Holidannys

SEASONAL SATURDAY: CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

I went to the gym today, so I simultaneously think that I am dying and also that I am the strongest person that has ever existed. My arms feel like jell-o, and I’ve negotiated that into spending the entire day in bed, watching Parks and Recreation and wearing sweatpants. That, however, is a full-time job, so I don’t feel bad in the slightest.

And my room, which has a certain cavelike allure since it’s at the back corner of my house, is illuminated, chicly, by several strings of fairy lights. Every year, since I was a kid, I have put Christmas lights over my bed and around my room. When I was a little kid, it was so I could read after my mom made me turn off my bedside lamp. When I grew up, and learned that reading is for dorks—TV rules!!!!1!—they became purely for aesthetics.

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(I’m lying about reading. Reading rules. Also, I did the fairy lights because I was shit-scared of the dark as a child and medium-adult.)

This year, I had put Christmas lights up in August to make my room feel Tumblr-y, so when I came home from London I plugged them in. They are warm and inviting and remind me of Christmas and hot cocoa and freezing my ass off.

And even though this year the temperature isn’t exactly North Pole-ish, I love having Christmas traditions to fall back on.

One of my fam’s favorite Christmas traditions is Secret Santa, or Kris Kringle, or whatever else you want to call it. We put our names into a hat, pick out a slip of paper, and buy a present for that person. This year I have my (name redacted for Kris Kringle purposes) and now I have to buy them a present. We exchange the Secret Santa presents on Christmas Eve, and then we get our Christmas pajamas.

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I totally thought that Christmas pajamas were a thing that only we did, but “apparently” it’s a “popular thing to do.” Idk, it feels like y’all are jacking my family swag. After we get into our pajamas, which I will take off for actual sleeping because I sleep like I’m about to get robbed and need to be ready to flee—running shorts and a t-shirt—we take a family drive around the neighborhood to look at the luminaries.

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Luminaries are brown paper lunchbags that have been filled with sand. They are lined along the sidewalks and a candle is lit inside each one. We have been getting lit for many years, and it is so ~dope~ and one of my favorite things. Then we drive around the neighborhood, judging everyone else’s Christmas decorations. Some are chic. Some are tragic. Note to everyone: blue Christmas tree lights are never a good idea. Shut it down.

And in the morning, we eat cinnamon rolls and open presents and get jealous over which child will be the most favored by Santa that year. Then we get dressed and go to family parties and then I go on Twitter. It’s a Christmas miracle.

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Even though I’m pretty sure I never believed in Santa—I don’t know why, he just always seemed fishy—I’m really excited for Christmas because I love presents sooo much. And also, like, giving them or w/e.

And also, even though we are 23, 20, and 18, we still leave out milk and cookies for Santa, and my mother will still sign certain gifts from Santa. Even though she doesn’t even bother switching up her handwriting. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Except for my birthday, which is basically a national holiday.

Less than a week until Christmas!

HAPPY HOLIDANNYS!

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Holidannys

SEASONAL SATURDAYS: TOP TEN THINGS I’VE DONE TO GET INTO THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT

Number One: sacrifice a pure-white goat on a mahogany altar to the Dark Lord. Just kidding! But, I have to say, what an introduction!

But, actually:

1). Obviously I made my Christmas playlist, but I’ve whored that thing out so much that I’m not even going to link it anymore. We all know I have one—let’s move on. But Sebastien told me about the “Merry Christmas: Jazz” Spotify playlist. I don’t know why I never really considered a jazz Christmas, but it’s really good and feels very Frank Sinatra-y and pulls to mind images of crackling fires and smooth eggnog. Even though eggnog is kind of gnarly; and not in the good, Californian way.

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2). Watching Home Alone really sealed the deal for me, Christmas-movie-wise. I think it’s because I’ve never actually sat down and watched the full thing all the way through. Probably like most people, I’ve caught glimpses and bits from the ABC Family “25 Days of Christmas.” But actually sitting down, watching Home Alone and drinking hot cocoa made me A) feel sad that Macauley Culkin is kinda cracked out now, B) wonder what he and Mila Kunis used to talk about, and C) get that cozy, “It’s Christmas” feeling. I love ABC Family’s Christmas traditions, and since I’m not currently in America at the moment, I’ve missed out a little on the Norman Rockwell holiday overload. So yeah, watch Home Alone. Also wonder why Catherine O’Hara didn’t just sock that kid in the face. Set him straight.

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3). On Friday—yesterday, I suppose—I went with Jenna to St. Paul’s Cathedral. We wandered amongst the sepulchral beauty—and it really is beautiful. I think Westminster Abbey is stunning, but St. Paul’s has this amazing grandeur that I think I prefer. Anyway, after climbing to the top of the dome, taking a few selfies, and wheezing our way down the stairs, we got back to the main floor and stumbled onto a Christmas choir. They were amazing, and their voices melded together and echoed against the dome. It was just a practice, so they were kind of #donewithit but I wish I was a good singer, so I find actual good singers fascinating. Plus, the Christmas trees on either side of the altar were decked out in fairy lights, and the glowiness of the whole moment made me feel warm and toasty and Norman Rockwell-y.

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4). Watch holiday episodes of TV shows. Okay, so I’ll be honest—I overloaded myself on the Christmas movies. Also, I generally don’t watch movies. I know that every cinema nerd is gasping right now, but I don’t have the attention span. I don’t like sitting down and being expected to sit down for longer than an hour. However, I will be watching Mockingjay Part 2 when I get back. So to avoid the Christmas marathons, I decided to watch holiday episodes of my favorite TV shows. My current pleasures are 30 Rock and Parks & Recreation. I’m convinced that 30 Rock is the only show—ever—to incorporate blackface into a holiday episode and have it not be really weird. And I wish I could get Leslie Knope as a Christmas present because she’s amazing, and those holiday episodes are killer.

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5). Sweaters. Ironically—or not, ironically?—I sweat a lot, so I don’t generally just wear sweaters. I put a button-down underneath, to create some sort of levy against the hurricanic body moisture. But the other day, I wore this really cute camel sweater, and earlier in the week, I finally wore the chunky, off-white sweater I bought in the Aran Islands. And wearing sweaters and being all snuggly makes you feel like a glamorous ski-bunny.

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6). So I fucking detest nutmeg. I’m generally not a huge spice person, so Marco Polo would have totally hated me. So I don’t often indulge in holiday drinks at Starbucks. I’ll get a Pumpkin Spice Latte because—hello—white, and I like Peppermint Mochas, but—and I’m not trying to start drama—England doesn’t really do Peppermint Mochas. They do, like, “toffee” and other freaky flavors. But I’m literally not trying to start any fights. I just find it a little aggressive. So when I go to Starbucks to get a coffee—a venti caffe latte, aka hot milk—I put a little blend of chocolate-cinnamon powder. I know that cinnamon isn’t a super Christmas-y spice—is it more for Thanksgiving?—but it makes me feel nice.

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7). I swear, I was in a street market a week ago, and they were selling Christmas trees, and I lowkey might have sniffed the branches like a cocaine addict snorts a line of that sweet white gold—I don’t know drug references. I was discussing this with a friend—the real versus fake debate—and one of the reasons I love real Christmas trees is the smell. I hate the pine needles detritus, and I think fake Christmas trees in unrealistic shades of gold, pink, and blue are chic in a “Beverly Hills plastic surgery” kind of way. But you can’t replace that authentic pine tree smell, the one that fills the entire house.

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8). Looked at cards of pugs in Christmas hats. Why isn’t this a thing year-round? Is it because I can’t be trusted to be productive if I know that, at any given moment during the entire year, that a pug might be wearing a little elf hat? Because I get that. But I love when animals get dressed up for the holidays. It brings me such joy.

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9). Change all of my social media accounts to holiday-themed goodness. This is so “millennial” of me, but I secretly love it and it’s actually kind of the most fun thing ever. Scrolling through Tumblr looking for that perfect, hilarious Christmas photo to put as the header of your Facebook. Thinking of ways to incorporate “Santa Claus” or the names of his reindeer into your Twitter handle. It takes a little bit of effort, which I’m sure my parents would say could be going towards “working on my resume” or “finding an internship” so I don’t “die on the streets,” but I want to go into pop culture and social media, so this is basically me beefing up my credentials. That’s what I’ll tell myself when I’m homeless. I did a really good job about changing my accounts for the various changes in the seasons, and I’ll be frank, I’m worried for January. Once Christmas is over, there aren’t really a lot of good, juicy holidays to sink into. Valentine’s Day is depressing, St. Patrick’s Day makes me want to punch non-Irish people, and no one takes Arbor Day seriously anymore. So I’ll enjoy the good seasonal social media while it lasts.

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10). This last one is weird-ish (?) and I’m not doing that thing where I say that I’m so quirky and you can’t possibly relate. I really love keeping the window open when it’s chilly. In England—I live in England; it’s, like, whatever. I mean, I’m leaving in four days, so I’m milking it while I can—it’s chilly but not frigid, so keeping the window open gives the room that fresh, crisp wintry air. Nothing makes me feel more Christmasy than snuggling up with fuzzy socks and a sweatshirt and watching a movie while a little frosty breeze gives my cheeks some nips. This is something that can’t really be done for that long, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts, because A) I think my roommate is about to kill me for it, and B) eventually it stops being “snuggly” cold and start being “Cut open the tauntaun” cold.

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What are your favorite ways to get into the spirit? Don’t comment or anything. Just say it aloud to yourself. I’ll know if you don’t, so you better do it. Is there a particular Christmas movie you always watch? I find that you can tell a lot about people from the Christmas movies they watch. There are some people who are serial monogamists and only watch certain ones, and there are others who settle down in front of the TV and marathon whatever’s on. I’m not sure which category I fall into. But that’s so binary of me.

May your cheeks be rosy, your hearts full of joy, your hands full of candy, and your mouth full of liquor!

HAPPY HOLIDANNYS!

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Holidannys

SEASONAL SATURDAY: A HOLIDAY RECIPE FOR FUN TIMES

So, misleadingly, this is not going to contain an actual, food-making cooking recipe. I understand that my use of the term “recipe” implies some sort of physical food consumption and previous preparation, but I promise this will be Chicken Noodle Soup for the Holiday Soul. Also, misleadingly, I never read any Chicken Noodle Soup books, despite my vast amounts of angst.

Instead, this is a recipe that I have been following to get into the Holiday Spirit (which would be a great name for an alcohol brand! Like, “Holiday Spirit: Make Getting Through the Holidays A Little Easier”):

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One-part sweaters:

So Christmas sweaters—or “jumpers” as we call them in the UK because I’m oh-so-assimilated—are the fucking bomb and I adore them. I went to Primark—essentially an H&M-Target hybrid on crack cocaine—and bought two Christmas sweaters, upping my entire collection to three sweaters. That’s almost half a week! But I really enjoy wearing them because it means you don’t have to put a lot of effort into the rest of your outfit because everyone will either be captivated by the ugly sweater, or be so repelled by the ugliness that they can’t even bear to look at you.

One-part Christmas movies:

So far, I’ve watched Home Alone and The Santa Clause, and I intend on watching Elf, A Christmas Story, the Christmas List, It’s A Wonderful Life (against my own free will), and maybe others. I have to willingly suspend my disbelief and sink back into the mindset of child-me, who was so fucking gullible, and just let the holiday magic wash over me like a warm bath.

One-part baking:

I made cookies to go along with the hot cocoa we drank as Charlie—you finally got another mention, you troll—and I watched Home Alone. And, like, I made it from a pre-packaged bag and just added butter and an egg, and still managed somehow to kind of fuck it up. I didn’t realize that there are goddamn algorithms for what kind of cookie density, mass and volume you want, and so I ended up with liquid-y, flat, not very dense sugar cookies that were delicious, but because they’re pure sugar, but had that daring edge of possible salmonella.

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One-part Christmas music:

I already wrote about my Christmas playlist, so I’m not gonna rehash everything (I’ll include a link here to my Spotify Christmas playlist) but I just have one thing to say. Kylie Minogue is great at Christmas albums. Actually, I have multiple things to say: I need Adele to make a Christmas album. And have you ever heard Lady Gaga sing “White Christmas”? It’s actually, like, so good, and I want her to make an entire Christmas album. Also Cheek To Cheek isn’t bad. There—I said it.

One-part Christmas socks:

Not much to say. Just buy them. Just do it. Shia LeBouf Just Do It. Also, wait, should Nike sue Shia for copyright infringement for saying their catchphrase? Let me know.

One-part red and green:

So today I wore fluffy, red and green Christmas socks, but tucked away behind my jeans and boots, so you didn’t see them. But I did wear a very muted forest-green flannel and a oxblood-burgundy-maroon-red-ish scarf—a blanket scarf, omg it’s so fucking big I’m obsessed—and I walked around a little sneaky Christmas elf because I was sneakily wearing Christmas colors without looking like a douchebag or a Duggar. Nailed it!

Stir thoroughly, bake at 350° F, let cool for 12 minutes, cut and serve immediately with familial passive-aggressiveness, inane questions from relatives, an itchy sweater, and a pine tree allergy.

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Interestingly enough, getting myself into the holiday spirit has made me want to get more into the giving spirit. This year, for probably the first year ever, I actually plan on getting each of my family members a gift—not just my Secret Santa—instead of just giving them the gift of “laughter” and my “presence” which they always try to return for cash-back. They have no appreciation for my humor, and it’s frankly tragic.

I hope that if you’re into the holiday season, you’re enjoying it, and if you’re not, that you’re having a nice Saturday!

HAPPY HOLIDANNYS!

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