Christmas in our family was always one part family, one part presents, and one thousand parts goofy. No one really remembers the origin of our most honored tradition, but I’m pretty sure my brother is responsible. In any event, we would go through the usual paces of waking up Mom and Dad, opening all the gifts, and taking stock of our loot. The last thing we opened was the one gift we knew we were getting — underwear. In itself, this is not particularly special. Everyone gets underwear for Christmas. Personally, I even wear underwear most days, so it’s a pretty common thing. Here’s where the tradition enters. We would all put our new, clean, unworn (very important) underwear on our heads and sing White Christmas. We were rarely on key, but we would always end up rolling in the floor at the sight of each other dressed in our tightie-whitey (sp?) hats. Laughing was such a great way to spend this greatest of holidays.
Today, our family is separated by 800 miles. Occasionally we are all able to get together for Christmas, but not often. Nevertheless, when we are apart we set aside a time to get together on the phone, on a conference call, if necessary, put underwear on our heads, and sing White Christmas. Even several years ago when I spent two painful Christmasses in prison, we did not miss the singing of White Christmas (although I did get some strange but amused looks from 132 of my closest um…fellow inmates). We Lattimores simply do not miss this chance to laugh and enjoy each other…ever.
They (whoever they is) say that families often bond through the observance of traditions. I’m convinced that it doesn’t really matter what the tradition is (as long as it’s not destructive). I would hazard that I am as close to my parents, my brother and my sister as anyone can be to his or her family. I’m sure that Mom and Dad were responsible for a lot of that affinity. But I am convinced that the underwear on the head has played no small role.
Merry Christmas everyone. I’ve got to go practice now. I’ve been singing a little flat lately.