The Big Box

Sometimes traditions get started in the most weird and mundane ways.

The year was 1994. Our family needed pillows.

Yes, I said pillows.

Now, how sexy is a Christmas present of pillows? Like, not. Right?

Well, at that time we also did not have what you might call an extreme excess of cash. The head of the household at that time (I fantasized that this was my role, but of course I have long since learned both the truth and the error of my ways) decided to do something out of the ordinary to meet the needs of his fledgling family as well as to spice up Christmas morning. He (I) went out and bought a passel (yes, that is a word-Google it) of pillows, found a very large box that would hold said passel, and then wrapped the whole thing in jolly, gay, Christmas wrapping paper. (Georgia, the state we lived in at the time, did indeed allow gay wrapping paper, in case you were wondering) I then proceeded to situate the large gaily wrapped box beside the Christmas tree ( it was much too large to put under the tree). I then did not do one very strategic thing. I did not put a name on the box.

Mwa ha ha.

The Legend of The Big Box was born.

As Christmas eve approached, the members of my family saw the large intruder and wondered why it was there, who had brought in and what it contained. They picked it up (it was heavy in a fluffy sort of way, as you can imagine), turned it every which way, shook it and tried to guess what it was and who it was for. I was mum. I just said that all would be revealed on Christmas morning.

When the appointed hour finally came, all the other gifts were dutifully handed out to their recipients by someone wearing a Santa hat ( I do not remember who at this time), and only The Big Box remained. I then revealed that it was for the entire family and that all could rip enthusiastically into it. They did, the passel of pillows was released into the wild, my family thought that this was the lamest idea ever, and on we surged towards New Years 1995.

I persevered. Legends, after all, are made, not born.

The Big Box has been a part of our family Christmas morning for the last eighteen years. The box has contained everything from Broadway song books to South Sea black pearls to a Wii system to a Bose speaker dock. No one but me ever knows who The Box is for  or what it contains until it is the very last gift to be opened on Christmas morning. Oh, there is always guessing, computer algorithms attempt to predict the outcome and everyone has their own method of predicting and prognosticating.

Who might The Big Box be for this year?

If I told you, I’d have to kill you. You don’t want that, and neither do I.

Let’s wait until Christmas morning to find out. The results are almost always broadcast by email, tweet, Facebook post and phone call soon after the contents are known.

Yes, legends are made, not born. One day in the future, three or four generations from now, some little kid will talk about the large present over in the corner by the tree.

“Oh, yeah, Papa started that way back in ’94. I think he bought the family some pillows and thought it would be funny to wrap them up and give them as a big present to the whole family.”


“Yeah, I agree.”

“I wonder who it’s for this year?”

“I don’t know, but I think we should shake it down again, what do you say?”

“Yeah, it’s awfully light this time.”


“I think it’s for me.”

“Dude, it’s totally for me.”

“No, it’s for me. You got it five years ago. I’m up.”

Merry Christmas, everybody.

I hope you have traditions in your family that keep the mystique in Christmas, the love in your hearts and the spirit of the season burning brightly for you and those you love.

10 thoughts on “The Big Box

  1. “Ask not for whom the box trembles…” An excellent tradition, Doc! Sure beats coal in the stocking (our regional variation) and may catch on nationwide thanks to your yarn spinning skill.
    Hope it’s something for you this year–a new stethescope maybe–and that your Christmas is all it should be (see above). God bless the patients, too. Rob


  2. My husband just about killed me when I gave him an Irish Christmas present. It can be something small in a small box, and there are more boxes that are neatly wrapped, maybe one is coated in plastic of Paris. My family didn’t do it to the children until we were about of 8-9, which was a passage of being an adult. Quite often part of the gift was a nice hammer and set of chisels or something-we were military/construction. I gave my husband a nice fishing reel that he had been drooling over-no matter—He didn’t have instant gratification—I’m glad that your family is playful, and I think that shows deeper love. Merry Christmas—


  3. Greg,

    Traditions are a very good thing. And this is one that brings a family together in a unique & loving kind of way. Exciting, mysterious, curious & just plain fun! I love it! Your ingenuity shows through in spades with this idea! 😉 And I’m absolutely sure your girls will never let this tradition die!!

    Happy New Year!!!



  4. Reblogged this on gregsmithmd and commented:

    I posted this last year, but of course the Big Box is a yearly event for our family. This year, a few of you have already contacted me on Facebook, by text or other ways, asking “Who got the Big Box?” Since our family has experienced some changes this last year, including all three girls now living in three different states, we will be having a large celebration of Christmas, New Years and birthdays right after New Years. In a slight break with tradition, so that everyone can be present, the Big Box will be opened the afternoon of January 3, 2015. It is the twentieth anniversary edition, and I promise you it will be a special one. Mark your calendars and look for the big reveal. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers, far and wide.


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