know precisely why. In his Children's Sermon, Pastor Paul blamed September 11, but I don't think that's it. All along I've been saying it's the weather, but my mom told me that was a really shallow excuse. So I don't know.

And it's weirder because some of our traditions are getting jostled around. Because of my brother's work schedule, we didn't have our usual big Christmas dinner today (it's postponed until Christmas day). So instead we had chicken with cream-of-broccoli sauce. We went to the Christmas Eve service at church, which was fine, although not as good when you're just in the audience. And now there's talk of opening all our presents tonight, instead of just the traditional one, as we have differing ideas on what constitutes a reasonable time to get up, and we're all well past believing in Santa Claus.

We'll do the usual week-after-Christmas visit with our relatives up in northeast PA, but even that will be different. Granny is getting ready to move into an apartment now that Grandad is gone, so all her kids will be divying up any of the stuff she has around her house before she has a huge garage sale for the remainder. Then, at Mamie and Papa's house, there's suspicion that Aunt Denny and Uncle Jim won't be around, as they have to go to Denny's dad's funeral. Which means the traditional handbell caroling will be down the tubes, and I won't get to see my favorite cousin.

Wow. I just whinged about that for a lot longer than it merits.


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