My family never celebrated Christmas. We're Russian-American, and in Russia, you have a tree and you decorate it with ornaments and you give each other presents, but it's not for Christmas, it's for New Years. I guess this is since religion was taboo in the Soviet Union, but honestly, I don't really know much about it. All I know is that the usual secular Christmas stuff was moved over by one week. Moreover, my family's not religious at all (well, not myself or my parents, anyway), nor are my friends, for the most part. Meanwhile, my girlfriend's family is Jewish. All of these things added up meant that Christmas dinner wasn't something I had on my mind as the 25th of December approached.
Now, my parents have a timeshare for a week and a half in late December, and so while they're off in the Caribbean, I move in to their house in Needham to take care of the cat and fish. My girlfriend was with me, but on the 25th she decided she was going to go to her parents' for a couple of days. The food situation at the house was getting scarce, and I thought we'd go grocery shopping before I dropped her off, until it occurred to me that it was Christmas day and everything was probably closed. So I dropped her off and then wondered what I was going to eat for dinner.
I figured maybe some foreign-run restaurant or big chain grocery store would be open, but driving through Needham, I had no such luck, only finding the most generic and least culinarily attractive general stores open (7/11, CVS). Finally, I decided 'fuck it' and pulled into a Tedeschi parking lot. I'd never been in a Tedeschi before and was hoping that it was a bit classier than a 7/11, i.e. that I could find some sandwich or something there that didn't look like it was made out of plastic and grease. Walking in, though, I saw that I'd had no such luck.
Browsing, I heard the cashier talking to the other one or two other customers, wishing them a merry Christmas, good luck on their scratch ticket, and so on. This guy was very very very nice, and though it seemed genuine, gears started turning in my head. I eventually picked out a sandwich that seemed the least likely to destroy my intestines and went over to pay for it. The cashier remarked, kindly, "A nice Christmas dinner, huh?" and then, with a big smile, wished me a wonderful day.
As I was going through the usual motions and noises here, I couldn't stop thinking about this guy's tone and manner, and what he may have been thinking. Here I was, a guy coming in to a Tedeschi at 5 PM on Christmas and buying a factory-made sandwich for five bucks to go home and eat alone. Meanwhile, this cashier was so kind and gracious, I started wondering: was he like this because he was always like this, was he like this because it was Christmas and he wanted people to have a nice holiday, or was he like this because he was worried about the circumstances of people going in to a Tedeschi to buy a solo Christmas dinner and didn't want me to go home and hang myself? Maybe it was some combination of the three. I wanted to assure him that my life was in good shape and Christmas wasn't really any different from any other day from me, but I just paid, left, ate my greasy sandwich at home, and played some video games.