Share your funny Christmas Mishaps!

While we all hope to create good, lasting memories for our families that come from family togetherness and spiritual experiences, some of my favorite Christmas memories come from the oops moments. I’ve had many, but here is one that happened last year:

I grew up in a home where the presentation of a gift was as important as what the box held inside. At Christmas, my mom and her best friend, my godmother Annie, would lock themselves up in a bedroom with footlockers full of wrapping paper and ribbon, sharp scissors, red pens, and an ironing board to make sure that no bows drooped on their watch. They spent hours writing messages on the gift tags to clue the receiver into what was inside the package, and they often spoke in hushed tones about the “secret code” they had to ensure that a present never got mixed up and they always knew what was inside.

I’m a low-maintenance girl, but I have kept up the wrapping tradition. And tonight, if I can somehow manage to haul up my drawers of ribbon and garbage cans full of wrapping paper, I may turn my bedroom into Santa’s Workshop and get started. It’s been nearly two decades since I figured out that the “secret code” had nothing to do with the pattern of the wrapping paper or the color of the ribbon tied to the package. Just like my mom and godmother, I write on the bottom of each package in tiny little letters who it’s for and what’s inside.

At least, usually I do.

Last Christmas, between graduate school deadlines and preparing for family and the all-consuming stress of our adoption taking up every spare thought, I was less organized than usual. My parents and my sister’s family were arriving two days before Christmas (which is my daughter’s birthday), so I told my family that if they mailed me their presents, I would wrap them and then we would do the “tagging and bowing” together. It was my nephew Sam’s first Christmas, so everyone was going overboard, and nearly every day something arrived in the mail for him, including (another family tradition) a personalized stoneware baby plate with his name, birth date, and all of his birth stats. I wrapped it up along with all the rest.

On Christmas Eve morning, my mom and sister and I locked the bedroom door and unloaded every gift from my closet. Using the “secret code” we spent the morning writing clues, cracking each other up with our witty comments. And then we came to a package that was completely unmarked. I shook it, but it didn’t sound like Legos. I wracked my brain, but finally, there was nothing to do but open the gift. So I did. And inside, I found the coat, hat, gloves and sweater I’d bought for the Sub for Santa our ward does each year. The only problem? I’d delivered the Sub for Santa present several days earlier, and I knew the gifts had already been distributed.

Like my mother before me, I am a list keeper. I always wondered why I kept a spreadsheet with every Christmas gift I give each year, since I’ve never had an opportunity to refer to it, but that Christmas Eve morning, my mom and I both whipped out our lists. Was the man whose name I’d chosen off the ward tree getting a Razor scooter? A flat-screen tv? A woman’s sweater? While all of those would have been awkward and unusual gifts, the package sitting under his tree was even less useful– it was Sam’s baby plate. An expensive and meaningful gift for my sister, but utterly useless to anyone else.

And so I placed a few calls, and we tracked down the giftee. My dad ran across town and braved the indignity of asking for the present back (he did have the right one to give instead). And my sister was none the wiser on Christmas morning (at least until now).

It’s snowing here, and with the tree in the corner and music playing, it feels like Christmas today. I want to hear your funny Christmas stories too!

About Shelah

(Editor-in-Chief) lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and six kids. She has a BA in English Teaching from BYU, an MA in American Culture Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MFA in Creative Writing at BYU. Her work has been published in Dialogue, the Mormon Women Project, Irreantum, BYU Studies, and Segullah. When she’s not writing or wrangling, she can often be found running through the city in the pre-dawn darkness.

9 thoughts on “Share your funny Christmas Mishaps!

  1. One year at Christmas, my dad burnt the orange juice.

    It is our family tradition that since Mom cooks the big Christmas Eve dinner, Dad makes breakfast on Christmas. Breakfast included orange juice from frozen concentrate, and our microwave either did not yet exist or was broken, because my dad took the metal top off the frozen concentrate and stuck it in the oven on a low heat to defrost.

    In the meantime, we started opening presents in the living room. Eventually, we smelled something burning and retrieved the bubbling concentrate from the oven. My dad still made it into orange juice, and it tasted like, well, burnt orange juice.

  2. My mom tried to burn the house down one Christmas morning. OK, she didn’t *try* to, but she started a fire in the fireplace for that nice, cozy feel, but she forgot to open the flue on the chimney, and our stockings got singed as the fire licked them as it came up and out of the fireplace. My mom was also infamous for forgetting all the presents that she’d hidden in her closet or drawer, and then, along about March, one day she’d come out of her room and say, “Hey! Here’s a Christmas present for you!”

    As for me, my funniest Christmas story, and most embarrassing story, was the first Christmas we were married. The whole family was at my new in-laws house, gathered around the speaker phone talking to my BIL on his mission in England. I reached over and squeezed my husband’s bum, like I’d gotten in the habit of doing, except that then I heard my father-in-law’s voice say, “It’s me.”

    Obviously I didn’t die of embarrassment, though I wanted to!

  3. I’m not sure my story qualifies as “funny”, but our Christmas Eve last year was a complete disaster. My husband often takes the kids to a movie on Christmas Eve afternoon while I prepare for the evening. I had a lovely afternoon all by myself listening to all my favorite classical Christmas music that the rest of the family can’t stand. I was on a spiritual high like I hadn’t experienced for a long time, and I was so ready to take on Christmas Eve and have it be a beautiful, meaningful experience for all of us. However, dh got home later than expected with the kids, then supper went late, and by the time we were ready to start our observance, the kids were beginning to get cranky. Combine tired grumpiness with hysterical hyperness and excitement about Santa, and you have a recipe for disaster. The toddler fussed and cried so much that my husband finally took him up to bed. The older kids were fighting over who got to light which candle on our Advent wreath and who didn’t want who to touch them. At one point I had one child crying on the stairs refusing to come back and join us, one child up in bed, one husband upstairs with that child, and the other child yelling and sassing me on the couch. I never imagined I would do this, but I actually packed everyone up and sent them to bed. Things were so far gone there was no reclaiming any semblance of a celebration. And then I cried. It was truly AWFUL.

    However, the next morning at 6:00 am we made all the kids gather in mom and dad’s bedroom and do the entire Christmas Eve spiritual scripture-reading carol-singing devotional before they were allowed to go downstairs and see what Santa brought.

    I’m sure someday we will sit around the table and laugh about it all. I’m not quite there yet this year… I’m still praying to not have a repeat.

  4. I have a major sleep disorder, so I’m usually sleeping while people are eating breakfast (and lunch, on most days). I usually sleep in two chunks, which means I can sometimes see my family at breakfast time.

    You can imagine this makes Christmas tricky. My kids are THE BEST and just go with the flow and wait for Mom to wake up. But a couple of years ago, I was on my way back for sleep chunk #2, but decided to bag my sleep until after presents. I got my ‘nap’ and we went to extended family activities.

    When we got home later that night, I looked around at the presents I had received and felt completely puzzled. I couldn’t remember opening them. It was then that we realized that I had experienced the ‘amnesia’ effect of Ambien (I had taken my dose before changing my mind on sleeping first). I could only remember about 15-20% of our Christmas. Sad but funny.

  5. This is little, but still a running family joke: Every year for many years my dad would make peppermint ice cream for our Christmas Eve desert. As the oldest, I dragged my new husband to all the in-law activities that made it “Christmas” for me. That first year we were married, I talked and talked about the fabulous ice cream we would eat.

    At the end of the dinner, we sat down to enjoy its cool refreshingness after our heavy meal. What happened was person after person discreetly making faces and spitting their first bite back into the bowl.

    My dad had mistakenly used MAPLE flavoring instead of vanilla. Just for the record, I don’t recommend maple and peppermint. But we still threaten to make it every year.

  6. It’s been a long time since I left a comment but I had a pretty awesome holiday debacle at my house just this last week. My husband and I had left the house for a couple of hours to do some grocery shopping with our two youngest children, leaving the older 4 kids at home including our oldest- a 14 year old boy with Asperger’s (we’ll call him #1). So, the evening was uneventful and we came home to a peaceful house and asked the obligatory “How did things go?” #1 says “Great!” Satisfied with this response we went about making dinner. Just a few minutes later #1 comes ambling back into the room and says “Actually, while you were gone some people came to the door and left this gift for you (he hands us a gift bag) ….and, then they started singing.”

    Knowing the many oddities of #1 my first response is “Oh boy, I hope you were polite.”

    He paused for a moment then says, “Well, I wasn’t sure what to do…I’ve never experienced anything like it before and the only thing I could think to do was run to the computer and google ‘people caroling, what should I do?’ and by the time I found out it was customary to offer them some type of holiday treat they had finished singing and were gone!”

    ….

    Me: “So…you left them standing there singing to nobody?”

    #1: “Well, yeah…I totally panicked!”
    Me: “Where was #2?
    #1: “He was hiding.”
    Me: “Wow. Oh gosh, who was it?”
    #1: “I…don’t really know. I don’t keep track of people.”

    At this point I think of the gift bag and wonder if it has a tag and sure enough this is a family in our war

  7. *sorry, I hit submit on accident- here’s the rest of the story:

    Anyway, this is a family our ward- several of our kids have school AND church classes with their kids. but….#1 doesn’t keep track of these things. Now I am reeling imagining myself trying to explain to this sweet family next Sunday why they were completely shunned by my entire household as they offered a gesture of holiday cheer- to an empty doorway! Aaaaah!!!

    I even thought to ask #1: “What song did they sing?”

    His response: “Oh gosh, I don’t even know. I was very flustered! Mom, I just don’t *get* these things!”

    At that moment my adorable, chubby-cheeked 7 year old boy (#4) pipes up: “Oh! They sang Silent Night. I watched them.”

    So, mercifully,(thanks to my 7 year old) all was not lost. At least *somebody* around here “get’s it” even if some others never will. Alas, I do still have to face these people at church tomorrow.

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