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The Ghost of Christmas Past This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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I'm not sure when it happened – when Christmas lost its jingle-bell ring and its cold-cheeked excitement. In the Christmases of my youth, the whole house, creaking and toasty, would be filled with knit sweaters and familiar laughter. The sweet, welcoming scent of our Christmas tree eddied through the house, mingling with the smell of gingerbread, sweet tea, and apple pie. The lights of the Christmas tree, hung expertly by my mother, reflected off the glass of our Coca Cola bottles. On our old television set, Charlie Brown would lament the commercialization of the season and Rudolph would try to disguise his shiny red nose.

Aunts in embroidered sweaters and tacky festive jewelry offered their loving, powdery hugs and kisses, their voices slow and warm with a Southern drawl. Plates, platters, pots, and pans steaming with hot food covered every surface.

Sitting down at the piano and hesitantly plucking out carefully rehearsed Christmas carols on its yellowing ivory keys made the soundtrack. Starting with the youngest and moving on to my grandmother, we opened presents at a pace cultivated yet unruffled by childish excitement.

When asked what I wanted most for Christmas, I would always respond hopefully with a request that I knew would never happen: snow. In Louisiana, white Christmases and winter wonderlands can only be cheaply imitated with snow globes and lights strung on damp rooftops.

Nowadays, only a few relatives come to town. All my aunts are at their now-married children's homes, each celebrating their own Christmas, the tradition still engrained but diluted in our extended family mentality. They now plant powdery, rouged kisses on their grandchildren's faces. The adorned pine tree, burnt in a bonfire with an air of finality, was replaced with a plastic-and-metal version. Santa Claus is just a Coke commercial; the cooler is now filled with aluminum cans. The piano lid gathers dust.

Even my unshakeable belief in God, as reassuring and ever-present as the crisp light of an open fridge, turned off as soon as it was closed. I had questions that my parents and community couldn't answer: How do we know what we believe is true? Why is God only remembered during Sunday church and religious holidays? If He does exist, why do we not glorify Him on every square of the calendar? Every sensitive question was answered with an ominously diplomatic “God works in mysterious ways” or “You'll understand when you're older.” These feelings, quietly incubating throughout the year, came to dizzying fruition at the sound of “Silent Night.” But telling my parents would mean breaking their hearts.

Was it the loss of Christmas that made me lose my faith, or the other way around? Perhaps it had always been like this, and I chose to look at my family's traditions and beliefs through holly-wreathed, dove-tailed spectacles. Some people say that when you free yourself from religion, you become liberated and maybe even happier, but now I'm not so sure.

Although I lost my faith as I got older, and Christmas will never be the same, some traditions remain. As long as Christmas is a holiday, “Charlie Brown Christmas” will always play on the television and I will continue to hope for the snow that will never come.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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