The memories of Christmas past.... The Saturday Evening blog Post, edition#12

It is three days to Christmas and time to think about Christmas's past (and greatly embellish them.) So, today, for your reading pleasure, here are some highlights (and lowlights) from the last forty years of Hogenkamp family Christmas celebrations.

The year without a Santa Claus (circa 1978): I was ten or so, and I had a hankering for a BB gun you wouldn't believe--unless you are a ten year-old boy. I can still remember the make and model, a Crosman Model 760. I made sure to show my mother the exact gun I wanted at our local sporting goods store, and recollect that she said, 'We'll see,' a sure sign I wasn't getting it. And sure enough, when Christmas morning dawned there was no Crossman 760 under the tree--on the positive side, I did get a pair of Levi's corduroy pants in a mauve color. In protest, I refused to put clothes on, and spent the next three days in my long underwear. (Ok, ok, but I was ten--or twelve maybe, who can remember?)

Christmas in Austria (1986): I was living in Salzburg, Austria and my father had the great idea to rent an alpine chalet in Sant Anton for the whole week. So, I took the train to Zurich, Switzerland as soon as school let out for the term, and my parents and I rented a car and drove north to Essen, Germany, where lived our friends, die familie Mock. We had a great couple of days celebrating Weihnacten and then returned to Austria to claim our chalet halfway up the mountain, and ready ourselves for the arrival of my brothers (both unmarried and untamed in those days). Fortunately, my sister and my BIL were on the same flight, as those two had consumed most of Swiss Air's yearly quota of champagne. Their arrival was co-incident with the biggest snowstorm to hit the Alps in twenty years, and the agenda for the week was set: skiing in fresh powder, big family meals three times per day, and Bier vom Fass by the kegsful. Our chalet came with an attendant, Franz, who saw to such things as making sure our ski boots were warm and dry in the morning, and that the pastry table never ran out of Apfelstuedel. It was the mother of all Christmas weeks: thanks again, Pops.

Multicultural Christmas Eve (1994): My wife and I were both resident physicians at the time, living in Syracuse, NY. We both had to be on call on Christmas (and yes, spending the entire day, the entire night, and half the next day in the hospital is not a great way to celebrate Christmas) so we decided to have a dinner party on Christmas Eve for all the other residents who were in town. It is a testament to how much it stinks to spend any holiday alone that all the invitees showed up--despite my reputation as a horrible cook. And we had a lovely time--testament to the fact that top shelf alcohol trumps bad food every time. And though we may not have celebrated Christmas in a traditional sense (half the attendees were not Christian) we celebrated friendship and the fact that we had all survived half of our residency. The night was such a success (again, Tanqueray) that we made a tradition of having guests on Christmas Eve that lasts till today.

I could go on, but I can hear your stomach gurgling from here. I wish you all Happy Holidays, and hope you are celebrating with family and friends. As always, thanks for reading. peter


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