That's not to say that I don't love Christmastime. In fact, I WANT to love it so much more. I'd love to savor the twinkling lights, walk leisurely through a delicate snowfall, and listen to obnoxious Christmas songs on an endless loop. But things like work and bills and chores get in the way- the same things that get in the way the other 11 months of the year- which just makes it feel like the other 11 months of the year. I always find myself saying "It doesn't feel like Christmas yet." And I'm afraid that it'll never feel like Christmas again until I get my two week vacation back. Sometimes I come across the occasional inkling of holiday spirit with an especially good hot chocolate or watching Fraggle Rock's Spirit of the Bells, but the feeling is fleeting and the all-inclusive warmth of the season still escapes me. Well not this year readers! Join me as I raise a defiant fist in the air and painfully force myself to reclaim this holiest of holidays!
Step #1 Visit Walgreens' seasonal aisle
Seems simple enough (because it is) but it really does the trick. I happened to have a few minutes to kill the other day and found myself wandering the aisles of my local Walgreens. As I rounded the corner to the seasonal aisle, I was expecting to find the usual garland and ornaments (which I did), but I also found a rush of holiday memories I forgot I had. Apparently, in my brain, Reeses Peanutbutter Cups in the shape of bells= Christmas. As I found a bag sitting on a shelf, I began to vaguely remember the delectable little treats in a glass dish on our kitchen table during the holidays. Lovely little morsels dressed in red, green, and gold foil. Before I knew it, I was gently caressing the bag of Reeses with the tenderness one might caress an old baby blanket, softly saying "awww" and creeping people out. Just that little spark gave me the indescribable excitement of recalling something I hadn't remembered in so long.
Step #2 Watch every holiday movie in existence
Now, to be fair, I know time is a scarce commodity during the holidays and most of us don't have hours to dedicate to cheeseball holiday movies. However, I have found that renting these movies, watching them late at night, getting way too comfortable on the couch with your Snuggie, and falling asleep for a majority of the movie still works just fine. This way, you still catch the beginning and the very end as you awake from your impromptu nap, and those are the most important parts anyway, right? We all already know Scrooge is visited by three ghosts, George Baily is visited by Clarence, and Clark W. Griswold is visited by Cousin Eddie. However, the very essence of the movie is always at the end. We find out what happens every time a bell rings, Scrooge de-humbugs for Tiny Tim, and the Griswold's get the bonus needed to build that pool. See? Nap+Movie= maximum viewing efficiency.
Understandably, some of you may want to actually view a movie in its entirety. In this case, it's essential to weed out the lame ones and watch the ones that will warm your heart. The following list contains the only holiday movies worth seeing.
1. It's a Wonderful Life- duh. I'm a huge fan of old movies. Especially ones that refer to unmarried women as "old maids"
2. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation- it's a classic (plus Sara has a thing for Clark Griswold)
3. A Muppet Christmas Carol- the Dicken's classic made even awesomer with masterful muppetry
4. A Christmas Story AKA a biographical depiction of my dad's childhood
5. The Christmas Toy- another Henson favorite that my mom recorded onto VHS when it aired on TV, 1980's commercials included
6. Elf- a recent addition to the list but all the worthy and heartwarming
And that's it. I'm sure my somewhat abbreviated list will spark controversy in that there's no Miracle on 34th Street or White Christmas or other more lame Christmas movies, but I don't care. A girl can only fall asleep to so many movies.
Step #3 Make REAL hot chocolate
If making hot chocolate for you involves water, a packet full of a fine brown dust, and a microwave, then you oughta be ashamed of yourself. Making delicious velvety hot chocolate from scratch can involve as little as two ingredients and do as much as help you to reclaim your culinary dignity. First, warm milk (skim, 2%, whole- your choice) in a small saucepan. When the milk begins to bubble ever so slightly, whisk in a handful of chocolate chips or chop up half of a chocolate bar until melted and VIOLA. No processed brown powder involved. Once you've mastered this simple technique, you can really get creative and add some chopped Andes Mints, or a teaspoon of vanilla extract and cinnamon, or even a splash of rum (I wouldn't know anything about this though). Holiday in a cup!
Step #4 Slip on the ice
I know you probably don't want to do this, but it's bound to happen (at least to me anyway) so you may as well enjoy every terrifying moment of it as though it were a holiday gift you weren't expecting. And if, by the grace of God, you don't slip on the ice, the holidays are prime viewing time to watch others slip. I had the fortune to do so last winter. It was moments after my friend Rick and I had just snickered at the man in front of us teetering dangerously on a patch of ice when Rick himself slipped on that SAME ice. Like icing on a cake (get it? icing?), Rick also spilled the soft drink he had just purchased all over himself. It was the greatest.
Step #5 Sweat in your winter coat
The moment the holiday season truly struck me this year wasn't when I heard the Salvation Army ringing bells on Michigan Avenue or when the Daley Plaza tree was lit, but when I wandered through a crowded store wearing a coat that had promptly turned into an oven. It was hot, it was crowded, it was Christmas.
Step # 6 Catch a cold/sinus infection/flu
It's your choice really- there's so many to choose from. Sara went with the sinus infection this year, just to spice things up a little. I was thinking of waiting until January or February to get one. Whichever you choose, nothing says holidays like lying corpselike on the couch with a bottle of Nyquil and breathing heavily through your mouth.
Step #7 Gain 25-30 pounds
Now, I don't mean to brag or anything, but I can pretty much do this step with my eyes closed ANY time of the year. So around the holiday season when everyday presents a new treat to enjoy, gaining weight is about as easy as stuffing your face with cookies and candies all day long. Actually, it's EXACTLY that easy. And nothing says holidays like looking back on pictures of yourself when your face appears to be nothing but a bloated likeness of your former self. Embrace it people.
And there you have it- my seven easy steps to recapturing the essence that is Christmas. Of course, these are loose guidelines so feel free to omit some (except #7, it's gonna happen) and add others. And, yes, I realize Christmas is in two days and no one can possibly begin to complete almost any of these steps in that time. The truth is, I began writing this blog over a week ago and haven't had a chance to finish it until now...while I'm at work...at 6:30am. So I suppose if there's any actual value in today's blog, it's that maybe my new Christmas spirit means being frazzled and tired to the point of insanity, broke to the point of tears, and eventually having a marathon baking session until the point of pure bliss. I wouldn't call it "Christmas New and Improved", let's just call it Christmas 2.5.