As soon as Thanksgiving heaved its final turkey-filled breath, and the leafless trees were primed for snow, Christmas burst forth in my childhood home. The kitchen smelled of warm sugar cookies. Dozens of holiday cards appeared, almost spontaneously, taking up every spare inch of space that wasn’t already occupied by a white poinsettia. We hung stockings that my aunt knitted, complete with soft Santa Claus beards and large bells at each toe. My sister and I made peanut butter sandwiches (my father’s favorite), and left them out for Santa — at least while we were still young enough to believe that the gifts signed in “his” squiggly handwriting were really from him. (This was fun, until my father received a present from Mrs. Claus and my sister became convinced that the two of them were having an affair).