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How I Spent Christmas

For the past few weeks, I’ve done nothing I normally do around Christmas.  I’m not eating candy anymore, so I didn’t buy copious amounts of Christmas candy under the guise that candy canes only come around once a year and therefore I need to consume as many as possible to hold me over until the next winter.  I didn’t listen to one minute of Christmas music on the Christmas-all-the-time radio station (though couldn’t obviously avoid it in stores) because I spent most of the last few weeks feeling awfully Grinchy and growly about the holiday in general, and I thought I’d end up punching someone if I heard that Alvin and the Chipmunks song.  So it seemed best not to risk it, and we listened to Green Day’s new trilogy instead.

Normally we watch two films the week of Christmas: About a Boy and Love, Actually.  Josh enjoys the former and loathes the latter, but after losing my friend this week, About a Boy felt too on the nose.  And subsequently, only watching Love, Actually would remind me of the fact that we weren’t watching the film that we both enjoy more.  My friend suggested that we make it a very Star Wars Christmas, watching the three original films in an all-day cinematic orgy.  While that sounded fabulous, the truth is that we volunteer on Christmas Day knocking out several hours, and we hadn’t started early enough to make it through all three films in pieces over several nights.  Plus, they’ve seen Star Wars numerous times.

So we asked them if they wanted to start the Lord of the Ring trilogy.

We’ve been holding onto the Ring Trilogy because it was so important to me that the twins like it.  They don’t need to love it as much as I do, but I wanted them to enjoy reading the books and watching the films, and I had an idea that in a few years, we’d return to Oxford and do a Tolkien/CS Lewis trip through the city (as opposed to our Alice one).  Show it to them too early and the Orcs would freak the fuck out of them, ensuring immediate rejection.  Show it to them too late and they may be too jaded for a fantasy world.

So we started the first film, telling them we could stop it at any point if they got scared, but first showing them that Lúrtz is just a guy named Lawrence Makoare wearing a ton of make-up.  Who goes home after a day of shooting to his five kids.  And that seemed to get them through any scene with the Orcs (though they needed to repeat aloud every time, “those are just people in ugly costumes that have been covered in mucous.”) though the Wolvog needed to hang out in his room for the scene with the troll.

They — thankfully — loved it and wanted to discuss the whole world and immediately move on to the Two Towers after the first film ended.  It was such a huge moment of relief: both that we will all share Tolkien and that we did something that made the day special for them.  Because it’s tightrope walking to make the day feel special for a Jewish kid.  They are the only ones in their circle of friends not celebrating the holiday, and for weeks they’ve had to endure people reciting their Christmas traditions and gift guessing and cooking crooning.  But the twins felt like they had a special Christmas Eve and a movie to look forward to after they volunteered today.  We may even rename the day Hobbit Eve in the future and do Tolkien things every winter.

And yes, we will bring in vegan Chinese food tonight to take part in that cliche.

So that is how we spent our Christmas.  How did you spend yours?  Any favourite traditions?  New ones started this year?  Fabulous gifts you gave or received?  I like living vicariously through other people’s Christmases now that I’m feeling less Grinchy.

15 comments

1 It Is What It Is { 12.25.12 at 9:54 am }

As you know, my long awaited Christmas gift is still, thankfully, baking in my oven. I also got a 4 qt Calphalon pot (with a built in stainer!) that will be my go-to utility cookware.

I am the only one awake although my son is likely to wake up and run out any minute. I’ve been up, off/on since 4 so am ready to get this show on the road.

Wishing you a happy day. We are huge LOTR fans, too, and just saw The Hobbit. Can’t wait to share it with our son(s), too.

2 Esperanza { 12.25.12 at 10:59 am }

I’m surprised you didn’t have them read those first! There will be so many movies my daughter can’t see until she reads the book first.

I’m glad they liked them and you had a good time despite the sadness you’re feeling.

Happy holidays.

3 a { 12.25.12 at 11:06 am }

Our tradition is my restraining myself from killing my husband as he refuses to get out of bed for present opening. A 6 year old does not want to wait until he’s had adequate sleep and breakfast and such. She waited over an hour, so I’m very proud of her patience. But it’s 10:00, and we’re all done with that, so crisis over!

My friend was going to show her 5 year old twins LOTR – and I asked her if perhaps it might be too scary. But she said they wanted to see it, and they wouldn’t be scared. I’ll have to ask her how it went…

4 Kimberly { 12.25.12 at 1:15 pm }

That sounds like the perfect way to spend Christmas Eve and honestly, if we didn’t have family obligations, we would’ve been perfectly content with your plans!! I’m so glad that the twins love the movies! Are you considering taking them to see the first hobbit movie as well or are you going to wait til they come out on DVD?

Our tradition is to split our time on Christmas Eve between our in laws (we do our gifts with them on Christmas Eve) and my parents. And since we have no kids yet, we come home afterwards and play board games while we watch our favorite Christmas movies til bedtime. Christmas Day is spent at my parents where me and dad make Christmas breakfast, we open our gifts and mom does turkey and duck with all the fixings for supper and my grandparents and some family join us. Boxing Day is the big holiday supper at the inlaws with all of his very large family (his mom is one of 13 and most of the aunts and uncles make it for supper) where we have another massive turkey dinner. Then I go into an extended turkey coma til New Years Eve where we are hosting our first house party in our new home. Then we hide from the family events for a while. :)

5 Brid { 12.25.12 at 3:33 pm }

Happy holidays Mel.
Sounds like a cozy time, shacked up watching movies and taking advantage of the fact that the world shuts down for a day (sort of).
We usually have a lot of people around, but it’s been just the three of us for days. Kind of weird really. My parents are in NZ right now and told Jack all about the movie locations they were able to visit. You could add New Zealand to your literary/cinematic travel plans.
Right now, just chillin’ with a glass of vino, knowing there is nowhere we need to go, and nothing that we really need to do. I’m watching a very recently recovered boy (from crazy fevered hallucinations) trying to figure out his new tablet, and feeling peaceful that he seemed as excited for the birdfeeder my brother sent him as he did for the tablet.
Peace and good will for your family, Mel.

6 Betty M { 12.25.12 at 4:07 pm }

It may amuse you to know that they are showing Lord of the Rings on terrestrial tv right now here in the UK. We aren’t Christians o the day means nothing from a religious point of view but we still spend the day with family eating too much and watching tv and bickering in the traditional English way.

7 Another Dreamer { 12.25.12 at 5:33 pm }

I like how you spent yours :)

We’re not Christian, but we celebrate the Winter Solstice on December 25th since we were raised with Christmas. We opened presents, had some breakfast, and put our son down for his nap. My husband is playing his video game gift now, and I’m wondering if I want to tackle my new camera book now… or later. Since I’m on the internet, you can guess which I opted for ;) We’ll watch a movie with dinner later, and maybe play some games. For us, it’s all about spending time as a family, celebrating another year together, expressing gratitude, and just relaxing together.

8 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 12.26.12 at 1:50 am }

I spent the day explaining repeatedly why we couldn’t go to any of the places that Burrito and Tamale wanted to go (“today is a holiday that some other people celebrate so all of the museums and stores and restaurants are closed”).

9 Katherine A { 12.26.12 at 11:18 am }

Your post made me smile widely. LOTR has been a passion of mine since I was 14 (and long before the movies came out!), and it’s one of the things I’m enormously looking forward to sharing with our very hoped-for children someday (provided we can overcome our infertility issues).

The orcs never scared me much, but the Ring Wraiths are an entirely different matter – as a teenager, I had so many nightmares involving them. The scene that made me jump in the movies, though, was the part in “Fellowship of the Ring” where Frodo and Bilbo are talking in Rivendell, Bilbo sees the ring, and suddenly is transformed in a really evil way for just a moment. I still cover my eyes during that scene.

It’s always nice to find another LOTR devotee.

As far as family traditions, my husband’s family has an interesting one where they all gather and read letters to each other talking about the past year, hopes for the next year, and what the family means to them. It’s always emotional, but pretty cool. Husband and I typically go to church on Christmas Eve. Christmas is mostly spent opening presents and lounging around in pjs.

Happy Holidays and good wishes for the New Year to you and yours!

10 Lori Lavender Luz { 12.26.12 at 11:27 am }

We got that trilogy, too. Except that in our case, our kids will be introducing it to ME.

11 Pepper { 12.26.12 at 4:44 pm }

We spent the day with family after an entirely lazy morning at home with our 1 1/2 year old. My inlaws even included me in their gifting this year (not always a given) which made me feel altogether lovely (not for the gifts but because it means I’m part of the fam). 3 more family parties ahead with time for catching up and eating lots of food and no gifts – yay!
And I love love Hobbit Eve. Such a wonderful tradition to start!

12 Mali { 12.26.12 at 5:32 pm }

Now, if you’re going to do a LOTR trip, it has to be in New Zealand! My niece (who is a huge LOTR and Hobbit fan) has been travelling through the country, and going on lots of LOTR tours, visited Hobbiton and Bag End (now a tourist attraction), the Weta Cave (the workshop where all the props were made and are now stored) here in Wellington, etc. And is right this moment watching The Hobbit (with her elderly, and no doubt by now bewildered, grandparents) at the theatre where the world premieres of the LOTR: Return of the King and The Hobbit were held. So you see, you have to come to Wellington/NZ. And besides – you’d get to have a glass of wine on our deck!

Our Christmas is more about cultural tradition than religion. This year we had relatives back from overseas which was lovely. It was the hottest Christmas since 1934, and we lazed around eating and drinking and catching up. My traditions are all about my tree, and the mini mince pies, and champagne and smoked salmon.

13 Shana { 12.26.12 at 6:49 pm }

I totally failed the cliche and did not take the family out for vegan Chinese food. Two children sick with the plague (The Plague, I tell you!) doesn’t make for a good restaurant dinner experience. But, I do have a groupon for a new vegan Chinese restaurant that I can’t wait to check out.

14 Justine { 12.30.12 at 2:56 am }

Sounds like a perfect Christmas to me! :)

We spent ours with my mother and brother and then racing off to the airport, but I’m looking forward to the kids waking up again tomorrow … it’s like we get to have Christmas twice, and this time, to just be together.

And now I really ought to be going to bed.

15 loribeth { 12.31.12 at 11:42 am }

I’ve never read any of the books, but we actually wound up watching all the LOTR movies a couple of Christmases ago. We will probably go see The Hobbit at the theatre in the next few weeks.

I am all about tradition at Christmas ;) (although the traditions have evolvced over the years.) We have always travelled to celebrate Christmas with my family… my mom always saves the tree decorating for me because she knows I love it (some of the ornaments are older than I am). We have always celebrated Christmas Eve with dinner & presents, a nod to my grandmother’s Scandinavian heritage. I believe there was actually lutefisk when I was very young but I wouldn’t touch it (& probably still wouldn’t today, lol). These days, we usually have pickerel (walleye) with perogies. ; ) And then open our presents. We try to squeeze in church, if not at my mother’s church (which tends to have an early evening service, which butts against dinnertime) then a midnight service at another church in town. I was too tired this year & actually went to bed. ;)

Christmas morning we have stockings & then a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Boxing Day, for a number of years, dh & I would make lasagna — until my tomato allergy reared its head. :p Happily, we found a great chicken florentine lasagna at Costco, so the tradition continues in a slightly altered form. ;)

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