It’s been 14 years since a few friends and I planned a little Christmas gathering. I think there were 7 or 8 of us in attendance and we really just wanted dinner with drinks and a good old fashioned Yankee swap. The number rule? No husbands (although very few of us were married back then) and no boyfriends. This was a girls’ night out! We laughed, we ate, we drank, we visited with friends who were home from out of state. It was blast! Somehow, this one night out has turned into a yearly tradition. It has expanded to moms, sisters and cousins. Our motto is: “invite whoever you want as long as you keep the golden rule, absolutely no men.”
I know this is not a unique experience. Lots of women do “girls’ nights out.” And there are many times throughout the year that I see my friends at family parties and other events. But this is different. This is just for us. Most years we spend the night laughing hysterically and discussing things we would never say in the company of others. We take pictures and sing. Yes, we sing. Yankee swap gifts have ranged from wooden phallic objects, (ahem!) and many bottles of wine, to gorgeous home made hats and ornaments, and everything in between. Over the years this event, now known as “Chickmas” has been sprinkled with more than its fair share of memorable moments. The kind of moments that take your every day average friendship and strengthen it in seconds.
The first big one happened twelve years ago when we were delivered news of a baby on the way. Some of us were young mothers at the time, others were getting married, starting careers and families. This particular “chick” played it off perfectly, sipping water from a martini glass and claiming it was “so strong.” She saved her announcement for after dinner which made it all the better. It was her first child and so unexpected, I think the screams that came from our table made the rest of the room jump. But we didn’t care, we were beyond happy! After that, we starting searching for locations with private dining spaces. With Chickmas comes with NOISE.
Several years later, I had an announcement of my own. Baby number two was on the way and I wanted to sip my club soda in peace. So to save my nerves, I just cut to the chase once everyone was there, stood up and yelled, “I’m pregnant!” Again, there were screams, laughs, and hugs. But no sooner did we all sit down and we were up again as another friend announced she was engaged! Meanwhile, another “chick” was also newly pregnant and just not ready to come clean. It was only after the holidays when we all realized she had kept quiet the entire night in the midst of the chaos. Another year goes down in Chickmas history!
But life is not always easy, and those moments are to be shared as well. We’ve seen break-ups and divorces. And last year a few of our friends who are sisters were struggling to care for their ailing mother and they missed Chickmas for the first time. The rest of us gathered and tried to get on with it as usual, but it was not the same. We all knew how hard it was for them to be struggling with so much grief and sadness on a night they genuinely loved. After eating and opening our Chickmas gifts, we decided to swing by the nearby home of one of those friends. In an attempt to brighten her night, with a bit of wine in our heads, we drove over and snuck up to the front door. Someone rang the bell and when she opened it we belted out Sleigh Ride to the best of our ability! Our horrible off key singing probably woke the neighbors, but it didn’t matter. She laughed and cried. And that’s what friends are for.
It’s commonly said that being a mother and/or a wife (or partner) is the most important job a woman can have. And while I don’t think either of those things define me or any woman for that matter, I don’t disagree these relationships are important. But what I want to add is that being a GOOD FRIEND is equally important. Every year when I celebrate the holidays with this amazing group of ladies, I count my blessings. They know me, they accept me, and there is nothing better than having a tribe. Because life is full of ups and downs, and we have an unspoken agreement to help get each other through it. And while the reservation changes every year, and some faces have come and gone, I am never more grateful to be a woman than when I sit around the table each year for Chickmas.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND MERRY CHICKMAS TO ALL!