Friday, November 27, 2015

A Guide to 'the Holidays'

Recently I participated in a discussion on 'how not to go overboard on holiday indulgences.' Lots of 'tips' were bandied about, as well as differing opinions on how to regard these strange times in which we live. By 'strange' I mean we live in an age of unprecedented culinary abundance, and from late November through early January we are caught in a swoon of even more abundance. It can be a bit overwhelming, to say the least.
One of the littles when he was very little, building a gingerbread train
My little contribution to the discussion was to point out that 'the holidays' are actually not six weeks of non-stop party. There are actually relatively few 'holidays' within that time frame. I think we get into trouble (and by 'trouble' I mean having absolutely nothing that fits by January 7th) when we frolic about as if we were living in Charlie and Chocolate Factory for forty days. So, as a public service, I would like to recap what actually constitutes a 'holiday' this time of year in the good old U.S. of A.

Thanksgiving: fourth Thursday of November and YES!! Bingo! This is a holiday, people! Totally bona fide. A harvest festival. All about it. Eat, drink, and give thanks. We had a great feast yesterday. I didn't even need dinner last night. YUM!

Black Friday: NO. This is not a holiday. I know it's hard to believe it, since it is heralded with more fanfare than Thanksgiving, but it's true. It's a Madison Avenue manufactured event. It annoys me that it even has a name. I know you may feel like you deserve a treat because you did battle for that Darth Vader Pez dispenser and had to wait in line for an hour at Kohl's, but it's still not a holiday. You're probably hungry and tired, though, so just have leftovers from yesterday.

Cyber Monday: Lord, have mercy. This is even less of a holiday than Black Friday. And you don't deserve any treats because you didn't even have to walk around to do your shopping. You planted your bottom on a chair and pressed buttons. No treats. Sorry.

December 1st. Well, this is the first day of Advent. This is a beautiful time of reflection and thinking about Jesus being the reason for the season, etc. If it helps you to think about Jesus, then go ahead and have a square of chocolate everyday for the next twenty-four days. If it becomes a little too habit-forming, don't worry. Lent is right around the corner!

December 6th: This is the feast of St. Nicholas, aka 'Santa Claus.'If you grew up calling your grandfather 'Opa' then this is a big deal for you. Enjoy that orange in your shoe!

December 8th: Nope. No holiday. It's just Tuesday. Put down the cookie.

December 6th-14th: This is Hanukkah. I'm not Jewish so I'm not really clear on how much treats factor into Hanukkah, except for the gelt, which is chocolate shaped into coins with gold foil wrappers. Personally, I have never had chocolate coins that were worth eating. They are never made from good quality chocolate, so I'd give it a pass. I mean, if you're going to have treats, have the good stuff, right?

December 14th: I'm going to rant for a second:

THIS IS NOT THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS! OH MY GOOD GRIEF. Every year some marketer tries to sell us stuff--literally--for the twelve days preceding Christmas day. DON'T BUY IT. I mean, seriously--don't buy it.

Lord knows I love America as much as the next daughter of a veteran, but I really, really despise how American marketers will try to make a buying opportunity out of every cotton pickin' thing they can. In this case, it is SIMPLY WRONG. The Twelve Days of Christmas start on CHRISTMAS. They end on Twelfth Night--January 5th. I'll get to that later, but please, do not think that the 14th is a holiday because it ISN'T. It's just marketing. Grrr!

Moving on...

December 24th: Ding ding ding! Yes! Holiday fer shur!! Bottoms up!

December 25th: WHOA! HOLIDAY!!! Holy-day! Which is where the word 'holiday' comes from, you know. Eat, drink, be merry, etc.

December 26th: Boxing Day. If you're from a commonwealth nation, yay! Totally qualifies as a holiday. For the rest of us it means going out to buy wrapping paper at 50% off.

December 26th-January 1st: This is Kwanzaa. I actually didn't realize this was a multi-day event. I also didn't realize it was invented in 1966. Kind of makes me wonder, how many people actually grew up celebrating Kwanzaa? I don't know, is this is a holiday? If you are of African decent, please write and tell me what you eat. I thought Kwanzaa might have involved jumping over brooms, which sounds like a nice activity after all the eating at Christmas, but apparently that's just at weddings.

December 31st: New Year's Eve. Holiday. I'll be tucked in by 9.30 in my fuzzy blue robe, but if you're a fan, this definitely qualifies.

January 1st: New Year's Day. Win!! Enjoy a nice brunch rich in vitamin G.

January 5th: As previously mentioned, this is Twelfth Night. You can party it up. Definitely. Especially if you managed to find a yule log that actually burned for twelve days.

January 6th: The Feast of Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. This is a holiday, especially if you call your grandfather 'abuelo,' Spanish kids actually get their presents on January 6th. The Three Kings bring them. There is a traditional cake for Epiphany made in France called a 'galette des rois.' It's yummy flaky pastry with an almond paste filling. If you can find one, enjoy!

After that, the party's over. Yes, there are a lot of holidays in this brief period, but really--unless you're a Jewish Scandinavian Christian Spanish African, you're probably not hitting everything on this list. Then again, maybe you are? In which case, you are indeed an American! Just don't call December 14th the first day of Christmas, ok?


  1. Ms. Barremom, how many of these qualify as eggnog holidays? I limit myself to drink eggnog only on official holidays, having learned one year that drinking it through all forty days had unpleasant consequences come swimsuit season. But now I'm confused. Is it allowable to drink eggnog on each of these holidays? Yay! Previously I did only on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day, and New Year's Day.

    1. I think you should stick to your regular schedule. :) Unless you're at a rockin' Twelfth Night party, of course.

    2. Hahaha! That was a good laugh!
      Ok, so Dec.8th is actually a holiday in Catholic tradition. It's "The Immaculate Conception" and a holiday in Spain. The first day of Advent is actually this Sunday (November 29th), but Advent calendars only start on December 1st.
      December 26th is the second day of Christmas in Germany and it's very quiet. All shops are closed and only a few petrol stations and motorway service areas are open for the public.
      Our kids go back to school on Three Kings Day. I say it's sacrilegious! I think I may have them clean their shoes very well and tell them there will be something in them in the morning.It will help them get up at 6 am again!

      One of my brothers calls Christmas "St Business". It's the busiest, most hectic and wasteful season of the year, and I suspect "St. Gluttony" and "St. Business" share the season...

    3. I have the wreath out for tomorrow, but the candy doesn't come out until the calendar does! As for the 8th, I had no idea! Do you eat anything special on that day?

    4. We aren't catholic so we never celebrated; we just enjoyed the three days off school - December 6th is Constitution Day so we got the 7th off school too-. I can't remember there being any special foods eaten on that day. Christmas starts on December 22nd with the national Christmas lottery and ends on January 6th, Three Kings' Day.

      I got the kids' advent calendars done a day late... I'm always late! On Sunday evening they went out caroling for St. Nicholas Day and came home with a bag of candy each. Sigh.. They've been sharing it with friends and eating a couple of pieces every day. St. Nicholas Day is the equivalent of your Halloween, but nicer. The kids go from door to door singing carols or reciting short poems and they receive candy, clementines or nuts.