Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Advent Calendar - Day 16

I'm working on another couple of codas, but I decided I probably needed a couple of health and welfare days where I did not put my creative brain to use. So today's calendar is again looking at Christmases past. Only instead of childhood, I'm thinking of adolescence.

How did Chrismtas change once you were in your teens?

When you're a small child, it's all so simple. People know exactly what to get you, and you are in the delightfully uncomplicated situation of not needing to reciprocate. Ever. At all. It is enough to merely show your delight. Even showing disappointment is still acceptable in very small child cases. And of course most of us still believed in every holiday-related fantasy. Not only believed, were untroubled by thoughts of unlicensed flying reindeer, small foreign peoples forced to work in a sweatshop with only gumdrops for payment, and strange bearded men observing us while we were sleeping and waking. We were immune to calories and indifferent to alcohol.

Even from a religious standpoint, well, it's all about Baby Jesus. The promise and not the pain.
But then came adolescence.

In adolescence we know some hard truths. Starting with the Fat Man. And what is worse, if you're a kid of my generation, were the advertisements that began to skew our expectations and understanding of what Christmas should and could be. We began to compare our holidays with those of friends. We began to measure our real life against the life on TV and the movies. We began to want and wish for things that Santa could not deliver: friendship, popularity, romance...etc.

Maybe our family didn't celebrate Christmas.

Heck, sometimes we had to WORK on Christmas.

We began to reject traditions and it was still a bit too soon to have anything to replace them with.

Or was it?

What was Christmas like in your teens? Were the holidays full of teenaged angst? Or were they still merry and bright? Share a holiday memory or two.

Today's randomly selected commenter wins their choice of story or collection from my audio backlist. 


  1. I'm sort of fascinated by this question, because until you asked, I didn't realize I had no memories of my teen holidays. I guess I knew I had some rough years in there, but you'd think I could pull out something...but nothing until I hit my late teens. College age. Then the only holiday stories I have is of being body painted as my dorm Christmas tree and driving in a blinding snowstorm on my way to Chicago, eating chocolate Santas out of the glove compartment, to pick up a sailor at Great Lakes Navel base...and I'm not sure either one is totally pg. I think I really need to re-examine my teen years a bit.

  2. Once I hit junior high school (age11) the santa myth went. However, being still in the 70's, we didnt really hit the 'must have' present thing either - helps being on a small island!
    I then started working at 16 so had to buy presents myself for family - that soon brings a wake up call!
    My kids now want expensive toys and even as teens they still then think 'she has more boxes than me' without thinking about value.
    One friend managed from the start to tell her child that santa only bought one thing - wished she'd told me that one earlier!!!

  3. I love the holidays and that didn't even take a backseat during my teen years. I think if anything my parents got lazier about decorating and it was me that had to be the motivator :) I'm (almost) 32 and I would say my generation wasn't too bad when it came to all the expectations. Not like it is now. I have a 5 year old so I still have time, but my friends with preteen/teens? I don't envy them! This age of smart phones and tablets, hard to keep up. In 2001 when I graduated high school it was still rare for someone to have a cellphone (at least here in Massachusetts).
    Every year I donate to Toys for Tots and I think it's important to involve our kids of all ages to get involved with some sort of charity/donation this time of year. Keep things in perspective.

  4. I think the thing that changed most about Christmas with my adolescence was that when you turned 16, you got to stay up with the adults and open presents on Christmas Eve. My mother's 3 siblings and all their families converged on my Grandmother's house for Christmas. All the presents under the tree were for the adults. After all the kids went to bed, the adults would celebrate and open presents. Then they would unpack and unload all the Santa stuff for the kids. The presents for all 15 of the grandkids would fill an entire room. It was an impressive sight to behold. I was happy to be at the adult table for dinner, but a little sad to lose the magic of Santa on Christmas morning.

  5. This is interesting...it's not there! during late teens anyway, but i do have an early-teens memory of spending the holidays with my step-sister and how much fun we had when left alone, while the adults were at work. I think it was just after reading The Three Musketeers and The Last of the Mohicans and we were reenacting and making up stories and just laughing a lot :-)

  6. Although my teens were probably the worst of Christmases for me as my mother was ill from the time I was 13 and died when I was 16 I don't remember them that way. That first Christmas was... difficult and lonely in a lot of ways but I still remember the happiness of the season overall. As the only girl, the only child still at home, and as I'd really been doing most of the traditions all along I took over making sure all those things we're still done. I started working in retail in my teens as well which had a huge impact on me as I now will not get anywhere near malls during the holiday season. Overall though I've always enjoyed the season, the lights, the baking, wrapping gifts, the music, it's full of happy memories already made and to be made.

  7. In my family there were "the girls," my sister who is fourteen months younger than me, and "the kids," my sister, brother and baby sister. The eldest is 7 years younger and they are five years older than the other. When I was 15, I got a job after school during the holidays and I used every cent to supplement their Christmas because my parents were having a very tough year. I wish I could say I was OK with that, but my original plan was to buy clothes and shoes. I've always had a love affair with shoes. On Christmas morning all of the angst dissolved as they opened their gifts. The joy was catching in the best way and it served as a transition for me as the eldest. My parents never forgot me or my sister, but the focus became the younger ones and I have loaded, loving memories of the subsequent celebrations. In a very positive way, it was the best lesson in it's better to give than receive.

  8. I was 18 and it was the year I went away to college. In my family, the kids were generally given one large/expensive gift and then practical items such as socks, top ramen, and quarters for stocking stuffers (or at least I was, presumably the 10 year old didn't get top ramen, although he may have). That year, in October-ish, my mother asked me if I would prefer rollerblades or a bike for Christmas. Being a responsible adult now, I thought long and hard about it. See, my school was a few rolling hills away from the rather quaint and picturesque downtown and I prefer my neck unbroken, but on the other hand, who wants to climb hills on a bike just for some beer? After much thinking about things like Practicality, Value, and The Future, I decided on the bike.

    "Well, I think we're just going to get you the rollerblades instead."

    Fine. Then.

    Now, mind you I was not unfamiliar with rollerblades. I had been a member of the gang of neighborhood terrors that called themselves a street hockey team and had spent many an afternoon tearing up and down streets in rollerblades carrying a large stick and hitting a ball. But hills and suburban streets are two entirely separate things and I was betrayed by 8 wheels bolted to a pair of boots.

    But guilt is a powerful thing. So although those rollerblades lived in the back of my closet, they were hauled out twice a year for a shaky spin around the block just so tell myself I was appreciating my expensive gift. I finally disposed of them at the age of 28 in "like new / very good" condition on Craigslist for $10.

    I bought the bike myself at 25 and ride it nearly daily.

    That was the only Christmas gift I have ever received that I was truly disappointed about. The gift that most disappointed my family after they gave it to me? That's a whole 'nother story titled - That Time I Was Banned By The Family From Skiing Under Any Circumstances Ever Again.

  9. I'm trying to remember something specific and very different, compared to when I was a little. Nothing really comes to mind. I was also a generation way before cell phones and social media. Christmas was always very traditional, until I hit my late teens and university life. That was when I moved away from home and new world opened up for me. As much as I loved all of it, going home for Christmas, seeing my family, going through decorating the house, helping (kind of) my mom with cooking, the tree, the gift, warmth of the people who never changed toward me, that piece of my life that remained the same, it's was a relief really. The fact that Christmas stayed the same was like a lighthouse in the storm. Safe. Warm. And love. And arguing with my mom over my clothes. My dad giving me money that my mom shouldn't know about. Arguing with my sister over my now missing clothes. In short, I love this holiday :).


  10. Christmas in my teens seems kind of blurry. I guess there was too much anguish, and doubts, and insecurities, and so on. In fact, most of my adolescence remains kind of hazy but for certain shiny moments such as the first kiss or that time I fell on my ass in front of the guy I was madly in love... (better not to go there). Anyhow, there is something I do remember about Christmas, and it is my parents always getting the right present at the wrong time. For example, I remember once I was pining for this LP and I got it... The next year!!!! When I did not like it any more. I guess I should have continue writing a letter for Santa a big longer than nine...
    Despite these little disappointments, Christmas was always a time for the family at my home. That I do remember clearly. All the family together at Christmas time. A tradition we still manage to keep, and which is the thing I love most about Christmas

  11. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and this didn't change when I reached my teens, but I have only one memory of Christmas during my teenage years. I was 19, madly in love but unable to spend Christmas with him. Talk about angst! And the Carpenters came out with that damned song and I listened and cried and cried and listened until I was a soggy mess!.

  12. When I was 13, my parents separated and when I was 16, they divorced. Birthday and holiday celebrations were victims of the divorce. As a teenager, I mostly lived Christmas through the eyes of my friends--the ones with loving families who showed me the meaning of love.

  13. My parents divorced when I was very young, so we would spend Christmas one year with dad and the next year with mum, and so on until I left home and got married. Of course that meant double the amount of presents for my sister and me and usually two Christmases :D I don't remember things changing much in my teens. One year, all I wanted was Adam and the Ants stuff and that's what I got. I was well chuffed.

  14. Main memory: The parents' annual Christmas party and eating ten kinds of cookies. The eggnog was alcohol-free, but the punch had Everclear (!) I remember trying to sneak a taste of the punch and failing miserably--too many guests all over the house. One year the dog pulled the ham off the food table--happy puppy/vegetarian holiday spread. :) ~Whitley

  15. I don't remember a specific Christmas from my teens, but every year, without fail, my parents would forget to defrost the turkey on time. I have several photos of my dad using a hairdryer to thaw the turkey's insides so we could remove the neck and giblets. Dinner was always very late, but we still pulled Christmas crackers and wore those silly paper hats.
    All our Christmas dinner photos were taken after we've eaten and the table is strewn with discarded crackers, blobs of mashed potatoes and dirty plates. Still, good times. :)

  16. Christmas was always a good time in my family. I have 2 younger sisters and the youngest is 8 years younger so the fat man was a part of our holidays until I was pretty far along in my teens. No fair to ruin the fun for the little one. My most vivid and unhappy teen memory is the Christmas of my senior year in high school in 1979. My mom had to have urgent back surgery right before Christmas. My dad was able to bring her home for a few hours on Christmas Day while we opened presents. I don't remember anything I got but my Mom got an early model microwave. It was HUGE and cost $600 and she used it for the next 30 years. It was finally retired when the kitchen was remodeled, still working. They don't make them like that anymore! Anyway, after presents we went to dinner at my aunt's house. She was truly one of the world's worst cooks and dinner at her house was barely edible. After that Dad had to take Mom back to the hospital and we all cried. ~Sheila

  17. When I was 13 my parents were separated but got along well enough that my mom borrowed my dad's truck so we could go get our Christmas tree. Mom and I lived in the country on an (unplowed) dirt road, it had snowed the night before but Mom and I were determined to go get our tree. We ALMOST made it home - we were turning onto our road and we hit a patch of ice, slid off the road and ran into a fence post. That was an expensive Christmas tree. And I'm sure my mom had fun telling dad what happened to his truck.

    Tradition I got the most out of but probably didn't appreciate enough at the time - donating and helping with adopt-a-family programs and community holiday dinners.

  18. I think what changed the most for me was the "need" to get a great present. I started to get more cash from family. I also got more things during the year as I asked for them rather than waiting until that one day a year. :)

  19. the effort definitely waned in the older age; not that we were all that huge on christmas anyways, but between 4 siblings and a parent set, there were lots of presents floating around. nowadays we just dictate what we want for christmas; i usually reserve an item or two that I won't buy for the year as my request (knix wear for one; such beautiful, yet so expensive canadian underwear :E)

  20. In my early teens, for Confirmation, I joined the church choir where of course Christmas is a BIG DEAL. I ended up sticking with it through high school. Starting every year in December we would have extra practices for Midnight Mass. The whole family would be there and the church was always so beautifully decorated. I think I enjoyed and appreciated Christmas much more then than when I was younger. And of course I never had teenage angst.
    (You can ignore me when you randomly pick your winner, just wanted to comment)

  21. Christmas was a departure. I was walking down the streets of London, looking at all the Christmas decorations and lights on almost dead streets, with the exception of the slowly growing line outside of a big, famous store.

    I found the only empty bench near a closed Waterstones and sat there, looking at people with partners, clearing off for the night, thinking about families that were sitting around a warm hearth, or putting their kids to sleep. Of people certain of what tomorrow would bring them, safe in the knowledge that they were working towards a purpose, had in fact, a purpose to live.

    I waited until the cold of the stone bench seeped into my body, so chilling that it almost felt wet, and I could finally break down in peace. I'd left a tangled web of unfinished everything back home, and a single degree finally hanging on my bare walls.

    The date changed on my phone, I stood, dusted myself up, and walked right into the insecurities of adulthood.

  22. I was an apathetic child. Other than reading, I had no wants… not toys, not clothes, not playing house and dolls etc.

    Although I can't really say I particularly look forward to the coming of Christmas and New Year each year, I must admit I do spend much time reading the dedications on each of the Christmas cards I received. That and I think I did like hearing and entertaining the carolers to our home. Oh, and I did enjoy decorating the tree and our house with my sister and grandma (which sometimes happened as early as Sept. 01 lol. Such is the Christmas celebration here in the Philippines especially in the provinces).

    My grandparents died when I was ten, and from there our domestic life turned batshit crazy. My uncle would beat my cousins—his sons—especially the middle kid who was only four years old then. Either he'd be hanged upside down or he'd be placed inside a sack and then hanged upside down. Or he'd be tied to the post in the middle of our living room. All the while he was being whipped with an un-insulated electrical wire, or with anything that his father could get his hands on until he was black and blue. He'd be beaten for not eating eggs or vegetables or for not taking a nap in the afternoon while the rest of us kids watched the beating in silence.

    So like Karan and other commenters, I don't remember much of my Christmases after that except for a few incidences. When I was twelve, during the Christmas Eve, my cousins and childhood friends were on the living room while I was in the dining room fixing my youngest cousin's milk formula when suddenly I heard screaming. When I came to the living room, I couldn't find them. It turned out all eight of them were hiding under the nara table. Don't ask me how they managed to squeeze themselves inside. Lol. But most of the children were crying especially Lani, a four year old (maybe three?). At the sight of me the three girls ran out of hiding and into their room (their family stayed with us for a few months, allowing us a small breather from the beating) while the three boys went upstairs. I was left with my best friend Jihan and another childhood friend Liza. They told me they saw my grandmother. You know, the one who died two years prior. Jihan told me my grandma told her to take care of me. And in the coming years, whether she had forgotten about that promise or not, she did (take care of me).

    I still don't know what to make out of that experience. Whether they really saw my grandma or not (They were not the first ones to say this, and not the last. A year earlier, Kuya Cesar—a boarder—came rushing down the stairs screaming my grandma's name. He claimed he saw my grandma. Kuya Cesar was in his 30s I think. My aunt told us Kuya Cesar's hair was standing on end [though I was roused from my sleep, I never did go outside of my room I was sharing with my sister to see what the ruckus was about]). But after Jihan and Liza went home, I went to see the girls, the other two were already fast asleep while Lani was still crying. My aunt told me Lani refused to speak. Needless to say, we didn't get to eat noche buena that night.

    Christmases after that were pretty much unremarkable. I couldn't remember the two Christmases I spent with my father and his second family (I went to live with them when I couldn't take the situation with my cousins anymore). College years… the holidays were full of pain. I lived in the dorms and all of the students were already home while I'd be there alone with the guards and the exchange students. I ran away from my father's home at 16 (another long story, lol) and I didn't want to spend the holidays with my other relatives longer than necessary so I won't leave the dorms until the 23rd, and I'd be back on January 1st in the afternoon. I was always the last to leave and the first to arrive.

    So the Walters of this world? They didn't become Walter for no reason. :)

  23. When I was teen what more I liked was to read and I was charmed with the Christmas because I had always an enormous list of books that I wanted of gift. I was happening the day reading the novels of my favorite writers: P. G. Wodehouse, Harry Stephen Keeler, Edgar Allan Poe, Emilio Salgari, Julio Verne, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Dostoievski, Zane Grey, Alejandro Dumas, Karl May, etc. And these books were very important for me because when something was going badly, I was putting to read and I was getting into another world.

  24. Like Karan, I haven't many memories of my teen Christmas celebration, hm strange! I will ask my sisters these Christmas!