When Christmas Comes Early

Normally I hate the too-early anticipation of the Christmas season.  When I  walked past a Starbucks this week and saw that the outdoor sign was advertising all of the sugary Christmas concoctions, I groaned.  When I walked past St. Mary Church and saw that they were setting up the Christmas tree holders for their annual Christmas tree sale, I groaned  again.  And when I saw that the Hausfrau Haven was selling egg nog, I groaned still more — and also felt a little sick to my stomach at the thought of the coating, cloying taste of egg nog, because I really don’t like egg nog.

IMG_9059In my book, Christmas shouldn’t be anticipated until Thanksgiving is over, period.  I know that some people can’t resist jumping the gun, and have already started listening to Christmas music. wearing red sweaters with reindeer on them and watching the saccharine Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel, but I’m not one of them.

I do make one exception to my no Christmas before Thanksgiving rule, however.  If I see that Great Lakes Christmas Ale is for sale, I’ll always pick up a six pack, whether Thanksgiving has passed or not.  The Great Lakes Brewing Company can be depended on to brew a high-quality, spicy, holiday ale that Old Fezziwig would have loved.  I picked up some of this year’s batch yesterday, and it’s excellent — packed with flavor and a little holiday dash, besides.  After savoring a bottle, I felt more in the Christmas mood already.  Hey — when is the first showing of It’s A Wonderful Life, anyway?

If you like a seasonal brew, I highly recommend this year’s edition of Great Lakes Christmas Ale.  But be forewarned: consistent with the generous spirit of the holidays, it comes in at 7.5% alcohol by volume.  Pace yourself, or you might not be able to finish trimming the tree.

Tin Time

Last night I finished baking and icing the sugar cookies, and this morning I got up extra early to put all of the cookies into their holiday tins for delivery. Then — and this is especially important, because baking and frosting cookies is of necessity a highly messy, creative process (for me at least) — I cleaned the kitchen and returned it to its pristine, pre-cookie frenzy state.

There’s a certain glow of satisfaction in finishing up, and I will enjoy a cup of coffee and some orange juice while I fill out my address labels. I’m ready for Christmas!

12 Hours Of The Beatles

Some people celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, with particular emphasis on that annoying partridge in a pear tree.  On Saturday, we’ll be marking the holiday season by enjoying, instead, the 12 hours of the Beatles.

49d1ba3fc5499a96b74466cc757c7065It’s called Sgt. Peppercorn’s Beatles Marathon.  For the ninth year, musicians in “Sgt. Peppercorn’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” will perform all 215 officially released Beatles songs in one performance.  It’s supposed to be the only place you can go to see all of the Beatles songs performed in one sitting, and it’s happening here in Columbus.

The songs will be played in chronological order based on the release of the Beatles’ original British albums and singles, starting with Please Please Me — the album the Beatles recorded in one legendary day — beginning at 12:30 p.m. and ending with Abbey Road, about 12 hours later.  That means we’ll avoid the embarrassing mish-mash of the American records, where songs that were recorded years earlier could get released on later albums.

A 12-hour Beatles marathon poses certain logistical challenges.  We’ll have to have a hearty lunch before the performance starts, of course, and then carefully time eating and bathroom breaks to coincide with some of our less favorite tracks.  Basically, any song that you carefully positioned the tone arm on your turntable to pass over would be a good candidate.  I’m suggesting, for example, that we try to fit dinner in during side 4 of The Beatles (commonly known as the White Album), and I’ll no doubt hit the men’s room when it’s time for Within You Without You on Sergeant Pepper’s.

Who needs five golden rings when you can listen to gold records instead?

A Little Christmas Goes A Long Way

I like Christmas.  I really do.  But when you’re at a conference, a little Christmas goes a long way.

Thursday night I found myself at a reception in the obligatory open atrium space at one of those colossal hotel-conference complexes.  I was having a perfectly pleasant time, chatting with other attendees, when suddenly there was a blast of music, strobe lights, and fog machine effects, and some kind of Christmas-themed program starting playing, at bellowing volume, over the sound system.  I think it may have been called “A Christmas Wish,” or something along those lines, and it seemed to involve a boy beseeching his Grinch-like grandfather to do something for the holidays.  People who love The Hallmark Channel Christmas movies no doubt would have appreciated its saccharine sappiness.  Me?  I found the kid’s voice incredibly annoying as I was trying to carry on a conversation, and I sympathized with the beleaguered granddad who had to put up with the irritating rugrat.

Eventually the program ended, and everyone at the reception breathed a sigh of relief at the very welcome silence.  Before we knew it, however, the program started again, and we realized with grim despair that it apparently was going to be broadcast every half hour.  I wasn’t the only attendee who then decided that it was time to exit the reception and get as far away from the imploring kid’s voice as possible.

Lights, trees, other festive decorations, and a little Christmas music in the background are just fine.  But forced exposure to some maudlin tale that is supposed to illustrate “the meaning of Christmas” is where I draw the line.

Is Christmas Music Bad For Your Health?

We’ve turned another page on the calendar.  It’s November already, and that means . . . get ready to hear Christmas music everywhere you go.  For all I know, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer is already playing on heavy rotation at the local mall.

567b6ea8160000b300eb98d9The British newspaper The Independent ran a story yesterday in which a clinical psychologist is quoted as saying that listening to too much Christmas music is bad for your health — your mental health, that is.  In the story, written by a reporter with the delightfully British name of Olivia Petter, psychologist Linda Blair states:  “People working in the shops at Christmas have to tune out Christmas music because if they don’t, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else.  You’re simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.”

The psychologist doesn’t cite any studies or clinical tests to support her conclusions, but this is one time where confirming evidence doesn’t seem to be needed.  I happen to like Christmas music — with a handful of notable exceptions like the aforementioned Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer and Do You Hear What I Hear? — but I can’t imagine what it would be like to work in a store where, starting about now, you’re required to listen to an endless loop of the same Christmas songs, over and over again.  Your first listen to the Bing Crosby and Andrews Sisters version of Jingle Bells might put a holiday spring in your step, but by the 139th hearing on December 3 you’re going to be ready to hurl that appallingly fragrant holiday candle display through the store window and tackle the nearest Salvation Army Santa.  No wonder Clark Griswold lost it in Christmas Vacation.

Christmas music isn’t immune to the general rule that too much of anything isn’t a good thing.  So when you’re doing your holiday shopping this season, don’t be surprised if that person behind the counter seems a little bit edgy — and be sure not to whistle Frosty The Snowman when you make your purchase.

 

Merry Christmas (Ale)!

Every year, beer lovers in the Midwest wait impatiently for the delivery of the Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale, in the same way that credulous seven-year-olds wait for Santa Claus — with a mixture of fervent belief and outright greed. Every year, Great Lakes delivers a delicious, spicy concoction that is designed to make the holidays more merry.

This year’s version, which I happily quaffed at the Olde Mohawk this afternoon, does not disappoint. Even Ebenezer Scrooge would savor this brew!

At The Holiday Pinch Point

It’s 10 days before Christmas, and it’s time to make some important decisions.

Not about shopping.  If you haven’t done your shopping by now, you may as well wait until the very last minute and become one of those pathetic, lost wretches who makes a mad dash to the stores on December 24 and hopes to find something decent for the people on your shopping list (which I can attest from personal experience can be done, mind you).  No, I’m talking about decisions about eating.

holiday2Already I can feel the clothing growing a bit, er, snug, and the holiday parties and open houses and receptions are only now beginning to appear on the calendar in earnest.  We’ve tried — really, really tried! — to be sensible and good about our consumption, but already we’ve been tempted by, and succumbed to, chocolate-covered nuts from the Pacific Northwest, and some of the very best brittle you can imagine.  Delectable home-baked cookies, and delicious trifle, and pies, and pound cake, and candied almonds, and bowls of irresistible red and green M&Ms, and God knows what else have appeared before us and vanished down the gullet.  About the only thing we’ve been able to successfully resist is fruitcake.

And now the clothing is sending us a message, and we’ve got a decision to make:  (1) get all of the Christmas goodies out of the house, immediately, defer any further confectionary consumption until the Christmas meal itself, and thereby try to stay in reasonable fighting trim until the holidays are behind us, or (2) give up the ghost entirely, have a roaring good time at the remaining parties, go all in on stuffing ourselves with the foods and drinks that make the festive times festive, and vow to really address that waistline after New Year’s Day.

You know, I’ve heard that January is really a good time for losing weight, because you end up burning calories just to stay warm.

Done, And Done

Last night I iced and decorated the sugar cookies, and then I got up early this morning to finish putting the cookies into festive tins and writing notes for the recipients of this year’s holiday baking — who I hope will enjoy the new recipes and the new twists on old favorites.

And, because no job is truly completed until the clean-up work is done, this morning I also stashed the baking implements and remaining supplies and wiped down the countertops, so there’s nary a sign of a marathon baking effort. Now, I can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee . . . and, admittedly, a warm feeling of accomplishment, too.

Merry Bookmass!

There is a great library space at our firm, filled with all kinds of law books. Of course, technology being what it is, those grave, bound volumes of paper that represent the brooding omnipresence of the law and its teachings aren’t really used anymore. Everybody tends to do their research using on-line resources. The books, in the meantime, look impressive on shelves — but that’s about it.

When our research staff approached the task of decorating the library for the holidays, however, they came up with a creative use for the books, which have been carefully stacked and configured to resemble a Christmas tree. Pretty cool! And it’s good to see those old volumes taken off the shelves once more.

Ho, ho, ho! Merry Bookmass!