Christmas has a tendency to collect things, even things that don’t exactly go together. We celebrate the birth of a child in the Levant with christened winter traditions from Germany and Victorian morality fables. A 1990s pop songstress follows on a French carol. And even the phrases on my lips this time of year are a collection of nationalities. The “merry” in Merry Christmas was ditched for “Happy” in the U.K. in order to clean up its association with “merriment” — drinking booze and, one presumes, warming each other up. But I learned to say “Happy Christmas” from a young age to my godmother in London. I don’t say Boxing Day though. My odd references to just “Stephen’s Day” are where the Irish side comes out. My wife’s paternal Slovak side comes to the fore when the blessed oblatki hits the tables on Christmas Eve, waiting for a daub of honey.

Actually, this is my favorite thing about the Christmas season: that it seems to submit everything — our do-gooding, our naughtiness, our high aspirations, and our national traditions — at the feet of a newborn child. This baby created the world, and look at what twinkling, gaudy, fresh, and chilling things we filled it with.

So in that spirit, it seems fitting to share at least a little bit of what fills my Christmases.