Home for the Holidays

Like everything else in 2020, the holidays this year are also different. They arrive followed by my socially distanced summer and stressed out spring of unknowns. As the pirates of North Carolina were fond of saying, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” And the punches keep on coming.

My biggest Christmas family tradition is with my husband’s family: we celebrate something called Happy Merry Thanksmus. It’s on a random weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas and we celebrate all three holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

Thanksgiving is done by having a big dinner. Sometimes its ham, a roast, or a turkey – but there are plenty of sides, a stupid amount of desserts, and one usually can’t move very well afterward.

Then, we drink and play games for the New Year’s part. We broke my SIL’s dining room table one year playing Spoons. It’s currently held together by a zip tie.

The last day is Christmas: we get to open presents from each other and watch movies.

We also attend a sporting event of either soccer or basketball, depending on which niece or nephew is playing. Basically, it’s a great weekend of wonderful memories and always a good time. It’s the soul food I crave. It’s held at the rural Virginian estate of my in-laws.

This year it got cancelled by default. My husband’s parents aren’t making the drive down from the great white north. We discussed going but ultimately decided not to because of COVID.

My own family is in Chicago – and everything is so bad in Illinois right now, I can’t imagine going there without a life and death situation.

Often times when the future seems unclear and scary, we look back. We humans tend to glorify the past and this Christmas is no different.

YouTube has Christmas specials from years gone by – Dean Martin in the late 1960’s, Donnie & Marie Osmond in the mid-1970’s, and John Denver in the late 1980’s. We started watching those, a wee bit of nostalgia to soften the blow of this uncharted Christmas season.

Dean Martin is obviously intoxicated during filming, but it seems almost endearing. I once opened a door for Donnie Osmond to exit up stage left, so it’s interesting seeing him in his heyday. I’ve gone nearly 40 years knowing only one John Denver song, but Christmas in Aspen sounds like an utopia in the current state of affairs.

My husband used to pull twelve hour shifts on Christmas, so I was often left alone, which hurt my soul, especially since we are so far away from family. I cured this by inviting friends and neighbors who had no where else to go for a Christmas morning brunch. I had everything from an egg bake casserole to cinnamon rolls to my famous Christmas Morning Winter Sangria (it tastes like yuletide). My one friend would stay until after dinner, as her family was overseas and had no where else to go either. We’d spend the day hanging out and sipping wine.

This year is so different. My friend moved out of state with her boyfriend and newborn. My husband’s new gig is closed on Christmas. I’m excited to do Christmas with him this year. There won’t be a crowd gathered around my table this year, though.

I’m still totally doing the Christmas Morning Sangria. You should too. I always add more brandy and triple sec, but that’s my style.

Slow Cooker Winter Sangria
1 bottle red wine (merlot)
1/2 cup pomegranate juice (100% juice)
1/4 cup brandy
1/8 cup triple sec
1/8 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 pear, chopped
1 Granny Smith (or any green) apple, chopped

Place everything in a slow cooker and mix well.

Keep on low for 2 hours and enjoy.

Add orange slices for garnish if desired.

from The Foodie Affair

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