Christmas: The Teen Years

PHOTO: Geoff Livingston, Flickr-CC-BY-NC-ND

Yes, Virginia, Hibbing, and the broader Iron Range, I believe in Christmas magic. No, not of the Santa Claus variety or even the Hallmark hokum. And while I am open to the concept of religious miracles, I leave that to the theologians. 

No, I believe in a very specific kind of Christmas magic. That is, the ability to enjoy the holiday season even with teenagers in the house. 

Teenagers are not conducive to any holiday tied to “spirit.” Dazzling Fourth of July fireworks meet teen cries of “meh.” Thanksgiving turkeys cooked to golden brown perfection fail to impress teens, too, even though they eat an ample share of the bird. Even specially-designed “pep fests,” held sporadically at their own high school, fail to inspire your typical teenager. They only seem to enjoy them when someone falls down the stairs.

So what hope can Christmas provide a household overrun by three teenagers? 

Santa? He died horribly by self-inflicted fiction. Presents? If you thought LEGO sets were expensive, try the wildest desires of a modern American teenager. 

“Don’t you want anything less expensive?”

“Cash is fine. Or nothing. Whatever.”

I’m already cataloguing all my Christmas memories of the boys when they were little. Visiting Santa. Elementary school music programs. Building graham cracker houses on the dining room table. Making crappy Christmas tree ornaments that become priceless heirlooms. Most of these things are behind us now. 

And yet the magic remains. I just watched one son climb a ladder to string Christmas lights along the garage gutter while I did the house lights. When the kids were little I had to worry about them falling off stuff. But the fact is, I’m more likely to topple now than they are. His lights were straighter than mine. 

All three sons dove with gusto into the bin of Christmas tree ornaments. In fact, they decorated the tree in record time this year, a feat I attribute to the fact that they’re functional humans who no longer break 50 percent of all objects they touch. 

We cued up a Christmas movie, inviting all three boys to watch with us. Only one did. But then another joined us. By the movie’s end we had all three with us in the living room. Each of the boys expressed their excitement to see family again at an upcoming gathering. For some relatives, it’s been more than a year since we’ve all been together.

Firmly ensconced in adulthood, I now embrace my favorite part of family Christmas gatherings: Sitting at the table with a cup of coffee. When you’re growing up you never think you’ll like that part of the holidays. In fact, you detest the thought of it. But it’s now the best.

See people. Share stories. Nibble at snacks until the big meal is ready. Enjoy the lights and tinsel all around you. When the room gets too hot, step out into the cold and feel the heat gush out the pores of your sweater. Look up at the stars. Go back inside, where the stories are still going.

When you’re a teenager this part of life is unclear. What are you supposed to say? How are you supposed to act? You know you’re not supposed to be a kid anymore, but this old people business just doesn’t seem right. Not yet, anyway.

So you have to excuse the teens for their lack of Christmas spirit. They’re in the great listening stage of life. They’re learning the stories they will tell all their days. Which means that each and every person in that house will live in legend beyond their years. 

That’s magic. Some might even call it a Christmas miracle. 

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.




  1. Absolutely love this one Aaron. So many truths put to words.

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