Christmas is Here – But February is Coming (so buy candles)

Darling! How nice to see you and what are your plans for the weekend? What will you have for breakfast? WHAT? DID YOU SAY OATMEAL?

No, darling, no no no and no. And also no. Stop it this instant. Yes, Christmas is here, but February will come and February will be brutal. You need to celebrate now so you can look back with joy as you slog through the late winter.

Hop to it – chop chop. Do something, anything to make this week different. I know it’s been a hideous year and looks to get worse but Etiquette Central is giving out dispensations right and left. (Yes, you can wear a peppermint-stripe footsie for Zoom meetings and tell everyone that your computer’s camera is on the blink.) We are bestowing indulgences without even asking for an excuse, so there is no excuse left.

You don’t want to decorate? Allowance is granted, up to a point. Put up lights and nothing else. Fine. Put up a tree and don’t decorate it at all. Ok. Buy wreaths and hang them indoors. Roger that. You are green-lighted to put a shot of rum in your coffee every morning (tell co-workers that it’s rum-flavoring). We are even giving exemptions on sending Christmas cards! (the last time that happened was in the 1700s!)

But Darling, you need to make this season merry. Do what I do: put mini candy-canes and milk in the smoothie blender, then add the pink milk to coffee and voila. It’s like a little elf came and blessed your coffee

Get stuck into the Italian pandoro and panettone fight. (star-shaped pandoro is associated with Verona and made from flour, butter and eggs; cone-shaped panettone is associated with Milan and made from flour, butter, eggs and sugar with candied fruit and sultanas). Drink egg-nog, gluhwein, Julmust, or Christmas Caipirinhas. Just put something in your mouth that comes only at this time of year: those cheap marshmallow-chocolate Santas from the drug store, a little something-something from F & M, kringle, popovers or reindeer poop.

And this is vital whether or not you celebrate Christmas – if the smell of pine, snow-flake-shaped sugar cookies, tinsel and peppermint-mocha coffees are not in your culture, focus on lights. Theres so much blather on taking relaxing baths but few places in the Middle East have bath tubs, so we emphasize lights. Anyone and any tradition can do candles. Walk into any IKEA store in the Middle East and you see every faith, nationality, gender, age looking at the throw pillows, coffee plungers, desk chairs, storage boxes and book cases but the most crowded section – where everyone is mulling about, lingering, sniffing and looking wistfully at the pretty colors – is the candle section, the place where all are equal in the quest for Vansklig, Sinnlig, Blomduft and Lugga.

Scented candles around the house are calm inducing and you need calm because January is coming. And what will January bring? Omicron and bad weather. Be your own Chief Readiness Officer and prepare!

Get some talismans out and on display, souvenirs of places you have been to and photos of places you want to go to. Proofs of past achievements need to be prominently displayed. Snuggle up with Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House (Cheryl Mendelson) or an Alexandra Stoddard. Start feng shui (and if you are the sort who scorn feng shui, think of it as  intentionality training. It’s not the cat statute in the western corner, it’s that every time you look at the cat you think “I’ve got the cat behind me so I can…”). Courage, darling, always courage.

January, February, March – the time of oatmeal is coming. Celebrate NOW.