"And therein lies the beauty of wassail: more than just another nice-tasting drink, it’s part of a long (if largely forgotten) tradition of celebrating the life that winter can seem determined to snuff out. It’s a fragrant, warming concoction mixed in bulk and set out for sharing, all but demanding that you call in a crowd. There’s really no such thing as wassail for one." —Speaking of seasonally appropriate drinks, the always excellent Rosie Schaap has a lovely piece in the Times on the history and mini-resurgence of Wassail, which reminds me of the tradition I grew up with, which is that after every Christmas Eve [...]
Claus, who are you to judge who's naughty or nice? Sabrina Q., San Diego, CA
I don't enjoy judging any child. We agonize over the lists. So much time and argument goes into their creation. We definitely give kids the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes I wish we'd do away with them entirely and focus on other issues. But it is a tradition, and we've gotten more just over the years identifying True Niceness as opposed to Disguised Naughtiness. Most of our List work is statistical, creating ranges. Identifying behavioral trends. We can keep track of all acts of naughtiness and niceness. In the cases of tiebreakers, we send [...]
Here is a good one of those "How the Sausage Gets Made" stories about Christmas trees. Where I grew up, the hot stoners got to (had to?) go live in 5th wheel trailers with other hot stoners on a Christmas tree farm during the summer. They'd return each school year with money, scars, beards, stories about how drunk and stoned they were all day, stories about what tapes they listened to while they walked around in the hot sun pruning the trees into the perfect shape for us, stories of never ending fights with sap, and deep, deep tans. Their tans were so deep. What I wouldn't have [...]
There's a question mark at the end of the title here because if anything is subjective, it's the goodness of a sugar cookie. Do you like them crispy? Soft? Fluffy? Dense? Super sweet, or should the frosting take care of that? I'll give you my grandma's recipe, which creates a scarily delicate dough that bakes up into my personal favorite sugar cookies. They're not soft or cakey, but not crispy or crunchy. I guess they're kind of chewy? But not too chewy. They aren't super sweet, and depending on how much nutmeg you dash into them, they have a little more oomph than just "sugar and butter flavored." Plus, they [...]
Happy Monday! Over on NPR, they're battening down for the holidays, with a stream of Sufjan Stevens' five-disc, 58-song (!) Christmas-music set Silver & Gold (three hours from start to finish, it's apparently "best doled out over the course of days"), which is available for $14.99 on iTunes, if you're interested. They're also streaming pop-folk [and former Everything But the Girl] singer Tracey Thorn's lovely Christmas album Tinsel and Lights (ditto, iTunes, $9.99), and R&B singer KEM's What Christmas Means (iTunes, $7.99).
In less-Christmassy news, cigarettes apparently rot your brain, but that doesn't seem right.
Since my brother and I were little, we've spent Christmas Eve at home with our parents. When my brother got married, he and his wife continued the tradition and came over to exchange gifts. But a couple of years ago everything changed, because my sister-in-law's parents and siblings came over saying they were just there to drop off gifts, but they stayed the whole evening. I was incredibly uncomfortable, because they're complete strangers to me (except for one of the siblings, whom I knew from high school and never got along with, which only makes it worse!). The next year, my sister-in-law invited all of us to Christmas [...]
1. Slice the top and bottom off one hard-boiled egg, horizontally, and the top and bottom off another, vertically, if that makes sense.
My earliest Christmas memory was me, age five, watching a Sesame Street holiday special. Big Bird was ice skating to the song “Feliz Navidad," and I was twirling around and singing along. Mom marched into the room and flipped off the TV.
“We celebrate Christmas in this house!” she shouted. She didn’t know “feliz navidad” was, in fact, a Christmas greeting, and instead thought it was one of those war-on-Christmas holidays like Winter Solstice or Hanukkah. Even a hint of “Happy Holidays” made Mom crazy, because we were Evangelical Christians.
Though, admittedly, we were pretty terrible at it. We were lazy, we were undisciplined, we abandoned abortion protests for bagel [...]
It was the night before Christmas, and my small studio apartment was very quiet. I didn't have any presents except for the one my mother had sent me and a package from a book publishing company that was almost certainly a galley they were hoping I might mention on the website I work for. But they'd wrapped it, so who knew — maybe they'd sent me a thank-you present for writing about another book they'd published earlier in the year. In any case, two presents looked nicer than one! I didn't have a tree, but I did have a green potted plant, so I put the presents beside it.