I have revisions to do right now. And I'm doing them -- bit by bit. But it's hard to focus on them because Christmas is coming. Have you noticed?
I have. And while I don't go overboard at all, every Christmas we do at least a few of the same things. This is in the interest of 'tradition' and 'nostalgia' and 'doing things for the children so they'll have fond memories.'
Sometimes it even works.
Every year we get a live Christmas tree because it feels like something authentic (for us). If you have an artificial tree or no tree at all, that's fine. We don't care what anyone else does. We just enjoy the challenge of going out and picking the perfect tree.
It's never quite a simple as it ought to be -- like the year seven of us went out looking, found The Perfect Tree (everyone, amazingly agreed that it was The Perfect Tree). Then we carried it (literally) the half mile or so home and discovered it wouldn't stand up. At all. No matter what.
So we carried it back again (literally) and threw ourselves on the mercy of the tree salesmen, who all thought it was hysterically funny -- but after much amusement, they kindly let us pick another tree.
This was followed some years later when we were ultra-purist and went out and cut our own tree. We used to be able to do this fairly locally. But then one year we couldn't. So my youngest son and I drove an hour up into Wisconsin to a farm where you could cut your own. We hiked miles through snow barefoot (well, not barefoot, but it was miles and the snow was deep!) and at last we spotted the perfect virginal untouched tree high up on a hillside (covered with drifted snow).
We hiked up. And up. And up.
And when we finally reached The Perfect Tree we discovered that someone had spray painted it green.
We drove home and bought one off a lot. And that was the end of purist Christmas tree hunting.
We have certain things we bake every year beginning with my mother's date bars. They are the most scrumptious crumbly cookies known to man (in my opinion and hers). And she used to bake them for Christmas gifts -- until great-grandma wrote her a thank-you note for the "little meat pies" at which point she gave up and started sending recognizable fudge.
But while I don't give them as gifts (because they would never last long enough to be packed up and why would I give them away, anyway?), I always make them. So does my daughter.
And we make spritz. In fact for the past two years it's been a neighborhood project, er, party. My friend Nancy the Cat-slayer (no, she doesn't, but we have photo that makes it look like she is about to) and I invited two friends from China to bake with us last year, intended to give them an American Cultural Experience. To make it more authentic, I invited my neighbors to come and bake with us. It was so much fun last year that we all did it again Wednesday afternoon.
My 87 year old neighbor offered to bring the Peppermint Schnapps and liven things up. In the end, she didn't. Probably just as well as things were pretty lively anyway and she might have scandalized our Chinese guests. They now consider themselves a part of our local tradition. And they make better spritz than I do, that's for sure.
One tradition that has been on hold is the making of Christmas stockings. A friend made my children stockings, and when the grandkids began arriving, I promised to make them for each one.
But I fell apart after the oldest two boys because the first girl to come along had a massively LONG name and it stopped me cold. I couldn't see how to make it fit on the stocking without making very small letters. So I didn't do it at all. If she missed it, she didn't say so ( but she doesn't live in the same family as the boys, so it would have been harder to notice).
Still, it wasn't until this year -- five grandchildren later -- that the mother of the youngest (who has a very SHORT name) said she'd love it if he had a homemade stocking. She looked hopefully in my direction.
So I made six stockings. All I can say is, thank goodness for nicknames -- which the massively LONG-named granddaughter, now 10, has since acquired -- because her nickname fit.
We have other traditions, too. There is the homemade wreath, which we won't go into because sometimes it is not a pretty sight. There are the batches of biscotti. I could write a whole blog on biscotti alone. But I'd rather be baking them. There is the annual hunt for the great-grandparents' brass candlesticks which always get put up, provided we can find them. But we haven't been lighting the candles recently because, traditionally, we almost always seem to burn the house down when we do.
And then there are the new events which, one hopes, never become traditions. This year it is a Christmas party (I use the term loosely) for an organization I belong to that promotes exchanges between people in different countries. We've had some wonderful experiences both traveling and hosting such exchanges.
This year the board decided to have a 'traveling hors d'oeuvres' party. It's a fund-raiser. We are on the board, thus we are going. We are also providing an hors d'oeuvre. (More than one, actually, a whole tray of them).
The logistics of this event are frightening. It has been set up so that there are two houses next to each other where we are expected to congregate (in two separate houses) with our requisite hors d'oeuvres and then switch houses halfway through the first hour.
Then we drive across town and go to two other houses, also next to each other (where presumably there are more hors d'oeuvres) where we meet the same people we just met across town, consume more hors d'oeuvres, switch houses again, and then go home.
The way I calculate it, we still will only see half the people, but we will see them at both places. Provided, of course, that we can park.
We are currently having one of the snowiest Decembers on record and there are no places to park on either street at the best of times. Not for five people, let alone for 40!
So you see why I have started calling this the "drive-by hors d'oeuvres party." Clearly there's going to be no place to stop. Nancy the Cat Slayer is driving and DH and I are to leap out, run inside, deposit the hors d'oeuvres while Nancy TCS circles the block. This does not even address the problem of exactly how to keep the spanakopita warm while it is en route when the temperature has been below zero all week.
Somehow I don't think this is going to become a tradition. At least I hope not.
What are you planning for the holidays (Christmas or any others you are celebrating)? Have you had holiday disasters, too? Misery loves company! You'd make me feel better about my spanakopita-on-the-move event tonight with a little holiday disaster oneupsmanship. Or you can tell me about your perfect holiday. I'll simply turn green with envy. So comment -- please!
And happy holidays to everyone!