Christmas Day Open Thread

(Matthews gives voice to the insecurity of many in the traditional media. - promoted by Bob)

Thought I’d start an open thread!  Merry Christmas to you who observe the holiday, whether you do so in a religious or secular way!  

If you don’t observe the holiday, how do you feel about it?  One friend goes to work, but can’t find an open restaurant!

What are you doing today?  Remind people to register to vote, so they can vote in the general election in January, and maybe register in the Democratic Party, and take part in a caucus in February.

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  1. I'll start

    I spent Christmas Eve with my family.  There were twenty-four people and we had a lot of fun.  It was generally not very political.  My sister-in-law did tell me that my brother made her vote in the primary, because I "would be checking who voted."  By contrast, today I am home with my husband and his sister.  I did put a bumper sitcker on one of our fmaily cars today and am now taking a break to watch the cable program created at the Westborough holiday party.  

  2. Our secular celebration

    Christmas Eve and Christmas has become one of the favorite holidays for my wife and me. It took me, literally, a lifetime to get it right. We've embraced Thanksgiving and New Years as our "big" family celebrations, and Christmas remains a quiet and totally fun day that all of us look forward to and love.

    I come from a family of origin where Christmas for all but the youngest children was a time of stress, fighting, tension, and thinly-veiled hostility &#8212 all wrapped in Southern Baptist trappings of literal fundamentalist dogma. In my adulthood, two divorces and five children meant that the Christmas season was a time of painful separation from my children (as the non-custodial parent, I always ended up with the children joining me for Thanksgiving and New Years) and plain old dread.

    My wife and I married on December 20, 2002. Since 2000, when we started dating, "Christmas" has been a season kicked off by our anniversary celebration of the winter solstice (we both love winter and snow). Each year, we've celebrated Christmas Eve with an intimate dinner for two at one of our favorite local Vietnamese restaurants where we are "regulars". We follow that with after-dinner cognac at another of our favorite local haunts, an Indian restaurant on Beacon Street. The owner loves cognac. Every year we look forward to sitting at his bar with his current favorite, and catching up on the events of the year for his family and ours. When we finally arrive home, I relish the one night of the year when I can enjoy a fine cigar in the living room :-) with the blessing of my wife.

    On Christmas day (today), we cook a goose the old-fashioned Bavarian way. Our celebration began, years ago, as special just-the-two-of-us day of pampering and foodie fun. My oldest daughter chose to attend BU, and she has lived in Boston since then. As her career as professional chef has taken off, she has found herself unable to make the cross-country trip to Washington state for Christmas with her mom, and for the last three years has been spending the day with us. The man in her life (another arrival from the left coast) joins us now, and this year his brother will be with us as well. My wife and I realize that in the not-too-distant future, we will enjoy being "Oopa" and "Ooma" bouncing grandchildren in our laps while our children do the cooking (with frequent supervision and tasting from us, of course). I experience all this with a child-like sense of surprise and wonderment — I never dreamed that Christmas could be this marvelous.

    I wish all of you a happy, loving, and joy-filled holiday season, however you choose to celebrate it. And now I have a goose to truss and get in the oven.

    • What a nice family story

      Thank you for telling us the story.  Christmas can be so stressful, as you have mentioned.  It's OK to be hanging out reading BMG.  I very much enjoy the very low key Christmas Day that we have.  Nothing as fancy as goose for me.  Meatloaf is our family tradition.  We just opeend presents.  My sister is reading one of the books.  Husband is checking out a gift that he picked out himself.  Since he retired, one of our ways of reducing sttress, is he does the shopping for gifts that I give to him!  

      • In my family, a present you pick out for youself is a $quot;present for Emily$quot;

        • a surprisingly handy expression rooted in stories of an obscure relative who would get distracted when shopping for gifts for others and come home with things for herself.  
  3. Christmas has really annoyed me this year

    I've been looking for a place to complain about it -- and you seemed to welcome it in your thread by asking about those who don't celebrate.

    This is the first year I've divorced myself so far from religion that I had no desire to celebrate any aspect of it, yet it's so ingrained that I find that almost impossible. How could I not give at least my little brother and sister (13 and 16) a gift? How could I not show up at the family gatherings? How could I not accept the presents given to me by my parents? (Honestly, I tried in some very subtle ways to get my parents to not give me anything this year. I think they took some of the hint and just settled for giving me some of the things I really needed and less than I'd usually get, so that much I appreciated). The fact that, whether I like it or not, I'm essentially forced into doing these things does foster some resentment for the holiday.

    I just don't feel as though I want to go through the motions anymore, because no matter how secular this holiday may have become, at base it is a religious holiday and the christian faith -- of which I used to be a part of (I was confirmed catholic) -- has left a very, very ugly after taste in my mouth. Yet, no matter how much I don't want to be a part of Christmas, it's so giant and huge as to be unavoidable. For any of those crazy people who think there's a 'war on christmas' and christmas is somehow dying, or something, what paranoid bullshit!

    I don't at all think this is how every non-religious person who has celebrated christmas culturally in the past should act. It's just a personal decision for me. It helps that I live like a monk and don't want/care about "presents" -- and I haven't since I was a kid. I would like to be able to avoid the holiday all together, but for the sake of the tens of millions of people who love it, I guess I can suffer for a week or two every December. Maybe, someday long, long in the future, if I ever decide to have kids, I'd learn to like it again, because at some level I do think this holiday is best left to the province of children, but until then, I'm content to participate as little in this holiday as possible.  

    • Thanks Ryan

      I know that Christmas can be difficult for those who don't celebrate.  That is one of the reasons that I mentioned that in this open thread.  I appreciate your viewpoint.  

      • And I thank you for asking ;)

        This is actually something that's been on my mind for at least a week now, but there's no real place to express myself about it, at least without offending people who do celebrate, because some people find it difficult to understand that not everyone wants to celebrate it. So I actually find this very helpful -- getting it off my chest makes it much easier to head on over to my Aunt's for dinner in 5 minutes and hopefully have a nice time...

    • I'm sorry to hear that.

      It sounds like your experience with organized religion (the Church) wasn't positive, and that's unfortunate.  I don't know if you got a chance to watch the national tree lighting on PBS, but everyone from the President on down emphasized the universality of peace and goodwill.  There's no way I'm going to ask you to believe in a virgin birth or anything like that, especially since I don't literally believe it myself.  You'll also probably find plenty of Christians nodding in agreement with your complaints of it being overdone.  I think you're right about the having children part, but I encourage you until then to continue focusing on the family aspects of the holiday.  I hope you don't take this the wrong way; I really do feel badly when I hear things like this and hope there is something that people can find to celebrate.

    • Rye -- come to my house next year for Christmas Eve.

      Seriously -- remind me next Nov or so.  I live on the Green Line.

      My wife and I had 8 people over (2 canceled last minute) and did Traditional Italian Christmas Eve, as much as we could anyway.  I cooked.  We got to use our wedding china and crystal which was fun too.  All fish was fresh (except the anchovies), and everything made from scratch (except the linguine).

      Antipasto: * salami * sopressata (hot) * sopressata (sweet) * prosciutto * fresh buffalo mozzarella * provolone * marinated eggplant * roasted red pepper * black olives * green olives * artichokes * mozzarella balls in herbs and olive oil * anchovies * peperoncini

      Appetizers: * bruschetta * scallops and bacon * broiled shrimp marinated in Italian spices and lemon

      Dinner (all sauces made from scratch): * linguine with a creamy Parmesan sauce * linguine with marinara * linguine with clams and a pink sauce * squid ink fettuccine and squid

      Dessert (from Modern): * cannoli * Italian butter cookies * Dominick the Donkey cookies (made from scratch by me) * espresso * coffee

      and of course wine and rummed-egg nog and any other libation imaginable.

      We didn't go home for the holidays so we tried to recreate some feast.  We did about half of what my parents do in terms of food.

      What made the night great?  A bunch of people our age, of the following religions: Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Atheist.  It was a remarkably secular, remarkably religious, remarkably enlightened celebration between friends new and old.

      You should come next year.  Bring a date.  No joke.  It's the part of Christmas that I think you would enjoy, free of all the parts which you and I both think are awful.

      • that sounds like a lot of fun

        Huge bonus points for that awesome menu. I may take you up on the offer ;)

      • Traditional Italian?

        I notice that you didn't subject your guests to any Baccala.  Wise move.

        • By tradititional Italian

          I mean traditional New York Italian immigrant, of course.

          I didn't subject folks to baccala because I'm only one man, with one small kitchen.  I wanted to make it but just couldn't do it all.  Maybe next year... :)

          I will say that I'm strangely frustrated, in that all the guests said it was wonderful and my wife even said that the food was fantastic*, but I thought it was just pretty good.  I was hoping to knock my own socks off, but I failed in that regard.  That said, the leftovers are wonderfully tasty.  I ate a prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, and roasted red pepper sandwich, cookies, and drank about 15 oz of wine while watching Avatar yesterday.  The food was better than the film.

          * relevant because she was one of two Italian Americans there; the other was her cousin who raved about the food on facebook.

        • subject?

          I'm not Italian, but love the stuff.  Best I ever had was at Otto, last year.  Mario Batali did his version of the feast of the seven fishes.  It was delightful.

      • I don't know if this is traditional Italian but

        lately I have been braising/steaming a pork picnic roast and adding that tender pork to my sauce (with sausages). Then I let it sit for a day or two to meld together. Yummy!! I'm making a giant batch of sauce/pork which I'm freezing single servings for my Mother and Mother-in-law.

        We should trade sauce (or "gravy" as I hear some Italians call it) recipes sometimes. I make from scratch, although "from scratch" can be very subjective :)

    • I do feel privileged to largely ignore Christmas

      but that would be hard to do if we lived closer to family.  My husbands' live in Holland, where he grew up Catholic; mine live in the middle of the country, where childhood solstices were spent dutifully going through the rituals of standard secular consumerist Christmases.

      It's been a lovely, peaceful day of doing very little.  We did have the pleasure of a Skype chat with young nieces and nephews in Cheyenne who had just opened their presents.  (And the pleasure of returning to solitude with the closing of a window on the the Mac.)  And now the pan-Asian food delivery has arrived, so it's time to enjoy a wonderful early dinner.

      • Briefly thought you were a polyandrist

        When you said, "My husbands' live in Holland" I thought you had a couple of husbands living overseas.  Maybe someday we can edit comments.

    • Ryan,

      I'm an atheist and my son is, too.  We cobble together the stuff we like about the holidays--all of 'em--and eschew the things we don't.  Giving presents is fun; the Christian crap not so much.  We like the idea of the solstice, so we retain that.  We like the idea of a tree but we also love the idea of a Festivus Pole, so we have both.  

      I've been where you are.  Don't let your family bully you.  Stake your ground, carve out your niche, and stick with it.  It'll pay off in the end because you'll be happier.  Laugh at the War on Christmas nuts and watch yourself a little Mr. Deity as an antidote.  

      I guess I offer this in the spirit of the dead of winter and to all of those who went before trying to find a little beauty in all that darkness.  Light a candle, have some nice wine, get a blankee, and settle in for the long haul.  Let the idiots run amok; burrow in and make your own way.  

  4. Can't find a restauarant?

    Try Chinese as they seem to be most likely to be open.  A few years ago my family discovered that the only open restaurant in town was such a place.  In subsequent years it became something of a tradition to go there for supper between early and late church services.

  5. Back from a lovely open house at friends'

    Drove home through the side streets of Somerville, Medford, Winchester and Arlington looking for Christmas lights, as has become a Christmas tradition for us.  First time in several years that we were home for the holidays; work commitments kept us from travelling to visit our family out of town this year.

    Have a very merry Christmas, all.

  6. Christmas In a Down Economy

    Couldn't afford a tree this year, but we were blessed by the generosity of our neighbors, who let us decorate their firstborn male child.

  7. Had 15 over for dinner.

    Standing rib roast (lots of garlic) and all the usual veggies, plus a turnip/risotto/bacon experiment that went well.

    Lots of holiday cheer and presents passing back and forth while we listened to Nat King Cole, Andy Williams and other traditional songs about Christmas and the Holidays.

    All in all, a great Christmas.

    Merry Christmas to all on BMG... and I mean to ALL!

  8. Christmas was awful this year

    I'm atheist, but always enjoy being with the rest of the family just to be with them (they're Christians).  But we've been at odds for the past year due to the complications of some apparent deep-seated homophobia in one important person, and the inability of another to bother to wonder how the campaign for full citizenship I'm completely embroiled in is going.  For the first time ever, this year I had no idea what the rest of the family had planned for the holidays.  That's how much some "christians" care.  Next year I hope to beam off the planet for the day so as not to be reminded of this painful holiday and the celebrations we are not invited to attend.

    • Laurel

      The holidays are such a challenging time.  

      People who don't have close friends or relatives can feel the void even more so.  People who are not Christian have the holiday thrust on them.  The way the media presents it can not live up to people's expectations.  So many feel that everyone else, is happier than they.

      I am at katedonaghue AT aol DOT com if you want to discuss this offline.  I don't want to increase your stress, but if you are so inclined, I'd be happy listen/"talk" offline.   I blog under my "real" name and some thoughts are better shared off-line.

    • Welcome back, Laurel

      It appears from your signature link that you have another campaign going so I wish you luck on that.  I've never understood having homophobes in one's own family; that just runs so offensively counter to my understanding of a family as a source of unconditional love.  That must be really tough, but maybe you can spend some separate time with those family members you are comfortable with.  Peace on earth and goodwill to all was meant to apply to everyone regardless of personal faith, so I hope that you will find peace in this season and always.

      • Campaign For Military Partners

        Hi Christopher.  I'm not working on the Campaign For Military Partners, just letting people know about it.

        Yes, next year I think we need to plan better in advance so that we're not even aware of the others' orbit.  It's a shock to the system though.  I've never been in this position before with my family.

        • My condolences, Laurel

          I sort of slipped into a similar standing with my family of origin when I rejected their religious tradition and then had the audacity to actually move away. I sealed the deal with my first divorce, twenty one years ago. In my family, coming out as a "godless unbeliever" was itself a major sin.

          I was fifty years old when I first gave myself permission to totally withdraw from the orbit of my family of origin by dropping the sham of my annual holiday ordeal in Washington DC. I like your phrasing. It was, far and away, the best thing I ever did. I hope that you're considerably younger than that — if so, my congratulations for taking a hugely important first step at an age when you'll have more time than me to reap the many benefits.

          My own experience has been that the gains I derive from being faithful to myself and my incredibly supportive partner (another godless unbeliever) dwarfed the pain I anticipated from my family's reaction. I found that, in fact, I had already been feeling the pain of rejection by my family for a lifetime — my actions made tangible and visible (for everyone) something that had already happened inside all of us. My healing began when I embraced and celebrated who I am, and rejected the story my family of origin attempted to impose on me.

          • Wow!

            I really can't fathom how separating from one's family is the easiest route.  I'm not saying that it wasn't easiest for you, just that it shouldn't have to come to that.  As I said to Laurel above, families are supposed to be about unconditional love.  It seems that families should be able to gather, even at a holiday time, without ostracizing members based on faith or lack thereof.  It's a real shame your family appears to have chosen dogma over love.

            • Life is about how things ARE, not how they should be

              What things are and not "supposed to be" are, in my experience, far less important than what things are.

              I love children. I love my children. I love being a father. I spent too many years inwardly grieving my "failure" as a father, a man, and person because my five children spent most of their youth living in a different household from me. I wanted to stand with them while they waited for the schoolbus on cold January mornings and coach them through tough homework assignments over the kitchen table at night. As it turns out, I was dealt a different hand. We have to play the cards we're dealt.

              I will never know how good a father I might have been in a universe where things were "as they were supposed to be", because my five children were separated from me by a probate system that values nothing beyond my ability to send a child support check every two weeks.

              What I do know is that I am good and loving father. My children, as adolescents, are closer to me than to my friends who complain of how "impossible" adolescents are. I have enjoyed and savored each of the periods of my children's life. As its turned out, my evenings with them huddled over our dining room table are spent helping them learn how to work with college loan collection agencies. I'm glad that my 23 year old chooses to call me, instead of anyone else, when she's having a panic attack at La Guardia because her inbound flight was delayed and she's afraid she'll miss the last flight to Boston. I'm glad that she trusts me to not remind her, at that moment, how many times I advised her to avoid LaGuardia and to always book an afternoon connection. I'm glad that I've somehow found the grounding to listen, to help her calm down, to gently encourage her to find somebody in company colors and ask them to help, and to reassure her that we welcome her whenever she arrives.

              They rely on me and share their vulnerabilities with me in ways that were unimaginable for me when I was their age. They come to our home, I think, because they want to rather than because they are supposed to. As a divorced father, I have always felt that my primary obligation has been to provide them a happy, healthy, safe, and loving home for however much or little time they are able to spend with me. That seems to have been enough. Regardless of how things were supposed to be, I think that — all in all — I'm a pretty good father to them. That's enough for me.

              I feel very fortunate that, in spite of my several failures as a traditional father (failures that my family of origin and one of my ex-wives are quite willing to enumerate), I have been able to be for my children the father that I never had.

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