Growing up, I always l looked forward to the holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. I loved the excitement of staying home from school, preparing the annual traditions, and seeing my extended family. But, by far, my favorite holiday was Grublin’s Day.
It always interested me to learn the origins of different holidays, but neither of my parents seemed to know the story behind Grublin’s Day. They didn’t think it was a religious holiday, since they both celebrated it and always said they were different religions, but they also couldn’t explain how they had met at church.
Like Thanksgiving or Easter, Grublin’s Day was on a different day every year, sometimes even in a different month or year. In fact, some years it took place in years in between the other years, and on days and in seasons I had never even heard of.
Our relatives would come in from all over to celebrate, including a lot of relatives that we almost never saw, because they lived so far away or we didn’t like them. There were some relatives that we only saw on Grublin’s Day, and other days of the year we couldn’t remember their names and no one else seemed to have ever heard of them.
Weeks ahead of Grublin’s Day, I would help my parents set up all the Grublin decorations. My favorite part was hanging the Grublin lights all over our roof and front porch and across the street into our neighbor’s front yard. It would take us hours, and then afterwards we would set up our Grublin tree, by chopping down one from our living room and bringing it out into the yard.
The first thing to do on Grublin’s Day was to enjoy the Grublin Feast. My grandparents would toil away all week leading up to it, preparing the traditional Grublin’s Day Marshmallow Roast.
My siblings and I would drive out with them to the marshmallow farm and pick out the biggest, juiciest looking marshmallow, and then my uncle would climb up the tree and wrestle it free. Some years, his hands would be sticky for weeks.
I especially looked forward to the sides: fresh sharkberries, chocolate pickles, pickled chocolates, and of course, for dessert, striped caramel lettuce burgers.
After our meal, the adults would all retire to the den to digest, and maybe watch a little bit of the big Grublin Day Music Ball Game or the Grublin Day Parade, where they had giant balloons shaped like all our favorite cartoon characters, world leaders, and random people from our dreams.
Then the kids would exchange their Grublin Day gifts, left to them the night before by Old Grubby himself. According to tradition, Old Grubby’s eyesight isn’t what it used to be, so after he dropped off the gifts, it was the kids’ duty to exchange them the next day to their intended recipients. How I looked forward to those afternoons with my cousins, handing out stuffed animals, new windbreakers, and ancient amulets, alongside traditional sweets like candied canes, sugar bees, and skunk apples.
Then, as the sun set, we’d walk from house to house, singing our yearly Grublin Carols, celebrating another year of peace, prosperity, and punctual postal delivery.
I can still hear our voices joining together in harmony on the chorus off “Old Lord Grublin’s Feast of Feats” and “Hark! The Year, It Approaches!” while, as per tradition, people listening locked themselves in their homes and called the police and Coast Guard.
It was always such a comedown the next day to return to school and resume every day life, knowing it was still another year or two until the next Grublin’s Day.
One year, I asked my friend Simon what his family did on Grublin’s Day, and he pretended not to know what I was talking about. But that was Simon, such a joker. The next year, I made sure to invite him to my family’s celebration. He never spoke to me again.
How I miss those halcyon days, when my biggest concern was whether or not I could figure out whose gift was whose, if I had enough room for a dessert of skunk apple pie, and if I could successfully hide from Old Grubby’s assistant, Mr. Grubb, who rewarded wicked children with candy and punished nice children with candy. But we will always have the memories.