When I was a kid, I never slept well the night before Christmas, but not for the obvious reasons. That poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which in my mind was all about a home invasion, scared the bejesus out of me and kept me up until the wee hours. As an adult, I’ve never slept well, either, filled with dread at the prospect of close social encounters with what seemed like hundreds of relatives the following day. I’m a creature of habit and can’t tolerate anything that throws me off my normal routine. That’s why I detest all holidays, but none as much as Christmas.
There’s the loathsome music. The movies with their ridiculous, treacly sentiments. The presents—thinking about them, shopping for them (never without resentment), and the attendant pile of garbage that accumulates from opening them, an environmental disaster simultaneously taking place in living rooms across the country. There’s also the faux bonhomie and nonsensical holiday spirit that dissolves the next day as quickly as an Alka-Seltzer. And let’s not forget the barrage of “Merry Christmas!”s and “Happy holidays!” that must be returned like unwanted “I love you”s.
Over the years, my Scrooginess at these Christmas Day gatherings became so intolerable that in due course everyone realized how much better the day would be without my off-putting, nay, offensive presence. The invites began to wane until, eventually, they ceased altogether, and then it finally happened—I was to be alone on Christmas Day. Alone! Christmas Day! All those years of complaining and kvetching finally paid off. I was the envy of everyone I knew. Top o’ the world, Ma!
Except for running out of avocado, my first Christmas alone could not have gone better. Occasionally, I need a little me time to remember what a multifaceted fellow I am. I spent the day practicing the harp, putting the finishing touches on my self-portrait, and re-reading the Oxford English Dictionary. Boy, I sure forgot a lot of words I used to know! When it was time for dinner, I drove to my favorite restaurant, only to discover it was closed. I drove to another that was closed as well. In fact, everything was closed. Leave it to Christmas to put the kibosh on what had been—up until that moment—a perfect day.
Then, on my way home, just as I was contemplating the bowl of Special K I was reduced to having for dinner, I noticed a crowd of people lined up on the street and saw that my local Chinese restaurant was open for business, with every Jew in the neighborhood inside. I didn’t even particularly like the food there, but that night I went to town and ordered all the dishes from my childhood. Shrimp with lobster sauce, my father’s favorite. Spare ribs. Fried rice. Egg-drop soup. Sweet-and-sour chicken. A cholesterol-laden feast fit for a ne’er-do-well.
When I got home, I watched A Christmas Carol (which I always turn off right before Scrooge transitions) and waited for the coronary, my finger on the cell phone, anticipating having to dial 911. Being that it was Christmas, every cardiologist in Los Angeles was probably out celebrating somewhere, no doubt with their phones turned off, lest their precious holiday be interrupted. So of course I would die on Christmas. How fitting. I would finally be punished for my misanthropy. How did I even get this way? I thought of my mother screaming at me before she died, “Why can’t you be normal, Larry?!” And so, like Scrooge, I begged for a second chance. I would repent. I would celebrate the holidays with family and friends. I would sing along with Bing Crosby and no longer gag at “Silent Night” or complain about the pile of garbage from opening presents. I would be normal.
And then I opened my eyes … and it was the next day. December 26. I survived! I thought about what I’d pledged the night before and knew immediately it was all a crock and I had no intention of following through.
Since then, eating Chinese food by myself on Christmas Day has become a cherished yearly ritual, which I look forward to like the ending of construction on the house next door. And now on Christmas Eve I sleep like a baby, with nary a bathroom break.
God bless us every one! Happy holidays!
Larry David is a co-creator of Seinfeld and the creator of Curb Your Enthusiasm