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Latarski: Remembering Christmas traditions
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There are few holidays that speak to family memories and traditions more than Christmas. The type of tree, when to put it up, when to take it down, what ancient family ornament goes where, the Christmas morning breakfast, Christmas Day dinner and when to open gifts all are ingrained in our family histories.

The tradition in my family is gifts are opened on Christmas morning. I would normally lead the annual unsuccessful lobbying effort on the part of children to open gifts on Christmas Eve.

The one exception was the year when the adults agreed we would vote on the issue. We thought this was a grand plan because there were more of us than there were of them, except in typical fashion of the sneakiness of parents around Christmas time it was decided the vote would be counted based on the age of the voter.

We lobbied hard for the grandparents to be on our side but it was to no avail. Then, in a loophole worthy of any good shyster lawyer, I argued since the dogs in the family were the responsibility of the kids and were considered our dogs, they could vote with us.

With one dog year equaling seven people years, as was the standard in those days, a Basset Hound, a Beagle, two hounds of dubious family lineage and an aging Chihuahua, put us over the top.

The adults cried foul but Uncle James, the presiding judge for such occasions, had to concede we had a good argument. The compromise was that we got to open one gift that Christmas Eve.

I selected a promising looking package and ripped it open with gusto, only to discover a very nice monogrammed sweater. Monogrammed sweaters were all the rage in elementary school that year but it was not the hot rod slot car I was hoping for.

But with one gift in the bag, more packages stacked under the tree and Santa on the way, I went to bed with assurance the slot car was coming - and Santa did not disappoint.

We tried the same argument the next year to get to the gifts early but lost when the grown-ups said the vote had to be a show of hands.

I argued a raised paw was the equivalent of a raised hand and when Speedy the Chihuahua flopped on his back and put his paws in the air it should count as four votes.

Uncle James agreed but then ruled against us when he declared Speedy and the other dogs only rolled over and put their paws in the air to get a tummy rub, which he determined was tantamount to buying votes. We opened no gifts on Christmas Eve that year.

Ultimately the gifts do not matter and are really the most unimportant part of Christmas. As a youngster, the joy and excitement of Christmas lies under the tree and behind the paper and ribbon, but there comes a day when the memory of Christmas brings as much joy as the gifts did when we were youngsters.

We still open presents on Christmas morning because that is our tradition but lingering in the back of my mind each year is the idea we need to open just one on Christmas Eve.

We never do, of course, but the memory of the year we hoodwinked the grown-ups and an 11-year-old Chihuahua helped me discover I was getting a new monogrammed sweater before Christmas morning makes me smile every year.
Have a very Merry Christmas.

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at