A Christmas to Remember

Christmas grab bags filled with family fun

Most of my Christmas memories pleasantly blur together. Sure, there are a few standouts, such as the time our dog ate all the shrimp when no one was looking, then guiltlessly lounged by the fire. But for the most part, Conover Christmases started on Christmas Eve (all the relatives over for a huge Scandinavian-style buffet) and continued the next morning (my three brothers and I on a mission to tear open anything wrapped).

Now that we're all grown, a new tradition has emerged in the family, albeit a quirky one. It's loosely called ``the tacky grab bag.'' In addition to real gifts, we buy something for $5 or under that is the epitome of what we would consider tacky or nonsensical. (We figure that this tradition evolved from years of getting unwanted trinkets.) It's truly an exercise in keen shopping, and we all admit to looking year-round for that perfect joke gift - the more absurd, the better.

One year I got a faux-shearling heel disk (saves the back of your shoes if you drive a lot.) My youngest brother's favorite was a yellow smiley face button - but it wasn't smiling, it just had a horizontal line for the mouth with the words ``Have A Day.'' Sometimes an inside joke ends up in the grab bag, such as the pair of men's sneakers - so white and so plain that we dubbed them ``the nurse's shoes'' (only worn once, due to incessant teasing).

All this may seem highly ``insider'' and too trivial for Christmas Day activity. But for us, it somehow slams all the commercialism that surrounds the holidays. I suppose - in a tacky sort of way - it's the gift of laughter, or at least a few giggles.

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