‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2017 with Phil Stamper

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?” You can find a complete list of this year’s participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Phil Stamper

Phil Stamper is a YA writer and freelance editor who lives in Brooklyn, NY. He works in publishing development for a large publishing house you’ve probably heard of. You can find him on Twitter, where he exclusively talks about food, Brooklyn, and sometimes books.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

At first, I thought this was going to be an easy post to write. I’ve had to answer the prompt “What do the holidays mean to you?” by teachers and preachers through my entire childhood, so I was pretty sure I could write this in my sleep, throw in a stirring-slash-heartfelt passage about family, and wait for those sweet RTs to roll in. (Joking. Sorta.)

But…as I sit here practicing Chanukah blessings in the soft glow of my six-foot Christmas tree, I can’t help but think about how my holidays have changed over the years. And with new celebrations, new traditions, and new family members, the meaning of the holidays has changed right along with it.

I was raised Christian, and as such have had many many people coach me on the reason for the season, and by that they mean… “Christmas is about Jesus. It’s not about unwrapping presents in an adrenaline-fueled frenzy at 6:05 in the morning because your parents finally relented after the fourth time you busted into their bedroom under the guise of ‘just seeing if you were awake yet.’” But I always found that my reason for the season was hidden in the traditions my family kept every year.

Growing up, my parents would count down to Christmas each year with their own version of an advent calendar. Each day, I’d reach into a bag and grab one of twelve slips of paper. On some slips were fun experiences like going bowling or to the movies, some said I’d get little gifts like a pack of Pokémon cards, and some — the best ones — allowed me to open one of my Christmas gifts early. (Then, not surprisingly, I’d choose the gift that looked most like a video game box. I knew the exact size and weight of those N64 cartridge boxes by heart.) Even as a kid, I knew money was tight for us, so I appreciated how my parents always found a way to save and splurge for Christmas.

After all slips of paper were drawn, on the 13th day (Christmas Eve), it was my turn to give back to someone. This could mean helping someone shovel their driveway or getting them a special gift — it was my choice. I’d spend a majority of the month thinking of all the people who I loved and what I could do for them to make their Christmas Eve that much happier. To us, Christmas was all about family: gathering, celebrating, giving, and that’s what I’ll always remember (and what I hope to pass on to my kids someday.)

When I met my husband, I quickly got integrated into his family’s many traditions. I understood the basics of the Jewish holidays, mostly from the courses I took in college but also the very special Chanukah episode of Rugrats. Over the last seven years, I’ve participated in family get-togethers, eaten his mother’s brisket and latkes (*drool*), participated in the family gift exchange, and even experienced some of the more personal family traditions, like lighting his Zayde’s Yahrzeit on the anniversary of his death and singing Chanukah prayers while lighting the menorah.

Through my and my husband’s love of tradition, and (more importantly) our love of sharing traditions with each other, we’re able to celebrate in our own way. Sometimes traditions are trial and error — like, you have the recipe, but you don’t know how it’ll turn out until you’ve tried it. But through these traditions, each year we get a little bit closer to our families, even if we do live so far away.

Right now, the candles are lit, there are gifts under the tree, and our dog is cuddling his favorite “Llamakah” toy. (Image below.) 2017 has been great, and it’s been hard, but these traditions have brought some normalcy, some hope, and some joy to our family. And right now, that’s what the holidays mean to me.

So, all in all, I guess this wasn’t so hard to write.

Title The Gravity Of Us
Author Phil Stamper
Pages N/A
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, M/M Romance
To Be Published Winter 2020 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Find It On Goodreads

Bloomsbury Children’s Books has acquired Phil Stamper’s debut novel, The Gravity Of Us. The story follows two teen boys who find love amid the drama of a NASA mission to Mars. Publication is planned for winter 2020.

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