I know a little something about Christmas and marriage. The first thing I know is that they don't necessarily mix. Differences in how to celebrate Christmas can lead to years of arguments. Now, I know we've had articles about the things couples fight about during Christmas, but this one is a bit different.

I think that part of the problem is that no one has ever made any hard and fast rules about the proper way to celebrate Christmas. With that thought in mind, I thought I would endeavor to come up with a definitive version of the Rules of Celebrating Christmas.

As a survivor of three failed marriages I am very familiar with the annual acrimony couples experience when they have different Christmas traditions. The thing about traditions is this; there is no middle ground. We all feel that the way we celebrate Christmas is normal and the way everyone else celebrates it is wrong. When it comes to celebrating Christmas, I know nothing of compromise.

It is with a certain sense of pomposity that I will now present to you, my rules for celebrating Christmas.

1. It's a religious event! Treat it like one.

2. Real Trees Only - Very important rule here. You absolutely must have a real tree. First of all, a real tree smells great. Secondly, the very act of picking out a tree should be a family event. A Christmas tree should be carefully selected not taken down from the attic. Needles on the floor? So what? You don't know how to operate a vacuum cleaner?

3. All presents are opened Christmas Morning - Like most families who open their gifts on Christmas morning, we were always allowed to open one gift on Christmas eve. That arrangement is the only acceptable one. We do NOT open everything but Santa presents on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve should be a night of anticipation.

I had a friend whose family tradition was to leave the house to see friends or relatives on Christmas Eve and when they got home, Santa had been and gone and they opened all their gifts on Christmas Eve. I can't begin to tell you what a travesty that is. It borders on vulgar and I'll have no part of it.

4. At birthdays and such, those crappy gift bags are fine, but at Christmas, only Christmas wrapping paper is acceptable. Learn to wrap a gift. Christmas gifts are made to be ripped open with total abandon; not dumped out of a bag.

5. Christmas Movies - I don't really care how many times you've seen "Holiday Inn" or "A Christmas Story;" Watching Christmas movies is very important. I was even married to a woman who claimed that "Holiday Inn" was not a Christmas movie. I tried pointing out that the song "White Christmas" was written for that movie and, by damn, if Bing Crosby songs a Christmas song in a movie, it's a Christmas movie.

6. Music - There will be tons of music. Now, my idea of a great Christmas tune is the amazing "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah, but I'll accept some of the secular Christmas tunes as well. I'm adamant about a few things though when it comes to Christmas music.

When it comes to certain Christmas songs, I will accept no cover versions. In other words; Bing Crosby sings "White Christmas." No other versions need apply. Nat Cole sings "A Christmas Song' and I don't want to hear it by anyone else on earth with the possible exception of Mel Torme. I cut slack on that one since Torme wrote the song.

7. Dinner - I'm fairly flexible when it comes to Christmas dinner. Fairly flexible that is, if you stick to things that truly qualify for Christmas dinner. Turkey, duck, goose or other game birds are all fine. Lasagna is not Christmas food. Stick to the basics when it comes to Christmas food. Serving anything else for Christmas dinner is just a blatant attempt to appear to be quirky and original. Nobody is fooled.

8. There is always one more gift. When I was a kid, my mom would always truly hide one of my gifts. When Christmas afternoon would roll around, you know, about the time we get hit with that Christmas day slump, I was free to go searching for the gift that mom hid. It was fun and it was yet something else to look forward to.

9. Christmas is about family! Yeah, see your friends Christmas eve or Christmas day late in the day, but Christmas is about family. ***WARNING*** You are on your own when it comes to which family you celebrate Christmas with. It doesn't matter if you see both sets of family on Christmas day. What matters is which family you spend the night with. How you settle this one is up to you. I'm single and will not get involved with your petty squabbles. Even if I did start them.

10.It's a religious celebration, treat it like one.

There. The rules of how to celebrate Christmas have all been neatly laid out for you. Print out these simple rules and have your significant other read over them. You might even want to consider having your partner sign them. That should settle any arguments that may crop up later.


Merry Christmas!!!

P.S. - the proper Greeting is "Merry Christmas." I don't care what other holidays are contained during that time period. I'm celebrating Christmas. If you get offended because you don't believe, what the hell do I care? Since when am I in charge of your fragile mental health?

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