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Unwrapping the holidays

Thu Dec 29, 2005 Miss Vicky 

Christmas really is one of my favourite holidays. Not for religious reasons - I set institutional religion aside quite some time ago. Not for the whole "getting stuff" aspect - although I love finding the right gift for loved ones, and I sure could use the socks I got in my stocking, the commercially-crazed aspect of the holiday really does grate (especially the aggressive marketing to children). I enjoy Christmas because it's a time that people really make an effort to connect with others, through social events and various ritualized activities.

There has been a flurry of social events and functions these last few weeks. It's been tiring, but it has allowed us to connect with folks we hadn't seen in a while, interact with some of the neighbourhood in ways that go beyond nods and greetings on the street or in the stores, and eat more canapés than we could ever want. This last week has been all about family.

We picked up our tree late, on the 23rd, once we realized the backsplash wasn't going to happen. One of my favourite new traditions is walking the tree home from the Parkdale Market. I love the smiles we get when we pass folks on Wellington as we cart the tree back home. On Christmas eve Chefgeek and Special Patrol Group came over for a raclette brunch and tree decorating. Then we headed off to the Webgeek and Chefgeek's dad's place for an evening of appetizers and the First Annual Gingerbread House Decorating Challenge. Of course Miss Vicky's team (which included Chefgeek) won the day - would you expect any less? although there were some interesting innovations in all of the houses - liquorice allsort shingles, for example.

The next morning we got up and headed over to Mom and SABLE's place for stockings, gifts and an amazing cranberry-focaccia french toast brunch. Our family's approach to stockings involves everyone getting a couple of small (under $10) items for everyone else's stocking; opening them on Christmas morning is probably one of my favourite parts of the day, as people tend to put a lot of thought into finding interesting or entertaining items (my mother, for example, really enjoyed her "She who must be obeyed" journal).

Before I go on, I should explain my family background a bit, lest you misunderstand the following. The inner hostess in me really comes out this time of year. I can't help myself; I was born this way. My Gran Ross, the spouse of a Brigadier General, developed some pretty impressive hostessing skills. The life wasn't easy on the family - even the second generation of military brats (my siblings and I) grew up having to learn appropriate table manners, the "what if you had to eat with the Queen" threat hanging over our heads at every meal. This was no empty threat - whenever we went to visit my grandparents, there was the picture of them greeting Her Majesty and Prince Philip on the Calgary airport tarmac. It could happen! What fork do I use for salad, again?

Gran went all out for the holidays, and this drive passed along to my Mom, and to me. Actually, the two of us pretty much channel Gran as the holidays approach. There's an almost compulsive desire to bake, haul out the good silver, set puddings on fire and bring as many people together as possible. Both of us were slightly foiled this year, as my siblings decided to stay in Kingston instead of coming to Ottawa for Christmas dinner, thus reducing the numbers at Mom's feast to four (we made the best of it, though, as you shall read shortly). And our kitchen renovations set back my traditional holiday bash a couple of weeks, but I was determined to open my home, backsplash or no backsplash.

Webgeek and I spent the afternoon getting ready for our Boxing day bash - I worked on filo pastries and WG made zucchini fritters and chili jam - then we put on our holiday finest and headed back to Mom's place for supper (me: electric blue 1960s silk cocktail dress, WG in his escher-frog tie). Mom and SABLE went all out - beautiful antique lace tablecloth, silver serviette holders, a small dish of mixed nuts at each setting, gorgeous candelabras, Gran's cobalt blue bohemain crystal and SABLE's sumptuous china, decorated with a delicate gold and blue pattern that complements the crystal amazingly well. I know, I know, it all sounds very posh and upper-class snooty. Blame it on the Brigadier.... but it is fun to play dressup once a year.

Christmas supper is highly ritualized. In addition to the table setting, the menu doesn't really alter from year to year. It begins with homemade fruit cocktail, followed by the traditional turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, turnip, and other veg (this year it was green beans). Dessert is the flaming pudding, complete with crackers, ridiculous hats and really bad jokes. We picked up this year's Plum Pudding at the Hintonburg Craft Fair - it was dark and lucious, especially good with Mom's hard sauce. All the food was amazing, and the one benefit of a smaller crowd was that there were plenty of leftovers for the Webgeek and I to take home.

Boxing day was spent getting ready for our bash. We didn't have quite the turnout we normally do at the Finishing School's holiday event - we'll be definitely going back to the earlier date next year, but the food was great, the mulled wine flowed and the conversation was interesting. The highlight, of course, was Pinklitva's arrival - it was great to see her after so long!

The next day SPG, Chefgeek, the Webgeek and I piled into the car and drove to Montreal to see their cousin dance in the Grand Ballet Canadien's Nutcracker. I hadn't been to the ballet for ages, and really enjoyed it. Afterwards we went to WG's aunt's place for a fantastic Eritrean meal with WG's mom's parents, aunts and uncle.

Yep. A whirlwind few days. Hence the Blogging silence. I hope everyone has enjoyed their week, no matter what they celebrate!

Some people were moved to reply

The Webgeek Dec 29, 2005 01:51 PM said:

For those keeping score:
My Cousin was the middle sheep (who dislikes being picked up) in the second half of the nutcracker. She also sang in the choir.

She was terribly cute. little ears flopping about and all. It was the first time I'd been to the ballet, and it was quite fun. the second part of the first half (snowlake dance) was a little long, but the second half really kept you interested with all the different "cultural representation" (and sheep!).

peabody Dec 30, 2005 10:08 PM said:

we do things a bit differently when i visit my folks: it's a french canadian tradition i think called a reveillion. it means we open our gifts on christmas eve instead of christmas morning. christmas breakfast was something to behold, and i documented it here:

http://www.breakfastblogger.co m/2005/12/27/christmas-breakfa st/

and while doing some boxing week shopping, i came across this amusing kids ride at the westgate shopping center:

http://spaces.msn.com/members/ peabody/Blog/cns!1pJCVUf4BCFyG 39kVip_XfcA!3554.entry

happy early new year to all! props to webgeek and his tie ;)

[Linkified by The Webgeek ;) ]

[Edited By The Webgeek Dec 31, 2005 10:27 AM]

dave Dec 31, 2005 11:06 PM said:

It's funny reading that breakfastblog in another country, a few people will probably try that omelette - the neologisms - Vicky's blog society - hence a "blogiety" - new words springing up all over the place - I like the sensible feel to this particular blogsite & some political activism on the part of the progenitor.
But I'll stick to this particular one, I'm not reading dozens of blogs every day. I'd get blogised.

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