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Best Reader Christmas stories

The Vietnamese refugee, the serious Jew, the homeless, the disaffected, Charles Dickens, other Christmas books, the poor in Tijuana, Horton Plaza shoppers, Christmas letter writing

  • Sister Santa’s once-a-year smile

  • I fell in love with America for the first time on a sweaty night in a Bangkok refugee center in March 1991. “In America people have meat with every meal,” my dad told me as we looked into the city skyline glittering with streetlights and blinking neon signs in the distance. I was transfixed. Braised meat, steaks, chops; meat on skewers, meat over rice, between bread.
  • By Tam Hoang, Dec. 20, 2017
Tam Hoang and Batman
  • Does Christmas offend you?

  • It's interesting that the place you decided to start was with the Jews, your father's friends, your own friend. Christmas has to start with the Jews, I guess, no matter where you start. It was Jews who were killed by Herod and Jews who were chased into Egypt by him, pregnant with the future, and Jews whose testimony later became the Christmas story.
  • By Gideon Rappaport, Matthew Lickona, Dec. 20, 2007
  • This is Christmas – damn it! What happened?

  • I’m sitting here looking at a photo taken shortly before Christmas 2008. It’s a very good photo: dramatic and sharply focused. It’s a December afternoon in downtown San Diego: trees dotting a vast swath of sun-washed, empty parking lot. In the foreground, walking away from the camera, is my 11-year-old son. His head is bowed, and it’s because of what is in his hands: a chilled bottle of water and a brown paper lunch bag.
  • By Matthew Lickona, Thomas Reifer, Dec. 23, 2009
  • A Christmas story, wherein I leave my dad

  • My boots clomp against the concrete of the garage, and a gravelly paste falls from the arches to mingle with the oil patch in the center of the floor. I light a cigarette, blow the first puff out into the frigid air, and let the burnt match fall to the floor. "Hey," my dad howls. "Don't drop those in here, throw them outside."
  • By Ollie, December 22, 2005 11:53 p.m.
  • Books That Help You Survive Christmas

  • On Christmas Day some among us sooner would read than rip at ribbons. We would prefer the voice of Jane Austen to that of shrill Aunt Tillie. Some among us, on 25 December, long only to laze in the old overstuffed armchair and chew on a cold turkey wing. We prefer to fly into a netherworld of printed pages. Below, you will find six titles that might help take you far beyond the cedar tree and its sparkle.
  • By Judith Moore, Dec. 23, 2004
  • Praise for Dad, and not because of Christmas loot

  • Christmastime is here, and to commemorate the Father's gift of His Son to the world, fathers everywhere are buying loot for their kids. Oh, what a generous God; oh, what a generous Dad. This is indeed a season of love. Unless Dad isn't around to buy presents or is trying to buy affection in absentia with extravagant gifts, or gives presents but not love, or a host of other things.
  • By Matthew Lickona, Dec. 18, 1997
  • How Do You Keep Warm at Night?

  • If you think of the homeless at all — aside from how to avoid them or that daily mini-moral crisis as to whether to give them spare change or not — it may strike you that these people must have certain ingenious secrets as to how to keep warm on the streets at night. Yes, it is San Diego, not Buffalo, but it can get cold enough at night.
  • By John Brizzolara, Jan. 9, 1997
Robert (sitting in foreground) and friend John, "I found a big piece a cardboard. I just crawled in and slept until the damn trucks started comin' in."
  • A criticism implied in every gift

  • I don’t remember Christmas. None in particular. There’s this Christmas thread, an irregular stream of pictograms (orange snowriding disk = delight) linked by an underlying Christmas smell (new plastic, pine trees, chocolate) and an overwhelming feeling of desolation and anxiety. Oh, and that godawful music. You can’t patronize a public building this month without itching to unload an Uzi.
  • By Mary Lang, December 19, 1991
When the boys began to get in jams, Marie's letters didn't even hint at their trouble; and as scrapes turned into felonies, she still didn't reveal that anything had gone wrong.
  • Another year has passed and we are safe and sound

  • Christmas letters. I don't know their history, who first wrote one, or where and why. I suspect they began to be written in the I Love Lucy Eisenhower years when all Americans, even though in fact they didn't seemed to be living in suburbia and eating tuna-fish casserole made with Campbell's cream of mushroom soup. And I suspect, too, that no matter how much fun some of us may make of these letters, we love to receive them. I do.
  • By Judith Moore, Dec. 12, 1991
  • I'm determined to pull A Christmas Carol from my bookshelf again

  • Poor Master Scrooge had a reason to be bitter. Remember that Thanksgiving I told you about when I was stuck at school? — four awful days in an empty dorm — I felt just like young Ebenezer, "alone again, when all the other boys had gone home for the jolly holidays...." But then, his sister comes to fetch him — here's where I start crying....
  • By Sue Greenberg, Dec. 20, 1990
  • Christmas day in Tijuana with Mother Teresa's priests

  • Christmas morning. East of downtown Tijuana, along a swamp behind the Otay central bus station. An hour past first light. Roosters crow. Dogs bark. Rain, an inch of which fell last night, still falls, falls now into deep, churning mud. Two men, ankle deep in that mud, ragged clothes colored by mud, look up at the sky and then down. Shoulders bent, they go back to deepening the trench they hope will divert black water, sewage, sulfurous swamp, from their packing-box homes beside the crèche.
  • By Abe Opincar, Judith Moore, Jan. 26, 1989
Father Joseph
  • The day after Christmas in Horton Plaza: those unhappy with gifts returning them

  • “Our new stepfather," said Miriam, whose arms were dragged down by Nordstrom shopping bags. “Our mother spends literally thousands on presents, maybe out of guilt over our childhood. I don’t know. I do know I’m willing to accept her gifts, whatever reason they’re offered. But Perry here," she laid her head on Perry’s shoulder, “this is his stuff we’re returning.
  • By Abe Opincar, Judith Moore, Jan. 26, 1989
Horton Plaza’s four magnet stores promised to open at eight. There were to be sales, 30 and 40 and 50, 70 percent off original prices.
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Cigarette smokers across the border take a hit

Duty-free stores help
  • Sister Santa’s once-a-year smile

  • I fell in love with America for the first time on a sweaty night in a Bangkok refugee center in March 1991. “In America people have meat with every meal,” my dad told me as we looked into the city skyline glittering with streetlights and blinking neon signs in the distance. I was transfixed. Braised meat, steaks, chops; meat on skewers, meat over rice, between bread.
  • By Tam Hoang, Dec. 20, 2017
Tam Hoang and Batman
  • Does Christmas offend you?

  • It's interesting that the place you decided to start was with the Jews, your father's friends, your own friend. Christmas has to start with the Jews, I guess, no matter where you start. It was Jews who were killed by Herod and Jews who were chased into Egypt by him, pregnant with the future, and Jews whose testimony later became the Christmas story.
  • By Gideon Rappaport, Matthew Lickona, Dec. 20, 2007
  • This is Christmas – damn it! What happened?

  • I’m sitting here looking at a photo taken shortly before Christmas 2008. It’s a very good photo: dramatic and sharply focused. It’s a December afternoon in downtown San Diego: trees dotting a vast swath of sun-washed, empty parking lot. In the foreground, walking away from the camera, is my 11-year-old son. His head is bowed, and it’s because of what is in his hands: a chilled bottle of water and a brown paper lunch bag.
  • By Matthew Lickona, Thomas Reifer, Dec. 23, 2009
  • A Christmas story, wherein I leave my dad

  • My boots clomp against the concrete of the garage, and a gravelly paste falls from the arches to mingle with the oil patch in the center of the floor. I light a cigarette, blow the first puff out into the frigid air, and let the burnt match fall to the floor. "Hey," my dad howls. "Don't drop those in here, throw them outside."
  • By Ollie, December 22, 2005 11:53 p.m.
  • Books That Help You Survive Christmas

  • On Christmas Day some among us sooner would read than rip at ribbons. We would prefer the voice of Jane Austen to that of shrill Aunt Tillie. Some among us, on 25 December, long only to laze in the old overstuffed armchair and chew on a cold turkey wing. We prefer to fly into a netherworld of printed pages. Below, you will find six titles that might help take you far beyond the cedar tree and its sparkle.
  • By Judith Moore, Dec. 23, 2004
  • Praise for Dad, and not because of Christmas loot

  • Christmastime is here, and to commemorate the Father's gift of His Son to the world, fathers everywhere are buying loot for their kids. Oh, what a generous God; oh, what a generous Dad. This is indeed a season of love. Unless Dad isn't around to buy presents or is trying to buy affection in absentia with extravagant gifts, or gives presents but not love, or a host of other things.
  • By Matthew Lickona, Dec. 18, 1997
  • How Do You Keep Warm at Night?

  • If you think of the homeless at all — aside from how to avoid them or that daily mini-moral crisis as to whether to give them spare change or not — it may strike you that these people must have certain ingenious secrets as to how to keep warm on the streets at night. Yes, it is San Diego, not Buffalo, but it can get cold enough at night.
  • By John Brizzolara, Jan. 9, 1997
Robert (sitting in foreground) and friend John, "I found a big piece a cardboard. I just crawled in and slept until the damn trucks started comin' in."
  • A criticism implied in every gift

  • I don’t remember Christmas. None in particular. There’s this Christmas thread, an irregular stream of pictograms (orange snowriding disk = delight) linked by an underlying Christmas smell (new plastic, pine trees, chocolate) and an overwhelming feeling of desolation and anxiety. Oh, and that godawful music. You can’t patronize a public building this month without itching to unload an Uzi.
  • By Mary Lang, December 19, 1991
When the boys began to get in jams, Marie's letters didn't even hint at their trouble; and as scrapes turned into felonies, she still didn't reveal that anything had gone wrong.
  • Another year has passed and we are safe and sound

  • Christmas letters. I don't know their history, who first wrote one, or where and why. I suspect they began to be written in the I Love Lucy Eisenhower years when all Americans, even though in fact they didn't seemed to be living in suburbia and eating tuna-fish casserole made with Campbell's cream of mushroom soup. And I suspect, too, that no matter how much fun some of us may make of these letters, we love to receive them. I do.
  • By Judith Moore, Dec. 12, 1991
  • I'm determined to pull A Christmas Carol from my bookshelf again

  • Poor Master Scrooge had a reason to be bitter. Remember that Thanksgiving I told you about when I was stuck at school? — four awful days in an empty dorm — I felt just like young Ebenezer, "alone again, when all the other boys had gone home for the jolly holidays...." But then, his sister comes to fetch him — here's where I start crying....
  • By Sue Greenberg, Dec. 20, 1990
  • Christmas day in Tijuana with Mother Teresa's priests

  • Christmas morning. East of downtown Tijuana, along a swamp behind the Otay central bus station. An hour past first light. Roosters crow. Dogs bark. Rain, an inch of which fell last night, still falls, falls now into deep, churning mud. Two men, ankle deep in that mud, ragged clothes colored by mud, look up at the sky and then down. Shoulders bent, they go back to deepening the trench they hope will divert black water, sewage, sulfurous swamp, from their packing-box homes beside the crèche.
  • By Abe Opincar, Judith Moore, Jan. 26, 1989
Father Joseph
  • The day after Christmas in Horton Plaza: those unhappy with gifts returning them

  • “Our new stepfather," said Miriam, whose arms were dragged down by Nordstrom shopping bags. “Our mother spends literally thousands on presents, maybe out of guilt over our childhood. I don’t know. I do know I’m willing to accept her gifts, whatever reason they’re offered. But Perry here," she laid her head on Perry’s shoulder, “this is his stuff we’re returning.
  • By Abe Opincar, Judith Moore, Jan. 26, 1989
Horton Plaza’s four magnet stores promised to open at eight. There were to be sales, 30 and 40 and 50, 70 percent off original prices.
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