Metatalktails: Alternative Holiday Traditions November 17, 2018 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Hello friends. Eyebrows McGee is taking a much-needed nap, so I'm here instead this week. Tonight, I want to hear about your alternative holiday traditions. For any holiday at all -- do you celebrate it differently, in a good way? Did your family have a tradition you belatedly realized was just done by you? Did your holiday alternative ever go hilariously wrong?

Come on in and chitchat - as always the topic is a conversation starter, not limiter. The only limit is no politics please.
posted by LobsterMitten to MetaFilter-Related at 3:17 PM (120 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

My parents were big birdwatchers when I was a kid, so Thanksgiving wasn't an at-home kind of holiday. Instead it meant a birdwatching trip to a windswept marsh to spend long chilly hours peering thru binoculars and going "a grebe! a grebe!" and similar. It worked out ok, because places like that are flat and not very trafficky, so good for kids to tootle around on bikes.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:29 PM on November 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


So this isn't really special but my dad always made his own cranberry sauce. He said jellied cranberry sauce from a can was crap. The problem is that I loved (and still love for that matter) that bitter red jello. Growing up I so deeply envied my non-homemade cranberry sauce friends.

In hindsight, my dad's cranberry sauce with nuts and actual cranberries is really good. I kind of wish that we just could have had both.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:34 PM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


We'd wrap string lights around our big cedar trees outside! Took longer than decorating an indoor tree but it was pretty sweet.
posted by Freeze Peach at 3:39 PM on November 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


I thought everybody gave out family presents on Christmas eve, not Christmas morning for years and years.

I'm a little crabby this morning, unjustifiably so! I had to do my long run quite late last night and consequently slept badly and feel like I can't get cool. Hayfever is making me irritable, and my damned cat scratched my forehead running over my head this morning and I look like a moron lol. It's all up from here! Making lasagne this afternoon with ricotta instead of white sauce, had one this way at a cafe during the week and thought it was aces.
posted by smoke at 3:39 PM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


My grandpa ran Christmas morning like a benign dictator, sitting by the Christmas tree and methodically handing out presents to each person in turn, who opened it and oohed and ahhed over it, then we all oohed and ahhed over it, then the person thanked the giver and tidied away the wrapping, then the cycle repeated. This isn't unique, right? I feel like this is a pretty common way of doing it.

Then I got married. The first time we had Christmas with my husband's family, the kids all descended on the tree like a pack of rabid dogs and 30 seconds later it was over, shredded paper everywhere, nothing appreciated and nobody thanked. There must be something about this method to recommend it but I can't think what. I'm open to other thoughts on it.

I made this Serious Eats pressure cooker beef barley soup last night and it's delicious.
posted by HotToddy at 3:48 PM on November 17, 2018 [15 favorites]


When I was a kid we'd do the traditional-nontraditional movie and Chinese food Christmas. Worst movie we could find, preferably. The ones I remember are Ishtar, Spies Like Us, and The Three Amigos. I saw Ishtar again a couple of years ago...I definitely should not have seen it in the theatre, I was 12. Last couple of years a friend and I have done movie marathons with snacks on my couch on Christmas Day. I'm into it.

I did not enjoy the traditional Christmases with my now former in-laws (too many people, too much everything), though I loved the food, a mix of North American and Filipino. Plus I usually made latkes. Ham goes really well with latkes, gotta say.
posted by wellred at 4:07 PM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


We always have mashed rutabaga for Thanksgiving and Christmas. My maternal grandfather's parents came over from Ireland, and they were the kind of poor where they ate potatoes for every meal, and rutabaga for holidays. So when they came to the US my great-grandmother insisted on making rutabaga for holidays to remember where they came from, and so we still do today! It's a bit of an acquired taste so it's sort-of like family hazing for new in-laws. And if you bring mashed rutabaga to Friendsgiving I can promise you'll be the only one who brought mashed rutabaga!

Mini McGee had eye surgery this week to correct a crossed eye and he was a trooper. Wasn't super-happy coming out of the anesthesia, but he was very cooperative with the whole process. Plus he got four popsicles in recovery.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:20 PM on November 17, 2018 [26 favorites]


With Dad gone, it's been difficult to do traditional holidays. Last year was the first year we had a turkey for thanksgiving, and with just Mom and me it's a good but simplified menu -- before that, we'd make stir fry or pizza and then focus the rest of the day on naps and watching the dogs play. We're doing turkey again this year and we each get our own kinds of cranberry -- mom makes a relish with fresh cranberries and citrus, and I like the cranberry jelly that goes THWOK when you dump it from the can, in once piece, ridges glistening.

Christmas these days means a mission to drive up to my mom's tiny, uninsulated summer cabin up in the mountains to make sure the doors and windows are secure, and that no families of mice have set up housekeeping in the cupboards, and that no birds have somehow gotten past the fireplace flue (one year we found feathers but no bird; the mystery persists but we are certain the bird was okay). It's 9000-foot elevation and soul-shivering for six months out of the year, but we do this in service to the summer ahead.

After we check on the cabin, we drive the mile or so down to the lake to watch the ice fishers. The lake is rather desolate and away from the trees and when it's cloudy, the ground and water and sky are often all the same shade of white, and the ice fishers and their tents out on the flats of the frozen lake are cheerful in red and blue and green. If the sun's out, the sky is a brilliant blue and you can see the jagged edges of the Colorado Collegiate mountains far in the distance. When the fishers drill a new spot, the whirr of the drill echoes and cracks across the lake for an easy mile.

We bring a picnic and sit in the snow at the picnic tables, we've brought thermoses and actual summer picnic food like fruit and cheese and crackers, as both of us don't care to cook or to bring anything too fussy to have to bring back with us. The dogs chase the bunnies, but the dogs are heavy and slow and the bunnies always get away.
posted by mochapickle at 4:25 PM on November 17, 2018 [39 favorites]


One of the absolute critical things for me with Christmas is a meat pie - we can do whatever else but I need one of those pies for the season to have any meaning whatsoever to me. Even when I lived on my own I'd make at least one.

So I don't always connect much with my in-laws but one of the nicer ways they've included me, after I got married, was that they would always ask for meat pies to be made for every family event and especially at Christmas. It is always the first thing gone at any of these family events. Despite my differing views with them it is nice that we can at least agree on meat pie. One of the things I've adopted from them is the observance of St. Nicholas' day and is often for us the real marker for the Christmas season and we often put up the tree on that day.

One holiday we started to celebrate a few years ago that wasn't really part of either of our traditions is Children's Day on November 20th. We usually give a small gift of art supplies to the kid, usually eat a special meal and do some kind of special activity as a family.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:52 PM on November 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


What a great description of those tents on the lake, mochapickle.

We loosely wrap toys and bones for the dogs and let them open them themselves. It's always sweet to watch the new dog learn from the old dog what to do with this colorful lump in front of them. Their tails just wag and wag, and they start to look forward to the next new colorful lump to mangle.
posted by yoga at 4:58 PM on November 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


I am doing something different with my holiday cards this year and I’m really excited about this new tradition but I’m signed up for holiday cards here so I don’t want to spoil anything.

My mom has two kitchens and more space so our Thanksgiving tradition is to invite the in-laws over to my parents’ house. The mister cooks and my parents clean up and everyone is very happy with that arrangement. The mister makes his homemade cranberry sauce, which is called the civilized sauce, and sweet potato casserole. A can of cranberry sauce and a can of candied yams are served for my dad and me, because we are heathens. I don’t usually like canned vegetables but there is something so damn comforting about those candied yams. It’s been a really long time since we had a Thanksgiving at my Memere’s, sometime before I was married, but I think the yams remind me of her. I miss her.

Hanukkah. We light the candles, hugs all around as we say “Happy Hanukkah” in that overly exaggerated way, and then, even though Kid Ruki will be 17 next month, the mister and I still make a big show every single night of “forgetting” that there is a gift for her. She called our bluff once as a tween, but the next year had gained the wisdom that the show was now for us and not for her.
posted by Ruki at 5:04 PM on November 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


HotToddy, that's how we do it too and I imposed that on the family I married in to. We put out a spread of delicious and easily edible while sitting on the couch foods (I've made kouignn ammans the past few years), brew up a pot of coffee and tea and there may also be eggnog or mimosas and if we're done before 1:00 we've done something very wrong.

I have been known to make the eggnog recipe from the Joy of Cooking, except I use cognac instead of whatever the book says. This is passed down from my dad who started letting me have some of this concoction on Christmas Eve when I was probably far too young. Now that I have a child of my own, I understand the desire to give your kid booze on Christmas Eve.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:09 PM on November 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


When I was about twelve I read someone's short Christmas memoir essay in a magazine, in which they discussed a ridiculous round-robin gag gift that they'd been passing around for years. Something about that struck me and I decided I wanted to do the same thing.

I dug out an old discarded pretend cowboy hat my little brother used to have, gave it a spruced-up hatband (I think I used fabric paint and a rubber stamp to print trees on it) and gave it to my grandfather that year, in his role as family patriarch, and declared that it was "The Christmas Hat". The rules, I explained, was that whoever got the Christmas Hat had to wear it the rest of the day, then add some kind of decoration to the hat before giving it to someone else the following year.

My bemused family decided to play along the first couple years - and then really started getting into it, particularly the "decorative element" thing. One of my uncles used to manage a Christmas-themed amusement-park thing, and added a burnt-out bulb from one of their displays. Someone else added a sprig of fake pine. My mother was into quilting when she got it, so she added a little sachet-size patchwork pillow. Someone else added a little paper snowflake. Somewhere along the line someone added a jingle bell, which started to tip off people before they unwrapped it; but that actually helped cut through the unwrapping chaos that came with all 20-odd of us gathered. We would all be crowded in my aunt's living room, the kids excitedly handing out presents to people from under the tree and people talking with each other as they unwrapped things, and someone would get midway through unwrapping a box and hear the bell and exclaim "oh God" loud enough to cut through the noise - and everyone would instantly realize it was The Hat, and everyone would start cracking up and stop to watch, a couple of people scrambling to get their cameras. At some point there was so much on the hat that we declared amnesty on wearing it for the rest of the day, and the recipient simply had to pose for pictures in it before taking it off.

Things kind of slowed down for a while as my cousins and I went off to college and had our various Christmases with other families where we were and such, and [eople were all scattered, and no one trusted the mail with The Hat and so it got held back, and at some point it had been so long since the last time someone unwrapped The Hat that we all kind of forgot who had it. But then after a while, my brother and my cousins started getting married and having their own kids, and time went on and gradually it was my niece and nephew and my cousin's kids who were the excited kids handing out presents to everyone, and I was one of the grownups perched on a chair and chatting and drinking wine while unwrapping things.

And then, a couple years ago - about 35 years after I started it off - my cousin's husband found himself unwrapping a battered old costume cowboy hat covered with three additional layers of ridiculous foobaz, given to him by my uncle (his father-in-law) - and he held it up, asking "what the heck?" and all the little kids, equally baffled, marveled with him as all the rest of us adults lost our shit laughing and I threw my arms in the air and shouted "IT LIVES!!!!!"

We haven't all gathered again yet, but L is waiting. I'm sure.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:17 PM on November 17, 2018 [86 favorites]


...Oh, another tradition we have is a guy named "Sam Yakaboochie" who started giving us gifts when my brother and I got too old for Santa, but I've already talked about that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:23 PM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


My parents didn't put out any Christmas presents until Christmas eve after we were in bed when we were little. Because Santa brought them. This persisted well past when my brother and I were onto the whole "Santa" thing. It made Christmas morning really special--we would gather in the kitchen first, Mom or Dad would sneak into the living room and turn on the tree lights and light a fire in the fireplace. Then we'd all troop into the magical room.
posted by agatha_magatha at 5:26 PM on November 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


I am uncertain if I’ve shared this in a comment somewhere on the site before; forgive me and Things are Different Now the kids (my cousin and I) are headed towards 40 and mom is gone and dad is remarried into another family and one of my aunts also had a stroke, and... well, y’all know. Now Winston and I watch football and cook a steak for me and salmon for him and enjoy the tree and my dvd of A Christmas Story and I crank the heat up to 72 so I can walk around my house in shorts and a t-shirt.

But growing up and even into my early adulthood, we’d all have breakfast and then there would be a fire in the fireplace and everyone would sit around in a circle and eat more snacks and drink coffee and Bloody Marys and someone would be chosen to hand out the gifts. Everyone would then have their little stack of gifts next to them; when they were all handed out, we would commence to opening them, one person at a time. You had to read the card/tag of who gave it to you, and then you carefully opened the gift and held it up or passed it around for everyone to see and touch.

Then, everyone clapped.

No one knows why. It’s just what we did. And even now as an adult, when I go to some sort of function and someone is unwrapping gifts, I clap. I don’t even think about it; it’s like a Pavlovian reaction. Tissue paper or wrapping on the floor and I’m like :::clap clap clap clap clap:::

Anyway, the aunts would also provide people with random items they found at Goodwill or The Dollar Tree (one year my mom got a plate with Jesus on it; the other aunt got the matching Mary plate), the men got peanuts, everyone got liquor, and until I was an adult I was always given some sort of “girly” gift that was supposed to make me Feel Like A Lady or something (ok, I’m sorry, but a woven gold lamé belt DID NOT and still WOULD NOT make me magically be more ladylike). My uncle out in Colorado also sends various cannibis-themed gifts and everyone just complained that he didn’t send more liquor.

We also bought a country ham every year, and it came in a box placed on some of that fake grass that people put in Easter baskets. This ham was wrapped in a sack of linen or cotton or something and it was placed, box opened for display, underneath the tree. I determined as a very young child that “meat”+swaddling clothing+“manger”= baby Jesus. So the baby Jesus came to our house for his birthday.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 5:42 PM on November 17, 2018 [17 favorites]


No traditions in particular, but for the majority of years between ‘94. & ‘2004, I spent Thanksgiving or Christmas camping in the hills in Mexico on caving trips. They were regularly the longest, best holidays to schedule trips where people could get time off — lots of cavers are childless & unattached so that nothing gets in the way of caving (I just happen to have always had an understanding family) and always spend the holidays on an expedition of some sort. I miss those trips. They were always festive & we’d usually plan a special meal, or make it into the closet town with a restaurant. I consider the Texas caving community to be family & they were always a fun bunch to spend the holidays with. The best of all was Mexpeleo ‘95 which was a week in the Sierra de Alvarez, just east of San Luis Potosí. There were about 80 or 100 people there, multiple amazing caves within walking distance of the site, & the city was close enough that we got to have Christmas dinner at my friend’s parent’s house in town, & they did it up, cooking all day & feasting at midnight on Christmas Eve.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:47 PM on November 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


I have had Thanksgiving with a MeFite friend almost every year since... 2009-ish? I should look it up at some point. We missed a few years due to geography or competing family things, but I love that now that we've shuffled off unsuitable partners, she and I get together and cook the food we want and don't have to dress up and generally end the evening on separate laptops reading MetaFilter and yay, introvert Thanksgiving with a wonderful friend!

For Christmas, my family of origin absolutely did the "everyone opens gifts simultaneously" and the first year we had an "outsider" with us -- my first serious adult boyfriend -- he made us do the one-by-one thing. My parents, however, had always been in the "buy lots of gifts for the kids (even after we were no longer kids) because they grew up poor-ish" camp, so it took forever and we were all a bit resentful, though also gracious in trying to compromise on competing family traditions.

I had an amazing day today of accidental birdwatching; a great blue heron, ravens, a covey of quail (maybe 13?), tons of little unidentifiable-to-me ones, and something very distinctive that looked like a brown thrasher, except those apparently aren't supposed to be in California, and the whole process of trying to ID it made me miss rtha. Also got into a fun three-way staring contest with me, one of the cats, and a wild turkey yesterday evening.

I am fed up at work and I applied for a promotion and my interview is Tuesday morning, so if anyone has any good thoughts to send my way, I would appreciate them. The job would be a bit of a step away from parts of my job that I like, but I'm so hating what upper management is doing that I'm finding those parts super-frustrating right now because they're not being supported or funded, and I don't have enough power to change that. Applied-for job could get me closer to having more say, while using skills that I'm good at, with apparently more resources and support. So! Good thoughts.
posted by lazuli at 6:10 PM on November 17, 2018 [20 favorites]


Now that we live in South Florida we go, with our chosen family, every Christmas day to the beach for a few hours in the afternoon lull to make sand angels (a la snow angels). Kids and adults one and all. Then we go home and text everyone we've ever known who lives in a cold climate to "wish you were here" with the pic
posted by chasles at 6:24 PM on November 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


Take a box grater. Grate a shit ton of potatoes (russets) then grate half as much onions (White) add one to two eggs and matzo meal until you have a good consitstancy. Add salt and pepper. Make small pancakes. Then fry in a half inch to a full inch of oil until golden brown (Canola or corn)
BOOM
Latkes.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:25 PM on November 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


Latkes, continued: A Cuisinart with the shredder disc makes it much easier. Squeeze some of the liquid out of the shredded potatoes for better consistency. Peanut oil, if everyone is cool with it, is extra delicious.
posted by wellred at 6:40 PM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


Eyebrows, the Gotanda family who are Irish from County Brooklyn (who knows where they came from back in the day) also has some serious rutabaga traditions. But, we always called them turnips growing up. Anyway, was back visiting a couple weeks ago, Mom cooked a pre-Thanksgiving and some of the Brooklyn folks came up to CT so much ruminating about past holidays, departed family members, and rutabagas. My paternal grandmother used to just mash up potatoes and rutabagas together. Apparently that was the way the paternal grandfather liked them. And, he was definitely never to be crossed in any way. He died young and many don't seem to be overly broken up by that fact.

Fast forward decades and arguments over whether or not one dear departed older uncle and his wife would serve three bowls at holidays: one mashed potatoes, one mashed turnips, one mix of both mashed. Some insisted all three were served. Others denied and claimed people could just mix them together on the plate from two separate bowls. However, said self-mixing was alleged not to be in the original spirit and inferior, so the third pre-mixed bowl was truly required and made sense.

This discussion went on for some time but no conclusion was ever reached. However all agreed that turnips/rutabagas are not actually animal feed as some maintain but are in fact delicious, or wisely held their tongues.

I'll be working on T Day this year as usual and many relatives will be gathering for Turkey and pie in New Hampshire. Traditionally everyone would bring pies. Lots of pies. In years past, as one of the younger cousins I would inventory the pies and calculate how many pies per person were available. Usually at least two and sometimes three if I recall correctly. I was always amazed by this number as a kid. This maternal side of the clan likes pies. Mrs Gotanda and I will be eating a roasted sweet potato in solidarity with those back in the US eating superior sweet potato pie.
posted by Gotanda at 6:48 PM on November 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


We always have mashed rutabaga for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Us too, probably because of my Irish grandmother. Although we always called them turnips, even though they were actually rutabagas. I love them with lots of butter and salt.
posted by octothorpe at 6:53 PM on November 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


We always had a Chanukah box. It was a big toy box that each year, we’d prop open, cover in crepe paper, then trim with tinsel, lights, and ornaments. All the presents went in the box. It wasn’t until sometime after college that I realized that Chanukah boxes weren’t the pretty universal Jewish alternative to Christmas trees. (They’re not, are they?)
posted by daisyace at 7:11 PM on November 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


My wife's family always has KFC on Christmas Eve. They're a fairly formal family, they get dressed up for Holiday dinners but the day before we get big buckets of chicken.
posted by octothorpe at 7:15 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Carne asada on the grill, with toasted tomato salsa and blackened tortillas instead of time-consuming turkey and other traditional foods. Everyone I tell this to in LA seems envious.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:36 PM on November 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


infintewindow, I'm in Sonoma and I'm envious!

My aunts make paella every Thanksgiving and I love that idea, too.
posted by lazuli at 7:40 PM on November 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


LobsterMitten: My parents were big birdwatchers when I was a kid, so Thanksgiving wasn't an at-home kind of holiday. Instead it meant a birdwatching trip to a windswept marsh to spend long chilly hours peering thru binoculars and going "a grebe! a grebe!" and similar.

When I was just starting out birdwatching, I hadn't yet seen grebes regularly, but kept coming across them in my birding books, and I came to enjoy calling everything I couldn't identify some variant of grebe. "Ah. Clearly a Pond-Dwelling High-Pitched Grebe."

(I am now at the point where I can fairly reliably identify oyster catchers, California quail, pelicans both brown and white, kingfishers, hummingbirds but not which kind they are, scrub jays, Steller's jays and yes I spell it correctly (but actually got it wrong, but then I checked Wikipedia), cormorants of course, surf scoters, mergansers, and large black birds which are either crows or ravens but I can't really be bothered to say which. Everything else is just, "Oh, that's a nice bird.")

(Thinking of rtha.)

Grebes!
posted by kristi at 7:52 PM on November 17, 2018 [16 favorites]


I don't have a great tradition to offer but I was hoping someone in this thread wouldn't mind hearing about how god damn cold I am. I don't know whether to complain to the building management or my doctor. Anxiety does make me chattering cold, but I'm not really anxious right now, and I've been getting cold in the evenings in a way that seems to be cyclical. I don't know what to think.

Okay, it's five minutes later and I've been spooning the radiator. It's better in here, but this is getting ridiculous.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:58 PM on November 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


A family tradition that I miss is staying up late on Christmas eve, last minute wrapping presents, and skyping/net phoning/calling (they were eye watering phone bills) our extended families at their Australian Christmas lunches. We are usually at those Christmas lunches, now.

This year is my first married Christmas at the farm with my spouse's family, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of their family traditions. (Apparently there is a last minute dash to get a tree decorated after the parents go to bed. I'll see how we go.)

Countess Elena, what's your insulation like? Don't discount talking to both your doctor and you land lord!
posted by freethefeet at 9:09 PM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am Jewish but did not grow up in a family that made latkes (or celebrated Jewish holidays or really cooked at all). A few years ago, on Christmas morning my sister-in-law brought in leftover latkes from the bagel shop where she worked and we reheated them and they were delicious! My husband had my cousin teach him how to make latkes. Now we have them every Christmas morning. Sometimes we have lots of family over and have a big brunch, and sometimes it's just the two of us.

We also have taken to watching Christmas at Pee Wee's Playhouse, a TV special from 1988 that's available on Netflix. It's so delightful. Basically every celebrity from the '80s is in it, either as themselves or a goofy character, including Oprah, Charro, Little Richard, S. Epatha Merkson, Frankie Avalon... I did not grow up watching Pee Wee but oh man this is great.

One thing I did do as a kid and still do now is a gift for the dog. It wouldn't even occur to me not to include him! We also get a gift for any other dogs in the family, it would be rude not to! A few years ago we were heading over to my mother-in-law's and we had put all the gifts in a big Ikea bag and set it in front of the door. When we weren't looking, my dog dove into the bag, found his gift, and tore it open! I couldn't be mad at him.
posted by radioamy at 10:15 PM on November 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


Family gifts were opened on Christmas Eve. Our family rule was one person at a time opens all their gifts, starting with the oldest.I’m pretty sure that was a large contributor to teaching me what little patience I have. If my in laws are over they ignore me, and a wrapping paper blizzard ensues.

Christmas Eve dinner is fish based: my grandmother’s menu is spaghetti aglio olio with anchovies, zeppole, fried cod fish. I hated it as a kid but now I love it. Christmas Day is ravioli and meatballs and braciole.

Making lasagne this afternoon with ricotta instead of white sauce
For your next go round, try both the ricotta and béchamel. It’s a decadent bomb.
posted by romakimmy at 11:15 PM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


Christmas as a kid involved a) going to one of my aunts' houses (aside from the year that we went camping as a giant family), having the big Christmas meal on Christmas Eve (because who wants to cook/sit down for a roast during the day in the middle of the South African summer?) and always having a Christmas morning swim, in a pool that generally had at least two giant watermelons floating in it to keep cool. Also we never eat Turkey as our Christmas roast, it’s always beef.

Presents were opened youngest to oldest, going around the room.

Nowadays, Christmas is either at my MiLs (see comments passim re: being an immigrant/awkward conversations), or I/we go up to my parents in T’North but this year, it is Christmas in my brand new house! (Moved in this weekend! surrounded by boxes! Wargh!) My baby bro will be having Christmas with his new In-laws, my middle bro is going to a friend's house and my parents are coming down to us. Very excited!
posted by halcyonday at 1:13 AM on November 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


I hate this time of year in general. Everything around "happy families" and "couples" swoops over my head and takes a shit on me.

I had a lovely dinner this evening with a friend who suggested I should stay at a hotel - maybe The Kennedy School for Thanksgiving. I'm totally doing that.

She's alone for Christmas as am I and we're contemplating being in her house in separate rooms and texting each other to find out if we want to chat for a bit. Perfect. Introvert. Holiday.
posted by bendy at 2:09 AM on November 18, 2018 [17 favorites]


When I was a kid we did what half of the Jewish people in my hometown did on Christmas and, through a local non-profit, delivered meals to people who needed them. Years later when I was in grad school, I went with coworkers at my research institution to deliver gifts to the pediatric oncology wing of the hospital across the street. Now I just volunteer to be the person at work on Christmas.

Thanksgiving we inevitably attempted to go to my aunt’s house and for some reason plans would fall through and we would end up at home eating bologna sandwiches and apple pie (we were responsible for desserts). This year I’m hosting the family thanksgiving and am hoping to avoid anyone eating bologna sandwiches.

Years ago when I was dating a nice Irish Catholic bartender, we created a new tradition where we would go out to a Chinese restaurant on St. Patrick’s day so he could avoid the drunken idiocy and stereotypes of the holiday.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:27 AM on November 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


This wasn’t regular enough to be a real tradition, but whenever there was a new Star Trek movie out at Christmastime, my dad and I would go see it in the theater.
posted by eirias at 3:11 AM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


For several years my older cousin would take my siblings and I to see the Home Alone movies in the theater at Thanksgiving.

Christmas Eve was for family gift exchange and also featured a talents show! All in attendance had to perform, including adults (tho mom always said her talent was baking). As we grew up we also add “all appetizers” Christmas Eve dinner and a cake and tea treat midday on Christmas.

My parents also “wrapped” one of my oldest brother’s gifts unusually. One year they gave him money for a trip and they had wrap the bills in a toilet paper roll that they rolled back up (so it looked like they had given him toilet paper).
posted by CMcG at 3:34 AM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Countess, that doesn't sound good. Do you know what the temperature is in your room? Or indeed your own temperature.

Good wishes for Tuesday, lazuli.

My father's come over for the day today. He's living on a boat on his own and has Alzheimer's. We were going to go out to an NT place but he arrived very cold so we've hunkered down for the day with hot drinks and Lebkuchen. He's fallen asleep now. I've got to re-write part of a school development plan (school governor thing) so am hoping I can get some of that done if he stays asleep. Since he's been living on his own, I've tried to see him once a week - it's taking up a whole day every week and I feel burdened by it. There is no time to do anything properly or anything enjoyable.

No alternative traditions here, I'm not really part of a family that has traditions in this way. Oh, I did used to ring the Speaking Clock at midnight on New Year, if that counts.
posted by paduasoy at 4:53 AM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


When I was growing up, our tradition for Christmas dinner was that every family member could have whatever they wanted for dinner. For me as the youngest, that was Kraft Dinner (Kraft mac & cheese, to Americans), since that was the biggest treat I could think of.

This year, after a few disastrous Christmases doing awful family stuff, my partner and I are spending the holidays with just her and I. We're planning to borrow a friend's Wii, make tamales and shortbread and nuts & bolts, and try, against all odds, to make a holiday that we both hate into something relaxing and fun.
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:00 AM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Countess Elena, try a hot bath. Soak until you are deep down warm. Moisturize!! after you are done! My workplace is consistently cold,and I have come home in the winter and been unable to get myself warmed up. It sucks. I agree with others, talk to your landlord, and your doctor.

Couple of things with our christmas's. I have all those ornaments that my kids made, and they go on the tree every year. We also have vacation ornaments, things we have bought or made to remind us of special trips. One of my favorites, a clear glass globe with sand and tiny shells from Culebra, made by my daughter, the year we all visited the island.

And one year, when cats Timmy and Stella were young, my parents gave us a big, prelighted artificial tree. We put it up, hesitantly, cause it was not what we would have chosen. However, THE CATS!! They went nuts, climbing up through the branches, playing tag and napping amongst the branches! We left the tree up, undecorated except for fluffy white and ginger tiger cats. We left that tree up for a long time that year.
posted by LaBellaStella at 5:01 AM on November 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


Thanksgiving mornings my family eats blueberry pancakes while watching the Macy's parade, which isn't too strange except - our pancakes are more blueberry than pancake and looks like blue mush once we get the butter on it.

Then Christmas Day is blueberry muffins made the same way, followed by an open brunch where we feed anyone that stops in.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:10 AM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I used to spend Christmas Eve with my athiest and Jewish friends eating Chinese food and watching Sci-fi and horror movies, while my son went to the ex's house. But they all moved away. Last year I spent Christmas Eve alone. Don't recommend it.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:13 AM on November 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


Oh, and for myself, when I am cooking Thanksgiving Dinner, everyone gets their favorite thing. Everyone. Every time.

I learned to make homemade noodles from my grandma. They are a bit of an event to make, so at a certain point, mom started using boughten noodles. A few years ago, I cooked, and made Grandma's noodles. Dad took one bite, looked at me and I nodded. He teared up, and just kept eating.
posted by LaBellaStella at 5:14 AM on November 18, 2018 [18 favorites]


We were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve. just before bed time. Then there was the year when I was about 10 that I was awake and ready for Christmas at 6 AM. However my parents rule was nobody up before 7 AM on Christmas morning. So I sneaked through the house and changed every clock, including the one in my parents bedroom. I'm still kind of proud that I pulled that off. Even my dad was more impressed than angry when the radio announced the time and he realized what was going on.

As adults Christmas eve means snuggling on the couch with a bottle of wine while watching a bad Christmas movie.
posted by COD at 5:23 AM on November 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


My husband has some Swedish background, and so his family always has Swedish pancakes on Christmas morning.

Apparently, my husband misparsed this, and when he was little and they were talking about family holiday traditions at school, he told his very confused teacher that they always ate Jewish pancakes on Christmas.

Enter me, 20-ish years later, for my first Christmas with them, which overlapped with Hanukkah. And we decide hey, you know what would be good with breakfast? Latkes.

So now my husband, in fact, eats Jewish pancakes on Christmas.
posted by damayanti at 5:39 AM on November 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


My grandpa ran Christmas morning like a benign dictator, sitting by the Christmas tree and methodically handing out presents to each person in turn, who opened it and oohed and ahhed over it, then we all oohed and ahhed over it, then the person thanked the giver and tidied away the wrapping, then the cycle repeated. This isn't unique, right? I feel like this is a pretty common way of doing it.

Then I got married. The first time we had Christmas with my husband's family, the kids all descended on the tree like a pack of rabid dogs and 30 seconds later it was over, shredded paper everywhere, nothing appreciated and nobody thanked. There must be something about this method to recommend it but I can't think what. I'm open to other thoughts on it.


I grew up closer to the second way -- we did open all our presents all at once, and hollered thank-yous across the room as appropriate and then when we exhausted our own loot we roamed the room looking at everybody else's admiringly. I don't claim this is the best way to do it, at all, but picture me, after being used to this system, spending Christmas at husband #1's house, and finding that they do it your grandpa's way, and because I'm the newest in the family, I get the first package, which I have to open while a bunch of people, most of whom I don't know very well, are STARING AT ME. Yikes! Thank goodness I'd had some acting training, is all I can say.

In other news, last night I finally found the answer to an AskMe I posted in 2012, and that made me very very happy.
posted by JanetLand at 6:48 AM on November 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


My parents were big birdwatchers when I was a kid, so Thanksgiving wasn't an at-home kind of holiday. Instead it meant a birdwatching trip to a windswept marsh to spend long chilly hours peering thru binoculars and going "a grebe! a grebe!" and similar.

Are we related? In retrospect that was not a bad way to spend a holiday, but at the time I was not very appreciative and would have preferred to be warm and indoors.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:52 AM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


We've traditionally had Christmas crackers at the table on Thanksgiving and Christmas. About a twelve years ago, my mother forgot to buy them and my sisters, cousin and I (older teenagers/adults) decided we couldn't risk having a meal without paper hats and resolved to make them, thus birthing a new tradition. Paper hat construction has gotten fairly complicated over the years, with people actively volleying to make hats for particular family members. My uncle and Cousin are both engineers who delight in roasting each other, which sometimes takes the whole deal to truly preposterous extremes.

Hat construction has died down of late for various reasons (my aunt's house, where we've been Thanksgiving recently, is on a lake and the appear of canoeing with wine before dinner has always been enticing)but the weather in her part of Virginia doesn't look great this year, so I'm hoping to revive it. I have a notion that I can make a Versailles-style headdress out of construction paper for my brother-in-law.
posted by thivaia at 6:55 AM on November 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


bendy—The Kennedy School hotel looks AMAZING!!!! If you end up staying there I would love to hear about it!
posted by bookmammal at 7:00 AM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


The Boyf and I watch Muppet Christmas Carol late on Christmas Eve. Usually we time it so that when it's Christmas morning in the movie, it's after midnight so we see in Christmas at the same time the Muppets do.

Then we go to bed all happy and eager for the rest of Christmas day.

"After all there's only one more sleep 'till Christmas."
posted by Faintdreams at 7:31 AM on November 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


Oh another one - the aunt and uncle who hosted all our family holidays didn't have a TV in the house, and they had a metric assload of books for my cousins instead. And my aunt would pull out all of the Christmas ones front and center every year, collecting new ones each year and leaving them in stacks around every room. She tended towards beautifully-illustrated picture books (it was through her that we all discovered the book The Polar Express), and even when my cousins were older she still saved all the books and set them out again every year.

It's a tradition I have adopted myself (and am on the hunt for more, actually).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Thanks for listening, y'all! I'm comfortable this morning, which is usual. I don't know what kind of insulation the building has; it's at least a hundred years old, brick and stone. The steam heat was downright stuffy last winter, so maybe they're overcorrecting. I'll have a word. But I need a physical anyway. My desk thermometer only says 69 or 70 F when I'm freezing.

I was thinking about rice. Sometimes I'll be walking through apartment hallways or in someone else's house and I will catch a cooking scent that makes my heart drop. It reminds me of the holidays at my grandmother's, of the Thanksgiving or Christmas meals she would make. And to this day I don't know exactly what it is. The closest I have come to having it in my own kitchen is when I make Zatarain's Spanish rice box mix, which was not something we had on our holiday table, so I don't know. But I think it must have to do with rice.

She's been gone for ten years this year. She had several months to prepare, so we were able to ask her things that we wanted to know, but I missed this one. I miss her.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:59 AM on November 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


Content warning: This reponse is serious and not meant to be A) snarky buzzkill or B) an attack on anyone's faith, just my personal feelings and beliefs.

For Thanksgiving, it's become a tradition for me to be at my friend's place where we have a sort of anti-Thanksgiving and eat a lot of mostly vegan food. We express thanks, yes, but it's independent of the holiday. We also tend to gripe and commiserate a lot about the sorry state of things.

Thanksgiving is increasingly offensive to me as a holiday the way Columbus day is for some. To me it's the celebration of the mass genocide of an indigenous people and the theft and conquest of their land. I don't think people who are not native know exactly how uncomfortable this is for every indigenous person I've been able to personally ask about it.

Of course they don't like it. What's there to like? There's Native American racist blackface caricatures basically everywhere from public schools to grocery stores and a bunch of occupying, conquering Europeans openly celebrating the death of your culture and lands.

And then people celebrate it by overeating and gorging themselves on an array of food that's... honestly kind of gross and heavy on the fats, salt and sugar. And a lot of the "traditions" that we celebrate aren't really traditions at all but the end results of successful marketing campaigns in the 50s and earlier, and for some strange reason we're still celebrating this 50s era menu and aesthetic from hell.

On top of all this there's the massive mountain of emotional and physical labor that a lot of women in a lot of households are expected to perform for this holiday. Whether it's the endless cooking or managing childcare on the same day or talking a drunk uncle down out of a tree (proverbial or actual) it's a usually a big pile o' crap.


For Christmas, I'm A) Increasingly pagan and/or atheist and have had a really hard time with identifying with anything Christian at all for like three decades and B) increasingly anti-materialistic.

So I haven't really celebrated it in as much as 15 years. Maybe 20. I don't buy presents for people, and I expect none.

I have no dinner plans, and the people I know who also actually don't celebrate it at all tend to be far flung, and I definitely don't want to hang out with the people who want to observe it but can't. Because I tried that once and have gone to bars or on random "let's find somewhere open to eat" dates and it's always been really depressing.

I've done something different every year, but this year I'm throwing and DJing a dance party on Solstice with a dark Saturnalia theme. There's going to be at least one tree hanging upside down and nailed to the ceiling, not to mention a random collection of bones and skulls and other witchy stuff going on. This time I have a posse to help decorate and set things up, and so far it's made up entirely of the gothic, and actually actively pagan women in my life. It's going to be so good.
posted by loquacious at 8:19 AM on November 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


The first year me and my girlfriend started dating, we were both broke AF around Christmas, so we decided to only buy our Christmas gifts from thrift stores. We managed to some pretty good stuff for each other, so now every year the majority of our gifts are from thrift stores. It's a good way to get a ton of presents under the tree, and we're not terribly materialistic people, so it makes shopping less of a drag and gift-opening more exciting, cuz when you really nail a gift, there's the added bonus that you found it in a thrift store.

Growing up, my family never opened gifts earlier than Christmas Day, so whenever anyone tries to get me to open one on Christmas Eve, it's a hard pass from me.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:36 AM on November 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


honestly kind of gross and heavy on the fats, salt and sugar.

Bring it.

My favorite tradition, other than the usual ones, is "menorah made from random junk." My sister and I are not really Jewish enough to remember when Hannukah is but we really like the tradition generally. And we always have boxes of candles because they're always on sale at the discount stores. So there's always a last minute scramble "What can we make a menorah out of this time?" I think one year it was orange halves. Two years ago it was test tubes. I did enjoy binder clip menorah. It's probably this thread every year that gets me googling "When is Hannukah" and then I look forward to grousing about how Facebook and Instagram's algos mean that other people's candle pictures are out of order.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:44 AM on November 18, 2018 [20 favorites]


I think I've mentioned this before, but my family has a tradition of doing Practice Thanksgiving.

What's Practice Thanksgiving? Well, I'll quote the invitation: "Thanksgiving is a great holiday. It is too good to do just
once a year with your family. We want to spread the thankfulness and the calories."

It's a huge house party that my parents have thrown since 1977. We ask people to bring whatever their canonical Thanksgiving thing is - side dish, appetizer, dessert. We take care of the stuff you need in quantity - that means two large turkeys, minimum (some years, we've done three). Potatoes (10 lbs of mashed potatoes is normal; I've made as much as 15). Mashed sweet potatoes. Two kinds of stuffing (sausage/mushroom and cornbread/crawfish). Gravy in quantity. Cranberry sauce. Everything else changes (somewhat) from year to year.

Practice Thanksgiving 2018 was a week ago, and having ~65 people is considered a small year. We chalked it up to Veterans' Day weekend. Normally, it's closer to 80-90 people, of all ages.

The party came into being because, as a grad student in 1977, my father found a Weird Turkey Recipe and decided it was a good excuse for a party. The turkey recipe has been lost to time (we've actually checked the Boston Globe and NYT online archives, but haven't turned up something my father recognizes!), but the party endures.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 8:49 AM on November 18, 2018 [15 favorites]


I haven’t done a traditional Thanksgiving for the past few years, and I’m pretty happy about it. One food-focused holiday is enough for the season, and like loquacious I’m not a fan of the colonialist overtones or the cultural pressure to overeat.

This year I’m planning to spend the day in the woods bolting a new rock climbing route or two with a non-US friend.
posted by jedicus at 8:56 AM on November 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


I grew up in a very devoutly Christian homeschooling family and my parents were extremely adamant that Christmas is Christmas and Advent is Advent and never the twain shall meet. Mostly this manifested itself as a holiday tradition of lots of grumping and complaining about stores that started putting up Christmas decorations before December 24th (which last I checked was... all of them, so there was plenty of raw material to work from).

However, we also observed a nightly ritual every night during Advent, to help impress the important and crucial Advent/Christmas distinction upon us kids. We gathered around the Advent wreath and read through a short service one or both of my parents invented that involved reading bits of scripture in Latin and singing O Come O Come Emmanuel. We always did this with all the lights off, so the light of the advent wreath was the only light in the room, and the only sound was someone solemnly intoning some Latin.

Thanks to homeschooling, I was in my teens before I really realized that this was not actually a thing even among very observant Christians. I think it was around the same time I became generally aware that my upbringing did not much resemble other people's.

I'm pretty firmly atheist/agnostic at this point and don't really celebrate Christmas, but whenever someone talks about the power of ritual I always remember that advent service - sitting in the dark, faces lit by a single candle, singing about the coming of a savior who will bring light to the world.
posted by Basil Stag Hare at 8:59 AM on November 18, 2018 [20 favorites]


Oh, and birthday camping update following from the Wed thread:

It was glorious. My eyes are so boggled with green I can still see it if I close my eyes, and I'm still picking bits of moss out of my hair and clothes. I have hugged dozens of trees. I'm so bathed in forest I'm glowing green and likely more flammable due to soaking in increased oxygen. I may also be turning into a lichen or wort.

My friend and I seem to travel, wander adventure really well together, including the comfortable ability to just wordlessly wander off from each other for quietness and alone time. This one was just a quick road trip because she had a gap in her work schedule that lined up, and her national park pass is expiring, so we went for a quick car trip. We're already talking about doing multiple-week backpacking or bike touring trips and I'm so down for that.

We're both planners and struggle with not bringing too much crap. We still brought too much crap, but for each of us it was still maybe half as much crap as we normally would bring solo on this kind of trip. I think I had less stuff with me then I did on my recent bike tour and we were car camping. So we gave ourselves a well earned pat on the back for that. We had plenty of room in the car, but plenty of firewood, too.

In addition to this not-overpacking, a lot of our stuff just perfectly complemented the other's things. My mess kit had plates and bowls that augmented hers and made cooking a lot easier and more pleasant. Without discussing it at all I brought fancy hot cocoa with vegan marshmallows, she brought fancy smores with the same vegan marshmallows.

And for my birthday she gave me a PNW field guide for plants, the really excelelnt "Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast" by Pojar and Mackinnon which I've been wanting for ages, and I put it to work immediately, which she seemed to enjoy and take pride in that I just dove into it and started using it to identify plants all around us.

We spent a lot of time just wandering through forests and looking at mushrooms. The whole trip started off with a mushroom theme in that I presented her with a puffball instead of, say, a wildflower. On the trip I saw dozens of mushrooms I've never met before, including corals and jellies (Witch's butter!) and a whole lot of lungwort. On Saturday morning we did a walk and roam around our camp before breakfast and found about three pounds of chantrelles all in one place, which went in our breakfast hash and were absolutely delicious.

I'm really touched and it's probably the best birthday I've ever had.
posted by loquacious at 9:22 AM on November 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


I cook Christmas lunch every year and normally I do turkey (plus a couple of types of stuffing, prunes wrapped in bacon, roast potatoes and some kind of vegetable). But I was getting bored of that, especially since even very expensive free-range turkeys don’t actually taste very interesting, and I’ve been looking around for alternative Christmas food traditions from around the world, but none of them particularly inspired me… so I’ve decided to cook Indian food.

I doubt that it’s the start of a new tradition — probably next year it will be back to turkey again — but it should be fun. Now I need to dive into various cookbooks and work out the details.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 10:10 AM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Once my son hit about 14 and was less interested in acquiring stuff we started the Christmas shop challenge...

We go to the mall on a day shortly before Christmas and each of us gets $40 cash. We then have exactly one hour to get through the mall and buy presents for the other two without being spotted by the others. We meet at the food court 60 minutes later (for coffee/hot chocolate) and if you arrive coming out from the (very good) book shop you lose (too easy!)

Last year we did this Christmas eve (mayhem!) and then went for sushi (which ended up bumping the Christmas budget right back up to excessive, but was excellent!)

Christmas morning we then see who managed the most original gifts and tell our tales of how we were almost spotted and hid from the others behind a tree when they went by, etc.

I have definitely succumbed to the book shop a few times.

In addition to this I do fill stockings with chocolate and such.

I like it because it takes the stress (1 hour gift shopping only!) and excessive commercialism out of Christmas and it has become a truly fun family event for us.
posted by chapps at 10:36 AM on November 18, 2018 [25 favorites]


One thing I've always found charming about South Pole culture is the holidays. The three biggest holidays of the year are winter solstice ("midwinter"), and the equinoxes ("sunrise," and "sunset.") The first warrants a huge, incredibly fancy, formal dinner. It's the biggest event of the year. The later usually involve big parties with local bands and much dancing and carousing. Perhaps it's not too surprising these holidays have taken hold. Instead of having to stand in a field and sight along stones to figure out what time of year it is, you know it's the equinox because you can see half the sun peaking over the horizon for the first time in six month. But, having grown up in a world almost entirely detached from nature and celebrating absurd mythic holidays, it's refreshing to celebrate holidays that actually mark something observable.

There are other holidays at pole, of course: Last Flight, ANZAC Day, and every vaguely ethinic US holiday that serves as an excuse for party hats and toasts. Summer Solstice tends to get less attention, since the station is swamped by summer visitors who bring with them weird Northern concepts like Christmas and New Year.

Now that I've married into a family that has for many decades celebrated the solstice as their winter holiday, complete with new rituals and stories, I feel very much at home. Christmas was a whole lot of fun when I was a kid, and I have no objections to it, but it's pretty hard to take any of the stories seriously. Which isn't to say ritual for the sake of ritual is a bad thing.
posted by eotvos at 10:44 AM on November 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


Oh! I forgot to mention: I have my own little family now. Starting last year my husband and I each get each other and the baby one book and one chocolate thing for Christmas and that’s it. The goal for the book is that it’s one you want to/can read in a day. The grandparents are so generous with the little one that we really don’t want to add more stuff to the day. For awhile I thought about how I could communicate to them “no gifts please,” but then I realized (cue AskMetafilter theme): the only person I could control is myself. ;)
posted by CMcG at 10:46 AM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I haven’t done a traditional Thanksgiving for the past few years, and I’m pretty happy about it. One food-focused holiday is enough for the season, and like loquacious I’m not a fan of the colonialist overtones or the cultural pressure to overeat.

Same here, and I agree about the 1950s feel to much of the traditional menu.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:30 AM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I made Peking duck last year for Christmas and it was amazing. I have decided it is superior to all turkeys, and have adopted Peking duck as my new traditional Christmas meal. I'm not even a big fan of Christmas but I do very much enjoy duck, and I also enjoy excellence, so this is kind of my way of learning to enjoy the holiday. I will be implementing an ISO9001 process of continual improvement, documenting each year's duck and evaluating it, coming away with lessons learned for next year, so I expect the duck to be transcendental by say, 2025, unless i hit some kind of upper limit on duck tastiness sometime before then. We shall see!
posted by some loser at 1:19 PM on November 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


Calvin Trillin has strongly urged that the proper national dish for Thanksgiving should be spaghetti carbonara. I love the traditional turkey dinner, but you shouldn't argue with Calvin Trillin about food so I have spaghetti carbonara sometime during the week. I recommend this.
posted by theora55 at 3:10 PM on November 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


I married into a McClanist Orthodox household that believes Die Hard in the one true Christmas movie. Five weeks hence, we are off to the local theatre that marks the solstice with it.

The benefits of a classical education.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:22 PM on November 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


For the past few years our friends have been going to her sister's for Thanksgiving, and being served apparently deeply unappetizing food. So, they have taken to cooking a full Thanksgiving meal themselves a few days later (this year it will be next Saturday), and inviting us and another couple to their alternative "friendsgiving". So, on actual Thanksgiving, Mr. gudrun and I are going out to a restaurant. I will get turkey, and Mr. gudrun, who is not a huge fan of turkey, will probably get steak. Then we will go on Saturday and do the full Thanksgiving meal with our friends, from soup to nuts.
posted by gudrun at 4:41 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I remembered a family tradition in a bit of a panic tonight -- every year, every child under about 25 years of age gets a Christmas ornament that has something to do with their prior year. So maybe it's the year you started playing rec basketball -- you get a basketball guy ornament. Or you learned trumpet (trumpet ornament) or you got really into minecraft (minecraft ornament). And we write your name and the year discretely on the back/bottom of the ornament, and you get one every single year. And then when you move out in your 20s and have you first apartment and first Christmas tree, you get your box of ornaments, and you have 25 years of beloved ornaments to hang on your tree instead of a bunch you had to go buy new so your tree didn't look lonely.

My parents started this tradition because when they got married, friends of theirs got them a tree skirt (that they still use 45 years later) and a dozen ornaments that they thought spoke of my parents and their relationship, so their first Christmas tree had a dozen beautiful and meaningful ornaments thoughtfully picked out for them by their close friends, instead of rando generic ornaments.

I've had a lot going on this year so I almost forgot! But fortunately all my kids like things that Hallmark has keepsake ornaments for this year. (Other years I've gone to etsy and had stuff custom made which is awesome! But requires me to remember a little earlier in the year since we decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving!)

We also get "ornaments" on every family trip we go on, but a lot of places don't sell ornaments in June, so a lot of our "ornaments" are actually keychains BUT WE STILL LOVE THEM. I mean obviously we could remove the key ring and just hang the charm like an ornament, but the keyring and obvious keychain-ness of them is part of their homely attraction!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:14 PM on November 18, 2018 [18 favorites]


My first on-my-own adult Christmas tree, I shopped for most of the ornaments in Chinatown, and I loved it. None of them were ornaments-on-purpose; they were bells and trinkets and mini-paper-lanterns with hooks. I upgraded a few years ago to ornaments-on-purpose, and I like those too, but I do get nostalgic for Chinatown decorations.

My parents did the meaningful-ornaments thing, a combination of things my brother and I made as kids and ornaments they purchased anytime they traveled and expensive exquisite ornaments to be treasured, and we generally had a 9- to 12-foot tree and I loved our Christmas tree. My father keeps trying to give me the Lladro porcelain carousel-animal ornaments and I keep refusing, though, because I will never be as adult as my parents. Also, tile floors + obnoxious cats. So I'm sticking with my Martha Steward "retro" metal ornaments that I bought as a set at the local hardware store.
posted by lazuli at 6:41 PM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


If my oldest son is able to stay up past midnight on New Year’s, we make omelets. I can’t explain it, but it somehow feels hopeful to sit and have an omelet with my boy as our first act of the new year.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:49 PM on November 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


Thanks to divorce, my parents being deceased, and my kid now a teen, our traditions are in flux. So the plan this year:

Early Christmas on the 15th with my family. We all kinda dislike cooking and turkey, so it will be catered by Olive Garden. Some of us will supply desserts and booze. There will be a Yankee gift swap, themed "as seen on TV."

Kiddo is at his dad's family for Christmas Eve and Day. I meanwhile intend to finally go to an Eve service, because ex's family schedule always precluded that. Kinda looking forward to it.

The 26th, kid will be with me. I suggested we start a new tradition that makes it Our Christmas but still thinking about what it should include. Open to suggestions.
posted by emjaybee at 8:18 PM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


If my oldest son is able to stay up past midnight on New Year’s, we make omelets. I can’t explain it, but it somehow feels hopeful to sit and have an omelet with my boy as our first act of the new year.

This reminded me (very tangentially) of how our young kid started with new years rituals ... We inherited this New Years tradition from friends with whom we celebrated new years with a group of friends form the daycare when the kids were two... with one modification.

Friend told us about how when he was a kid his family would open the back door just before midnight and "kick the old year out" (the kids would kick hard and yell at the old year to get gone) then run to the front and let the new year in at midnight, yelling "happy new year".

Well our boys had managed to be naked and playing around the house in a chaotic mayhem as midnight approached, and were rambunctious and excited when we told them we would kick the old year out.

When we opened the back door the naked toddlers took off into the night! The dads set chase and they all arrived shortly at the front door, the boys covered in mud, grinning ear to ear, and the very picture of a couple of (not very clean) new years babies. This kept going (clothed) into their teen years, along with other friends who joined the party each year, at one point adding pots and pans and noisemakers.

This year we just do the door. The (now adults) scowl in their champagne (but secretly love it) as we tell the party about their naked romp so many years ago!
posted by chapps at 10:30 PM on November 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


On year 8 without Thanksgiving: no ovens, no turkeys, and no one to eat with because it doesn’t exist here (unless I want to spend time with a bunch of younger expats I’ve never met). I do want to decorate for Christmas but am tired of sad miniature plastic trees and so might steal my in-law’s weird decoration quirk: a plastic light up ice cream cone instead of a tree!
posted by sacchan at 11:06 PM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Welp. Now I'm just plain bragging. I just finished out my birthday weekend with a completely impromptu evening of a free salt water hot tub soak followed by a demonstration/lesson thing about building electronic music controllers, followed by a show of same at a different venue by the same person.

For perspective I haven't had hot running water in two months, and the well pump crapped out over a week ago and we're still waiting to get it fixed, so we haven't even had running water at all. I'm living out of water cubes and even rainwater collection. My last shower here before my camping trip was stove-top boiled rain water, a large wash cloth and a bottle of full strength Dr. Bronner's peppermint. It's a bit brisk.

So being able to float in a hot salt water pool in a private room was rather exquisite and civilized. To follow it up with a mellow evening of my favorite people in town nerding out about electronic music just can't be bought.

So on top of the camping and stuff, this just went from a best birthday ever to extra more best birthday ever?

This is actually kind of a big huge deal for me because I've spent most of my life trying to ignore my birthdays.

To borrow a quote from the weekend sound track, I have a deep satisfaction of the soul. I feel like I might technically not even be a solid right now.
posted by loquacious at 1:53 AM on November 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


My brother loves Christmas foods, so every year for his birthday (today!) my mom cooks a pre-Christmas Christmas dinner for him (and the rest of the family). The traditional Finnish Christmas dinner has ham, beetroot salad, carrot and rutabaga casseroles, boiled potatoes and sauce, fish in some form. The ham is usually replaced with a smaller piece of meat prepared in the oven but otherwise it's Christmas in November.

My mom loves to decorate for Christmas but got annoyed by the tree taking too much room in the living room, so for the last couple of years she has set up a good sized spruce tree outside the kitchen window out in the yard. She decorates the tree with lights and hangs food for birds on the branches. This way we have a tree decorated with little birds for Christmas.
posted by severiina at 4:05 AM on November 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


I've got another thing; sue me, I get happy this time of year. Both of these are more casual on-my-own traditions that I do with friends and here in the city.

* A theater company I worked with for years started doing what it calls an "Act-Along" staged reading of It's A Wonderful Life. Meaning: they have a bunch of copies of a (slightly-abridged) script drawn up, each one with different characters' lines highlighted; they drag out all the goofy hats and wigs and props and have them sitting in bins at the ready, and then the audience/attendees all draw character names out of a hat and then that's how they "cast" the reading. And with the artistic director on sound design, we start things off - when it's your characters part, you jump up from your seat in the audience and go up onstage and join in, then when your character leaves you sit back down and watch. It is the most gloriously goofy fun ever - you hear some over-the-top Jimmy Stewart imitations, there are laughs when big beefy guys play Zuzu, and it is a blast.

* I also try to round up a group to go check out the lights in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn every year. We start at my place with a casual open-house of hot beverages and cookies, then everyone loads up a travel coffee mug and we head out on the subway to go walk around Dyker Heights and take it in. I always try to include someone who's never seen it before just to watch heads explode; we've been doing it so long that we have regular landmarks that we've given our own names ("The Skating Party Of The Damned Display", "The Sigmund And The Sea Monsters House").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:51 AM on November 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


We always have mashed rutabaga for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This is a staple at my family's holiday dinners too (although we usually call it 'turnip'). No Irish connections that I'm aware of, but the grownups like it... it usually takes some time before the kids learn to appreciate it.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:49 AM on November 19, 2018


My kid's birthday was yesterday, which is always and forever going to be too close to US Thanksgiving for comfort, it means family time stretches another week long. I like all our family, don't get me wrong, but it's a lot.

This time around has been memorable! On Thursday the power was out most of the day due to an ice storm; then it went out again at 11 pm and stayed gone all of Friday. Eventually we left our little town for a hotel in the next town over - the cats, poor darlings, had to fend for themselves in the chilly house, and my mother-in-law's dog meant we stayed in the dog-friendly hotel which I will... never recommend to anyone visiting us. The only rooms left had king beds, my mother-in-law took the one with a hot tub (surrounded on 3 sides by mirrors! now I know where Mt. Vernon Ohio goes to party!)

We had a gross dinner in our room and all turned in early, and then our kid threw up for the first time in her young life. Some kind of stress/stomach bug? Full puke in the hotel pack'n'play, we had to strip her and put her in our bed (luckily king!) and poor confused bean fell back asleep. I could not, the hotel had some kind of magic heating system that made me feel like I was being air dried like jerky, my poor sinuses, and then 2 hours later she coughed awake and puked again, into the hotel trash can mostly, and then wanted to sit and chat about it with us for a while. It's hard to fall asleep when your toddler wants to cuddle and her hair still smells pukey and your own hands smell pukey and you can't breathe... Plus the whole anxiety about whether she's still breathing or like secretly aspirated puke and is lying cold in your bed. Parenting is awful sometimes!

I think it must have been a bug because I felt like warmed over shit yesterday, her actual birthday, and we had a party with three toddlers (the correct number) all having a grand time. I am glad there were other adults around. And today my mother-in-law is sick enough to be in bed still, it's been a grand old time.

Tomorrow we are off to Ithaca for Thanksgiving with my dad. I have a hard 4-day limit on dad visits, and anticipate them with anxiety. It will be fine but I am not super excited about it. My partner gets a full week of Thanksgiving break, but it's a lot of driving for very little pleasure and a full work week to follow. They love my kid and I feel like it's a gift I am giving them, to spend time together, and I want to give it.

It's tough having 4 sets of grands in 4 totally different locations.

Hanukah is so early this year! We do candles and presents, and then we do Xmas because we are a mixed family (I always had both as a kid too). We will go to Charleston for Xmas and I will luxuriate in the many-adult model of child care and maybe watch movies late at night.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:15 AM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Neither Mr.Sophie nor I have particularly fond holiday memories so we make it up as we go along every year. My MIL died last month quite suddenly and so it's really now just the two of us alone as far as actual blood family goes. We're going to Disneyland for Thanksgiving and we'll probably order Chinese takeout and watch a movie on Christmas eve. Even though we're both Jewish and grew up celebrating Chanukkah, we just don't do it anymore.

As for chosen family, we always have a party about 2 weeks before, gather all of the queers around the fireplace, eat lobster mac and cheese (or some other perfectly ridiculous fatty food) and fight over carefully chosen gifts for a "Yankee Swap". There is heated competition over who buys the best gifts under $25 (it's me.) It's our favorite tradition and we've been doing it with the same people for 23 years.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:30 AM on November 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


Christmas for me must start with Elvis' Christmas album. There can be no other.

BUT -- you cannot just play the album. When the time is right, Elvis will let you know. You must wait for the King to tell you. You must keep yourself attuned to his sign.
It may be a license plate with the letters TCB. It may be department store muzak. Just wait. His sign will come.

Elvis is never wrong on this. Elvis knows when the time is right, when you are ready to receive the spirit of Christmas. The CD plays, you hear the King's deep vibrato, the background Jordanaires, the strings, and all is right with the world. Elvis lives.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:36 AM on November 19, 2018 [11 favorites]


I'm a big fan of borrowing great traditions when I come across them, so last year, we incorporated Iceland's Yule Book Flood into our Christmas. It was pretty awesome. We're strict "Christmas presents are for Christmas morning" people, so it was a way of adding some fun for Christmas Eve.

In our family's interpretation, this basically means we get books to read, don our comfiest pajamas, and all pile into the same bed to read and eat chocolate.

This year, we're going to spend Christmas in Canada with our favorite cousins and their new baby. So I'm thinking we'll show up with books for them, too.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:40 AM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


My birthday occasionally falls on Thanksgiving. I don't like turkey, so the first time this happened in our relationship, I said to my then-girlfriend-now-wife, "you know what I want for my birthday? I want to go to a restaurant with a full menu and not deal with Thanksgiving dinner." That was 2007. We did it again it 2012 (a month after our wedding). It's happening again this year but I didn't know my work schedule until a week ago so we couldn't make reservations in advance. None of the reservations we can still get now are really grabbing me, so we might just postpone.
posted by fedward at 8:18 AM on November 19, 2018


Also most of my family's Christmas traditions were interrupted when travel became a necessary component. One year my sister's connecting flight home from college was oversold and she took a cash payout and slept in an airport on Christmas Eve. One year I went on a group trip that departed Christmas day because of cheap airfare. One year after I'd moved away I flew home on Christmas day and we had a very late dinner. Now my sister lives overseas and has kids, and for a while there the Christmas tradition was that I, my dad, or usually both of us would get extremely sick after a couple days around the younger vectors, I mean relatives. Nothing like waking up on Christmas or Boxing Day with a 104° fever, for the third or fourth year in a row.

One year my employer had been unsubtle with its pressure that I really had to be back in the office the day I got back (for reasons that turned out not to matter at all). I had like a 102° temperature and a raging case of bronchitis, but I went in, basically just to prove the point that they didn't really need me to come in as much as they had insisted. The CTO who'd given me such a hard time about how I needed to be there heard me coughing at my cube, rounded the corner, and almost shouted, "was that you?" 'Yes.' "Why are you here? You sound terrible!" 'You said I needed to come in the day I got back, so I did.' "Jesus, go home." 'Actually, I'm going to finish this one thing that will take me about ten minutes, and then I'm going to the emergency room at the hospital across the street for a chest X-ray, and then I'm going home.'

Amusingly enough, the doctor at that hospital insisted I had pneumonia before he called for the chest X-ray. 'No, I'm pretty sure it's bronchitis.' "Why do you think that?" 'I was a voice major in college, I know what my breathing feels and sounds like, and I've had both. This feels and sounds more like bronchitis.' After the X-ray was done he came back in and said, "so, you were right. It's bronchitis."
posted by fedward at 8:42 AM on November 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


My family has Thanksgiving dinner the weekend after. Who needs all that traffic?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:11 AM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


This year, I'm going to the Matzo Ball on Xmas Eve. It's a singles mixer. I just couldn't resist, because of the name.
posted by rue72 at 9:37 AM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


We have a big extended family, so from pretty early on in my memory we did some sort of grand gift giving event, rather than expect everyone to get gifts for everyone else. It took a number of different forms, but eventually evolved into an exchange where you wrapped a gift starting with the first letter of your first name. From eldest to youngest, we took turns unwrapping presents. When you unwrapped a gift, you guessed who gave it. Guess right and you keep the gift. Guess wrong and the next unwrapper can opt to steal yours or unwrap a gift. Only guessing right could lock down a gift and make it unstealable.

These turned into lateral thinking puzzles. Uncle Larry gave a giant pillow shaped like a fish. How does a fish-shaped pillow start with the letter L? Because it's a "lunker." And so on.

One Christmas, one of my cousins opens up the first of a set of three or so packages. It's a pair of lottery tickets. She asks the group whether she gets to scratch them off before guessing. Sure everyone says, fine.

She scratches.

"...oh my God..... oh my God..... can someone read this to make sure I'm reading this right?"

A nearby uncle reads over her shoulder. "Holy shit. She just one $10,000."

Lots of screaming and crying ensues. "Oh my God we really needed this money right now!" Lots more screaming and crying.

Another uncle sort of clears his throat. "Um, she hasn't guessed yet."

Big pause. If she doesn't guess right, the gift can be stolen.

LOTS more screaming and crying. Maybe we shouldn't be able to steal this one? I don't know, rules are rules, what makes this gift different? And so on.

All the while, my cousin Jerry is being very quiet.

Wouldn't someone be a jerk if they stole it? Not sure, lots of good gifts go around....

Finally, as the golden ticket is being passed around, another aunt has her reading glasses out. "Must be redeemed within 15 minutes of winning. Must be redeemed at the north pole with Santa Claus."

Sitting in the unopened packages were a whoopee cushion and a joy buzzer. Jerry's gifts were jokes.

...much more screaming and crying.

We never played that version of the christmas exchange again.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:36 AM on November 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


We always have mashed rutabaga for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Is it weird that I like mashed rutabaga better than mashed potatoes? Mashed turnip is also tasty.
posted by PearlRose at 11:57 AM on November 19, 2018


In our house, we make a mix of mashed potatoes and mashed celery root. While you're boiling the sliced potatoes in water, boil peeled and sliced celery root in milk. When they're soft enough to break apart when prodded with a fork, they're ready. Mash (or run through a potato ricer on fine, even better), mix with the normal amounts of salt, butter, and milk you'd use for mashed potatoes, and then add a few squeezes of spicy or dijon mustard.

The result will taste like mashed potatoes, only more complex. People love 'em.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:17 PM on November 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


My household's Christmas morning tradition is watching Live Aid from 1985. We make breakfast and coffee, turn it on and let it run all morning while we hang out and open gifts. Usually it's only Wembley for time and taste constraints. Even with a kid, this will not change.
posted by kendrak at 12:19 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Capt. Renaud, I will not yield. The album is Jo Stafford's Ski Trails. It may not be played until Thanksgiving Day. It is winter music, not technically holiday music; this is a triviality.

But Elvis is nice.
posted by theora55 at 1:15 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Hmmm, alternate traditions. I have some good memories, and a heap of dysfunctional ones, too. No need for details. But maybe you, like me, have deeply conflicted feelings. Are some of your siblings still pretty screwed up, making holidays fraught? Maybe you're avoiding Thursday because your immediate family member's addiction has broken your heart again? In tears every time the sappy commercials show imaginary perfect families in dream houses laughing and hugging? Volunteered to work because it's a great escape? I'll be making a fabulous breakfast, going to a movie, taking the dog out. Maybe we can share some cheer in Chat.

Consider reaching out really hard to people in your life who may have gone mysteriously silent. I don't want an invite because I'd have to take Xanax, but your friend might. I don't intend to be a buzzkill, really, but there is a dark side to the Thanksgiving - Christmas - New Year's season that is really hard for a lot of people.

yeah, eponstyrical. maybe that's not entirely accidental. ask Freud.
posted by Mom at 1:37 PM on November 19, 2018 [15 favorites]


Hey, Making You Bored for Science - did your dad's weird turkey recipe involve basting the turkey until it was completely black? Upon completion, you peel that off and throw it away and find the moistest, most delicious turkey ever. That's the recipe my dad always made for thanksgiving. In the recipe was 1/2 cup dry sherry - Pour it into the cook!! RIP dad :-)
posted by CathyG at 2:12 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Cool Papa Bell and I are the most unsentimental people alive. The kids get a standard kid-amount of presents. We don't buy each other any presents. But, as a gag, she wraps the same OXO mandoline slicer and presents it to me as a "new" gift. Each year, I rip it open and parade it around the house like it's the greatest gift that was ever gifted. It's been unopened for 10+ years. There is much laughter. There are also gallons of mimosas made and consumed. I believe the two traditions are linked.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:24 PM on November 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


We will be putting up a tree for the first time in years - a skinny ten-foot pre-lit one. I am concerned about the two cutest kittens in the world climbing it.
posted by soelo at 9:01 PM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Since the 2016 election disaster, our new tradition is to put up our fake, pre-lit Christmas tree sometime around the time change, when the world is darker earlier and we want a little more light and joy. While I miss the smell of a real (dying) pine tree, I appreciate having a tree that doesn't dry out too fast. This year, we started decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving, but it's not too much. And this year, my wife brought out all her Christmas Legos, which is adding a fun bit of holiday cheer to our living room.

We had our works-giving potluck today, and everyone stuffed themselves silly with some usual, and some unusual, Thanksgiving dishes. We all agreed we should have a proper big spread quarterly, because why not?

Thanksgiving with my wife's family is a prompt thing, with all dishes scheduled to be ready at the same time as the turkey, which is usually an early afternoon thing. Before that, we snack. After it, we also snack, but on Thanksgiving leftovers. My family is not nearly so well organized, and often eat Thanksgiving dinner rather late, as the turkey takes longer to thaw out than planned, or longer to cook. But I'm bringing my family's traditional cranberry "salad" (in the Midwest "jello + fruit is a salad" sense), which is provided here as it was shared with me:

2 whole oranges, blended/processed
1.5 cups port wine
- boil together for 1 minute, then strain out chunks
2 packages of raspberry jello
2 cups of nuts (optional)
3 cans of whole berry cranberries
- Mix and set (in the fridge)

My parents allowed us kids to open one present on Christmas eve after attending an evening church service, and in the morning we'd listen to KUSC, a classical radio station, play classical-type Christmas music, which is really the only kind of Christmas music I can stand for more than a few songs in a row. I realize now that I can stream KUSC online, so I'll be adding that to the mix this year, at least for a few songs. Maybe segue from the pop Christmas music with Hell Interface's "Soylent Night," a weird, slightly dissonant Boards of Canada take on Christmas classics that is also lodged in my noggin as a (personal) holiday classic.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:15 PM on November 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Super different for me but I'm sure normal for a lot of people, all my life we did Thanksgiving at my parents place, except the year my grandfather got divorced and we went to his place in Sacramento and had it catered by Albertsons. But since my mother died everything had been disrupted. But I end up at my aunt's house in Los Angeles and it's been wonderful. I mean I'd prefer to have my mom alone, fuck cancer, but I can't even begin to tell you how welcome I feel thanks to her efforts. It's definitely nontraditional for me, but has meany the world.
posted by Carillon at 2:00 AM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Fresh vs canned cranberries: I mean, each type has its own character and traits, right? I welcome diversity of our cranberry friends.

With turkey I don't mind if it's canned cranberries/sauce. I prefer whole berries but I will definitely not say no to smooth cranberry sauce if that's around too. Every year I do look forward to making my own cranberry sauce, because I can make it as zingy and as chunky as I want. (I became a fan of cranberry sauce as an adult; didn't really have much of it when I was a kid.) I'm not much of a cook and it's simple enough for me to do. I rinse the berries, cook them down; keep the flavor zingy but not too tart, definitely not too sweet; also keep the berries and don't strain or blend them; refrigerate. Then I love using it instead of jam/jelly, especially in PB&J sandwiches. Even if we don't have turkey, I always try to make the cranberry sauce for sandwiches.

I don't know whether this counts as an alternative tradition, but I grew up listening to Jim Reeves, including his Christmas album. I also vaguely remember a Christmas cassette of Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, and for a briefer time, Disney children's holiday tunes and Alvin & the Chipmunks (and Dave). There might be others I'm forgetting at the moment; in any case, now it doesn't really feel like the holiday season unless I listen to some of the Jim Reeves Christmas album in December (although admittedly I do cringe now at the lyrics of "Señor Santa Claus" and would rather skip that one).

My family didn't watch NYE celebrations on TV (either that or I wasn't allowed to stay up to watch it), so I remember being confused when somebody was talking about "the ball dropping" -- I think I finally learned about the Times Square tradition when I was in high school.

lazuli - good luck in the interview!

Speedy recovery to Mini McGee, and wow, four popsicles? Nice.

loquacious - happy birthday (belated), and I'm glad you had such a good birthday experience this year.

Gotanda - sweet potato pie is my favorite pie for Thanksgiving.

All the talk about pies also has me thinking of rtha. I remember she liked pie, so I think I'll make it a point to have pie in her honor.

It's hard to believe it's already Thanksgiving week. Hang in there, everyone.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 2:24 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Chaos. No matter how much we figure we've got everything settled. But maybe the new year and time itself are born of chaos, of the lost socks and keys of Chronos and Ananke. So there's that. Yeah. That's our tradition.
posted by pracowity at 3:08 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


With turkey I don't mind if it's canned cranberries/sauce. I prefer whole berries but I will definitely not say no to smooth cranberry sauce if that's around too. Every year I do look forward to making my own cranberry sauce, because I can make it as zingy and as chunky as I want. (I became a fan of cranberry sauce as an adult; didn't really have much of it when I was a kid.) I'm not much of a cook and it's simple enough for me to do. I rinse the berries, cook them down; keep the flavor zingy but not too tart, definitely not too sweet; also keep the berries and don't strain or blend them; refrigerate. Then I love using it instead of jam/jelly, especially in PB&J sandwiches. Even if we don't have turkey, I always try to make the cranberry sauce for sandwiches.

I have often mentioned my family is a supplier for Ocean Spray; this made me legit sigh happily.

This year is one of the "off" years for Thanksgiving for my parents and me; every other year my brother's over at his in-laws, and the rest of the extended family follows suit, so that makes Thanksgiving just my parents, one aunt and me, so we all say "fuck it" and just meet up at a midpoint city for lunch on the weekend and then everyone goes home the same day. Usually when this happens, I laze around home all day on Thanksgiving proper eating whatever the heck I want and staying in pajamas all day.

But this year - a friend of mine recently hit the point where he had finally Had It with his family and was deciding to just cut ties with all of them, at least on holidays. So he's put the call out to "Thanksgiving orphans" to have us all over for dinner. I also just got my annual berry shipment from the folks (3 quarts' worth of berries, yay) and will be making all the desserts and the cranberry relish. I even realized: when we had our big family Thanksgivings at my aunt's house when I was a kid, she always served the relish in this little silver-and-glass dish. When that aunt moved to Tucson when I was in college she gave away a lot of the things she didn't want to pack to all of us in the family as gifts, and I got the dish. I've dug it out, given it a good wash and polish and it will be gracing my friend's table on Thursday. (then coming home with me again of course)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:47 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


So we had a fire in the apartment next door and all my things are being cleaned, including possibly my big box of Christmas stuff that was in the storage closet outside...I find out today if it's basically ok or not. That's going to affect what we do this year because cleaning will take a few weeks.

There's a set of ceramic ornaments in there made by my grandma from before I was born, done in very-trendy-then colors of orange and green (the 70s!) and some sparkles that have clung on stubbornly. They're not valuable, not even that pretty, and I don't always use them because of that, but oh, they are embedded deep in my Christmas memories. Usually hung on a flocked tree, under tinsel (again: the 70s!) and I can't just let them go.

I dearly wish I still had the little nativity scene from my childhood that I used to play with endlessly. It had lots of sheep and camels and wise men. I looked at buying a new one, but so many of them are too posh/fancy or kitschy or ironic or whatever.
posted by emjaybee at 7:12 AM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


We almost always go to my grandmother's in North Carolina. Last year, I skipped family Thanksgiving to go to Thanksgiving with my now-ex and his family. This year I'm just coming off a trip to the Southwest for a family wedding (true story: the groom chose the weekend before Thanksgiving for his wedding because the date they originally decided upon was his birthday and, upon reflection, he decided that as a 33-year-old man his birthday was too important to have on the same day as his wedding). I can't afford another plane ticket to North Carolina with my folks, so I'm doing some personal foraging for the festivities. Except I missed the farmer's market because of the wedding and gave a friend all the root vegetables I stored up, so my personal foraging options are going to be more expensive than originally anticipated.

I really loved the southwest? Tucson seems kind of awesome? Deserts, and cities in them, are full of cactus! In real life!! I saw javelinas! And a rattlesnake!! It sounds stupid, but it was kind of bizarre to remember that there are places in the US where it is currently sunny and beautiful. One significant downside to being on the academic job market (other than like ... being on the academic job market and getting nowhere and hating everything) is that I can't really say "Oh, wow, Tucson was cool! Let me look at jobs in my industry in the area."
posted by ChuraChura at 8:00 AM on November 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


Christmas Eve meant calling up the chimney to ask Santa for your presents before bed. We didn't have a chimney, so we had to make do with calling up the vent above the electric fire in the space where the chimney had been. Even at age three I was suspicious of presents that were too wide to fit through the slots.
posted by scruss at 8:19 AM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


My kid made it to nine and a half years old before finally giving up on believing in Santa this year. We had a pretty mundane conversation about how Santa is a feeling that represents Christmas, etc.

But the part that will stick in my head forever is DOT Jr.'s comment that, "It never did make sense that Santa was allowed to make toys from licensed characters without getting sued."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:55 AM on November 20, 2018 [19 favorites]


We happened to have made a cake at one point when Daylight Saving Time began one year, and my wife had the idea that we could put a candle on it and sing "Happy Daylight Saving Time" as if it were a birthday. So now that's a thing that we do whenever the clocks change. It's as good an excuse as any to have cake.
posted by Jpfed at 9:32 AM on November 20, 2018 [18 favorites]


A little box of memory has sprung wide. Christmas Eves were beautiful with only the tree and the fireplace lighting the room, when we were all alive and healthy and happy and wondering. And presents on Christmas morning. One year, I got an electric train with a green engine with a light that shone on the tracks at night. Another year, I got a scale model moon rocket to build, back when I used to watch live television sent back from the moon. I got a blue bicycle one year, too, with a banana seat, but maybe this was a March now. I don't know now, but I think it was my birthday, not Christmas, but still cold enough to take my tentative first ride through a sprinkling of snow. And New Year's Eves and egg nogs (eggs nog, even) and my mother getting her bottle of Drambuie out of the sideboard and raising a misty-eyed toast to those who are far away.

I'll have to buy a bottle this year and make that my tradition.
posted by pracowity at 10:35 AM on November 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


"It never did make sense that Santa was allowed to make toys from licensed characters without getting sued."

Bless. I remember that I wondered how Santa's elves could make She-Ras and Barbies when, according to all the illustrations I could see, they mainly made dolls, games, and jack-in-the-boxes out of wood and stuffing. I chalked it up to magic.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:01 AM on November 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


We had the Neo-Classic Divorced Family Holiday Junket:
Mom's Christmas with all appetizers (which was fun) - Dec 23, so her boyfriend could come without his wife finding out. When they broke up, we just kept it on the 23rd.
Mom's Huge Chaotic Extended Family Christmas, 24th
Dad's Christmas, 25th
Eventually, In-Law Christmas came in at the
second half of the 25th, then we combined it with Dad Christmas because it was just too much for my introvert self. And then *dysfunctional mumble* so it's a little up in the air now.

Oh, and I was a church organist during/after college (I'm not religious though, long story?) so on the 24th I'd bolt out of Giant Fam Christmas, go play for evening services, then come back. That part, I kind of miss.
posted by cage and aquarium at 1:55 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Gather round, children, and let me tell you about the opportunistic joy that was being an atheist Russian family in New York in the 80's. The Soviets had moved all the Christmas traditions over to New Year's Eve, including Christmas trees and a Santa Claus-like figure named Grandfather Frost, and that was the big family holiday in our atheistic family. But there were so many other options to partake of in America:

Tons of friends (and lots of schools) celebrated some version of Channukah
School (and a few newly-christian Russian friends) celebrated Christmas
occasionally we'd do something on Solstice for good measure
On Christmas Day or Eve, you could buy a Christmas tree at a heavy discount for your New Year's tree
New Year's proper was the more 'normal' Russian winter celebration- family, tree, gifts, staying up late, etc
If you were ambitious, you could semi-celebrate Russian Christmas (which is usually later)
posted by twoplussix at 2:05 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


oh and once in a blue moon there'd be Christmas Orthodox church-going involved just for the anthropology of it all, which is pretty solemn and late at night if I remember right.
posted by twoplussix at 2:09 PM on November 20, 2018


Nothing stands out as being that alternative holiday wise. Except maybe that now there are some deer heads above the fireplace back home that get decked out in Santa hats for christmas (but that's relatively new). The best holidays of youth were probably when father's side aunt & uncle & cousins dropped by from out-of-state, or we met up somewhere, or (when they moved to Florida...) we dropped in on them for some 3 or 4 day holiday visit. There's a long story in there that makes the "what's the deal with your nickname? How did you get it?" question into a decade long story.

++++

I totally scored this 9x12x2.5 inch cast iron thing with a lid and a frying-basket??? from the street junk last night. Don't know what it's good for, but probably something!

I broke down and got myself a cheap little portable sewing machine because I've come to the conclusion that I'm way too lazy to sew anything major by hand. Now to figure out how to use it. I want to reclaim some old clothes/fabric into many smallish bags of infinite patterns to use in the ACOPBP.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:03 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Chez carmicha, Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve/Day rituals have gone from over the top to down in the dumps. During my childhood, no relatives lived nearby but we celebrated all of the holidays (and vacationed with and, and, and) two families whom I shall call The Moderns and The Artists and numerous of their relatives. [nb: If any of them were writing this comment, my family would probably be dubbed The Scientists.]
Every year, the Moderns hosted a huge Christmas Eve party, which started with caroling on the town green and ended around 2 am, and an even larger New Year’s Eve Party. The Artists handled New Year’s Day brunch while we set forth the spreads for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although we always numbered about 18 at Thanksgiving and 24 at Christmas, my parents felt they got off easily; the other gatherings might involve 50-100 people.

Thanksgiving Day entailed an early morning breakfast at the VFW Hall with the rest of the several town marching bands and alumni; high school reunions were always held the next day. Then we marched in a parade that, on even years, wound up at the high school where there would be a football game with the hated rivals, whose turf we invaded on the odd years. Then to home, where my mother would be cooking a traditional turkey-and-trimmings meal in preparation for the 12 or so members of the Modern and Artist families.

Several Moderns were psychologists and they always prepared questions for the group, usually revolving around gratitude, appreciation and goals for personal betterment, and facilitated the ensuing discussion. The Moderns brought hors d’oeuvres, including the best crab dip ever, while the Artists contributed elaborate desserts, usually pies with intricate crusts and cakes decorated in punny ways. Both the Moderns and the Artists would bring seasonal decorations, e.g., three-story gingerbread houses and inverted Christmas trees to hang from the ceiling. My mother brought out her beautiful sterling silver, which my brother and I would have shined the day before, and her lovely Spode. My father would happily preside over the groaning table, refilling wine glasses and enjoying the scene. The kids took care of the clean-up while the adults played bridge into the night.

We were thankful for the ensuing three-day recovery period, which we spent getting ready for Christmas. There was always a gigantic live tree, scaled to my parents’ 25’ ceiling. There were evergreen boughs everywhere and Christmas accessories atop all of the surfaces. No lights outside, however, for that was deemed to be gauche. We had advent calendars, sent out hundreds of cards, dressed up the pets for photographs, put out food for Santa, etc.

Our family savored present opening; it often took days to finish. No one asked for anything specifically; our family was guess culture through and through, but we took pride in well-selected gifts. Presents were opened one at a time and then passed around to be admired. If it was clothing, the recipient modeled it. If it was a game, we played it. An item of décor meant that a home for the new objet d’arte would be found immediately. Wrapping paper, commercial bows and boxes were carefully saved for future years. We repurposed Christmas cards for tags. People took great pains to wrap the presents in ways that would disguise their contents or, sometimes, hilariously reveal them, as when all the parts of a bicycle, including the spokes, were individually covered with paper. Careful notes were taken to facilitate the writing of thank-you letters.

Around 2:00 the Moderns and the Artists would arrive, this time with their extended families. The food was much the same, but there would be plum pudding and hard sauce for dessert. We all exchanged gifts, which were often hand-made or consisted of unusual ingredients like saffron or caviar. Or alcohol, significantly, for over time, several Moderns and Artists developed addiction issues. We struggled, worrying about enabling them and drunk driving, but not wanting to cause a scene. Christmas was loud, long and glorious, capped off with hours of singing carols around the piano.

And so it was for 40 years. Even after marriage I could still partake every year, because past Mr. Carmicha’s family celebrated the week before to ensure wide participation among six far-flung children. But then the older generation started to die off with, horrifyingly, my father dying on Christmas Day itself. After that, my family abruptly abandoned Christmas. It wasn’t a happy day any more, plus my mother was tired of feastmaking and some of my siblings were becoming avowed anti-materialists.

So I took over Thanksgiving and, after a few years’ hiatus, Christmas too. I wanted to replicate the thoughtful gift-giving and merry meals of my youth, without all of the excess and with some new practices, including departing from the usual menu. But meanwhile I had re-married into a family with much different traditions. They made shopping lists for each other, which to my mind made Christmas merely transactional. And they ripped open their presents with abandon: it was mayhem. The people from my family of origin and my family of [new] marriage clashed over these traditions as well as politics, which made for some very uncomfortable meals.

It’s only gotten worse. My step-daughter’s divorce meant complicated holiday custody rituals, the kids were enmeshed in the sports industrial complex, and so she took over both Thanksgiving and Christmas. But unlike me, she did not enjoy the decorating or the feast preparation—I swear I never said a word!—and about six or eight years ago she decreed that both holiday meals would henceforth take place in restaurants. It’s delicious, but it’s not the same and always leaves me a little depressed, as does her artificial tree. Since no one comes to our house any more for either holiday, we don’t decorate now unless it’s my year to host the neighborhood shindig.

To top it all off, a while back my mother died in late November. And so now, about every six years or so, Thanksgiving falls on the anniversary of my mother’s death coupled with the annual memories associated with my father’s Christmas death. I’m not as Bah Humbug! as my siblings [yet]—one refuses to celebrate much at all, except as required by his wife and kids—but I don’t really care for the season any more. It just seems increasingly frantic and materialistic. I don’t like getting shopping lists from my step-daughter’s family, because I feel like it reduces us to ATM machines. Nor do I like spending the holidays in hotels and always assuming the travel burden.

This year, I planned to host a Friendsgiving because I really miss the holiday. But instead, Mr. Carmicha and I are dealing with yet another family crisis far from home. So this year we’ll be spending both Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks camping out in an empty house which we will, by day, be painting and otherwise prepping for sale. Oh and we’re relying on space heaters since the furnace is broken and this is all taking place in Chicago. That’s a whole ‘nother long story.

For anyone still reading, tidings of comfort and joy… and let nothing you dismay.
posted by carmicha at 3:28 PM on November 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


My family moved from Michigan where extended family was to Arizona. Soon Thanksgiving became a camping holiday. We'd often go to the lake the Sunday before, but most other people couldn't arrive until Wednesday, Thursday so the big Thanksgiving dinner was on Friday. 2-3 dutch ovens would be started in the morning and go for much of the day. We'd try to have food ready early, but were always catching the last of the light and had to get out the lanterns by dessert.

One year we had 30 people for the meal. One year there was a contest where people had to make things with pine cones. Another year my younger siblings and I performed the 15-minute Hamlet from Stoppard play Dogg's Hamlet. Another year we built the fire enough and melted down all the aluminum cans we had gone through (and had gathered) in a cast iron pan. One year we had a lot of rain - and the surrounding mountains had snow - and we had to wait for the roads to dry out to go home. One year a van and then a boat trailer with boat both got stuck in the mud (separate days, different drivers) and we had to dig them out.

After about a decade my parents decided against going camping for the weekend and had a big sit down meal at a friend's house. I went but it really felt weird.
posted by mountmccabe at 6:56 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


My interview went well today! I feel like I was able to talk about all the experience I have that would be good for the position while also easily acknowledging the holes in my knowledge that would be a problem, in a way that was just honest and easy. Interviewers were very explicit about the fact that they know they're going to need to train whoever comes in and that that's ok. Fingers crossed!
posted by lazuli at 8:29 PM on November 20, 2018 [12 favorites]


update on the gripping saga of me being cold: I was not losing my mind. The boiler went down hard last night and they’ve fixed it twice in the last 24 hours. Heat has been happening in the last couple of hours, but not quickly, and I am wearing all the clothes under all the blankets. My friends wanted me to stay over, and that made me feel warmer; I will definitely do it if things don’t straighten up.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:47 PM on November 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


Countess Elena, I'm so glad you were able to get outside confirmation! And fixing! Or at least attempts at fixing! Wishing you warmth.
posted by lazuli at 8:54 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


My (late) father's birthday is November 22nd. This year it's on Thanksgiving. I "inherited" his Apple ID and his apps and his calendar and I don't know what else. Every year there's a little alarm the day before that pops up on my computer that says "Birthday" (because he wrote his own birthday on the calendar). Some years it just breaks me but how can you delete your father's birthday? This year, for some reason, I just went "Awww dad" and moved on feeling marginally better and not worse.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:37 AM on November 21, 2018 [14 favorites]


Holidays are a little weird for us right now. My mom passed away in the spring of 2016, so this is the third set of holidays without her; my sister's FIL passed away the next year within like, two days of the day (this year, +/- a couple days, was a great aunt, and I am JUST DONE with funerals around April Fool's Day, no, I am not kidding, I wish I was), and we haven't quite sorted out a new set of traditions, especially since my sister had a new 11 month old last year and has a new 2 month old this year. My wife is in Texas with her girlfriend, getting some badly needed facetime and the helloutofhere. I'm also spending my first set of holidays sober. It's a weird year.

We're doing dinner at my sister's so she doesn't have to cart Thanksgiving and the kids around. Our adopted cousins that normally come aren't coming, because she's super sick, like "we really don't want to put you in the hospital at Thanksgiving, but" sick. My blood cousin that normally comes isn't coming because we shifted venues and he needs to be at his parents' (which is close to my dad's, but not my sister's). Sigh.

But, we're making a pile of food and we're going to feed some folks and it's going to be tasty, and it's going to be a good day, even if it's different. Which I've been trying to embrace lately, with hit and miss success.
posted by joycehealy at 7:10 PM on November 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


I made up an Easter tradition a few years back to round up all my friends in Chicago without family / religious reasons to haul out to the burbs-- we get together and eat sushi at a local restaurant that would otherwise be dead. Spring (ish) finery and hats or fascinators highly encouraged. Mmm Sacrilicious!
posted by travertina at 4:16 PM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


French onion soup and bourbon.

14 years ago I knew I couldn't afford to go anywhere for the holidays and had made plans with a friend to cook food and have an orphan Christmas. On Christmas Eve I had plans to spend the night with some other friends, one of whom was quite pregnant. As it turned out, she went into labor that evening. Needless to say I didn't get much sleep, and didn't get any shopping done.

I woke with a splitting headache to a call from said friend, and confessed that all I had in the house was a sack of onions and half a loaf of bread, to which she replied that she had a bottle of bourbon and some cheese, and that we were going to make French onion soup and drink bourbon, dammit.

The ingredients have improved a little, but I've been doing it ever since.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:08 PM on December 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


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