15. Building a gingerbread house
I did not enjoy this. I think this should be a social activity. I don’t recommend making a gingerbread house alone while your husband does laundry downstairs. Also, they tend to fall over.
14. Going to see Santa
There is something very sad about malls. When I went to see him, Santa was all alone in a dwindling environment like a zoo penguin. He left for his mandated hour-long break just after I arrived, but he said “Merry Christmas” twice.
I was unable to go to a Christmas pageant this year, so this ranking is entirely based on my recollection of being in pageants as a small child. My recollection was that I was always vastly older than everyone else involved in the pageant and thus had to be the narrator. One year, the manger collapsed and one of the wise men went running around and around the church and could not be subdued; in the year following, Joseph cried and refused to leave his seat in the pew, and his father was forced to come up to the manger in his stead, which I guess in some ways was more true to the age gap in the Biblical story? I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to watch this instead of appear in it, but I assume it would be worse.
12. Ice skating
For me, the experience of ice skating always starts with the following steps: (1) Propose ice skating. (2) Put on skates, stride confidently to the ice rink. (3) Realize, the second you arrive on the ice, that you have entirely forgotten how to ice skate.
A moment ago, you were a confident adult suggesting an afternoon of fun, and now you are helpless, like a cat on a recently waxed floor. Why have you gone to stand on a sheet of ice, voluntarily? You will surely fall and hurt yourself. If you fall on your front it will hurt, and if you fall on your back it will hurt, and you are not so young as you used to be. All of your mental images of how to propel yourself forward turn out to be incorrect. Your friends look at you with concern as you stand there, flapping your arms. “I understand the physics of it, of course,” you say, in a tone in which even you can detect a note of hysteria. You demonstrate this by leaning forward, which does nothing.
Whose idea of a good time is it to be cold and also to be slipping and sliding around very slowly in a circle? If you wanted to slip and slide around in a circle and be in danger of banging your coccyx, you could go home and mop, which you have never before desired to do.
11. Peering into a lighted shop window
I don’t recommend this. It is cold, and TV has been invented.
10. Watching Hallmark movies
I actually like to watch Hallmark Movies. So does my mom, “ironically,” she claims. When I told her I had to watch a Hallmark Original movie for work, as a Christmas activity, she was delighted.
We found “Christmas at Dollywood” halfway and dived right in. Things got off to a bad start because I insisted that the male lead in “Christmas at Dollywood” was Jesse Metcalfe, and my mother insisted that it wasn’t, and now I owe her $20. It turns out that, for years, I have had no idea who Jesse Metcalfe was! I thought he was the guy in “Christmas at Dollywood.” Sorry, Jesse Metcalfe.
Following “Christmas at Dollywood" was “Picture a Perfect Christmas,” I guess because “A Picture-Perfect Christmas” was taken.
9. Attending Handel’s ‘Messiah’
I would, on the whole, recommend “Messiah.” I took a music appreciation course in college, and, consequently, “Messiah” is one of five pieces of music that, in theory, I know how to appreciate. However, it turned out that after the part I knew how to appreciate, there were two additional parts, of equal length, which I appreciated less and less. I don’t know if you are familiar with “Messiah,” but the Hallelujah Chorus comes in the middle, at the conclusion of the second section. And then there is another section to go! What amazed me was that people just got up and left after the Hallelujah Chorus, like a home crowd at a baseball game. I guess they wanted to get to their cars and felt confident that the Messiah was going to win.
I like caroling. My only advice about this would be to get a high number in “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” because I got a low number, and I swear the turtle doves got lower each time until my voice was cracking alarmingly.
7. Baking and decorating cookies
“I have to bake and decorate cookies for work,” I told my mother. She came over to help, revealing in the course of the afternoon that all the family baking competence was concentrated a generation ago and did not pass on. If you enjoy being gently but devastatingly mocked by your mother for not knowing how to separate an egg — “That part is the yolk!” “I KNOW THAT PART IS THE YOLK! I AM ASKING ABOUT THE OTHER PART!" “That part is the white.” “I know! I meant the thing hanging off here!” “That is the yolk.” — then I recommend the experience.
The other problem that I had with this was that I had not prepared by looking at the recipe in advance (“When you cook, you need to look at the recipe in advance” — My Mom) and consequently only had red food-coloring, meaning that all the resulting cookies looked as though something nightmarish had befallen them. The trees were all red as Melania’s forest. The snowmen were, well, redder than you want a snowman to be. This was fun in a way because it allowed your imagination to run free, but I cannot say that the result was immediately and obviously appetizing. I still have most of these cookies left, if anyone would like one.
6. Drinking egg nog
Egg nog has the consistency and flavor of yogurt, but you have the option to pour bourbon in it, which people frown on when you do to yogurt. I would highly recommend the experience of egg nog.
5. Giving gifts
I have been informed by those who know about these things that “gift giving” is a “love language.” I am not fluent in love; I read it much better than I speak it. So, for me, gift-giving is always an exercise in anxiety and confusion. There is nothing like the feeling of identifying, immediately, the perfect gift for someone.
I assume. I have not had that feeling.
My process for gift selection goes as follows: Identify something that I vaguely associate with a person for reasons inscrutable to anyone, but especially the recipient. Get a gift that includes that element. Present it to them.
But there is always a phase in between when I go around saying, “I’ve got a great gift, it’s going to be great, I have the perfect gift,” and then when I describe it to anyone they say, “Huh?” and then I am thrown back into a maelstrom of doubt. To give a so-called good gift, I have to spend months thinking about a person and then run into the correct mug in a gift shop by total chance.
4. Receiving gifts
This is great! It is like shopping but done for you by others. I suspect I am also bad at receiving gifts. One year, my in-laws, who up until that point had given me mainly joke gifts, presented me with a nice shirt. I stared at it in confusion. “It’s just a normal shirt!” I said. Somehow I do not think this is the response that they wanted. To be fair, it was just a normal shirt.
3. Seeing holiday lights
I will drive almost any distance to see anything decorated with holiday lights, however underwhelming, and consequently I am placing this experience higher on the list than my version of it this year deserved. This year I went barreling through ZooLights by myself on a random weeknight. They are indeed impressive. They are lights, and they are at the National Zoo.
There are glowing alligators. There are lions illuminated from within. It was all very well and good, but to me the optimal holiday light experience is as follows: You force family members into a car (they have already had their egg nog and do not want to leave the house). You pull up the address of a random house that is listed on a local TV station’s ranking of the area’s light displays. You and your family drive over a set of railroad tracks deliberately placed there to make your grandmother frown on this idea. And then you come to what, you guess, is the house, and you watch several candy canes with lights wrapped around them flash almost but not quite in time to the strains of “Old Town Road (Christmas Remix)” over your grandmother’s objections. That, to me, is Christmas.
2. Seeing ‘A Christmas Carol’
This was very fun and delightful! However, as someone who loves musical theater, I was confused by the decision of the production I saw to include songs yet have all those songs be public-domain Christmas carols. I am used to having a song that does dramatic work in a show, where characters use the music to reveal things about themselves, and instead what the songs would reveal would be that the character thought this was a silent night or had seen three ships come sailing in or wanted God to rest ye merry gentlemen. (I do not wish to revisit this.) They sounded gorgeous, of course! But I thought maybe “A Christmas Carol” should have songs, instead of Chri . . . wait, I get it now. Never mind.
I would still at least recommend arriving on time, which I did not and consequently had to climb over a whole row of people who remained in their seats as I clambered uncomfortably over their knees; this was not conducive to putting anyone in the Christmas spirit.
But these are my problems and not the production’s problems; it was charming.
1. Seeing, NAY, *EXPERIENCING* ‘The Nutcracker’
*laughs nervously* What the actual hell?
I really enjoyed “The Nutcracker”! I know that it is based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann that is actually even more screwed-up than the ballet suggests! But the ballet could equally be the work of a choreographer who has been given some gorgeous music (and more important, some LSD) and told to craft a series of intricate and beautiful dances. That is how you end up with an army of gorgeously costumed dancing mice. I have not seen Shen Yun, but this is what I assume Shen Yun is like: an extraordinarily dignified acid trip with very high production values, but this time accompanied by some extremely extra music by Tchaikovsky, a man whose idea of good composition was to add cannons.
As far as plot goes, it starts out making kind of sense and then escalates wildly. First, it’s a party. Great. Then Drosselmeyer comes in with an eye patch and a big cape, with a set of enormous life-size dolls which he winds up and makes dance. Fine. Then everyone goes to bed. Okay. Then, Drosselmeyer climbs up on the clock. Sure. And then the RAT KING COMES. And he fights with the Nutcracker, who is now alive! And the young protagonist Clara kills him with her shoe. Wait, I’m sorry? AND NOW WE ARE IN THE LAND OF THE SUGAR PLUM FAIRY, A CONCEPT THAT REQUIRES NO EXPLANATION! Help! What’s happening? I love it! Help?
I need more egg nog.
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