This month was all about Christmas for my workplace and for my nearby relatives. Even Rom wanted to amp it up more than usual. I tend to get overwhelmed by Christmas stuff and I try to keep it lower-key. Sometimes I wish Christmas was at the end of January when the cold weather is in full force – it would be more of a break from the deep winter then. But worse for travel. There are lots of ways to downsize Christmas – don’t celebrate, decline invitations, stop gift exchanges, or get ready really early and then relax.
Here’s how mine worked out: We visited Link in Toronto in November, so we brought gifts along. It was very strange not to continue buying “just one more thing” all throughout December! I also delivered all the annual Christmas ornaments that Link selected over the years, and Link had their first real Christmas tree away from home. Link organized a Christmas celebration in their new place for six friends, giving them a “home away from home” for the holidays. Some of them stayed for extended visits. I was impressed with all the preparations Link did. Some of their queer friends are not welcomed by their families and are very stressed at this time of year.
I completed the rest of my gift shopping in 4 sessions, none before the first of December. One of them included a nice lunch out with my mom and sister. I used to buy multiple gifts for each person so I was always trying to make a carefully curated selection of presents. Now I just buy one gift for each person. I have had no complaints about the level of thoughtfulness, and it is much easier on me! My parents, in particular, are tired of getting new “stuff” and can’t think of anything they want or need. I tried to respect their wishes by buying less and by NOT trying to express all my appreciation for them monetarily in one day. I was also pleased to buy some gifts that were locally made. I had two work events, a big catered one, and the other for our local office (it was a potluck at someone’s house). Rom and I have our own annual tradition: Rom emigrated to Canada one December, so every year at this time we go to an extravagant buffet lunch to celebrate another year in Canada together.
I used to have some outdoor lights to decorate the house – not the kind that you hang along the eaves, but shaped as stars or snowflakes. Over time they have failed and I replaced them with stars that go on the window sills indoors, facing out. The only other decorating we do is having a Christmas tree. I like the smell and the wintriness of it, and I had collected (or been given) tree ornaments for decades. I like taking them out and looking at them every year, and I like knowing that Link will do the same now.
I don’t do any cooking or baking specific to Christmas. At work we shared chocolate and treats for an entire month. It really gets out of hand! I decided to take a week off from treats just prior to Christmas, in keeping with the tradition of Advent, albeit briefer. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, I was able to enjoy it all without feeling glutted. I couldn’t have resisted the temptation for the whole month before the big day, though. The rest of our holiday food was generously provided by my extended family – my parents host full meals on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (yes, voluntarily) AND send us home with all the traditional baking. My sister has us over for eggnog lattes and cinnamon buns and sends us home with homemade chocolates and fudge. What a life!
I had a social dilemma in December. Tell me what you would have done! I have been going swimming once or twice a week for the past two months. Early in December, one of the other lane swimmers introduced herself and said a group of the regular swimmers would be going out to breakfast that Saturday, and did I want to come? The swimmers all come and go from the pool at different times each morning and I had not met any of them personally. I said, maybe another time? and was then told, “We only do this once a year!” So I said yes I would, and then my new acquaintance said, “Well, I might not be there!” I was a bit stumped because how would I even recognize the swimmers at the restaurant when they were full dressed and not wearing caps and goggles? So I showed up with great trepidation, expecting to have to barge into a group of friends and explain how I came to be there. Or maybe approach the wrong group! Fortunately, the person who invited me did attend, she introduced me to everyone, and made me feel very welcome. Whew! So now I have a crew of swim buddies.
Otherwise I have enjoyed the gym this month as usual, even though I have to leave a little earlier to scrape the windows of my car. We had snow several times in early December, but a big rainstorm on the 24th washed it all away, giving us one of our frequent green/brown Christmases. Since then we’ve had another big rainstorm and there is no snow predicted for at least a week: very unusual, now that the New Year is here!
Rom and I both had 4 days off for Christmas and Boxing Day, and this weekend is a long one for New Year’s Day, so it’s been very relaxing. We went to the theatre to see Star Wars: Rogue One, the only movie we’ve been out to see all year! We had a conversation of how they brought back the character played by Peter Cushing, which became more eerie after we heard about the death of Carrie Fisher (see this article about “digital reanimation.“) I had read her book Postcards from the Edge when it came out, and the book was really distinctive for its time: I think more recent authors like Lena Dunham and Michelle Tea probably owe their style of humour and candour to the kind of writing that Carrie Fisher began.
I rarely watch movies at home these days, but this month I watched three: first, the 3-hour miniseries of The Casual Vacancy, based on the book by J.K. Rowling. I have to say I didn’t like the book. It took me a while to work out that it was supposed to be a satire! It was really quite misanthropic and was especially harsh on teenagers. But I developed a curiosity about how it was filmed. The mini-series made it come alive! I was very impressed by it. I was completely taken by some characters who were not very sympathetic in the book, but were surprisingly well-rounded in the series. The villains were truly scummy and, sadly, realistic. I would highly recommend it. The performances by Abigail Lawrie as Crystal and by Julia McKenzie as the contemptible Mrs. Mollison were outstanding. I also (finally) watched Me Without You, after having read the book earlier this year. Once again I think they did a good job of it. And I never like the movie when I’ve read the book! I loved seeing Emilia Clarke in a role other than Daenerys. I found the print Lou/Louisa to be rather lifeless (and the author attempted to explain her way-of-being with a tragic story from her past). The on-screen Lou was much more believable. The medical and ethical aspects of the book were featured less in the movie but the points were still made. A winner! The third movie was Withnail and I, a supposed cult classic I had never seen. Now you will see that I spent the holidays watching three grim movies and I loved every minute of it 🙂 Withnail and I was a nihilistic buddy film about roommates in Camden who were out-of-work actors, desperately poor and rarely clean or sober. It is surely not for everyone, but a good bet if you like films such as Trainspotting or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas! I enjoyed it, but won’t be doing the accompanying drinking game any time soon.
This month I read two more books on my Just-for-Me Book Club list, Riddley Walker and We Were Liars. Reviews coming soon!
I love the New Year. Despite not going out late at night, I think it is my favourite holiday. All those new beginnings. A Happy 2017 to all! It can only get better, right?
PS – Thanks to all the nice folks who checked my home page for new posts over the past two weeks. Lots more in the near future!