Friday, July 11, 2008

How I Would (Maybe) Do Christmas if I Were in Charge of My Life

No, no, it isn't that I really believe that I'm not in charge of my life. It's just that I get busy and don't get around to planning, and if I do get around to planning, often enough I don't get around to doing. Since this is July, I thought that a tentative plan was in order. No, I didn't. Now that I think about it. I just wanted to write one. But I like it so far.

(By the way, if anyone sees a nice picture of a Christmas tree, please let me know. All the ones I can find have either been taken over by the tungsten glow of the living room, or else there isn't enough light, period, in them.)

As a reader of my own blog, I must say that I find direction #2 to be the most interesting of the four, and #3 to be the most useful (and #3 is short, so if you don't have much time, you might just read that one).

Please, please comment.

How to prepare for Christmas:

1. Have a list of people you love and want to get presents for. Well, first have a budget. Then make a list of the people you want to get presents for. Then add stuff to the list about their preferences: colors, actual stuff they’ve asked for, categories of stuff they always like. Have one for yourself, too. Use this to look out for stuff that other people might like, which is in your budget. Also use it to help other people who ask you on the spur of the moment what you or someone you know might want.

For me:
At the moment, I don’t have anywhere to keep anything, so I shouldn’t ask for anything. But if I could:

I like china with white or cream background and blue floral patterns. I also like fancy dishes of most kinds, especially the kind with metal edging and which can’t be microwaved or dishwashered (go figure). Also, lately, I have been wishing for a more permanent home for my stuff (e.g. a hope chest, for my linens and china). I found one that I like online, but it costs A LOT, so I'll just post the picture, soon.

By the way, the following website makes me happy—it is a list of basic kitchen equipment which I basically agree with (and believe me, I’ve read a few of them-- basic kitchen lists-- in my time):

I also love excellent stories, and especially beautifully written and illustrated children’s stories.

2. Also, decide what you want to do in terms of decoration. I like a Christmas tree, with some of my own decorations; I also possess some stockings, which I like the thought of hanging. I am particularly partial to tiny Christmas trees, but they seem to be rarely available around here. Next year, I may have to buy a full-sized tree and chop off the bottom, use the top as my tree, and then use the rest of the branches to make a wreath or something. Also, I may buy some of those pretty blue glass bulbs. Or something else, because blue glass breaks, and maybe I could make something out of blue satin. And silver. Blue satin with silver starry things really appeal to me. I like the idea of presents on the tree, but have never really pulled it off. More thought necessary…

I want to have a reason for the decorations.

Here’s something I am thinking about from Wikipedia's article on Christmas Trees:

"Another early reference is from Basel, where the tailor apprentices carried around town a tree decorated with apples and cheese in 1597."

That isn’t bad.

I think that trees should symbolize the gift of God to His children in the form of His Only Begotten Son; and I think that we can remember Him and His gift by giving presents to one another. I also think that only giving sugar is not a very nice symbol of Christ, because (straight) sugar really whacks out my system. The suggestion of apples and cheese is exciting to me, because it is still yummy, but not so awful an hour later. I suppose that hanging pancakes on the Christmas tree would be slightly less decorative than the look I am going for. And, now that I think about it, they would probably—no, definitely—dry out within about an hour, in this desert in which I live. But maybe I could make something more substantial, which is also less likely to crumble off the tree approximately 3 seconds after I hang it?

[The following was written after some research-- this is edited stream-of-consciousness writing you're reading here, if you hadn't picked that up by now.]

I’m just going to include a bigger chunk of the Wikipedia quote I put up earlier—it’s really interesting, and it solves my hangable-grain-product problem:

...The first officially recorded Christmastree ever was erected in Tallinn, Estonia, in year 1444. It was erected by the Brotherhood of Blackheads (local merchants guild) to celebrate the birth Christ. It was decorated with red and white roses. In that period, the guilds started erecting Christmas trees in front of their guildhalls: Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann (Marburg professor of European ethnology) found a Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 which reports how a small fir was decorated with apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers, and erected in the guild-house, for the benefit of the guild members' children, who collected the dainties on Christmas day.[5] Another early reference is from Basel, where the tailor apprentices carried around town a tree decorated with apples and cheese in 1597.

By-the-by, the footnote [5] leads to NOTHING useful. So.

Thus, I think that apples, pretzels, maybe nuts, and some sort of cheese would be really fun for tree-presents. Well, I’m really not so sure about the apples. I mean, how would I hang them? And visually, I’m not so sure how they would fit with the whole blue-and-silver-spheres thing. Maybe I could use the blue-and-silver to make things to hold the apples in, which I would then hang them with. Maybe I could think about doing a whole bunch of work but then not do it. But it is fun to think about.

3. Decide what you want to do. Include some service (which I have yet to do, which is probably why my Christmases keep turning less well than I wish). Include time spent telling little ones—telling after some manner, including having a pageant or making a book—about the Christmas story. Also, include singing.

4. Decide on festive, non-decoration things to add spirit, among them:
  • Two extra-special foods for Christmas, such as: brie, smoked salmon, molasses candy (this is what my ancestors in Orderville finagled for their children—I’ll try to find that story some time and share it), artisan bread, or whatever else is just too expensive to justify normally but won’t break the Special Christmas Food Budget. Consider making wassail, not only for taste but for the nice smell it brings to the kitchen.
  • Speaking of smell, boil old, dusty-tasting (sweet) spices in a pot at the back of the stove. They make the house smell nice; they are getting rid of with out wasting old spices; and they add humidity to the air and therefore make you less likely to get a cold because you have been getting so little sleep because you were up late typing papers. Not that I have ever done this, personally. Speaking of which, add orange juice to the Christmas Food shopping list, whether you are going to make wassail or not. [For the uninitiated, sweet spices are things that you would put in to sweet foods, normally: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, etc.]
  • Remember recorded music and movies. My personal movie recommendation is Muppet Christmas Carol, which I have loved for years.
  • Be sure to appreciate snow, if you get any. Also, appreciate how beautiful the moon looks when the night is cold—I really do think that it looks more beautiful then. Also, appreciate any alone time you get, because we often run short on it (along with sleep) during December.


kjh said...

Wow, there are so many things to comment on in this post! I find myself hesitant to comment, because I'm not sure I'll actually improve upon anything with my comments, but here goes anyway.

I had no idea that the first tree was in Estonia! When my husband finds out, either he will be delighted, or he will already know about it and tell me lots more that I don't know yet.

When you contemplated apples hung on a tree among blue and silver satin, I had a brief image of poisoned "Snow White" apples that had a slightly blueish tint, hanging on your tree....

Yesterday my son came in while I was catching up on blogs, and we had a fine time looking at pictures together. If we do this regularly, he will probably know at least some of his second cousins by sight at the next reunion. Thus, I must conclude, you need pictures! You need lots of them!

SAC said...

[I'm posting a comment from my mother which she emailed me.]


I tried to post a comment but I don't have a google id. I'm too tired to set one up tonight. This is the comment:

Dear Cornelia,
You probably don't remember it, but when you were very small your mother experimented with making lebkuhen (that is probably spelled wrong). this is a German cookie made for hanging on Christmas trees. When carolers come by, they can choose a cookie from the tree to eat. These cookies are rolled and decorated, and made with lots of spice. They keep for a couple of weeks. Another favorite for the tree is gingerbread. Any kind of cracker-like cookie would work for hanging on the tree.



ke said...

Oooh, I love the idea of gingerbread--and combine that with the pretzel idea, that is, making rolled, knotted, tied, or otherwise decorative bread and I think you have a winner. Also, you know those little wax-covered cheeses? The red and yellow ones that come in red plastic netting? Wouldn't those be lovely to hang (if only for a couple of hours--dairy you know.) I really like the way popcorn strings (or balls in cellophane?) look on a tree. I've strung them with cranberries but wonder if there's an similarly hardy berry that's more snackable? Blueberry? Gooseberry? I'm not sure.
I l.o.v.e Christmas--we need to discuss this in real life. :)