Only seven more days until Santa arrives

OK. Don’t look now everybody, but Christmas is nearly upon us. And hey, if you’re waiting until the last minute, you’ve nearly succeeded — we’re almost there. Luckily for me, my wife Cindie thankfully handles most of the shopping for the holiday, so I’m mostly spared from that hustle and bustle. That’s a good thing (for me, I guess.)

Quickly following the Christmas morning cup or two of coffee comes the famous Silver Fizzes — made according to an old recipe on a battered and browned index card, a family variation of the ever-popular gin beverage originally concocted one Christmas morning by Robert Gunther, Cindie’s late father.

And then comes Christmas morning for real, as her family and mine gather around the lighted Christmas tree in the living room to open our presents. Since there are a bunch of us, we always limit the amount of money we spend on any one present for any one person so we don’t suffer too much of a financial hemorrhage when buying presents for everyone.

Sadly, there aren’t any children at our house this Christmas morning. That’s a good thing and a bad thing at the same time, depending upon your point of view. The laughter and joy of children always seem special to me, especially on Christmas.

Once all that hubbub is finished and the wrapping paper’s been gathered from the middle of the living room floor, we celebrate and continue more of her family’s traditions — in this instance, her late mother Marzene’s favorite holiday breakfast of sausage ring and chili egg puff. Marzene and Robert may be gone, but they’re still with us every Christmas morning. My late mother, Betty Jean, always joins us, too, as some of her old decorations adorn the tree.

Cindie attributes her decorating skills and insistence on being a perfect hostess to being raised by her mother, so there’s always a beautiful centerpiece on the table.

After cleaning up from breakfast, the dinner preparations begin. I always cook a prime rib, but this year we’re also roasting a turkey, so I think the two ovens in the kitchen will get quite a workout.

Early in the evening a few friends join us for Christmas dinner. There’s usually about a dozen of us, but some friends have made other plans this year, so the mob will be a little smaller. Everybody brings a dish or dessert or rolls or something to contribute to the feast, and that just makes things that much better.

This year will be extra special because Tyson, Cindie’s son, and his new wife, her sister and a friend of theirs will join us.

Given the tribal, political environment we all experience these days, we’ve banned all political discussions on Christmas. My dear old mother always told me never to talk about politics or religion, but frankly I’m perfectly happy and willing to talk about both of those subjects without feeling pressured or getting upset. Still, some people get offended or feel attacked when someone gores their ox, so we’ve banned that whole brand of discussion and commentary — part of Cindie’s perfect hostess responsibility.

We also do a little white elephant gift exchange after dinner, and that’s always lots of fun. Participants can steal presents from each other, so the really good stuff sometimes passes through two or three hands. One never can tell what the popular item will be, and, frankly, sometimes it’s the dumbest thing that brings the most fun.

OMG, then comes the dice games and the desperate and demented cries for “shots” of booze rising amid the incessant pounding and slamming of multiple dice cups and mad, incoherent laughter.

I always cry out “five nines,” and then beat a hasty retreat to my music room! Whew!

So folks, let me remind you, it’s time to get busy. Santa’s making a list, checking it twice, and I’m sure you don’t want to get caught on the naughty side of the ledger again this year.

Merry Christmas, everybody.