The Best and Worst Christmas Stories

Last year The Root's contributors shared their best and worst holiday experiences. In some cases, the best and worst are indistinguishable.

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Making the Best of the Worst

By Keith Joseph Adkins

My best Christmas was also my worst. In 2006 my friend Alex and his wife, Elke, invited me to London for the holiday. And to add thrill to the frill, I was going to jump on the train in London and meet four friends in Paris to bring in the New Year in the City of Lights. A brother was hyper-psyched. I guess that’s why it didn’t matter that I had a dull toothache when the plane landed at Heathrow.

At first I thought the pain was one of the side effects of traveling at 30,000 feet for nine hours. However, on my second day in London, I was forced to pop over-the-counter pain relievers every two hours to avoid screaming. That didn’t stop me from touring the National Gallery, snapping digitals of Buckingham Palace or doing the double-decker over to London Bridge. But on
Christmas Day, the pain was so excruciating that I was ready to find a pair of pliers.

Alex and Elke scoured the phonebook for a dentist open on Christmas. They found one, tucked on a back street in some hard-to-find part of town. In other words, the place was sitting in the middle of shady. The dentist leaned over and poked my tooth with some kind of micro-pin, and I screamed in a pitch I didn’t know was humanly possible. I had an exposed nerve and was given a temporary root canal 15 minutes later. I spent the rest of my Christmas in London, and my New Year’s Eve in Paris, doped up on penicillin and pain relievers — with a swollen face.

A brother wasn’t even able to get his sip on, Parisian-style. The best and the worst, without question.

Lost Illusions

By Shiwani Srivastava

Nineteen eighty-seven was a year of new beginnings. That summer we moved into our new house — although 22 years later, it’s hard to believe it was ever new. It was also the year my grandmother left India to live with us in New Jersey after my grandfather passed away.

Maybe that’s what made Christmas so memorable that year, for better or for worse. Or maybe it was “The Christmas Incident of ’87” — the time my brother convinced me, at the ripe old age of 6, that there was no Santa. Here’s how he told me to prove it for myself:

1) Write a letter to Santa, asking for a gift (FYI, I wanted a talking Cricket doll more than anything).

2) Don’t tell Mom — after all, Santa knows, right?

3) Expose the truth about the man in red.

Needless to say, there was no 2-foot-tall talking doll under the tree that year (yeah, kinda creepy in retrospect).

What ensued was a combination of foot stomping, door slamming and general havoc wreaking (along with my dad’s yelling and my brother’s sniggering).

In the midst of it was my grandmother, bemused by her first American Christmas. I knew she was disappointed that as children, we looked forward to Christmas more than to Diwali. So when she came into my room that morning, I braced myself for a lecture about Diwali, about poor children in India, about cutting my mom some slack.

But instead she just smiled and said, “Your brother put you up to this, didn’t he … you just weren’t ready to stop believing yet.” My Indian grandmother, who might have dressed and talked differently, wasn’t quite as foreign as I thought. It’s one of my earliest memories of her, the holidays and the house we live in — the first in a series of memories from the 17 years she was with us.