Saturday, March 26, 2016

Mormon Christmas on April 6 and Other Aberrations

This is probably further even than Mahonri's family takes their Mormon Christmas holiday/

I don't know how I made it so far in life with my parents still withholding this little gem from me, but it finally occurred to them to spill it, so now I of course have to share it with all of you . . .

Some of you may remember my Uncle Mahonri. He's my uncle by virtue of his being married to my father's sister Marthalene. The most noteworthy thing about Uncle Mahonri is his proclivity toward theft. My mother holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, and even she cannot determine whether Mahonri is a common thief, a kleptomaniac, or even something much worse. It probably doesn't matter. The bottom line is that he habitually helps himself to things that do not belong to him. This little idiosyncrasy very nearly cost Mahonri his job with the church educational system when he was caught stealing a crate or large carton of disposable douches from the loading zone of a big box store somewhere in Utah County.

Now i have learned that Mahonri may not be alone in his predilection for accessing the property of others. Mahonri's family of birth has a rather strange holiday tradition, about which I feel obligated to enrich the lives of my readers.

A bit of backstory is needed here in order that most of you may put what has been to me a veritable bonanza of information into its proper context. Mormons believe that Jesus was born on April 6. I asked my dad a couple of years ago when the LDS church will back away from of this particular teaching, as they have done with so many things they once taught. ("I don't know that we teach that" was how Gordon W. Hinckley disavowed a particular teaching when confronted with it in a televised interview.) My dad said they'll probably never drop the myth of April 6, as scientific or historical information will never pop up to debunk it as the birthday of Jesus. For that matter, there's approximately 1 chance in 365.25 that Jesus was born on April 6 -- and an even greater chance if you rule out any time in the bleakest part of winter for logistical reasons, as some historians have done, as the likely date of Jesus' birth.

Mormons celebrate Christmas on December 25 along with most of the rest of Christendom. No one else who actually thinks about it really believes December 25 to be the actual date of Jesus' birth, either; it's just that no one else has settled on an actual date, arbitrarily or otherwise. Leave it to the Mormons to be different.

Some Mormons actually commemorate April 6 with a celebration of sorts. One family to whom I'm related draws names and gets together to exchange homemade gifts and to sing carols about Jesus being born in the dead of winter every April 6. Some of them send out homemade cards, though only to other Mormons. On some level they have to know it's just too bizarre an idea to try to foist upon the rest of the world.

My Uncle Mahonri's family has its own peculiar take on the quasi-holiday, to which they refer as "Mormon Christmas"  (italics added by me). Each nuclear family buys Dollar Tree-calibre gifts for each individual member of each family unit. Before you reach the conclusion that Mahonri and his siblings and their spouses must be incredible cheapskates (which is true), I should explain that Mahonri is one of twelve children. He and Marthalene have thirteen children, and most of his siblings have families as large as his if not larger. (They really should have their own reality show. The premise would fall somewhere between the Honey Boo Boo fiasco, the disaster otherwise known as the Duggars,  and the debacle featuring Todd Chrisley's family.) The nuclear families have to come up with an average of 156 gifts each. (The number of gifts would be higher now, as Mahonri and some of his siblings are grandparents.) They would all be in serious debt for the remainder of the calendar year if the gifts were anything more extravagant than Dollar Tree purchases.

As if what I have already explained is not bizarre enough, I'll now get into Mahonri's family's even more peculiar take on the already peculiar enough holiday of Real Christmas. Each April 6 after Mormon Christmas gifts have been distributed and opened, after carols have been sung, after the Christmas story as told in the gospel of St. Luke has been read, and after massive quantities of ham and turkey have been consumed, Mahonri and his siblings all draw small folded squares of paper from a rather hideous bowl made to look like the detached head of Baby Jesus. Eleven of these squares are blank. The twelfth square displays  an X.  The lucky sibling who draws the slip of paper bearing the X is not required to buy gifts for his or her parents, siblings, siblings-in-law, and nieces and nephews. Instead, he or she must, with the help of his or her spouse and offspring, steal something that belongs to every single member of the family throughout the next year. Even the babies are stolen from in this most warped version of a holiday tradition. Then, on the next April 6, the stolen items are presented, gift-wrapped, to the people from whom they were stolen, along with all the rest of the gifts.

The person who draws the X and is obligated to pilfer goods from the rest of the family is known as The Jester. Some joke, huh? My dad said that Mahonri tried to get the tradition started in our family as well, but my grandmother said it was the most batshit-crazy idea she had ever heard of in her entire life (though probably not in those exact words) and that her family would have no part in such an aberrant practice.

Could anything positively scream the pure love of Christ and the peace surrounding his birth as much as petty or grand theft among close family members?


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  3. That is a very odd tradition.

    1. Mahonri's people are nothing if they're not odd.

  4. You really have an "interesting" family.

  5. AHAHAHA! That's hilarious, thanks for sharing!