Yes, Christmas is here, but there are trolls about (and February will come and February will be brutal) so you need to hold onto your joy with both hands (use handcuffs if need be). Put “That Christmas Morning Feeling” on repeat. At full volume. Stollen for dinner! Cinnamon candles! F & M hampers! Velvet dressing gown! Put your change into the Salvation Army basket and send generous contributions of worthy charities. Get your Christmas train party-bound!
Do something, anything to make the next few days different. 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.
Eggnog for breakfast? Yes. Wearing a pine garland on your head? Please feel free. Eating the cookies that you bought to leave out for Santa? Yes, as long as the kiddies don’t catch you at it. Sitting in your car crying as you listen to old-fashioned carols? Good for the soul. Buy cookies for your holiday treat exchange? Yes, as long as no one finds out. Book yourself a 4 day escape to somewhere with a good beach? Have at it.
You don’t want to decorate? Allowance is granted, up to a point. Put up lights and nothing else. Put up a tree and don’t decorate it at all. 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).
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
Toast slices of pandoro and panettone! Drink gluhwein, Julmust, Christmas Caipirinhas and schnapps (just not at the same time). Put something in your mouth that comes only at this time of year: those cheap marshmallow-chocolate Santas from the drug store, 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 Bûche de Noël are not in your culture, focus on 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… what is coming next? January, February, March – the time of oatmeal. Celebrate NOW.
Reminders for video calls
* Video-calls AFTER a little caffeine and BEFORE alcohol. No booze before the difficult relatives, no matter how much you need it. Put on hot-buttered rum lipgloss and Ranger Up.
* DO NOT OPEN PRESENTS WHILE ON A VIDEO-CALL unless you are truly dealing with a troll. Only 1% of presents opened are safe for video-calls. Darling, in-person present opening is so much safer b/c there is so much going on: noise, alcohol, not enough sleep, sugar highs, TV, etc. that no one is watching that closely – but grandparents who miss grandchildren are putting a LOT of psychological weight on seeing the little rug-rat open that package of dark blue wool socks and the result might be catastrophic: the grandparents might close the college-savings account and buy themselves jet-skis. Open everything, then stage photos of people holding up item and smiling.
* Record your doorbell (leave your phone on ‘record’, walk to outside, close the door, ring doorbell – then go save that audio file), always helpful to play when you are stuck on a video-call – it can give you a five minute break).
* If you live in an area with snow, record the sound of a snowball thrown against the window. If anyone brings up politics, play the sound, yell “Oh my goodness, a bird just hit the window” and escape for a few minutes.
* Wear shorts/ pants/ a skirt if there is any hint of a video call happening – you do not want to hear a suspicious ‘thump’ that sounds like a pet wrestling with an item of poultry, stand up in haste and display a black lace thong to the in-laws.
* Up-lighting, yes it works. Two minutes of preparation stops 10 minutes of people asking you why you look tired. Put a light behind, lower than and to the side of the computer, so you have light shining up towards your face. And stain your lips a little with maraschino cherry juice. Then, since you have opened the jar, you will have to finish the cherries off by making 8 pina coladas. Merry Christmas indeed!
Yes, Virginia – Proper Behavior at Christmas Time
Christmas in the Middle East – STRÅLA and Sardine-flavored Candy Canes
Holiday Gift Guide for Darling People
Celebrating Christmas with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight