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Fellowship of the Christmas ham

Amid the nearly intolerable stress of the holidays, I smiled as I wrote 'pick up ham' on my Christmas to-do list. It was strange that I felt sentimental about my annual trip to the ham store. But it always put me in a festive mood, reminding me of the true joy of Christmas.

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Then I met an older gentleman who apparently lived fairly close to me in the foothill area. We started talking about the previous year’s fire and mudslides. Soon we were one-upping each other with our tales of woe. “That fire came right to the top of our street,” he said.

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“Ours too, and we were evacuated from the mud four times,” I bragged.

“Well we had the mud pour into our basement. It ruined everything there!”

Okay mister, you win.

I guess it might seem odd that I look forward to this time with strangers. After all, there’s plenty of holiday cheer around my own home between school performances, a fortunate bounty of gifts under the tree, and the pending arrival of our large extended family. Heck, the excitement level from my eight-year-old alone could get even the most committed Grinch into a festive spirit.

But there’s something about the camaraderie of waiting in that cold long line, sharing both a common purpose and anticipation over holiday plans, that puts me in a festive mood and reminds me of the true joy of Christmas. It’s nice to give pause for a reminder, whether that reminder comes at church or at the local ham store.

When the doors do finally open, my fellow shoppers and I offer up our holiday good wishes and then rush inside to quickly grab our hams and pay. I always leave that store with more than just a main course for Christmas dinner. I leave with my holiday spirit rejuvenated, fueled up and ready for the days to come.

Kristen Hansen Brakeman is a freelance writer. Her website is


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