Maybe there are better holidays during the course of the year – who doesn’t like Arbor Day, for example? – but none can match Christmas for the sheer array of emotions evoked.
Don’t take my word for it, though. I came across plenty of evidence to back up the claim last week as Jeff Robischon, our advertising director, and I read through more than 150 entries in our first Christmas story contest.
You never know how for sure how these contests will play out, but I was reasonably certain that we’d get a good response when we issued the call a few weeks ago for holiday-themed stories. Back at my previous job at a newspaper in Montana, I conducted a couple of Christmas-story contests, and I was flooded with entries. So when we were casting about for something special to add to our Christmas Day edition, I suggested that we give the story contest a shot.
The response was outstanding, and a little overwhelming. The stories came from all ages and from every corner of the midvalley. We had to pick some winners, but to tell you the truth, on another day, we might have picked an entirely different slate of winners. You can check out the winners and a variety of other stories when we print them in Wednesday’s newspaper. (We’ll post even more of the stories online.)
It was interesting to note that most of the stories – nearly a third of them – fell into the general category of nonfiction, and they tended to be reminiscences about Christmases past. (I say “general category of nonfiction” here because it could be that our memories of those days might have been enhanced by the passage of time.)
Some themes emerge with regularity: Writers reflect on how their parents scrimped and sacrificed to bring them happier holidays. Others marvel at how the holidays bring together families for beloved traditions – and other reflect on how those traditions sometimes fuel stressful situations. Most of them have happy endings, but not always – and even in many of the happy stories, a sense of loss is palpable just underneath the surface.
Another relatively common theme involves a holiday spent away from home or its inverse – a long-lost relative or friend returning to home, with all the emotions involved there. Even the stories from our student writers – and we were pleased to get dozens of those – feature a rich blend of experiences.
And there’s always room for just goofy moments, such as the fellow who supposedly gave his wife an authentic shrunken head for Christmas. (The story is, perhaps understandably, silent about the wife’s reaction. Let’s hope there was something else under the tree that year.)
See what I mean about a heady mix of emotions?
‘Tis the season when all those emotions, all those memories, mix together into a potent holiday brew. We’ll serve up a good portion of that brew in Wednesday’s paper. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
In the meantime, I’m working on plans for our first Arbor Day story contest. Any takers? (mm)