Our annual Christmas fight

Every Christmas season it’s the same.  The hard-scrabbling fight for presents, the intense gleam in greedy eyes as we steal the gaily wrapped packages, the glint of green and red holiday lights on the dice as they clatter against metal.

Lights dim low in Nancy’s living room as we eight women sit cross-legged on the floor, like children, except for one of us who leans low from her chair to throw the dice.

We’re looking for sixes or ones to land face up.  If we throw the magic numbers, we get to choose a package.  We already know what lies wrapped beneath the gold and green paper, inside that elf stocking, under those dangling bright purple balls.  We know books lie within the package, for we’re at Book Club, our annual Christmas book exchange.

Tis the season...

Tis the season…

Nancy sets her kitchen timer but we barely notice.  We’re throwing dice and laughing wildly.  If you toss ones or sixes, you choose one of the eight packages we carefully purchased for the exchange.  No challenge, right?  The little extra fun comes because we’re allowed to grab any package which lights our fancy, even if Jan or Joanne or Kathy has already claimed it.

Mary sits smugly with three packages in front of her crossed legs.  Do you think she’ll claim them for long?  No, a dice rolls and someone grabs her favorite.  She protests in mock horror.

I roll the red dice.  A one!  In glee, I grab Cheri’s package.  In the meantime Joanne–the witch!–has rolled a six and grabbed MY gift.  How could this happen?

So easily we gain our gifts.  So easily we lose them.

Stockings filled with...delightful books...

Stockings filled with…delightful books…

The kitchen timer buzzes.  We’re red-cheeked and breathless.  Three book club members remain without gifts.  If someone retains, say, three packages, they must now relinquish two to the center of the pile.

The package-less must now throw the dice until everyone has a gift.

You wonder what happens if someone receives their own gift?  A kind soul volunteers to exchange, because we’re really not heartless grabbers.  We’re really loving souls celebrating the Christmas season and we want everyone to get a book in the exchange.  We love that it’s only a mock fight, a pretend ruse, an exciting return to the magic of games.

I peek into my package.  Ah ha!  It’s an intriguing book called Nothing Daunted:  The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden.  It’s the story of two women from the tame East who travel West as pioneers and experience the adventure of a lifetime.  I look over at Sue.  Of course the book is from Sue.  You can usually tell the gift-giver because, after ten years, you know their taste in reading material.

“I want to read it when you’re done,” Sue announces.

Of course, my friend. How could you not?

Come Dasher, Come Dancer

Come Dasher, Come Dancer

Besides our wild scrambling dice throwing game, you wonder what else happens  at Book Club?

We dine.

Nancy sets out fancy maroon crystal dishes and goblets (sometimes we get paper plates) and we dine on Beef Stroganaff, coleslaw, Cheesy Potatoes, wine bread (to die for), deviled eggs, tapioca pudding, oh what am I forgetting?, the best layered pumpkin cake on the planet, and ice cream.  There is no room for Joanne’s cream puffs.  I contemplate chasing her around the township for leftovers today.

We also passionately discuss last month’s book for longer than our usual book discussion.  (We’re not really a serious book club.  We’re not at all.  Most of the members are more interested in the food, the socialization, and the wild annual gaming.)

The book, you ask? Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I tried to read it and did not succeed, to my daughter’s chagrin, as she loved it.  I found it too wildly creative and hard to follow.  So did other members of our book club.  One liked it as much as my daughter.

We’ve never universally agreed on a book yet, except perhaps The Kite Runner.

At 9:15 yours truly beginsto yawn repeatedly and catches her rider’s eye.

“Time to go!” I announce and they all undoubtedly roll their eyes because they know Kathy is a party-pooper and always rises abruptly and announces departure time before 9:30, because her carriage turns into a pumpkin again at 10 p.m.

Everyone stretches and our little group disbands into the cold night, Nancy’s twinkling lights guiding our way toward our cars.

“Good night!” we call gaily beneath the starry skies as we head to our warm homes.  “See you in February when we share about our Christmas books.  Merry Christmas!  Merry Christmas!”

Thank you, Santa. We promise not to fight next year.  :)

Thank you, Santa. We promise not to fight next year. :)

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About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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65 Responses to Our annual Christmas fight

  1. lisaspiral says:

    I would love your book club. I want to know what book you chose to give?

    • Kathy says:

      I would have answered earlier today, except I have trouble remembering book titles. It was called Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. I was so greedy to read this book that I—please don’t tell–read it before giving it away at book club. We are allowed to buy used books and exchange. Yes, I did so.

  2. Oh my. What a cute story. It has to be as much fun as you wrote. A wonderful group of book loving friends, great food, and a laughing good time. It could not get much better for the beginning of your Christmas season.

  3. Carla Sanders says:

    Great headline Kathy! Made me look! Merry Christmas, DC

  4. Susan Derozier says:

    I have the same question as lisaspiral. It really sounds like a grand community to share in your common passion for reading.

    • Kathy says:

      Susan, please see the answer I just typed to Lisa. Yes, we all love to read. No, we don’t like to read the same kind of books. But, yes, there is a passion for reading which encompasses both possibilities.

  5. Carol says:

    Sounds like lots of fun, but – actual paper books? You’re talking paper books? It is hard to wrap a digital book, isn’t it?

  6. John Kuttenberg says:

    What a great community of friends. (And what great food!)

  7. My book club just started this year, and I may have to suggest this tradition to them for the future! We always try to spend some time discussing our book each time we meet but we, like you, enjoy the sharing of conversation, food, and the other aspects of the gathering just as much if not more than the book itself. The Power of One, which I posted about recently, was a book we uniformly liked as a club. This post brought a smile! ~ Kat

    • Kathy says:

      Kat, you must suggest this wild & crazy tradition! It will liven up your meetings, I hereby swear. I must look up “The Power of One” again. We’re always on the lookout for possibilities.

  8. I may just use that game at my writers’ group party in a couple of weeks–love your description of fellowship among women–I belonged to a book clubs for several years–but got tired of reading stuff others chose–it started out as close knit friends and grew to something where the original members were no longer there–I am glad yours has remained fun

    • Kathy says:

      LouAnn, do try this idea. It’s a HOOT! You can get wild & crazy, I swear it. I know it’s hard when original members depart. Many of ours have, too. I have learned that hanging on brings its own joys, its own rewards.

  9. Oh, how absolutely fun, Fun, FUN! (and now I’ll have to go put my elastic waist pants on as I’m sure I gained ten pounds just reading your absolutely delicious menu).

    Now, pray tell, what the heck is WINE BREAD?!

    • Kathy says:

      Laurie, I shall not go near the scales. I shall not go near the scales. Shall not, shall not, shall not. I do not know what wine bread may be. I only know that Mary announced the bread was made with wine and her alcohol free husband would not munch. I ate liberally, as did several others.

  10. Heather says:

    I want to be in your book club! And also the recipe for wine bread.
    And I hope you all loved The Kite Runner as much as I did.
    Merry Christmas indeed, and thank you for spreading the joy :)

    • Kathy says:

      Heather, I do not have the recipe for wine bread. I am ignorant. We DID love the Kite Runner! Merry pre-Christmas to you, Peace on Earth, and may your new bathroom work Properly!

  11. How fun! My very first book club Christmas party is coming up and I’m already getting hungry reading about the food.

  12. This sounds like great fun!

  13. Karma says:

    Sounds like fun, fun, fun! Love this idea.

  14. Brenda Hardie says:

    Kathy, your book club group sounds like so much fun!! I mean FUN! :D I’m curious to know as well, which book you gave? Oh and by the way, I did find “The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey at the library and am reading it now :) In between a rather distressing but very interesting book about the Vietnam War, “We Were Soldiers Once….and Young” by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway.
    I love the first picture…tis the season. I think the ‘blue hour” is so magical, especially with the added Christmas lights! ♥

    • Kathy says:

      We certainly did have a good time last night! The book I gave was called Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. It was about two Englishwomen in the 1800′s–i think–who collected fossils. Really enjoyed it. Oh DO tell me how you enjoy the Snow Child and do NOT be afraid to tell me you didn’t like it, as half of the book club people think my choices are not stellar. Glad you enjoy the blue hour, too.

  15. dorannrule says:

    Wow – what a fun book group! My club is much more sedate spending exactly one hour discussing one book per month (no food) in our public library’s meeting room. This is the first year we have decided not to meet for a Holiday Get-together at a local restaurant. Still, we love our club and I have been in it now for over 10 years. We even have a website! :)

    • Kathy says:

      Oh, gosh, doranrule (wondering what your real name might be) I think you should start your own book club and get that potluck going and then organize that crazy game once a year. Except…you’ve been going for ten years…and you have a website… sounds like you guys are really serious. We probably would benefit from attending one of your clubs!

  16. sonali says:

    What fun! Such a fantasy. I love this book club of yours. A motivation to read more & more. well-composed story. I also like the first picture very much, very dreamy! I could imagine the six of you playing the game and laughing wildly. Have a lovely December! :)

    • Kathy says:

      Sonali, are you home in India now? Glad you enjoyed our little Book Club fun. wishing you the best of Decembers too! by the way, what kind of books do you like to read?

  17. Barb says:

    At first I read “fight” as “light” – of course I couldn’t believe you’d be fighting at Christmas! When my kids were toddlers, I belonged to the absolute best book club. It saved my life! There were 6 women and 16 toddlers and babies. We made any kid over 2 go somewhere other than where we were having the discussion – either in a basement play room or even outside. Sigh – that was when kids could safely play outside without our eyes constantly on them. None of the kids suffered major injuries and all of us women left with better mental health. You’ve made me dredge up a good memory, Kathy. I need to reconnect with some of those women.

    • Kathy says:

      Ha ha, Barb, fooled ya! I kinda chuckled when typing up this headline. We have joked about our Christmas book exchange “fights” for years. But figured people might think that Barry and I were arguing, ha ha. Sounds like a wonderful book club that you participated in! And it was good that the kids had fun, too. They probably have long-term positive memories of this.

  18. P.j. grath says:

    Serious or not, it sounds like you have a lot of fun. My mouth is watering for those cheesy potatoes and layered pumpkin cake. Book about pioneer women sounds good, too.

    • Kathy says:

      We did have a lot of fun. We ate like queens. I suppose you’ve seen the book about pioneer women. It looks like a good one. I’ve already started reading it. (It feels good to hold an actual book in hand once again.)

  19. sybil says:

    We used to do something similar called “Kris Kringling”. Wrapped gifts (nothing over $1). Each person takes a gift. Trading starts. No forced trades … but would you take these TWO items for your ONE ? Oh a pair of socks cost $2 so were wrapped separately as two different gifts. Gonna have to trade if you want the other sock …

    Noisy and fun. …

  20. Dawn says:

    Love the game. Love that you guys had fun. Love that you could gift used books. All of it sounds wonderful, as does your winnings. When I belonged to a book club we too were more interested in the food! :)

  21. me2013 says:

    I wish I could write like you, you make everything sound so much fun. :)

    • Kathy says:

      Writing reminds me that everything CAN be fun, even though our ordinary minds like to tell us that life can be booooring or too busy. Thank you!

  22. wolfsrosebud says:

    tired just thinking about it… I have a friend in her 80′s… vibrant woman… she kicks back and enjoys the people of Christmas and doesn’t worry about the rest… despite the busy time glad it went well

    • Kathy says:

      Sounds like you are really busy in the Christmas season, wolfsrosebud. This is really my one and only social event so it’s welcome, rather than a pain. And we meet at the end of November before any of the others get too busy with their obligations. I think people should model after your vibrant friend and do just what their heart desires.

  23. Susan Blake says:

    Hi Kathy!
    What a wonderful time! Such fun to party with soul sisters – sounds like you have a beautiful circle of women going on there in the woods!
    Hugs
    SuZen

    • Kathy says:

      It is a fun circle, SuZen. We are actually–many of us, well some of us–very different from one another. But we manage to laugh together as if we were just the same!

  24. lucindalines says:

    Boy that sounds like fun, and a great twist to the gift game everyone plays here where we take a gift and the next in line can steal, and if no one ever steals your gift, you just sit and watch.

  25. Marianne says:

    Sounds like great fun, Kathy! Thanks for sharing! :)

  26. Stacy says:

    I would love to join a book club – they sound like so much fun. a close group of friends in a pretty small town. Perchance to dream! <3

  27. Sounds like a variation of Dirty Santa! I loved playing that at work (that is back when I worked).
    I think I shall join a Book Club this next year…#1 on my list.

    Fun story to read!

  28. Annie Ritter says:

    Ahh, the dice game present exchange…. I used to play it at a former job, so much fun!!! There was no clue what was in any of the packages but it was known that one of them contained actual coal. Whoever won it the previous year had to bring it back….Our rules were if you rolled doubles you could grab a prize. The game was much more chaotic and went faster if we didn’t have to wait for ones and sixes. I hope you enjoy your book!

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Annie! We used to play with doubles, too. For some reason the rules changed this year, don’t know why. Really, one of the packages contained coal? Shame on Santa! ;)

  29. Janet says:

    What a FUN bookclub!

  30. Dana says:

    Sounds like a wild time, Kathy! I haven’t read any of JSF’s books, but the movie rendition of “Everything is Illuminated” remains one of my favourite movies on the All Time List. (Must be the unlikely combination of Ukrainian heritage and vegetarianism. It gets me every time.)

    • Kathy says:

      You are so good to read some of these old blogs, Dana. I should check out that movie. I can watch movies on my new Kindle Fire, you know. Don’t know if you read *somewhere in the distant past* that I won one? P.S. Ukrainian heritage and vegetarianism! What a hoot you are!

      • Dana says:

        I did read that you won a Kindle Fire! Go, Kathy! One of the characters in the “Everything is Illuminated” movie happens to be played by the lead singer of this crazy Ukrainian folk/punk band called Gogol Bordello. He normally has a signature handlebar mustache, and it was pretty jarring to see him clean shaven for the film. A really good movie, though– lots of peculiarities and asides. Perfect for somebody quirky like me. :)

  31. What fun! I’m glad your ‘Christmas fight’ was a friendly one! I love gift exchanges and especially books. Sounds like a marvelous group with whom to enjoy a nosh and a read. :)

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