I distinctly remember being fourteen, and looking down from the third-floor balcony of my childhood home onto the tranquil holiday scene below me. The Christmas tree was sparkling, snow was softly falling outside, and a paper Santa Claus was merrily aflame near the telephone table—HOLD UP. Santa Claus was literally ON FIRE. Shrieking in panic, I alerted my mother. She grabbed a large container of water and promptly drowned the ill-fortuned paper Santa. . Blackened and charred, Santa’s remains were vacuumed up a few minutes later. I wish I could say this was the only holiday where pyrotechnics and/or smoke were involved.
Holiday celebrations are famously chaotic at my family’s house. Over the years we’ve learned to expect and embrace the fact that one minute everything will be going according to schedule, and another minute the tablecloth will be on fire. No matter what your religious or familial traditions might be around this time of year, and no matter how spectacularly they can fail, you can still have a memorable and merry time.
I’m Dreaming of a Smoky Christmas
There’s a running joke amongst my extended family that it’s not a holiday at my house unless the dulcet tones of a smoke alarm are involved at some point. I can honestly say that only once in the last decade that we haven’t heard this sweet melody (and it was this year—when my mom got a new oven). My sprint time dashing up the stairs with a tea towel to fan the smoke detector has improved immensely over the years. Before it became routine children would hide and we would panic. Now we all run to our smoke detector stations and our dog stares at us reproachfully as if to say, “Really?”
Chestnuts Decidedly Not Roasting On an Open Fire
One crisp Thanksgiving afternoon a few years later, my family and I went for a wholesome autumnal hike in the woods. Upon our return, we expected to be greeted with the smells of an entrée that was nearly done roasting.
That is, until we realized that we had forgotten to turn the oven on. We ate our dinner close to midnight that year.
Good Tidings I Bring, to You and Your Kin
After experiencing almost every kind of holiday “fail” that a family can experience, my family and I thoroughly look forward to whatever kind of misadventure we’re going to embark on that year. Each smoking oven, each uncooked meal, and each on-fire Santa Claus has brought us closer together.
Your holidays don’t have to be worthy of a glossy coffee table design book in order to be an overwhelmingly positive memory for you and your family. To be honest, I think the holidays where things went horribly awry are the ones I look back on the most fondly. They stand out in my mind as times where we had to get creative and improvise, and we’ve forged some new traditions along the way.
And, when the holidays go by smoothly, we appreciate them even more. We get to regale our visitors with tales from the past, and sometimes, if they’re (un)lucky enough, they might even get to be a part of our next story.
What are some of your most memorable holiday fails?