The Christmas Dinner
“Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.”
I wake up to a blinding light piercing through the blinds. Well, at least it’s not raining. I groan and cover my face with the pillow. I sit up and rub my eyes, yawning. Wait, what day is it? I hastily scramble to check the calendar on my wall that’s filled with red “X’s” to cross off the days as they crawl past. It started out as just something to do to pass the time, but now it’s a daily routine.
Looking past the months of X’s, I spot the next blank day: December 25, 3014 “Christmas Day”. It’s Christmas! I rummage through my closet and pantry after briskly yanking clothes on and find that none of my food is suitable for a Christmas dinner. Especially since I plan on inviting all of my neighbors!
I grab my bag and head out, making sure to greet all of my neighbors and remind them to come to the dinner tonight. “Six o’clock, everybody! Don’t be late!”
“I wouldn’t even dream of missing your cooking!” The old woman two houses down winks and continues trimming her hedges stiffly.
“Aww, thanks, Miss Shirley! Merry Christmas!” She waves before waddling back inside her house with a content grin on her wrinkled face and an amused twinkle in her grey eyes. I chuckle to myself before nearly running into a pigtailed girl whose shiny face is painted with poorly veiled excitement. “Oh, sorry, Jane! I didn’t see you there!”
“It’s okay,” she leans in and whispers conspiratorially, glancing around to make sure no one, namely her mother, hears her. “You are making cookies, aren’t you? The chocolate chip and M&M ones?”
Nodding, I whisper back, “With Santa hats on top, too!” Satisfied and gleaming with approval, she giggles and runs past me. Kids, I think and continue my stroll past the orderly houses and festive decorations. I stuff my hands into my pocket to hide them from the chilly December air. It’s a shame there’s no snow. Climate change, I suppose.
I reach the crowded grocery store humming Christmas carols. The store is filled with people frantically buying the necessary materials needed to procure a holiday feast. I recognize a few faces and greet each of them in turn.
“Morning, Jim! How’s your puppy, Mrs. Nguyen? Happy holidays, Amy! I’m great, how are you, Mr. Johnson? Congrats on winning the championship for the seventh time, Lewis!” I take my time browsing the aisles, relishing in the feeling of festive responsibility, the feeling of having something to do that also makes others feel happier. This feeling is what I usually synonymize with what the movies call the “Christmas spirit.”
I make sure to consult my list of groceries and my memories of allergies or food preferences. I remember Lewis’ decision to go vegan three months ago, Jane’s deathly peanut allergy, which she always forgets, and Miss Shirley’s lactose intolerance, which she swears is a hoax.
I greet the cashier warmly and glance at the people around me. Although anxiousness and agitation waft through the artificial air like the mouthwatering scent of a roast or a freshly baked pie, exhilaration from the festivities gleams through their glassy eyes. I relish in this feeling and wrap myself in its comforting eagerness. I really do love celebrating a holiday filled with those I cherish.
On my way back to my house, the brisk air turns colder as frost nips at my ears. I tug my coat up higher and my hat down lower as I attempt to rush into warmth albeit the groceries weighing me down. The kitchen is quickly filled with humming and clanging pans and whooshing stoves and dashes of spice as I fall into the enchanting routine of cooking.
Regardless of the sun’s descent as dusk rises into the sky’s domain, the night ambiance intensifies while the monotonous clock on my wallpapered wall ticks closer to six o’clock. I already have everything set out and am finishing laying the utensils when the doorbell rings for the first time. I hang up my apron and sweep my eyes over the dining room for a final time before guests arrive. My grin swells with pride at the spread before me.
One by one and family by family, my neighbors file in, bundled in coats and scarves. The empty house is soon filled with chatter and the clinking of forks on a plate.
“Why don’t you turn the radio on?” someone suggests brightly. I spring out of my chair and toward the kitchen to turn on the battery-operated stereo. I dial to my usual station on my way back to the dining room.
“Merry Christmas, everyone!” I cheer and sit back down. “For today’s update, the capital city has yet to be opened due the violent pandemic as we already know. Although scientists predict that it may be another year before they can look for survivors without infecting the rest of the country, today’s statement included the suggestion that there may be very few people still alive.”
I laugh, “Well, I’m still here, obviously. Don’t worry, everyone; I’m sure they’ll come and look for us sooner rather than later.” I look up at the fixed smiles, painted plastic faces, and a few missing fiberglass limbs around my table and grin lovingly at the familiar company. “Merry Christmas, friends. Bon appetit!”
Happy holidays, readers! I hope your festivities are filled with fun and excitement! Remember to not only double-check your tablemates but also remember the wise and insightful words of Bart Simpson: “Aren’t we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know, the birth of Santa?”