Christmas Freak

The merriest corner of the Internet

Month: December, 2013

Garnish

New Year’s Eve is always a let down when you’re expecting a second Christmas instead of a party that starts too early, making it impossible to show up fashionably late; swaps sequins for tinsel, listicles for icicles, mini dresses for fair isle, and boring champagne for spiked nog, mulled wine, and punch; and ends with a countdown to January, which is arguably the second worst month of the year. Enter garnish, Christmas decor in miniature. A tri-colored wreath of caviar. Crimped carrots and leafy tufts of kale fanned along the edges of a platter. A cozy bed of lettuce. Snowy sugared rims and ribbons of lemon peel suspended in syrup and maraschino cherries dangling in grenadine like ornaments. You can find Christmas in almost any holiday.

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Plaid Anxiety

Too wide and it resembles pajamas. Too checkered and it resembles a tablecloth. Too much white and it looks executive. Too much black and it looks lumberjack. Too red and green and it looks like a kilt. I like those shiny plaid party dresses, but worry that they will make me look like a child. Ditto for prep school skirts. I want a plaid shirt but don’t own an iron, which renders any collar unwearable after the first wash. Plaid scarves are a must, but don’t pack enough punch. Plaid lining makes even the ugliest of coats desirable, thus making it sartorially dangerous. How to get that wrapped-up in ribbon and twine look while still appearing like a serious, normal adult?

Merry Christmas, Darling

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I feel a little sad when I listen to the Carpenters. For me, their album, “Christmas Portrait,” has always embodied Christmas Day. It’s as wholesome as a glass of warm milk on the mantle, but also nostalgic, a reminder that the day will soon be over. I get so delirious on punch and powdered sugar in the days leading up to Christmas that when the 25th actually arrives, I want to cling to the decorative tablecloth and holly garlands and shriek “You can’t take it away from me! Not this year!” feel wistful and unsure of how to best soak up every last bit of the season’s joy. This year, instead of forcing your loved ones to pry the holiday spirit from your cramped white knuckles, why not sneak the last of the thumbprint cookies, curl up in front of the potbellied stove, and let Karen Carpenter’s buttery voice ease you into the new year, which, as all ChristmasFreaks know, truly starts on December 26th. Wishing you a Merry Christmas.

The L.L.Bean Holiday Catalog

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I need all of these items. A wreath? Can never have too many. A handheld radio? Essential for power outages. A pop-up lantern? Perfect for camping out under the table with a plate of cookies. A headlamp? Great for attic gift spelunking. A fleece-lined flannel shirt? All clothes should be lined with a blanket. Sheepskin booties? Just look at them.

Though I spend most of the year trying to outsmart junk mailings with pseudonyms and trails of fake addresses, I cherish the arrival of the holiday catalog. I save it for when I’m all alone, then dim the lights, cue the Motown holiday hits, bust out the mulled cider, and slowly peruse each page with a sharpie and a set of post-its while slathering myself with maple syrup and peppermint melt-away crumbles. Wherever you are, I hope your Christmas Eve is bursting with the anticipation of sugary treats and snowy nights bundled with fleece, of french toast doused in jam and syrup, and inessential essentials piled beneath the tree come morning.

Sexy Santas

Last December, I was walking up Broadway, humming a Carpenter’s tune and feeling generally wholesome when two sexy Santas stumbled out of a bar, puked on the curb, then asked me if I had a cigarette. Nay! I wanted to say. And by the way, who’s the one claiming to be Santa here? Fix your buttons! Get in character! Instead I shook my head and smiled. A good dose of Christmas cheer never hurt anyone.

I know I should be wary of sexy Santas, but in truth, I find them endearing, and a testament to the strength of the Christmas spirit. What other holiday inspires people to put on an old man’s outfit, snip the hems to a rated-R length, and romp around the city in a Suessian hat and a pair of buckled boots? So all you modest ChristmasFreaks, I give you my blessing. Unshackle yourselves! Don your suspenders and your Santa short shorts! Unclasp the buttons from their holes! Unclasp the buckles from their belts! Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs! In two days it’ll be Christmas. Go nuts!

The Furtive Poinsettia

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I’ve never been fond of poinsettias. I consider them sly and untrustworthy. Their “petals” look suspiciously similar to the leaves beneath, and though the vibrant red looks good from far away, it has this odd dustiness that seems noxious if airborne, and makes me wonder if the color was sprayed on. Do they even need water? Unclear. I don’t even like to walk close to them when they’re displayed by the entrance of a store. It seems unwise to turn one’s back on a plant that is trying to disguise itself as a ribbon. To what end?

It took seeing a pale, sickly poinsettia discarded in the parking lot at Trader Joe’s to change my mind. Its foil was shredded from the wind, its leaves frostbitten and dappled with white spots. The ghost of Christmas past must have entered me, for I felt so sorry for it that I almost picked it up and put it my trunk. It looked so lonely. I didn’t, of course. I left it there, and watched as a minivan backed into it. I suppose it was inevitable, though I drove home feeling like a scrooge. What’s wrong with a bunch of ugly little plants trying to get into the holiday spirit? They deserve happiness, too.

Urban Tree Toppers

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In the decade plus that I lived in New York, I don’t think I ever saw a star. I was too busy peering into other people windows, checking out their furniture. Besides, most city dwellers know that a distant airplane can look just as pretty as a star, and that the lit up windows of a skyscraper can look just as lovely as a constellation. So when I was looking for a tree-topper, a star just felt . . . unnatural. If you live in New York and feel like personalizing your tree, may I suggest topping it with a homemade water tower? Mine also ended up looking kind of like a rocket ship; I like that it’s up for interpretation. Below are a few more ideas:

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Clockwise from the top left is a cloud of fog for San Francisco. Which can also be used as smog for LA. The O is obviously for Chicago. Oprah! And then a burning Red Sox car for Boston. Sorry if I didn’t name your city. I need to travel more, and plane tickets always seem too complicated to put on a Christmas list.

Bob Dylan’s Christmas Album

Picture: A dive bar on Christmas eve, sparsely filled. A sad, haggard man who’s been there since 3pm starts to sing along with the music. The other patrons join in on backup. A serenade for the lonely.

Every Paper Snowflake is Unique Chain

Proceed with normal paper snowflake chain making. Unravel, then snip indiscriminate bits off of each flake. Step back and behold the marriage of nature and art.

Nativity Scene Storage

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(not enough nativity)

When it comes to nativity scenes, the more life-sized and three-dimensional the better. I want lit-up figurines and burlap robes and hay, lots of hay. I’m looking for an immersive experience. In my ideal world, they would be kept up year round, which is why I’ve never given much thought to nativity scene disassembly. It seems an assumed fact that nativity scenes just vanish after December 25th, the golden light around them fading into the snowy sky like a distant, benevolent star.

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(not enough hay)

But the other day while I was driving back from the grocery store, an awful image flashed through my mind: a middle-aged man jamming a life-sized Joseph figurine into a shed packed with crap. That got me picturing storage lockers crammed with off-season mangers, tool closets wedged with a macabre mix of shepherds and hedge clippers and snowblowers, Mary’s unblinking eyes staring vacantly at the drafty cobwebs lining the roof. Jeez. Can all you Bethlehem landlords please just go buy a separate manger shed? And promise me that all the figures will be standing upright. Perhaps you can even position them dramatically. Maybe shine a light up at them for some ambiance, open the door to give them some air, then scoot the shed closer to the front lawn until it’s visible from the street. Just throwing ideas out there.

Strings of Things

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December will forever be the month when adults are allowed to produce arts & crafts that would, in any of the other eleven months of the year, be considered the equivalent of noodle art, and not be ridiculed. I want to say that I created the above “holiday garland” from artisanal kraft paper, using Biblical folding techniques, but in reality I stapled a bunch of toilet paper dowels together, then applauded myself for creating something that looked marginally like home decor. Maybe we can run with the “k” thing and call this “kringle paper.” Waste not, want not, okay? It’s the spirit of the season.

Kringle paper was borne from my desire to decorate my living room with ye olde strings of popcorn and cranberries. Then fear took hold. What if I get ants? What if the cranberries shrivel and grow mold? Perhaps I’m betraying how long I usually keep my tree (three months). Then I had a thought: Craisins! But when I strung them, they ended up looking like . . . elf turds.

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Though I kind of like it. It makes me think of Ye Olde ChristmasFreaks of Yore, taking down their trees in March only to discover an accidental garland of dried fruit. Christmas concentrated.

The Perplexing Interior Climate of Slippers

Feet remain cold for the longest time. Then they perspire. Then they become unbearably hot. Then they feel damp. Then they are cold again. I can’t be the only one who has this problem.

Pigs in a Blanket

Not technically Christmas themed, though if you mentally superimpose a miniature gingerbread house atop each piglet on the tray, you get an instant cuddly Christmas village.

Heavy Ornaments

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(dramatic rendering)

Why do they exist? The above ornament weighs more than my cat. The only branch that can sustain its weight is a stubby one deep in the middle, so densely covered in pine that I can only see the ornament when I bend down to water the tree. So unfestive! Also, I really think its weight has set my tree slightly askew (though I suppose that could also be the product of an uncalibrated tree holder). The paranoid part of me wonders if this is a scheme devised by ornament fabricators to trick us into buying a second heavy ornament to balance the tree on the other side. A Christmas Conspiracy! One so insidious, so pervasive that it can be traced up to the executive branch of the government! One so terrible that once it’s revealed we’ll have to hold a second, even better Christmas to make up for the first. Lightweight ornaments for all, pine needles scattered across the streets like confetti, 2.5 Christmas trees for every household . . . ! End fantasy.

Ersatz Nog

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The problem with egg nog is that I want to drink it all time. I tried to do this a few years ago when I realized, to my dismay, that grocery stores only carry it in December (the audacity!). So on a dark day in February I decided to make my own. Big mistake. Did you know that egg nog primarily consists of–well, I won’t tell you. You don’t want to know how the sausage gets made. Then you’ll end up at the grocery store at seven in the morning on a Saturday in December, staring wistfully at the shelves of thick, hearty, sunshine-in-a-carton Egg Nog, before bending down and comparing the gellan and locust bean gums in Almond Milk Nog to the carrageenan and caramel coloring in Soy Nog, and wondering which is “healthier.”

The soy nog has this chemical nutmeg twinge that tastes like Christmas in a uniquely American way, sort of like how cheese dogs taste like Independence, and waxy candy corn tastes like Halloween. The almond nog is a little better. It actually has brown specks in it, which I’m assuming are bits of nutmeg, though it has this tongue-coating effect that I find distressing. Verdict: soy milk and almond milk to do not taste like egg yolks mixed with heavy cream. The search continues.

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