Honorable Mention - Naughty or Niceby Niki Sahraian, 10Bay Hill
The day before Christmas is usually a catastrophe. I know it is going to be like every other year, if my mom asks the same thing she asks when she first sees me Christmas morning.
“Well, let’s see, have you been naughty or nice this year?”
I give her my usual reply, as I roll my eyes exaggerately, “I’ve been nice, of course.”
I get tired of saying that every single year. Honestly, the most difficult thing to do Christmas Eve is to get everything ready so the next day is absolutely magical.
As soon as I put on my fuzzy, ruby-red Santa hat to show my Christmas spirit, I take our grocery list and leave the house with my mom to go to the grocery store that is just a few blocks away. Once we make it there, I see that they decorated the parking lot beautifully with glittery stars and nutcrackers. I step inside and see a crowd of people, some fighting over the last chocolate-chip cookies; others grabbing at boxes of candy canes. I get to the milk section and take the chocolate milk, but before I can put it into the cart, my mom plops organic milk in instead and gives me the it’s-better-for-you look. I make it to the cookie section and think Santa’s too fat; he should go on a diet. So I take the oatmeal cookies and drop them into the cart without another word. I wait in line to buy the cookies and milk and, before I know it, Mom has paid, and we are out of the store and headed home.
While my mom bakes a pumpkin pie that smells as good as chocolate-chip cookies freshly out of the oven, I get out my crystal-white plate that is outlined with cranberry-red and grassy-green stripes that I decorated with sterling-silver snowflakes and an emerald green Christmas tree with ornaments in colors such as lime-green, scarlet-red, plum-purple and ocean-blue. I carefully place each oatmeal cookie on the plate and get out my sky-blue mug with the sparkly little snowman dressed in a sunny-yellow and tangerine-orange polka-dotted scarf and three pitch-black buttons that match the hat on it, and pour in the organic milk. I put the mug of milk and the plate of cookies on a shining golden tray with shimmering silver snowflakes sprinkled all over like rainbow-colored candy on a cupcake. I put the tray in front of the fireplace that isn’t lit yet, and go up to my room to get the reindeer food with oatmeal and colorful glitter in it that I made in school.
I take it out to my front yard and sprinkle it in the garden. A job well-done, I think, as I drift off to sleep.
It is Christmas morning, and it couldn’t be a more beautiful day. The sky is brighter than ever before, and it stretches across the world like a rubber band, while the different species of birds chirp in harmony and the sun lights up the world with joy. Eventually, the smell of cookies wakes me up, and I rub my eyes and stretch my arms out, as an ear-to-ear smile spreads across my face like peanut butter and jelly spreads on bread. I put on my Mrs. Claus outfit and shoot downstairs as fast as a bullet and start twirling all over like a ballerina dressed in a puffy, lipstick-pink tutu. I wasn’t surprised when I saw that Santa didn’t even touch his oatmeal cookies; maybe I should get chocolate chip next year.
As I look at the presents with my name on them, the glimmering, golden star at the top of the Christmas tree twinkles in my eye. My mom is taking a video, I don’t mean to brag, but I am pretty much the center of attention; maybe I am even the whole reason that she wants to take a video. I feel as joyful as a girl on her birthday and as loved as a teddy bear being squeezed with hugs and soaked with wet kisses.
Could this get any better? My whole family is huddled together in the warmth of the fireplace that lights up the room with happiness and love. Laughter flows into my ears like music, and relaxation fills my body.
We sing our favorite Christmas carols, such as Deck the Halls and The Twelve Days of Christmas. My brother and I slurp hot chocolate, as my parents eat dark chocolate and sip hot tea.
Every Christmas, a big bucket filled with love pours over my family like syrup pouring over warm pancakes, soaking them with flavor. On Christmas, I don’t need presents or treats, all I need is a family with a big heart, and I already have it. What more could I ask for?
Hey, I wonder if the day before Christmas will be a catastrophe this year? I guess I’ll find out if my mom starts the day off with asking me if I’ve been naughty or nice.
Honorable Mention - A Blissful Christmasby Stepheny Pham, 11Bay Hill
Beep, beep, beep ...
I tried to block out the alarm clock and drift back into Dreamland. But it kept on blaring. I pulled the sheets over my face and tried to think about my dream again. When I finally mustered enough energy, I shut off the alarm. I rolled out of the bed and looked at the calendar. Why would I set an alarm for a weekend? Unless it was ... Christmas!
I sprinted down the stairs and into the kitchen. Breakfast was a quick cup of steamy hot chocolate and eggs. Then, I ran into the family room to see the Christmas tree. It sparkled with colorful lights and glittered with authentic ornaments.
The angel tree-topper, dressed in a silky white gown, held her head high, but gazed at me as if to say, “Why, hello. Can’t wait, can you?”
Underneath the tree were presents wrapped in bright, thick paper. Some were huge and bulky, while others were small and delicate. Just then, the rest of my family walked in.
My father set the recording camera on the tripod and sat down. I grabbed one medium-sized present and read the tag — To Mom, From Santa. She took it from me and ripped it open. My mother let out a gasp. The present contained a fuzzy pink sweater, soft blue shirt, and velvet green scarf. Next, I picked up a small present wrapped in bright red paper. I read the tag, and it was for my father. I handed him the gift, and he opened it slowly. It was night-black ink for his pens. I could tell by the rippling thin ink and beautiful apricot container that his gift was a rare one.
I got a couple of books, clothes and some cool toys. Everyone got the right amount of gifts, and everyone was happy. No one was complaining or angry. We were all joyful.
Suddenly, a warm and fuzzy feeling sprouted up inside me. Could it be from the happiness waves in the air? Was it from my family? It was!
They were so glad for their gifts. And, so was I. For my gifts, and my family’s satisfaction. Yes, this was the best, most jolly Christmas ever.
Honorable Mention - Confessionsof a Christmas Caramel Thiefby Katia Patterson, adultPark Springs
As a little girl growing up in the seeyour-breath, whitewashed, head-achingly bright winters of northern Colorado, Christmastime was a highly anticipated and colorful accent to the stark, monochromatic spell of short days and blue-hued snow under a winter’s night sky. It was also the only time of year my grandmother crafted and hand-wrapped Christmas caramels inthe warmth of her kitchen. My eyes roll back into my head and my mouth waters at the very retreat into this memory! To say that they melted in your mouth like rich, sweet, buttery, filling-loosening goo is to dothem a great injustice. You simply cannot buy this kind of exquisite taste experience under any brand. But then again, hers had a secret ingredient no one has ever been able to bottle and sell. Ironically, this ingredient has the potential to be abundantly available, can be produced anywhere, under absolutely any conditions, and there is ample proof thereof. You see, some universal law right up there with the Laws of Physics mandates that it cannot be bartered or sold. Alas, it may only be shared.
Every year, we would find a handful of her caramels sprinkled into our hand-knitted Christmas stockings (she made those, too) to offset the lackluster thrill of an orange and a few unshelled walnuts and pecans. Oh, the austerity of it all! It was just enough sugar for a short trip to nirvana, and left one a prisoner of longings for more. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that my father received special treatment each year, which struck me as patently unfair, given my particular appreciation forthis beyond-divine concoction. He received his caramels in a long, shallow tie box, all neatly arranged and wrapped in waxed paper, each a perfect little present. It was scandalous, really, the number of caramels to which he was, by status and virtuosity, entitled. Would that I could deserve a tie box of my own!
And this was my fall from grace. After a number of years and a growing sense of injustice over the distribution ratios of the caramels, I finally made it a mission to identify the one box under the tree housing this coveted treasure and steal away with it before anyone was the wiser. Given that the evidence was consumable, the risk seemed rather benign. My father would assume she didn’t make her caramels that year, and my grandmother would assume he simply forgot to say that particular thank-you and not make a fuss about it. A tie box is uniquely sized and easy to spot under the tree. At our house, there were usually several. Rule of thumb was, if it weighed more than a bag of cotton-balls ... not a tie — caramels. And always open the package on the short end, just in case. No jewelry heist was more painstakingly studied, planned and executed.
The following year, a repeat heist was in the works after the grand success of the first one. It was that Christmas Eve at the age of 9 that I got more than I bargained for. I likewise learned the time-honored secrets of Santa Claus, as I hid away in that narrow space between the couch and the wall, awaiting the perfect moment to make my move after the entire household had retreated to the warmth of their electric-blanket-induced slumber.
What transpired that night can never fully be revealed, as with most magical, life-changing moments. But what I can share is that the following year, my grandmother invited me into her kitchen and taught me the patient art of making perfect caramels, a day-long event per batch from stove to boxing. And I’ve been doing my “community service” ever since! Her time onEarth is no more, but unlike the Dickens tale, our Ghost of Christmas Past returns every year in a highly caloric tie box to all those I love who are not on a diet — or those who would readily forgive me. It is no longer an act of atonement, but rather, a time-honored tradition and a passing of the torch from one generation to another, dedicated to the memory of all the loving souls who created magic in my life and who taught me one great lesson for all seasons: that being the source of something good inflates the heart 10-fold over being the recipient of something good.
How far I have come from my early thinking as that child behind the sofa. I started out believing that love gets divided unevenly in this life. But with the passage of time, the words of another source of grandmotherly inspiration have come to resonate boldly in my being.
“Well, luhv duuhzn’t dee-vide, darlin’,” my dear friend Nancy once cooed wisely in her charming Southern drawl, “it mul-tee-plaahs.”
And therein lies the secret ingredient — a bottomless love that requires no reciprocity, born from within, that stretches outward in whatever direction we choose to propel it.
And each little, love-filled caramel I wrap is a tribute to that message. I’m up to five double batches now, because someone’s been stealing the caramels again …
Honorable Mention - Christmas Joyby Megan Walsh, 9Cypress Landing
The house is covered in lights of red, green and white. I like when the lights dance in the night. We gather with friends to sing songs of joy.
I hope Santa remembers my new toy. Presents lay under the shiny, bright tree. I wonder what Santa will bring for me. We decorate the tree colorful and bright. It’s filled with candy canes and full of light.
I place Santa’s cookies on a Christmas plate. I hope that Santa won’t be late. Christmas Eve is almost here. I can’t wait to see Santa and his nine reindeer.
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