Friday, December 25, 2020

A happy and hopeful Christmas to everyone out there who still occasionally clicks on my links and drops in to see what the hell we’re up to. The answer for yesterday (and today) is “not much”. It’s not only that we’re deep into denouement country in this project, but the calendar is not supplying us with a big heap of potential celebrations. No one was looking down at their breakfast this late in December and thinking, “Hey, why not make today National Honey Nut Cheerios Day?”. This is a sacred time for Christian folk, but in a far more inclusive way, this is a sacred time for families. Even via Zoom. So we grabbed hold of our scraps and fashioned with them what we could:

Christmas Eve

Every family has its own version of a Christmas Eve tradition. Some households gather en masse and splatter their dining room tables with a multi-course feast on the 24th, leaving the 25th for resting and taking one last stab at watching those same predictable movies or listening to that crappy infernal music. Our family traditions mainly involved the 25th for the big festivities.

I’m going to hold off on repeating ad nauseum that this year is different. We all know this year is different. Please, people, celebrate this year differently.

Our family Christmas Eve traditions involve ordering in dinner, cracking open one present (the Christmas pajamas), and watching Die Hard and/or another holiday classic. Last year we decided to put a pin in John McClane’s Nakatomi adventures, as the 2018 screening in our home consisted of all of us on our phones, too bored to even make fun of the movie anymore. So last night it was the Frank Capra classic It’s A Wonderful Life, which also gets airplay at some point in every one of our Christmases.

And yes, we spent much of it on our phones, because there are games to play there and we’ve all seen Clarence get his wings dozens of times in our lives. See my rant from a couple days ago during Humbug Day to understand how I feel about this.

But it was still a great time, with three humans and three dogs all chilled and comfy in front of the TV. And wouldn’t you know it, Mr. McClane was on TV when we finished so we enjoyed a few minutes of that classic. Next year will hopefully involve more humans (and the same number of dogs), and maybe we’ll toast that with another full airing of Die Hard. Whatever happens, we’ll make it feel like Christmas somehow.

National Eggnog Day

Full disclosure: we did not drink any eggnog yesterday. That would have been the ideal way to celebrate this day – and indeed, I strongly considered just leaving this one off the list entirely – but there was no need. Jodie hates eggnog. Abbey doesn’t care for the stuff. I’ll enjoy one glass (two if it’s the kind with booze), then I won’t want another drop for at least a year. Buying a carton of it made no sense.

But I’m curious enough about the creation of eggnog to do a bit of research, and doing a bit of research counts as a celebration this year. I’d be intrigued to try a cup of ponche crema, a Venezuelan variant of nog. This stuff has rum (which explains my intrigue), and used to be heated up and given to children to help them fight a cold. As a devotee of the hot rum toddy whenever a cold strikes me down, I have to say I approve.

The Oxford English Dictionary claims that nog used to refer to a strong beer. The term likely originates with the wooden cup in which the stuff was served, known as a noggin. It’s believed that the term ‘eggnog’ comes from America right around the birth of the country. No doubt its recipe has morphed a lot since then. The Brits were creating a similar drink using sherry or brandy, but rum was easier to come by (and not taxed by the Brits) in the western hemisphere.

Last night I enjoyed a glass of rum, and my tongue felt perfectly satisfied that it would have to wait another year to taste carton-sourced eggnog.

National Regifting Day

Yes. We have regifted. Even this year, we took something that was brought to us earlier in the year as a gift – something for which we had no use – and regifted it to someone in hopes they would enjoy it more. I won’t get into what it was (it was wine), or to whom we regifted (don’t worry, it wasn’t you), but it was done. And we feel no shame. It’s booze we aren’t particularly fond of but many people are. Nothing wrong with that.

Or maybe there is. Maybe the fact that we didn’t head out and spend our own money on this gift was an act of selfish skinflintery. Given that the recipient could not possibly know we didn’t buy the gift last week, and given that it’s a perfectly good quality unused product, I think we should get a pass. After all, it’s not like we Kebbi’ed the thing.

I have ranted about this elsewhere before, but I’m going to explain. 23 years ago I participated in a Secret Santa exchange at my place of work, a retail computer store that no longer exists in this city. Mr. Kebbi (I won’t mention his first name for legal reasons) was the person to whom I was supposed to give gifts. I gave a smattering of small things in the days leading up to the big exchange, and for the final large gift I gave a platter of home-baked goodies, each of which was crafted by my lovely wife.

I was admittedly a bit irked that I hadn’t received any small presents in the days leading up to the big one, but I hoped that final present would redeem the season. At the end of that shift I received the exact same platter of goodies I had given to Mr. Kebbi. He had drawn my name, and not really knowing me had decided to forego actually participating in the Secret Santa experience. Fortunately I was able to advise everyone in the store what happened, thus providing him with a decidedly humiliating reputation.

Regifting sucks. Unless you do it with unopened booze, and you can justify it in a few paragraphs in an online blog the recipient will probably never read.

Read A New Book Month

Jodie has motored her way through dozens of books throughout the year. Thanks to this project, and to my preference for watching films and playing games as a pastime, I have not. Yesterday I decided to crack one that Jodie had recommended for me, and to see if I could hammer through it in the remaining days of December.

I have time now. This project is getting quieter, I’m off work until January, and there are no holiday obligations now that shopping, wrapping and baking are done, and the only other family we’ll be seeing this week is my mom, who will be coming by here to join us in a meal we were going to eat anyway. Now is the time to dive in and read, I guess. At least until I remember that three of the games on my Steam wishlist are on sale, and dammit I’m treating myself.

Happy holiday, whichever ones you are celebrating.

What day is this? Why, it’s Christmas Day, Mr. Scrooge. And what else? Well, this is all the calendar has for us:

  • Christmas. Obviously we will celebrate this one. Actually, we’ll celebrate it with a massive feast and a drive through some pretty cool lights.
  • National Pumpkin Pie Day. I already celebrated this once. I remember, because I celebrated it with a doughnut.
  • A’phabet. This is a day for avoiding the letter ‘L’. No-L. Noel. Ha!
  • Takanakuy. A Peruvian celebration in which people fight one another to settle their differences. Sounds like it fits the day perfectly.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

We crept out of bed yesterday at the crack of noonish, ready to face a day that involved so many chores: Jodie had to pick up some bacon for Christmas morning, and I had to… walk the dogs, I guess. That’s about it. I also talked Jodie into baking one more batch of medicinal cookies for the year. We had heaps of time for celebrations, or – ideally – not celebrations. For sitting back and contemplating the silent sublime while we played video games or watched TV. This is chorin’ in a time of vacation, people. It’s going to feel a little weird. And I’m okay with that. Here’s what occupied our limited attention yesterday:


While we had no aluminum pole to mount, we certainly indulged in some feats of strength, as pictured above. We limited our wrasslin’ to human-vs-dog action, as we had no desire to meet one another in combat. We still have to be holed up in the same house with each other for another ten days, so it wouldn’t be prudent to unleash hostilities and leave open the door to vengeance. National Vengeance Day isn’t a thing, or if it is, I don’t believe it shows up within the next week or so.

Then there’s the airing of grievances. Oh boy did we have a few of those. Most were directed toward the people who have actively campaigned to make this year worse for everyone – Republicans, anti-maskers, the idiot executive at the W Network who felt it sensible to completely edit out the Martin Freeman story from their prime time airing of Love Actually, and so on. And of course we had a snarl or two for the virus that has kicked this world on its ass and messed things up for everyone.

But the people who most deserve our grieve-ish ire this year are those who have continued to gather and party, denying that Covid is a threat, likely because they don’t believe they would die from it, so who cares? Thanks to those folks, who march in a ‘freedom’ rally every weekend in our little town, we are spending the holidays without our son, with my mother nervous to leave the house just to see us, and with my aunt in the hospital, deprived of any family to come and visit her. I’m sure most of you survived, but if I did have an aluminum pole on hand, I’d gladly use it to smack you around the head and neck. Selfish pricks.

And that, folks, is the true spirit of Festivus. Created back in the 60s by author Daniel O’Keefe, Festivus is a day geared toward those who don’t want to buy in to the Christmas trappings. Originally it was held on the anniversary of Dan and his wife, Jeanette. Over 30 years later, Dan’s son (also Dan) pitched the idea as a story for George Costanza’s family on Seinfeld, where he was working as a writer. The episode, The Strike, was a huge hit, and Festivus is still mentioned widely on social media every year on the 23rd. It’s likely this anti-holiday will outlive almost every other non-traditional celebration we’ve honoured this year, and that’s pretty impressive. Finally, something that will last. For the rest of us.

National Roots Day

We have already combed through our family histories earlier this year, so setting this up as a rerun didn’t hold a lot of interest yesterday. After all, there was a nap to be had, and it wasn’t going to sleep itself. But it’s good to look back and contemplate a few of the brighter points from our lineage:

  • My great-grandmother was a professional tea-leaf reader at a café on our city’s main drag back in the day.
  • Jodie is descended from a legitimate slave who escaped via the underground railroad.
  • My grandfather once sold guns to the New York Yankees in their early-Depression-era prime.
  • Jodie’s grandmother worked as a waitress in a westernized Chinese restaurant into her eighties, simply because she loved the work.

To make this into a celebration, we had to learn something new. We asked Jodie’s mother for some new interesting piece of information. Having been adopted as a baby, she didn’t know much about her biological roots. Last year she obtained one of those 23-and-Me kits, and looked into her history. Weirdly enough, she learned that her birth mother had passed away just two months before she received the kit. How’s that for a cruel chuckle of fate? She also met numerous siblings though, so in the end it was a big win for her.

I asked my mother about my Uncle George, about whom I don’t know much (except that the man and his wife knew how to pack away the Christmas booze at my childhood Christmases). It turns out he worked for Edmonton Power. Neat.

It’s always good to learn a little something about oneself. Maybe my next project will involve hunting through my past for some cool stories. Or maybe I’ll just get back to that nap.

Tibb’s Eve

Tibb, for those who aren’t hip and in tune with 17th century English theatre history, was a character who popped up in multiple plays, usually as a loose-moraled woman intended for comic relief. Modern Tibbs would include Blanche on Golden Girls or the character portrayed by Jackée on 227 (bonus points for anyone who gets that dated reference). The term ‘Tibb’s Eve’ referred to a date in the future that would never actually happen. “I’ll pay you back on Tibb’s Eve” means you’ll never see a dime.

But how does one celebrate that? A day that never happens? Fortunately, the Newfies come to the rescue on this one.

At some point around the second world war, people living along the south coast of Newfoundland decided to designate December 23rd as Tibb’s Eve. Also, Tip’s Eve, and Tipsy Eve. The idea is that advent – a time of year that I always thought of as the period in which one counts down to Christmas by using waxy drug-store chocolates hidden behind tiny cardboard walls – is a time of sobriety and devoutness. Tibb’s Eve is celebrated by partying and drinking for just this one day, this close to the end of the advent period.

Americans probably don’t understand the relationship between Newfoundland and the rest of Canada. They have no equivalent. New Jersey is a frequent punchline (at least for New Yorkers), Florida Man is a celebration of bath-salts-snarfing criminal weirdos, and there are plenty of jokes that can be made at the expense of the residents of the deep south. But Newfoundland isn’t any of those. Newfies are our goofy partiers, the coiners of the most bizarre expressions in the lexicon. From my experience, we don’t resent or revile the Newfies – they add a splash of astounding flavour to our culture.

And for Tibb’s Eve, a celebration we can observe simply by cracking a drink or six, we are grateful.

Night Of The Radishes

Radishes are originally from China. At some point in the grotesque and often violent colonization of Mexico, the Spanish friars brought them over and introduced them to Mexican cuisine. When the friars still ran the show down there, it became fashionable to grab some particularly large radishes and carve religious iconography into them to display around Christmas. Weird? When you consider the bizarre traditions we have combed through this year, it’s pretty much normal, really.

In 1897, the mayor of Oaxaca proclaimed a radish-carving contest. That has continued every year since, and it still went down last night, albeit virtually. These folks are carving radishes that are larger than any I have seen at any store or in any restaurant around here. They are also carving with actual skill, something that I do not possess. Perhaps I should have practiced on a few.

Last night we dropped the religious iconography notion and simply carved a radish face apiece. It was a weird way to pass the time, but we aren’t getting out of this year without a few more bizarre indulgences. As is tradition, since the radishes don’t hold up for long after being carved, they will be tossed out later today. Or maybe we’ll keep them around and display them as long as possible, just to see what happens to a carved radish over time. It’s not like I’ve ever looked into that before. Actually, the dogs already ate one of them, so maybe this is simply a completed experiment.

From feats of strength to radish carving, yesterday was an unusual one. And I still got my nap.

I’m sure most folks are celebrating something today. Here’s what’s on the menu, in case you’re looking for something to fill the void without your extended family visiting:

  • Christmas Eve. Well, obviously. We will celebrate this relatively traditionally (for us), with new pajamas and a classic piece of cinema.
  • National Eggnog Day. A beverage no one but me enjoys. Do we drop money down on the stuff anyway?
  • Last Minute Shoppers Day. We can stretch and relax throughout the last minute. We were prepared this year.
  • National Regifting Day. Another Seinfeld reference? Cool. We have regifted in the past. We’ll admit it.