Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...
I’ve got an earworm this holiday season. So if you can’t get Dean Martin’s crooning—or Ella’s, or Frank’s, or any of the superb artists who’ve covered this chestnut—out of your head after you read those lyrics, you’re not the only one.
“Man, it doesn’t show signs of stoppin’; and I brought me some corn for poppin’; the lights are turned way down low… Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”
I couldn’t think of a better tune this time of year for Whistler or any winter resort on the planet, for that matter. Snow, once the bane of Canadians, an endless source of complaining and railing, is now nothing short of a gift.
The snow might be iffy where you are, but the holiday feasting (and piety) during these the darkest days of the year has definitely been part of our culture since the earliest times. A History of Private Life reminds us that whenever the word “sacrifice” appears in Greek or Latin texts, it always implies “feast” given the ritual of sacrificing animals, the bigger the better, on an altar followed by the contemplative participants feasting on the leftovers, as it were.
“Great temples had kitchens and offered the services of their cooks to worshippers,” writes Paul Veyne in Private Life. Food, piety, merriment—let the good times roll.
As we roll into yet another Christmas season peppered by a pandemic, you couldn’t ask for a better excuse to take the customs surrounding winter solstice (happening this year December 21, 7:58 a.m. Pacific Time) and, to the tune of the above refrain, “Make it yours, make it yours, make it yours.”
Never mind the decorating and presents and social agenda (well, I guess the latter is pretty much shot again this year, so that’s one relief), the whole Christmas day feast thing, as it trickled down from those ancient rituals, is still pretty much gendered, namely falling on women.
A few years back, journalist and author Judith Shulevitz described the “worrier role” of women. And, yes, that’s “worrier” not “warrior.” And at no time is it more evident than the “holiday shift”—what Shulevitz calls “the triple shift.”
Sure, men cook and have their special roles at Christmas, but they’re seldom largely in the kitchen, or seldom large. The roles, that is (😆). And note I say seldom, but never mind. Let’s leap beyond gendering and into full parity: No matter who you are and what your expectations might be this holiday season, there’s not been a better excuse for ages to make yourself truly merry, if not bright.
In a nutshell, take it easy.
First off, good chance you won’t be having many over for a feast so start there. You don’t need the big ritualistic centrepiece of roasted suckling pig or lamb or turkey, even, and what with food prices, especially for meat, going through the roof where the reindeer need to land, that’s a good thing.
See that lovely photo at the top of the page? The centrepiece is a Santa Claus melon, also called Christmas melon. Originally from Spain, where it’s known as piel de sapo (toad skin) because of its green-striped rind, it got its English name due to its long-lasting characteristics. Its sweet, creamy flesh will keep until Christmas.
If you can’t find a real Santa Claus melon, make it up. Find a lovely cantaloupe or mound of figs (those were my grandad’s favourites at Christmas). Name them, think of a connecting story, and make those the centre of your holiday feasting. Our fragile planet will love you, too.
Pair your new Santa Claus fruit delights with favourites—yours or whoever you’re sharing your festive meal with. Chubby Hubbie loves stew? Make it so. The kids love Annie’s mac and cheese? Chop up some cherry tomatoes and bright green broccoli for a dash of festive colour. Support your local baker and buy a holiday treat to pair with good ice cream. Or heat up some maple syrup and run out and pour it on the snow. (Make it yours, make it yours, make it yours.)
Or, what the heck—don’t even bother to cook. Nobody’s watching so order in anything that gives you pleasure, even if it’s pizza. Especially if it’s pizza! Take-out doesn’t have to be posh, but that can fun too, if it fits your budget and your mood. Point is, the holidays are a time to relax and restore and launch into the New Year, feeling ready to take it on, not frazzled and fried to a crisp.
Be easy on you, and your surroundings. Treat yourself with kindness, and it’ll spill over around you. Especially don’t get too hung up on what “should be.” The keyword is “acceptance.” Embrace with grace what is, especially this year, when travel plans, or other best intentions, can go awry in a heartbeat.
If you’re away from loved ones, organize a Zoom or just make a phone call or three. And if that even seems too much, and you find yourself on your own, accidentally or on purpose, treat yourself to a cozy holiday pyjama day. Curl up with your favourite whatevers—books, popcorn, Netflix specials, BFF with four legs, or two. Consider what you have, not what you don’t.
As for that catchy holiday tune, the irony of its origins won’t be lost on you these days. It was created by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn in the middle of a heat wave in Hollywood—in July 1945!
So relax, get cosy, and love what you’ve got—especially you!
Best of the season to you. Make it yours, make it yours, make it yours…
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who looks forward to a very peaceful, green Christmas.