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Finding Christmas bliss

By Lisa Mangum

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Dec. 16 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Because I didn't want it to be just any old tray of hors d'oeuvres; I wanted it to be special. To be memorable. I wanted it to be an experience.

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Editor's note: Mormon Times asked for Christmas experiences from Mormon authors.

Christmas is a time of celebration. Of time-honored family traditions that are cherished, that carry deep meaning, and that are passed down from generation to generation.

This tradition isn't like that.

It was Christmas of 2000, and my family — Mom and Dad, my brother and his girlfriend, and my husband and me — were gathering for the holidays. My husband, Tracy, and I had only been married a year, and I wanted to bring something nice to the party. Mom and Dad handled not only the big Christmas meal, but also the tray of hors d'oeuvres. Nothing fancy, just cheese and crackers, but this year, I said I would take care of it.

Because I didn't want it to be just any old tray of hors d'oeuvres; I wanted it to be special. To be memorable. I wanted it to be an experience.

I special-ordered a deluxe box of gourmet pears and treats. The picture in the catalog was amazing: lush, ripe pears, cartons of crackers, bags of nuts, and plenty of fancy chocolates. It was going to be perfect, I just knew it.

On Christmas day, I brought out the box, and I immediately ran into trouble. The packing material was hard to open; the tape was extra-sticky. As we peeled back the layers to reveal the goodies inside, I realized the pears weren't ripe and the portion sizes — which had looked enormous in the catalog — were small and sad. I could feel my stress level rising and my frustration turning to tears. Nothing was turning out the way I had seen in it my head.

Christmas was being ruined right before my eyes.

My dad tried to smooth things over and said, "It's OK. We have some crackers in the kitchen. I can go get them."

"No," I said, my voice reflecting some of the anger I felt. "This was supposed to be perfect. This was supposed to be … Christmas bliss. We will have bliss!"

(I'll admit, I think I had crossed the very narrow line into holiday madness at that moment.)

Luckily, my brother knew exactly what to do. He grabbed a cracker from the box and ate it in one bite. "OK," he said through mock tears, "please don't hurt us. We'll be blissful."

The whole family burst into laughter, and just like that, the tension was broken and all my anger and frustration and stress melted away.

We ate what we could and ditched the rest. And to this day, every Christmas, someone in the family brings "the Bliss" — a tray of nothing-fancy cheese and crackers, maybe some fruit or some chocolates, whatever we have on hand.

Because Christmas isn't about starting the perfect tradition or having the perfect meal or finding the perfect gift. It's about spending time with friends and family. It's about laughing at silly inside jokes and playing games. It's about love.

And for me, that is true Christmas bliss.

Here are more Christmas experiences from Mormon authors:

"Lt. Shumway survived hate and despair on Guadalcanal to find love, light, hope and joy" by Shawn D. Moon

"Finding Jesus in the nativity" by Emily Freeman

"The kitty cat Christmas" by Karen Tuft

"Woman received gift of music one Christmas season" by Michele Ashman Bell

"Discovering the gift of giving" by Josi Kilpack

Lisa Mangum is the author of the Hourglass Door trilogy and "After Hello." She works in Deseret Book's the publishing department.

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