Dress appropriately. Don’t disappoint me.
“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
― Dr. Seuss,
There are a million and one think pieces about nostalgia, disenchantment, or even doldrums during the holiday season, but the truth is that I don’t really agree. I love Christmas and am 100% on board the idea of a season of the year dedicated to friends and family, giving, tradition, belief (if so inclined), and peace.
However I will admit that Christmas as an adult is certainly more effortful–it’s easy to believe in the magic of the season as a kid, but trickier as an adult. Christmas becomes and requires harder work the older I get. Jeff and I were speaking recently about how we haven’t really felt very Christmas-y this year and I’ve come to the conclusion it’s because I haven’t had to put much elbow grease into it.
In seven and a half years of marriage we’ve only done two Christmases by ourselves, the first year in London and last. Even though we were away from family, I felt downright elf-like in my enthusiasm, especially the first year. But thinking back on it, I bought a (tiny) tree, we went to Christmas services at Westminster Abbey, and I did the traditional Rodgers Family spread for Christmas Eve dinner. We went to Christmas markets, had to organize our shopping and shipping carefully instead of schlepping presents home in a suitcase, and generally expended energy to celebrate the holiday.
Tradition is my byword for the season. So much of what I love about Christmas is bound up in the traditions my family espoused, adopted, or created. From putting our shoes out for St. Nicholas to fill with candy to opening a single group present on Christmas Eve (inevitably a group game for the whole family to play together), to our usual Christmas morning breakfast (baked french toast with peaches and pecans), there are a lot of elements that go into making the holidays for me. Decorations that I recognize from childhood, albums ditto, pots of wassail bubbling away on the stove…it’s package experience.
Conversely, when we’ve done Christmas at one of our family’s the majority of our holiday efforts (and finances) revolve around making it across the Atlantic and trying to be good guests. A huge amount of the work is usually undertaken by someone else–shoutout to our mothers! The lazy side of me appreciates and enjoys this tremendously, but I’m noticing that the shine has started to come off the holiday in recent years and I think it’s a direct result of not having to put too much effort into celebrating it.
This year saw us travelling stateside a lot; the total will be three trips jointly and a fourth for Jeff. Though one of these was generously paid for unbelievably kind parents, we aren’t planning to travel stateside in 2017 as a result and, at least where the holidays are concerned, I think this might be a good thing. Not that we won’t miss family, we will, but I’m feeling the need to put effort into the season next year. I want to buy our first proper Christmas tree in nearly a decade of marriage, decorate the house a bit, maybe even throw a party for friends. I want to recreate my own family traditions and toss a few new ones into the mix (Jeff has some thoughts on a Christmas Eve breakfast as well as Christmas Day).
In short, I want to work for it a bit more.
Every year I see these guys and every year they attract masses of smiling people and dancing kids. Globalization is tricky and it definitely has its downsides; but as a species, guys, when we get it right, the results are kind of great.
― Craig Ferguson
It’s almost hilarious to write this up since we’re heading to the States in a week for our Christmas holiday, but ’tis what it is. Jeff is studying for his next round of exams (that guy is a champ…if you add in kindergarten, he’s been taking tests of some kind now for 24 years…) and my work gig has kept me busier than I’ve been in months. Which is saying something!
It’s an odd thing to dash from work to Thanksgiving dinner, but that’s what happened perforce. After my plans last year to eat at The Mayflower were scuppered by Jeff’s Christmas do, we finally made it this year. The Mayflower is a charming pub that crams in and absolutely revels in every stereotype you can imagine. Obviously it’s proud of its history and plays up the connection to the ship Mayflower (which was moored near the site of the pub in the 17th century before heading off to the New World, and whose captain lies buried in the vault of St Mary’s across the street), but it also indulges its connections to other maritime history in the area and general Britishness. The walls are covered in quotes about food and drink from literature, sailing paraphernalia covers the walls, and paintings and photos of Rotherhithe through the last centuries abound.
It was a very British way to celebrate the only real, genuine American holiday but we loved it. The place was full of Brits and expats celebrating the day, a few of my country were made patriotic by wine and at one point we were serenaded with an off key but heartfelt rendition of America the Beautiful, and the food (though miles short of home cooking) was surprisingly good.
“How goes your week of not observing thanksgiving due to living under the oppressive rule of the tyrannical Queen Elizabeth II?”
“Ahem. I am partaking of Thanksgiving dinner this year at a pub called The Mayflower, situated near the site where the Mayflower ship was originally moored before setting off to the Netherlands and then New World, and across the street from the church where the Captain of the Mayflower is buried. Why, what tawdry, subpar festivities are you enjoying?”
“That’s awesome! I’m just taking a bunch of Raleigh Tavern pies over the river and through the woods to the family dinner…going to avoid the kitchen since that one time I made a turkey. I also made an oven fire (which was, however, my roommate’s fault).”
“Last year I had takeaway curry.”
– Katarina and C.
“God for Harry, England, and St George!”
– Shakespeare, Henry V
It’s St George’s Day, celebrated with bunting and pub crawls (like an awful lot of British feast days). What’s not to like? I love a good borderline mythological figure as much as the next medievalist, but truthfully it’s the dragon that gets me. I’ve had a thing for them ever since childhood.
My first ever published short story was composed at the tender age of about 13 and was titled, “The Guide to Saving Princesses,” an instruction manual for prospective heroes about choosing suitable princesses, negotiating with dragons to make sure the climatic fights look real, and general career tips for knight-errantry. It was terribly clever, she said without a hint of bias.
In university I conducted a bit of research into how St. George’s victim in the middle ages is often portrayed with female genitalia as his legend shifted to include ideas about romanticized chastity and virginity. Since in the middle ages it was the female sex that was considered particularly susceptible to lust rather than the male. Hm…
Tolkien’s Smaug is one of my favorite characters ever, but my favorite dragon-slaying story of all time has to be his historically satirical and incredibly clever, Farmer Giles of Ham. The vintage copy still in my mother’s possession was illustrated with medieval style drawings and she read it to me as a child and animated the dog Garm’s hysterical “Help, help!” cries in a way that still makes me laugh today. I might have to reread it in honor of the day. Anyone else celebrating?