Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Robert St. John: The Currency of Christmas

Everyone has a favorite holiday. Many of my friends are partial to Halloween. They have fond memories of trick-or-treating through the neighborhoods of their youth and still dress in costume every time October 31st rolls around. Several people I know are fond of Thanksgiving, mostly because hunting season is cranking up and the deer camp is seat and ready. I certainly know a fair share of Fourth of July enthusiasts who look forward to their annual weeklong beach trip. I also have friends who look forward to blowing it out on New Year’s Eve, ones who wait all year long for spring break, and others who live for Easter.

I love Christmas.

December 25th is my favorite holiday and it’s not even close. It’s always been my favorite and no other holiday has matched it for 62 years. As a kid I’m sure I liked Christmas because of the toys I received that morning. But what I didn’t realize as I was dreaming of bicycles and new stereo systems— and opening GI Joes and Legos— was that the memories that were being forged in my subconscious had nothing to do with material things.

It was all about family.

My brother and I grew up in a home with a single mom. It is just now hitting me— as I type this sentence— that we were the only family in the neighborhood with a family dynamic such as that. It’s funny that I’ve never thought of it before, but it’s true. My neighborhood was full of the typical mom, dad, 2.5 kids, and a dog. It’s not that I just now realized everyone I knew came from an archetypal home dynamic, it’s that my childhood was so memorable and filled with love that I never felt our situation was unlike any others because we lived in an environment that contained a key element in childhood security and happiness— community.

It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. I am living proof of that adage, and whereas there were a few years in my late teens that the community had their hands full and were probably ready to kick me out of the tribe, I was able to come out on the other end in one piece, largely due to the love and support from my family and that community.

My mother was widowed in her early thirties. My brother was 10. I was six. As monumental as the death of a parent is it had little effect on me, emotionally. We lacked the material things my friends had— and that may have bothered me at the time, but I don’t remember ever feeing that way— but the relational aspects of life were so much richer and fuller for my brother and me because of my parent’s friends and their children.

In the mid-sixties, my father and many of his childhood friends and contemporaries purchased lots together in a new neighborhood that was being developed on the west end of my hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. My parents were in the middle of finalizing the architectural drawings for the home when he passed away. Instead of playing it safe financially, and staying in the house we were living in, my mother scaled down the footprint and moved into the neighborhood as planned. It turned out to be the single wisest decision she ever made.

That neighborhood, at that time, was a magical, wholesome, and happy place for a young boy. I didn’t have a father in the house, but I had a dozen others in homes nearby. My grandparents and other extended family members were also a huge influence, and I’m sure they gave my mother substantial financial support.

The drill on Christmas morning was always the same. The day started early. The only kids who woke up earlier than us were the Hemeter boys who lived next door, and whose father was the architect who helped my mom with the house. My brother and I were allowed to go into the den where the stockings were hung, but we had to wait until the grandparents and an aunt or two got there before we were allowed in the living room where the tree and presents were held.

Christmas was a big deal for us because toys weren’t gifted throughout the year. Birthdays and Christmas were the only times a new toy was going to show up at our house. Funny, I can only remember a couple of the toys I received over the years, but I can remember almost all the Christmas Eve meals, Christmas breakfasts, and time spent with my loved ones in that house and theirs.

My mom was a public school art teacher. We didn’t have much money. But as a 62-year old man I can see how rich we truly were. We had family and friends, and it's family and friends that make the season, not the stuff. It’s family and friends that lead to a fuller life. It’s family and friends that make Christmas my favorite holiday.

Many don’t have a family to spend time with this Christmas. Let’s all be ever mindful of that and stay connected. Connection is the key. The season is hard on many for various reasons. Let’s do what we can to share our blessings, but mostly let’s share our time, our love, and our support. Give a friend a call. Share a meal with a neighbor who lives alone. Run errands. Cook food. Being present is the present. That is the true currency of Christmas.

May God bless you and yours this holiday season.


Orange Country Ham



2 Tbl               Unsalted Butter

1 1/2 lbs.         Country Ham, sliced 1/8-1/4” thick

1/4 cup            Orange Juice, freshly squeezed

2 Tbl               Orange Marmalade

1/4 cup            Pure Maple Syrup

1 1/2 tsp          Black Pepper, freshly ground 


Place a large heavy duty skillet over medium-high heat. Melt half of the butter and just as it begins to brown, place the ham slices in the skillet. Brown each side and place ham on a baking sheet. Repeat this process to brown the remaining ham. 


Lower the heat and place the orange juice, marmalade and maple syrup in the ham skillet. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. Add the ham back into the skillet along with the black pepper. Use a pair of tongs to move the ham and coat each slice with the glaze. When the ham is coated and hot, remove from the heat and serve immediately. 


Yield: 6-8 servings

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS