This year, we had a real Wallburg Family Christmas, Wallburg being the tiny town where Josh's mother's family lives. Their tradition is to have a big breakfast at the house of either his mom or one of his aunts (all of whom live on the same hillside). Then they play music, and finally, there is a game of Silly Santa. I think the game is a relatively new tradition, brought on by the fact that it became too much of a burden to get presents for everyone.

Silly Santa (also known as Dirty Santa) is a game where everyone brings a wrapped gift, all of which are placed in the middle of the room. We draw numbers to determine the order of who picks out a gift first, second, third, etc. When it's your turn, you pick out a present, either from the stash of wrapped gifts, or from the selection of things already unwrapped. So you can go with a mystery gift, or you can "steal" someone else's selection. If a person's gift is stolen, then they can either pick something from the middle or steal from someone else. Everyone has their own house rules, but we stipulate that a gift can only be stolen 3 times, otherwise the same iTunes gift card would go back and forth forever.

The gifts in the middle are a hodgepodge of good stuff and gag gifts. The fun of the good gifts is that they are more likely to get stolen. The fun of the bad ones is that then everyone can laugh as you hopefully try and convince someone to steal it from you, knowing that you will be taking it home.

Several years ago, Josh and I came across a glass head at a yard sale. We were fascinated by it. Sometimes, when in the secondhand marketplace, you find something so fantastic that you cannot not buy it. But nor do you actually want it. Such was the case with the glass head. It was $2, and horrifying. I did not want it in my house, looking at me with its empty eyes. But it had defied all logic and sanity by simply existing, and I wasn't about to let it get thrown away. Our excuse was that we would bring it as a Silly Santa gift. Surely, hilarity would ensue.

We wrapped it up in a huge box, padded with torn wrapping paper. And then we did not make it to Wallburg Family Christmas for two years. Luckily, our house is full of random crap, so a wrapped Christmas gift sitting in the corner fit right in. And it was better than looking at the glass head itself.

Finally, this year, the glass head would meet its Christmas destiny. We also wrapped up a giant bar of fancy chocolate, figuring it would be smart to bring one good thing and one awful thing. The first year we played, Josh and I hadn't known to bring gifts, so his mother hurriedly wrapped up some stuff she had received so that we could play. This year, she asked me if we had come prepared, and then gave me a big hug when I said yes, saying that I knew the way to my mother-in-law's heart. I thought it was loving her son, but it turns out it has something to do with family Christmas traditions.

The box with the glass head, with its innocuous Snoopy wrapping paper, was the very first thing picked, because the first person to go was using the strategy of picking the biggest box. It was a strategy that would fail him, especially since the smallest package turned out to be someone's old Rolex. As he unwrapped, I barely contained my snickers, and I shared amused glances with Josh across the room. It was a beautiful moment when he pulled out that awful glass head, a moment I'd been anticipating for more than three years.

The second person to go was Josh's teenage brother, who purposefully strode across the room and snatched away the glass head as if he had been waiting for the moment for a long time, too. All these years, his life had been missing a glass head, though he hadn't realized it until that day. For the rest of the game, he hid it behind his back to prevent anyone from stealing it (not sure that was ever a real danger). And then he spent the rest of the day putting things on it and also in it. Meanwhile, his mother tried to keep her sense of humor about having that awful thing in her house. I wondered if that was the way to my mother-in-law's heart.

No comments: