Friday, November 23, 2007

The First Meal of the Holiday Season

Weekend Assignment #191: When do you personally start celebrating the holiday season? Do you get into it at midnight of the Friday after Thanksgiving? Do you wait? Is Thanksgiving annoyingly in the way? Share your thoughts!

Extra Credit: Do you dream of a White Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or Winter Solstice, etc), just like the ones you used to know?

As far as I'm concerned, the holiday season begins with Thanksgiving Day, because that's one of "the holidays." (Once as a kid I explored the idea of Halloween being one of "the holidays," but I was overruled.) It's linked to Christmas by turkey and (in some households) rutabagas and Pumpkin Anything, by pre-Christmas advertising and holiday specials and Santa Claus at the end of the Macy's Parade. The Thanksgiving and New Year's Day parades are the bookends of the holiday season. Thanksgiving also kicks off the holiday overindulgence season of parties and cookies and candy and pie, necessitating all those New Year's resolutions about dieting and going back to the gym.

Of course, some of the 2007 Hallmark ornaments have been in stores for several months, and I've looked at those. I've seen Christmas decorations in Target and looked at musical Christmas trees at Loew's. My stepmother has already passed on a request for a Christmas hinting list, and I promised to take care of it over the weekend. From here on out I'll probably hear a lot of Christmas carols, and that's okay. Meanwhile, the religious side of Christmas begins a week from Sunday with the first Sunday in Advent.

But you know what? Just because the season has started, it doesn't mean I'm under any obligation to jump right in with the carols and the shopping and the parties. I basically don't do parties, and I don't think I've ever gone Christmas shopping on Black Friday. I've always worked that day, except for a couple Thanksgiving Fridays off without pay (except by taking a vacation day) at Worldwide Travel and FMFC. Even then I didn't go shopping. And I don't generally pull out my Christmas CDs until well into December. Don't rush me. I'll get there. Forcing the holiday on me before I'm ready doesn't increase the Christmas Spirit, only the stress.

So. Recap. First day of the Christmas shopping season, according to the culture, is Black Friday, but some people start on December 26th the previous year, Hallmark starts over the summer, stores start around November 1st and really get rolling tomorrow. But none of that matters to me, one way or the other. I'll shop when I'm ready. As long as everyone gets their gifts on time, I don't have to be synched up to the culture in that respect. Holiday music is tied to the shopping. Advent and the Feast of St. Nicholas are tied into the church calendar. And me, I'm mostly just tied to the emotion of it. When I feel it, I'll start celebrating. And if I don't feel it, I'll start faking it, somewhere around December 15th.

Meanwhile, here are a few pictures from this first holiday of the holiday season. The first three are from the Thanksgiving pot luck at St. Michaels. It was great! Most of my friends from church were there, and people ate about half of my rutabagas and said nice things about them. I got to try several kinds of Pumpkin Anything, including a slice of pumpkin pie that I stopped eating the moment its baker bragged about whiskey being one of the ingredients. Burned off or not, I hate food made with alcohol. It tasted like flan - the kind of flan I don't like, not the harmless kind from Safeway.

The thing is, I was right in my Monday night rant about Thanksgiving. It really isn't meant to be a celebration for two. Considering the holiday's origins, it was very appropriate that I was in church this morning with friends, singing "Now Thank We All Our God," the only one of the three hymns of the day that wasn't about three notes too high for me to sing properly. I enjoyed my friends' company and my fellow parishioners' food, in a spread every bit as good as the really expensive holiday brunches, and better than the Marie Callendar's meal we had to wait an hour for one year, even with reservations.

And here is my second helping of the meal I made afterward at home. John only had white meat and green beans, but I had the full works. I also managed to break this plate a couple hours later, setting off one of those inevitable stressful scenes that seem to ruin most holidays for me. Still, the food came out well, and John got the food he wanted, and Tuffy really does seem to be eating much more readily as of today. Yay!

Oh, and the White Christmas thing? I've gone on about that several times in this blog and its predecessor, with words and pictures about one of the very few white Christmases in Tucson since they started keeping records. It was in 1986 or 1987, I forget which. But when I was a kid, I remember more snow at Easter than at Christmas, probably because Syracuse weather is just that perverse. I remember a few 50 or 60 degree Christmas Eves, remarkable for Syracuse, thoroughly ordinary here. Actually it's usually warmer than that in December in the daytime here, averaging almost 65 degrees, according to this chart. Yes, I get all excited on the rare occasions it snows here, but I had nearly a lifetime's worth of the stuff in Dewitt, Manlius, and Syracuse NY and in Columbus OH. A snow-free Christmas in Tucson is fine with me.

One thing that does bother me, though, a little. Why is it that every song with snow in it becomes a Christmas song, whether Christmas is mentioned or not? Even in Tucson, where snow is rare, I'll soon be hearing about the bobtail nag and the weather outside that's frightful, the claim that there are "no cabs to be had out there," and the the snowman who impersonates Parson Brown. Then maybe I will miss the snow, just a little, the more so because I'm singing along and it's 75 degrees. Then on December 26th, whoops! Can't play that song; it's a Christmas song, and Christmas is over! The fact that Christmas isn't even mentioned in the lyrics makes no difference to the pigeonholing. Phooey.

Maybe I should declare that the holiday season ends when the snow...I mean, comes back, the heck with it.



Becky said... the pie photo. Wish I had more of that right about now.

Monponsett said...

If you make plum pudding for Christmas, you can actually start the holidays in October, even earlier.