Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's the most wonderful time of the year?

I'm giving thanks that we don't have to go through this for another year. Except we do, because those bastards went and put Christmas right in the middle, just to punish us. 
Adele (Anne Brancroft), Home for the Holidays 

I want to be very clear - I like Christmas. There are even things that I love about Christmas (more on this in a moment) but I don't LOVE Christmas. I don't start listening to Christmas music in July or have everyone's gift purchased before Halloween. I enjoy decorations but I don't enjoy decorating. I guess Christmas and I just have a complicated relationship. It probably has to do with the magic of Christmas dissipating over time - when I was 6 I believed so much in Christmas and Santa and the magic of the season. Now that I'm in my 30s, I just want to stay home and drink some hot chocolate (or something more adult) and watch Christmas movies. Maybe it's all the noise or as the Grinch would say, "That's one thing I hate! All the noise, noise, noise, noise"

But let's stop discussing my old lady grumpy behavior and let's focus on what's enjoyable about the holidays. My family is quirky and so we have some random holiday traditions that I'm very proud of and I fiercely adhere to and will probably do so all of my life. My family likes to watch holiday movies on Christmas Day (typical rotation: A Christmas Story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas - animated version, Christmas Vacation, Elf, and The Nightmare Before Christmas). My father is a big fan of The Santa Clause movies so we typically watch all of them at least once. Last year we also watched the worst Christmas movie ever: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. We all make bad life choices some days and that might have been our collective bad choice last holiday season. It was bad in an MST3K way so at least we could laugh about it but we also could have been watching Elf for the 7th time and that would have been so much better, you know, because smiling is my favorite.

Probably my favorite of our family traditions (and the one that everyone knows about) is our obsessive holiday baking. We have always made a large number of holiday cookies. A typical Garland family holiday baking list might include: cutouts (obviously), snowballs, chocolate chip cookies, random cookie Mom found in a magazine and wants to make, the Christmas Day cake (a more recent addition), banana bread, and spritz cookies. The best part of making cutouts with my parents and brother is that we get ridiculously silly while doing it. My mother and I laugh about things that are not funny, my brother stares on and probably has some sort of internal dialogue going about how he needs to leave the country next year and get out of baking, and my father rolls out the cookie dough and occasionally turns and says things like, "What are you laughing about now?" He's a very patient man, my dad, and seems to put up with silliness very well. My mother and I may or may not be able to tell anyone what we're laughing about because we don't know or we're laughing too hard. And we make snowmen cookies that look like the Blues Brothers. We call them the Belushi snowmen.

I'm not sure when any of this is occurring this year since I haven't been told to come over to bake yet. Seems suspicious.

Now that I bake on my own I also add additional cookies/baking to the list. My 2012 holiday baking list (and this seems ridiculous to me when I think about it):
  • Bourbon Pecan shortbread
  • Regular shortbread
  • Cutouts (including ninjas)
  • Petit fours (for a baby shower that is next week)
  • Hot Cocoa cookies (for my office's cookie exchange, plus extra for people who aren't participating but I know would enjoy a cookie or two)
  • Banana bread
  • Homemade marshmallow fluff (for the Hot Cocoa cookies)
Ninjas, not skate punks. Next time, I'll ice them instead - ninja costumes and throwing stars.
It's possible I need a hobby that doesn't involve baking. I tried to calculate the amount of flour and sugar I've gone through since moving back to Virginia and I had to stop because my head started hurting. I guess it doesn't really matter since people seem to enjoy the baked goods and I like it when people are happy.

As a general rule, I don't like Christmas music at all. My father looooooves Christmas music and would probably play it all the time if we allowed him to but we don't. I think I really used to love Christmas music (and I know all the words to the songs) but now I just can't deal with it. If the music didn't start in October maybe I'd feel differently. Now, I don't mind random Christmas music like a Johnny Cash Christmas or Christmas in Detroit (featuring the greatest holiday song of all time, "Christmas in Jail"). I love David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing "The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth" and any Christmas music by a brass band or Harry Connick, Jr. is alright in my book. But that's where it ends. But I get it if you enjoy Christmas music and want to listen to it all the time just bring headphones and don't tell me about it.

The best thing about Christmas (or whatever holiday you might celebrate around this time of year) is that it's all about what you and your loved ones make it. If you like to go to Burger King on Christmas Eve, then you should (a tradition we once did) or if you open presents on Christmas Eve, then do it. If everyone in your family has to wear a hideous Christmas sweater, be that family (and take pictures for me). We all make the holidays what we want them to be and spend time with the people we love and care about-that's what's important.

And Harry Connick, Jr. singing.

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