12 Days of Christmas, Day 5 – Bruce Hale

From Santa Barbara in California for the 5th Day of Christmas comes my friend Bruce Hale (he wears great hats). I first met Bruce a number of years ago in Los Angeles at the Summer SCBWI Conferences. It’s always a great time catching up with Bruce!You can find him on the web here.  Now read on to find out about the bah-humbug tradition he remembers!

What stands out in my mind about childhood Christmases is not a particular incident or special toy, but rather a tradition: the tradition of bah-humbug. Let me explain.

My younger brother, Matt, and I used to get positively psycho about Christmas — the food, the vacation time, and above all, the presents. Our mom and dad encouraged those feelings. Especially Dad. He always had to drag home the biggest Christmas tree on the lot and decorate it with enough ornaments to defy the laws of physics and gravity. For a gruff ex-Marine, he was at heart a big kid.

But the closer Christmas drew, the more contrarian he became. “Nice? You two haven’t been nice this year,” he’d tell us. “Expect coal in your stocking.”

On Christmas Eve, we’d drink hot cocoa (hot toddy for Dad) and listen to Bing Crosby’s “Silver Bells.” Gift lust was at a fever pitch; my brother and I would be going crazy with anticipation. But still Dad would say, “I don’t think Santa will be stopping by here.”

We’d fall into a sugar-induced coma sometime after midnight. Then Dad and Mom would pull the presents out from their hiding place and assemble whatever wicked-tricky gizmo one of us boys had requested for Christmas.

The next morning, Matt and I would bounce out of bed and fly into our sleep-deprived parents’ bedroom. “It’s Christmas!” we’d cry. “Wake up! Wake up!”

And invariably, my dad would growl, “Christmas? Bah, humbug!” Griping and complaining — “Scrooge was right; what kind of worthless holiday is this?” — he’d don his bathrobe and grudgingly lead the parade downstairs to the living room.

“I don’t know why you’re so excited,” he’d say as we walked down the hall. “I didn’t hear any reindeer last night. You kids are going to be sorely disappointed.” Then we’d step into the living room and see it: That huge, overloaded tree, surrounded by an ocean of presents in shiny wrapping.

“Merry goddamn Christmas,” my dad would growl. And you knew he meant it from the bottom of his heart.

This Edgar-nominated author is passionate about inspiring reluctant readers to open books (and read them). He has written or illustrated more than 25 seriously funny books for children, including the popular Chet Gecko Mysteries series (including the Edgar Nominated the Malted Falcon), Snoring Beauty (one of Oprah’s Recommended Reads for Kids), and the comics-novel hybrid, Underwhere.

You can also subscribe to Bruce’s great newsletter on Writing Tips – just visit his writing website Bruce Hale Writing Tips.

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