Back in ’92 or ’93 I was sitting in the Great Kiva in Aztec, New Mexico at 10pm or 11pm. It was one of those nights in northwestern New Mexico where the temperature dropped so low you had to measure it in degrees Kelvin. I think that was the year I was home over Christmas (or holiday, whatever) break from college and the temperature never got out of the teens the whole time I was home.

It was cold. I was cold. And I was sitting in a nine-hundred year-old abandoned Kiva listening to some idiot prattle on about something or another. Some weird blend of ancient Native American traditions and semi-modern Christianity. There were about twenty or thirty other people in the Kiva, most of them entranced by the charlatan in the expensive coat. My butt was frozen. I couldn’t feel my fingers. At the end of the … whatever the heck it was … we all held hands and sang “Kumbaya My Lord” – a song I really have no great love for.

It was, shall we say, an experience. An experience that was different from our traditional Christmas Eve of eating the worst Chinese food in the world (Winslow, AZ isn’t exactly known for its quality Chinese food) and then going to Midnight Mass. It was just me and my mom that night in that old stone Kiva surrounded by strangers and memories of lost people. It may have been cold and it may have been miserable and I may still hate “Kumbaya My Lord” to this very day, but it was an experience and I will always hold tight to that and relish that memory. And I will always love my mom for giving me those experiences, just like I will always relish the memories of eating the world’s worst Chinese food and going to Midnight Mass. Those were the experiences that defined me.

By the way, speaking of experiences, all that stuff on the back of my books about looking for UFOs and buried treasure – all true. My mom again. She had a penchant for seeking the magical in life.

Now I’m older, I’ve got my own family and we’ve got our own traditions that we’re generating. We don’t watch a lot of traditional Christmas movies, we don’t always listen to traditional Christmas music. We don’t go to Midnight Mass or eat terrible Chinese food. We eat tamales and posole. We watched Lethal Weapon (hey, it takes place during Christmas) last night, we’re watching the Xmas Futurama episodes right now. Our other Christmas movies include The Long Kiss Goodnight, Bad Santa, and Die Hard. We decorated our tree with Star Wars figures. Our Nativity scene has Han Solo and Leia Organa and R2D2 in the manger.

New traditions.

Whatever your traditions are, I hope you’re having a wonderful Holiday Season. Whether you’re waiting in fear for Krampus to show up, lighting a menorah, or sacrificing virgins to appease the spider gods, have a wonderful time doing it.