My Worst Christmas Ever — Guest Donna Andrews

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win a copy of How The Finch Stole Christmas by Donna Andrews leave a comment below.

Join me in welcoming Donna Andrews the prolific author of the Meg Langslow Mystery series. She is here celebrating the recent release of How The Finch Stole Christmas. Here is a little about the book:

Meg’s husband has decided to escalate his one-man show of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol into a full-scale production with a large cast including their sons Jamie and Josh as Tiny Tim and young Scrooge and Meg helping as stage manager.

The show must go on, even if the famous—though slightly over-the-hill—actor who’s come to town to play the starring role of Scrooge has brought a sleigh-load of baggage and enemies with him. And why is Caerphilly suddenly overrun with a surplus of beautiful caged finches?

How the Finch Stole Christmas! is guaranteed to put the “ho ho hos” into the holidays of cozy lovers everywhere with its gut-bustingly funny mystery.

My Worst Christmas Ever

I wish I could tell you what year it was, and how old I was when my worst Christmas ever happened. Old enough that I still had utter faith in the omniscience and omnipotence of Santa Claus, that’s all I know. Nor can I remember what toy it was that I wanted with such fierce intensity that I knew I’d just die if I didn’t get it. But when I realized–

I’m getting ahead of my story. I should explain that by the time this particular Christmas rolled around, our family holiday rituals were established. My brother and I woke up early—probably before dawn—but we knew the rule was that we waited until our parents, who slept in a downstairs bedroom, came to the foot of the stairs to call us to see what Santa had brought. I don’t remember if my brother and I consoled each other during the endless wait by complaining about how terrible it was to have parents who slept so late or if we stayed in our separate rooms pretending to sleep . . . pretending we weren’t going crazy from the wait.

Finally Mommy and Daddy would appear, and we’d race downstairs. There would be presents, and then breakfast, and then a short drive to my maternal grandparents’ house for more presents, followed by Christmas dinner. The only thing children love more than ritual is a ritual filled with good things like presents, candy, and food.

That fateful year I woke up even earlier than usual. My brother wasn’t up. It wasn’t even light. But I couldn’t go back to sleep. I had to know if Santa had brought me . . . whatever it was.

So I got up and crept down to take a peek.

Santa hadn’t come. Our stockings were still limp and empty. Beneath the tree were only the few wrapped presents that had come by mail from out of town relatives—no bounty from the North Pole.

After my initial shock, I came to the awful realization that both my brother and I must have done something truly awful for Santa to ignore us so completely. I had no idea what it could be. The few minor transgressions I could think of didn’t seem to warrant such stern punishment.

I slunk back upstairs in utter misery and crawled under the covers.

My parents probably wondered if I was sick when they came to rouse me and my brother that morning. Why would any child be so hard to pry out of bed on Christmas Day? Since the ritual required that we all enter the living room at the same time to see what Santa had brought, my brother couldn’t go in without me. And since I assumed my parents hadn’t peeked, I knew they didn’t yet know the magnitude of our naughtiness. But as soon as they saw the stark, bare living room, they’d know something was wrong, and they’d begin figuring out what it was we had done.

I finally steeled myself to face what I assumed would be the inevitable parental disappointment and the ensuing interrogation. I trudged downstairs.

Never had I seen a room so overflowing with presents. The stockings were about to burst from the candy and trinkets. And whatever it was that I’d coveted so passionately was front and center on my side of the present trove.

Santa hadn’t skipped us after all, I realized. We weren’t on his naughty list. He’d just come really, really late.

My worst Christmas ever. And maybe, once it was all over, also my best Christmas ever. I think I appreciated that year’s presents a lot more than the presents in years when I took it for granted that of course Santa would be coming.

But I never went down to peek again.

Readers: What was your worst Christmas ever?

73 Thoughts

  1. Donna, what a great story! And congratulations on the new book. My worst Christmas was when I was working (on a work visa) and living in Japan in the 70s with a boyfriend who didn’t care about the holiday. My sister was ending a nearly round-the-world trip in Hong Kong. I bought a ticket to meet her there for Christmas, bring her some needed cash, and travel back to Japan together. I got to the airport and they asked where my re-entry permit was. Turns out I could leave, but I wouldn’t be able to come back in without the permit nobody had told me I needed! Gah. No cell phones. She’s in Hong Kong without money. I’m home alone for a wretched Christmas. My father was finally able to wire her some money and she did join us in Japan, but it was a few days later.

  2. Worst Christmas ever….that was in 1968 and I was going to school in Omaha, Ne. Due to heavy snows that year, my parents called and told me to take the bus back to my hometown. I called the bus station, found out when the bus would leave on Christmas Eve and I called a taxi to reserve a ride. The taxi was supposed to arrive at 3 pm, 2 hrs ahead of when the bus was scheduled to leave. the taxi never showed up and I could not get another taxi. When I would call the phone would ring and ring and no one answered. I ended up spending the night in my dorm. I did get a taxi the next morning and was able to travel to my hometown arriving about 12 noon.

  3. No bad stories here, just the one where I put the turkey in the night before and set the temp for 350′ instead of 250′. Needless to say the bird was black in places. We did salvage enough to eat a bite or two each.

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever had a horrible Christmas. If I did, I have so thoroughly blocked it that I cannot remember it 🙂

  5. Donna, did you ever tell your parents about this?

    PS: I already bought and read How The Finch Stole Christmas, and loved it!

  6. I had a very similar situation of sneaking out to take a peak too early. I can remember the gift I wanted though. It was an electronic organ. As with you it did show up, at the time it was suppose to and not at my dictating. Later as an adult, I was finally told that it had been hide all that time in the oven of the military supplied stove that was in the storage room since Mom wanted to use her stove.

    The very saddest and definitely the worst Christmas for me was the first Christmas after we lost our daughter. Being that she was our only child and that Christmas is best seen through children’s eyes, it was a very solemn and teary eyed Christmas for all of us. Each Christmas after the first one has gotten better. I can now replace the sadness with happy memories and I look around and enjoy the joy and grand anticipation of Santa in little ones around me now.

  7. I’ve had 3 horrible Christmases in a row now. My daughter in law decided on grandparents day 3 years ago that she wasn’t going to speak to me again and in addition to that I am not allowed to see Maddie my granddaughter. At the time she was pregnant with twins. I’ve only been able to see them for an hour and a half ever and that was after they turned 2. She also turned my son against me but we are working out our differences and are talking again and we’ve had coffee a few times. The really sad thing is I have no idea why. So Christmas is just another day to me even though I send gifts to my son and the girls. My husband insists on putting up a tree and making me decorate it and I watch my favorite Christmas movie “Christmas Vacation”.

  8. I don’t really have a worst Christmas ever. One year when I was a teenager my mom wanted to make sure my dad understood how hard it was to shop for Christmas gifts for 5 kids on a budget so she told him he had to do all the shopping. My dad decided that he would spend $50 on each of us so that he could buy for everyone for $250.00, and that I would be his helper so I had to go with him to the mall and pick out my own gifts (by today’s standards that’s almost nothing but back then he was determined to make it work and he did a good job!). Even though it was a little weird picking out my own presents and knowing everything that would be waiting for me under the tree it was a great experience to spend the time with my dad and I still remember it to this day. p.s. I had one extra present under the tree that year – a watch from my mom with a note telling me that she wanted me to have a surprise, and thanking me for helping my father. 🙂

  9. Probably the year (I think I was in second grade) when my four younger brothers and our even younger sister and I, having waited patiently for dawn’s early light, went downstairs (careful to be so VERY quiet and not wake our parents who needed their sleep). Since I was quite capable of reading all the names on the tags, we parceled them out and started opening them. What I hadn’t realized was that my second brother, Joseph Kevin (usually called Kevin) shared his first name with our father (whom we in those long ago days called Father), and we were all puzzled that the package labeled Joe would have a camera and lightbulbs in it.

  10. Hi Donna–Welcome to the Wicked Cozies. I don’t think I have a worst Christmas. To me it’s always the welcomest break in the long, dark winter.

  11. I can’t think of any worsts of my childhood Christmases. As an adult, the worsts always had to do with getting stuck in traffic on the 95 corridor between VA and granny’s house in CT. You can only listen to your kid’s Raffi tapes so many times!

  12. Donna, mine was a little bit like yours. Our parents always told us Santa wouldn’t come unless all of us were asleep. One Christmas Eve I woke up a couple hours (I think) after going to bed. A few minutes later my bedroom was lit up with bright lights from outside. Oh, no! Santa was here, the lights were surely from his sleigh, and I was still awake! I just *knew* that he would skip our family. I prayed that I would fall back to sleep right away, and I did.
    The next morning I told everyone that I had seen the lights from Santa’s sleigh and everybody was impressed, even my parents!

  13. First holiday season in our new house in Delaware. It snowed on Christmas Eve night, but we were up with a kid who upchucked all night and then cried all the next day because he was too sick to go out in the snow. And what was one of their gifts? New sleds, of course. I can still hear the wailing.

  14. thanks for sharing – my worst Christmas was the year my Dad passed away – just didn’t seem right not having him there

  15. I don’t think I’ve really had a bad Christmas. My m would say though that it was the year we stayed home to make our own traditions instead of traveling to see both sides of the family, which my dad’s promotion had caused us to move away from. My mom was so miserable and said never again!

  16. Hi Donna, mine is sort of like yours, a worst best.

    It was the first Christmas after my great grandparents sold their upstate New York farm. Our usual Christmas venue. Worse, we weren’t going to New York at all at the last minute because of a blizzard so it was only our family of four not the extended cast of thousands. I was convinced Santa would never find our house in New Jersey. Not on Christmas, not with no chimney, and not when he’d expect us to be with the rest of the family!

    Our neighbor, a ham operator, called to have my Dad and me come over, he had an emergency call on his radio and only we could help. It was Santa, he needed directions to our house to be sure our presents were delivered. Needless to say, we had Christmas that year and I got to talk to Santa Claus!

    1. Kait, I’m so jealous you got to talk to Santa — I’m sure you were the envy of all your friends! And Donna, so glad that fateful Christmas morning turned out well! 🙂

  17. I don’t think I have ever had a bad Christmas. As you get older you really only want good health, family & friends.

  18. That wait on Christmas morning is always so long…. And I woke up super early on Christmas morning until I was in my 30’s, too. About the time my niece was born, I started sleeping in on Christmas morning. I guess I finally felt like there was a child to carry on the tradition.

  19. My worst Christmas wasn’t quite so lesson filled. I was just about to turn twelve in a few days. My mom and grandmother sat, camera ready, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great grandparents all around. They gleefully hand me very fancy wrapped presents. I ripped open what I was sure was to be the best presents ever! I sat stunned as I found it was two lacy, satin, pink and purple, matched sets of bras and panties. My mother and grandmother shout for me to hold them up. I tried to shove them back under the tree. My mother hands them back, grinning. So, I have pictures in the Family album of me, red faced, holding up my matches sets of lingerie in front of the tree, my cousins and siblings laughing.

  20. I spent a Christmas Eve stranded in the Dallas airport (along with many other travelers). Luckily I was able to get a flight out very early Christmas morning & was able to spend the rest of the day with family.

  21. I’ve never really had a bad Christmas. Years ago I spent Christmas on a plane flying cross country, but I wouldn’t say it was a bad Christmas. It was a cheaper flight and nearly empty, plus I had fun the day after!

  22. We lived in Boston, my mother-in-law lived in Cleveland. We would go there for Christmas each year. We would alternate methods of getting there – either driving or taking the train. It was a driving year. We ran into a blizzard in western Pennsylvania. The toll road was closed and we had to get off. We were on Route 20 driving in very heavy snow and just trying to get past the lake effect. However, when we got as far as Erie (and had no idea that was where we were), I finally gave up and said the car just wasn’t going to make it through the snow any further. The plows couldn’t keep up with the depth of the snow. So I pulled into a motel at 11:30 on Christmas Eve. We got checked in, but we were really hungry and managed to drive about a mile or so to a convenience store to get some food. When we came out, the car wouldn’t start. We finally got a ride back to the motel with a police officer. They were only willing to do that because we had our young daughter along. We had unloaded the car before going to the store, so I tore off an inch-high Christmas tree from a wrapped package and stuck it to the mirror as our Christmas tree. We each opened the traditional one present, read The Night Before Christmas to our daughter and finally went to bed. In the morning, Christmas morning, with the help of motel owner’s wife, we got someone to tow our car to the shop where it could warm up enough to start. We trudged through the snow to pick it up the next day. Finally the road opened and we could proceed to Cleveland. Not what we had planned – spending 3 days in a motel over Christmas, but it all worked out. No one was hurt, the car was fine, we had a somewhat traditional Christmas Eve, and we learned a lot more about dealing with life on life’s terms. And it makes a great war story even after 35 years.

  23. It’s pretty much just my mom and I nowadays. Sure we’ll get together with her siblings eventually, but everyone is so scattered between conflicting work schedules and in-laws that getting everyone together may not happen until after New Year’s (or even some later holiday). With that in mind, my worst Christmas was 2015, just a couple of years ago. My mother had been in a car accident at the beginning of August and because of the injuries she got from that and other complications that arose later on, she was still in rehab at Christmastime. Well, I can’t drive due to medical issues of my own, so I couldn’t go see her even though she was only a few miles away. Add the fact that I spent pretty much that entire December lay-in-bed-and-pray-you-remember-to-drink-enough-and-can-keep-something-down sick? It made for a very bad year holiday wise.

  24. My worst Christmas was when my mother was sick. She died of cancer a year or so later. My brother just died this October. I do love your series. It is funny but the characters are real and not too silly.

  25. Would LOVE to win a book from this author! I enjoy her books! My worst Christmas was the year my ex’s mother gave me a present of Best Foods mayo! True story!

    1. Sounds like my mother’s wedding present to us. A cheap blanket. It wasn’t a matter of money, it was a matter of pique. And she didn’t know the word gracious. Her problem, not mine.

  26. My parents were fighting a lot and our tree was a peice of pine I found.I got presents but thevtree was missed.

  27. most of the family got the flu…we refer to that year as puking Christmas! parkeremma2003 at yahoo dot com

    1. I’m sorry you were all sick, but your post made me laugh out loud, literally! Thanks.

  28. The worst Christmas I ever had was when my husband and I first separated and I went to visit family and he sent me a gift to my parent’s home. It was so insensitive of him.

  29. Maybe the year my husband didn’t get pd. before Christmas, couldn’t go Christmas shopping and my present from him was 2 ornaments from a gas station. It’s been many years and my feelings were hurt at the time. I still have the ornaments and am still married to the same man.

  30. What a sweet story. I’ve never really had a bad Christmas–guess I’m blessed! Legallyblonde1961 at yahoo dot com.

  31. When I was eight years old, my parents decided to go to CO for Christmas and we drove our car there as I sat in the back seat lamenting the fact that we had not see snow YET! Then it started to snow on us and being from TX we were not equipped to drive in snowy, icy weather and ended up with our car sliding sideways on Main Street into our destination town. Everyone stopped on sidewalks and in driveways to watch us amazed I am sure that anyone would be driving without tire chains in such weather. On Christmas Day, new tire chains attached, we started for home and could find no place open to eat, but fortunately my mother had brought along some peanuts to snack on…we did not starve, but what a different kind of Christmas it was! And while there for the first time in my life I got to make a snowman…such a great memory.

  32. My worst Christmas ever? I spent part of it at the 24 hour Walgreens and then a good four or more hours washing, and combing hair for the lice my eldest (age five–very long hair) had picked up in the airport. That’s six heads that were washed and combed, bedding to be washed, chairs to be sprayed, and carpets vacuumed all while cooking the turkey and all the sides for the 8 extra people showing up for dinner at 1pm! It just beat out the Christmas of pinkeye that my youngest shared, where my mother-in-law was allergic to the drops and ended up with an eye infection.

  33. I haven’t really had any really, really bad Christmases. There was one year when my two daughters (adults) got into a big fight over something they were cooking and both threatened to go home, but ended up sulking the rest of the day. It kind of put a damper on Christmas, but we just ignored them and carried on!

  34. It wasn’t my worst Christmas ever – but your peeking story reminds me of the Christmas I was 9 or 10 years old. Mom had wrapped a box in white tissue paper. But she didn’t use many sheets. If you pressed the tissue up against the box – you could read through it. It was a Mary Poppins game. I loved that game for many years…but never-ever peeked at a present again. It wasn’t any fun knowing what what underneath the wrapping.

    1. Only once did I go hunting for Christmas presents. And I found one! When Christmas morning came, it wasn’t under the tree. I finally said something to mom about it. She had forgotten it. I’ve never peeked since.

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