Last year, I think I only watched, like, three Christmas movies. Home Alone and Elf and other various flicks were on TV throughout the month, but actually sat down and watched and paid attention to? There was Christmas Vacation, I’m sure, the Muppet’s Christmas Carol (because Netflix told us to), and I think I made a point to watch Love Actually really close to Christmas when I realized I hadn’t watched it.
Otherwise? The holiday season, as it so often does now, just flew by in a blur. I used the excuses that I got sick, I was marathon training (or attempting to, at least), I was trying to grow my business.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite activities was making paper chains to count down to something — Christmas, my birthday, the last day of school, the day we’d leave on vacation, whatever. I’d sit in the playroom, surrounded by construction paper, painstakingly measure and draw lines across each sheet, cut them up, and loop them together into a long chain that would get hung up in my room. Sometimes I’d make a poster or sign saying “CHRISTMAS” to tape to the wall at the end of the chain. You know, in case I forgot why I had red and green loops all over my room.
Then I’d cut up dozens of paper snowflakes and hang them up everywhere, too. And I probably wasn’t good about cleaning up all the paper scraps and putting the scissors away after these craft sessions. Sorry mom.
(One year, my brothers and I were all making chains together. We’d found my mom’s pinking shears — the kind that cut in little zigzags — and thought it was so cool to cut the strips with those, but man it made them tougher to deal with. My dad saw us and offered to let us use the paper cutter in his office and we were like “Noooo, we’re making them special!” Oh, the random things we remember…)
Days took for-ev-er when we were kids, didn’t they? I remember the absolute agony of waiting until bedtime each day so I could carefully rip off one of those loops and count those remaining.
Now, it’s like “Oh! It’s December 1st! Okay, I’ve got to get gifts for these people, and we need to pull the decorations out, maybe we’ll be able to put them up next weekend, and I want to go ice skating, but, hmm, we have plans that weekend and that weekend and, well, that week is Christmas, so…and there’s the office holiday party and I’ve got to make cookies and I really should call up some girlfriends and get together before we all leave to see family…”
And the next thing I know it’s December 22nd and I’m like “what. happened. Well, at least all my gifts have been purchased. And most of the decorations are…sort of up. Wait, did I forget that person? Shit. I gotta go to the mall after work tomorrow. And I’m out of Christmas wrapping paper. And I’ve only had two gingerbread lattes this month what the fuck.”
I mean, it’s not always that bad, but it feels like it.
I’m having some real anxiety about getting my fill of gingerbread lattes this year, for some reason.
So in an effort to assuage that, I’m making some plans for the month. A Holiday Cheer Checklist, if you will (how sad is that? I just desperately didn’t want to call it “Christmas Goals” because that’s truly pathetic).
“Finish” my Christmas playlist. Is a playlist ever truly “finished”? I don’t think so. I have about 30 songs (probably including 5 versions of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) on there right now — I’m adding songs sporadically as they come up on Spotify’s various pre-done playlists. This weekend, I want to look up some of my old favorite Christmas albums and the artists I know have good albums or versions of my favorite songs and build it up more. I take Christmas music very seriously for some reason. There are songs I love, love, love and just want to hear covered by twenty different artists (“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Merry Christmas Baby,” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “What Christmas Means to Me,” “Silent Night,” “Please Come Home for Christmas” – Eagles’ version, “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” – Bruce Springsteen’s version, “O Holy Night”…) and songs I absolutely cannot stand and do whatever I can to avoid all season (“Last Christmas,” “Santa Baby,” “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” – seriously, that song is so fucked up, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”) and songs I’m conflicted about (“Baby It’s Cold Outside”).
December Nights at Balboa Park. Somehow I miss this every year, or think/hear about it at the end of the second night and get all bummed. Not this year.
Christmas light driving tours. I’ve already started looking for lights displays in the neighborhood on my evening walks with Onyx. The ginormous exterior illuminations coordinated with sound are cool, but I prefer the neighborhoods and blocks where most of the houses get into it and do something. I told Husband we’re going to pick a night, make hot chocolate, and just cruise around to different neighborhoods for an hour. And maybe we’ll even get down to the harbor to watch one of the Christmas lights boat parades this year?
Make some Christmas cookies. It used to be tradition — one of the first days of Christmas break, my mom and brothers and I would make Christmas cookies. She’d make the sugar cookie dough and roll it out for us and we’d stamp cookie cutters shaped like trees and angels and reindeer and Santa and snowflakes all over and sneak bites of the raw dough. Then she’d kick us out of the kitchen while they baked and cooled, make the icing, and call us back down to decorate the cookies/make a huge, sugary, delicious mess. Of all the childhood traditions, it’s that and picking out the Christmas tree (which was always a half-day ordeal, minimum) I miss most. Oh, and going to the city for the day to see the decorations around Union Square and some special outing or event, like seeing a show.
Anyway, I tried making those sugar cookies myself one year and it was an absolute disaster. The dough had too much flour or not enough or I didn’t do the right dance or say the proper prayers or make a sufficient offering to the cookie gods. I don’t know. So I officially leave that to mom for now, but I want to find a new cookie recipe or two to make. It shouldn’t be hard. There’s only 500,000,000 cookie recipes on Pinterest, right?
Make sure our tree gets decorated. Like I mentioned, we put up most of our decorations last week, but our little tree is still unadorned. Honestly, I kinda like the classic look it has right now — all the greenery with white lights only, red tree skirt, angel on top — but I love it with all the ornaments too. Our ornament collection has actually outgrown the little tree, which means decorating it has a few Sophie’s choice-like moments. I dream of the day when we have the space for a real tree — a nice, full 7-foot Douglas Fir. Sometimes I fall down the rabbit hole of browsing home listings on Zillow and it’ll be, like, May and I’ll look at the photos and say “Oh, that corner is where the Christmas tree would go!” and my husband tells me I’m crazy. It’s an important thing to consider when buying a house.
Watch all the Christmas movies. Well, not all of them, but definitely Elf, The Santa Clause, Love Actually, A Charlie Brown Christmas (have that on the DVR right now!), White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and all the Claymation classics. And the original Grinch and Home Alone II.
AND “The One With the Holiday Armadillo” of course. I realized last week the greatest thing about Friends being on Netflix is I no longer have to wait and hope to catch that episode on TBS. I CAN WATCH IT WHENEVER I WANT AS OFTEN AS I WANT. #godblessnetflix
Give back. This actually used to be so easy when I worked in an office — my department used to “adopt a family” and we’d all split up the “wish list.” They also used to collect donations and use the money to buy a bunch of bikes that some local group collected. Now I’m a little ashamed to say it’s another chore or errand to take care of that easily slips down the list and never gets done. I probably can’t afford to “adopt a family” by myself but I can find a toy or food drive or something.
That’s it…for now. I’m purposely keeping my/our calendar open as often as possible this month and keeping an eye out for local holiday events.
Also, not Christmas-related, but I’ve had passes to the Natural History Museum all year and they expire on the 31st. So I want to use those too.