Some holiday traditions happen by accident

Christmas Day is usually a calm day around the Phillips’ household. Kinfolk gatherings and other holiday parties are usually wrapped up by Christmas Eve, which allows us to spend Dec. 25 as a family. One of my favorite Christmas Day stories is from 2009. With small children in the house, waking up early is pretty much a guarantee the morning of Christmas. That particular year, I was stirred from my slumber on Christmas morning by my then 2-year-old daughter, Daisy, who was tugging on the tubing of my CPAP machine and said, “Santa’s been here!” After we are all good and awake, we always rush to the Christmas tree to see what gifts Santa Claus has left behind. We also have to check and see if Santa has eaten the gingerbread cookies and eggnog that were put out for him the night before. (It’s strange that Santa always leaves a halfway eaten cookie on the plate). After the children open their presents, we usually spend time putting things together, trying on any new clothes or inserting batteries into electronic items. The remainder of the day, we usually spend playing together and having fun. As far as food goes on Christmas Day, we usually scavenge over leftovers from parties the day before. That had been the case until Christmas 2009. That year, we neglected to purchase groceries in the days leading up to Christmas with the idea that we would have our usual leftovers. Our families must have been hungrier that year than typical Christmases or we decided not to take the time to make to-go plates, because we were left with basically no food on Dec. 25. With minimal food in the house and everyone closed for the holiday, I began to freak out after a few hours of thinking about our situation. I suddenly remembered that most movie theaters would be open for business. If nothing else, we could have popcorn, sodas and Sour Patch Kids. Andrea wanted to just hang around the house, but I think my erratic behavior, which I blamed on a lack of nutrition, led her to agree to my movie theater idea. It was freezing cold that Christmas, so we all bundled up to make the trek to Hoover for the movie. Daisy looked like she was ready to be launched into space due to her being strapped into her car seat while wearing a huge, puffy, white coat. When we got into Hoover, we found an open restaurant. It was a Chinese eatery and it seemed like the Christmas star was shining down on its parking lot. We decided as a group that Chinese food beats stale popcorn any day of the week, especially when you are starving on Christmas. After parking the car, I got out the words, “Is everybody as hungry as me?,” before I heard a terrible sound. It was horrible. It was unexpected. Someone in the car had gotten extremely sick. Moments later I heard my son Stone say, “Daisy just got sick everywhere!” This precious child had showed no signs of sickness. She had no fever. She hadn’t complained of a stomachache. It just happened with one sudden eruption. Despite this setback, nothing was going to get between me and a huge buffet full of food — not on that day.

Andrea was saying we should just turn around, but I dramatically said, “We’ve come too far.” I checked on Daisy. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but fortunately her puffy coat was the main casualty in this situation. I took the coat off and asked Daisy how she felt. She gave a positive response and said she was in fact hungry. My diagnosis was the heat from the big marshmallow coat and being strapped into the car seat had caused the entire ugly event. We went inside the restaurant and tried to pretend the 15 minutes prior to our entrance never happened. That experience turned into one of our favorite Christmas dinners ever. There were only a few customers inside the restaurant, so we were able to interact with the staff. We talked about Christmas and how glad we were that our journey that day had led us to that particular place. A couple of ladies from the restaurant made our girls origami cranes as a reminder of our Christmas visit. After our delicious dinner, we went to the movies and watched something that I don’t even remember. After that night, I found out that Chinese food on Christmas is a tradition for many people, kind of like the scene in “A Christmas Story.” We have made it a tradition for our as well. Most years since 2009, Chinese food has been our dish of choice for Christmas night. I hope there is a big buffet in my future for this Dec. 25 as well. James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or