Christmas is Over? Not so fast…

Christmas is Over?

Not so fast…

Take a quick look at my little video rant on the topic and I’ll discuss some of the particulars below:

Okay, back to the blog rant.

Christmas is a Liturgical Season

As I alluded to in the video, “Christmas” is a Liturgical Season which takes place between Advent and Epiphany.  It’s part of the calendar of Biblical readings that are scheduled in more traditional churches such as the Catholic, Episcopalian and Lutheran denominations as well as many others.  The story begins in Advent at the beginning of December with many selections having to do with the prophecies that were cited to proclaim the coming of Jesus and to justify his identification as the promised Savior.  Christmas begins on Christmas Day as a celebration of the fulfillment of those prophecies in the person of an infant in Bethlehem and a number of happenings associated with his infancy and the shepherds and the angelic annunciation and all the stuff that the religious carols record.  Epiphany begins 12 days later and signifies the arrival of the Magi, aka the Wise Men or Three Kings of (the) Orient, around the time that Jesus is a toddler.  Well, nobody wants to wait 2 years for Christmas to end (except, perhaps me) so they jump ahead to the interesting bits with the gold, frankincense and myrrh and the whole dust-up with Herod.  This period is also designated as “Ordinary” and is chock full of random readings that wend their way to Lent about 9 weeks after the end of the 12 Days of Christmas (which is the actual 12 Days of Christmas, not the 12 more shopping days ’til Christmas sales hullabaloo we’ll discuss below).  Lent, of course, recalls Jesus’ sojourn into the desert to steel himself for the trials to come and lasts for 40 days (more or less, depending on where the Sundays fall) and gives way to Holy Week and subsequently Easter.  Easter is not only a day but also a Liturgical Season lasting about 7 weeks and culminates on Pentecost.  That Ascension Day is included in the season of Easter should not be overlooked.  It is part of the story that is being told beginning with Advent.  After Ascension Day, the narrative turns necessarily to the 12 Disciples and their activities in establishing Christianity as a living legacy of their master’s teachings and purpose.  The celebration of the Day of Pentecost begins another period of “ordinary” time lasting basically half of the calendar year during which more random readings (note that when I say “random”, I mean ones that are not heavily thematic to the liturgical season such as they are in Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter not that the minister whips open the Bible to a random page and says it’s the reading for today, they have a reason for the sequence of readings during “ordinary” time as well as during particularly thematic seasons) are served up as inspiration to the church-goer to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles (the Disciples got a promotion after Jesus left) and of various and sundry faithful from both the Old and New Testaments.

Okay?  It is what it is.  Whether or not you are Christian, whether or not you are an active church-goer, whether or not you are a member of one of the newer denominations that threw this particular baby out with the bath water, it just is what it is.  They’ve sorted it all out and that’s how they roll.  I am none of the above, so this is all purely academic to me but I acknowledge the fact that Christmas is Christmas for those who celebrate it that way.  I acknowledge the fact that for certain denominations, Christmas is also a “season” of 12 days between Christmas Day and Epiphany with a set collection of Biblical readings explaining the importance and relevance of the manifestation of the prophesied Messiah to members of the faith.  It just is.  Ergo, the 12 Days of Christmas are in my opinion subject to a sort of cultural copyright.  You can’t say that the 12 Days of Christmas are the 12 before anymore than you could say they were the 6 days before and 6 days after Bastille Day just because it’s good for shop sales or because you’re a greedy muttonhead who can’t tell the difference between before and after.

Christmas is a Commercial Season

Now, on to the secular bits.  Anybody who is familiar with the history of Christmas knows it had a really bad reputation until the mid-19th Century.  Anybody who is not familiar with this tidbit of history, I’ve linked an interesting short film on the post titled “The Christmas Holiday – Many Holiday Traditions“.  It goes without saying that the early church edged out the competition by locating their celebration of the birth of Jesus on a day already associated with other popular deities of the time and also tried to take some of the edge off of Saturnalia and Yul celebrations.  It also goes without saying that just because you throw a wet blanket on a popular yet vulgar event doesn’t mean the fire goes entirely out.  And so it went through the Middle Ages that Christmastime was a period when the downtrodden masses blew off a little steam and showed the cracks in the armor of the faith.  As with any festival of over the top drunken debauchery, it’s really hard to top yourself but it doesn’t stop people from trying.  Even today, one hears of wild orgiastic company parties where people get stupid drunk and photocopy their posteriors and get totally jiggy under the mistletoe.  I’ve not been to any, but the story persists.  In any case, this was the predominant reputation of Christmas until the mid-19th Century.  The literary works of Charles Dickens and Clement Clark Moore brought a new angle on the season.  The rising Middle Class began to see Christmas in a different, more benign light than before.  The Saturnalia-like celebrations were being supplanted by the family-oriented celebrations we think of today.  As such, the merchants of the day saw in Santa an ally for profit.

No worries.  I’m okay with that, too.  The thing that gets me is hearing Jingle Bells before Thanksgiving and decorations before Halloween.  C’mon, people!  How ridiculous can you be?  You’re diluting the magic by spreading it so thin.  Oh, I’ve just put my pool into storage for the season so let’s break out the tinsel and the silk balls.  Really?!?  What the heck!?!

Okay, so now I’m going to sound like a crusty ol’ geezer but here goes: In my day, all the Christmas stuff started when Santa rolled into town on Black Friday with the Macy’s Parade and it pretty much ended when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.  That made it something to look forward to.  It made it special.  It made it interesting.  It created a sense of scarcity that boosted sales and made Christmastime the thing that drags merchants into profit before the books close out for the year.  Does it help to extend that season to (oh, I dunno) Labor Day?  Really?!?  Seems to me that bustin’ out the tinsel prior to Thanksgiving dilutes both the special nature of the season from a feel-good, holiday cheer perspective as well as from a nitty-gritty, bottom line perspective.  Who the heck needs Black Friday and Cyber Monday and all that if you’re selling me Christmas in July?????  Have a look at this:

The proof's in the pudding

I don’t know about you, but the top two stories look like there are a lot of idiot procrastinators and the rest of them seem to be indicative of an economic fizzle.  A stick of butter might seem like a lot to spread on a slice of bread unless the slice of bread is the size of a limousine.  As always, it’s a matter of perspective.

My wife told me that some stores already have their Easter candy out on the shelves.  C’mon, y’all!  Get a grip!  Christmas isn’t even officially over and you’re on to Easter?  EASTER?!?!?!?!?  Used to be that you might see the heart-shaped boxes of candy waiting for you when you went to return your Christmas gifts or purchase red and green storage totes to put your new Christmas decorations in.  Used to be that you might cluck your tongue at those merchants for being so hasty with the products for a holiday that’s still a month and a half away.  BUT NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…..  We’re all shopping at the speed of light these days!  You can find pool supplies before Easter but not in August when you’re actually running out.  You can find winter wear in July, but not in January when you’re actually freezing your tail off.

Geez, people, back the truck up!  Adjust your watches and stop trying to jump the gun.  Everything has its season and it would just be so fantastic if we could all reset and get things back in some semblance of order. I don’t need Easter supplies today.  I don’t need pool chemicals at Easter and I don’t need tinsel for Labor Day. As the turtle in Kung Fu Panda said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present”.  Let’s give ourselves and our neighbors a present and let today just be today.

Snow Globe

How to Maintain Weight During the Christmas Season

How to Maintain Weight During the Christmas Season

Eating Heartily but Mindfully During the Christmas Season

During the Christmas season, bikinis are a distant memory and warm, baggy clothes are in.  Sweaters, long johns, scarves and boots reshape what goes for shapely. Indulgence in the many foods featured at Christmas isn’t as likely to produce the same feelings of guilt. All the same, its not a great thing to start the New Year carrying a few extra pounds. So why then eat yourself into yet another resolution to take off a few extra pounds if you can deftly avoid it?

Whether it’s sharing holiday treats at work or having an evening out at a dinner party, you can have your favorite Christmas food and enjoy it.  While you seem to be chowing down heartily with a smile, the key strategy is to exercise moderation. It involves sticking to a budgeted eating plan.  A budgeted eating plan is not about the cost of what is eaten, but about the quantity of what is eaten.  This is not unlike the Weight Watcher’s point system. It is important that a moderated eating budget is developed because it is almost impossible to avoid exposure to a lot of cookies, candies and other sweets at Christmas.

At work, you may seem like Ebeneezer Scrooge if your response will always be, ‘Bah, Humbug’ whenever some Christmas goodies are offered. It will seem as if you aren’t in the holiday spirit; particularly since  everyone is usually in a festive and more relaxed mood, and the pace at work is usually slower at this time of year.

A clever way to partake in Christmas goodies, for example, is to substitute some Christmas cookies for a bagel that you might have with breakfast or for a mid-morning snack. Also, instead of just taking one cookie from the platter (which is noticeable and likely will encourage a colleague to tell you to have more) take three instead. That’s where the plan can come into play. You can then nibble at the cookies over two or more hours, because nobody will be watching how you really eat. You can always have a few candies, one cookie or a cookie and a half by your desk and that way it will seem as if you are heartily enjoying the holiday treats.

However, the proximity to such tasty treats can lead to temptation.  Should you indulge, you will need to find a way to burn off the extra holiday calories.  If weather permits, taking a walk at lunchtime can help to burn those calories and excuse you from some of the jolly peer pressure to further indulge.  If the weather is not conducive to taking a walk and you work in a building with stairs, put on your ear buds and rock some Christmas music while you get a quick cardio workout.  I would recommend at least one song for every extra cookie.  If you need to run a whole album on the steps, you should probably forego the idea of nursing treats at your desk as a stealth, health technique.

Another tactic is to bring low calorie Christmas cookies and candies that you’ve bought or made yourself to counteract others that are being offered at work or parties. Since eating healthy is the best approach, health-conscious cookies will not be frowned upon as long as they taste great.  My wife has a recipe for zucchini cookies that are always a hit with visitors. For instance, a box of sugar-free Christmas chocolate candies will look just as delightful as their more fattening counterparts.  Here is an interesting resource with some Guilt Free Chocolate Recipes that you might be interested in at Christmastime or any time you need a chocolaty treat without all of the calories. It’s no surprise that in a 2004 poll sponsored by the National Confectioners Association, chocolate was the favorite edible holiday gift among Americans surveyed. Sadly, fruit cake was last on the list.  Frankly, I love fruit cake but my wife would simply say that you are what you eat. According to the Association, the second favorite holiday food gift was a fruit basket and a plate of cookies took third place.

For an occasion such as a Christmas party or a dinner, particularly the family Christmas Dinner, where larger quantities and selections of food are available, the budgeted eating plan will be a means to control serving portions and to select the healthier choices of food. At an event where more desserts and sweets are likely to be on hand, a few of the options can be sampled and eaten slowly to present an apparently full plate as you mingle. If you cannot resist the urge to try everything, then stack your plate with one of each and don’t go back for seconds unless you can pass off an item or two. The same is basically true of Christmas Dinner. The main difference is that the food served during Christmas Dinner will be heavier. Select your portions wisely and you can enjoy all of the flavors of Christmas without winding up with Santa’s belly.  If you stick to your budget at a sumptuous Holiday Dinner, your stomach will be full from the wonderful food and your soul will be full of joy from sharing another memorable holiday with family, friends and loved ones.

Christmas Jokes!

Christmas Jokes!

by the Elf Queen

What happened to the man who shoplifted a calendar at Christmas?

He got 12 months

 

What’s white and goes up?

A confused snowflake!

 

What do you call an old snowman?

Water!

 

Knock knock!

Who’s there?

Snow.

Snow who?

Snow use – I’ve forgotten my name again

 

When does Christmas come before Thanksgiving?

In the dictionary!

 

What’s the difference between the Christmas alphabet and the ordinary alphabet?

The Christmas one has no L (noel)!

 

What Christmas carol is a favorite of parents?

Silent Night

 

What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?

Frostbite!

 

Where do snowmen go to dance?

A snow ball!

 

What do you get if you cross an apple with a Christmas tree?

A pineapple!

 

How many presents can Santa fit in an empty sack?

Only one, after that it’s not empty any more!

 

How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizzas?

Deep pan, crisp and even!

 

What do snowmen eat for breakfast?

Frosted flakes!

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

by the Elf Queen

Christmas cookies are fat free! Christmas cookies look slimming on you! Christmas cookies good for curing the common cold!

Oh, if only these statements were true! But, alas, they are not. Christmas cookies are tasty and delicious, but unfortunately, your love handles only get larger as you eat them.

There are so many different types of Christmas cookies. The Christmas cookie started in ancient times and continues today, in all types of countries. According to our research, gingerbread and sugar cookies were ‘invented’ first followed by tons more. Did you know animal crackers were once used as decorations? Americans have made Fig Newtons since 1892, but the lovely, tasty most wonderful Christmas cookie-the Chocolate Chip cookie has only been officially made since 1937!! (did you read our bias in that sentence)

Once people started making cookies, the cookie exchange began. This is a great idea for a party and can be an inexpensive alternative Christmas gift. People can bring ingredients to make the cookies at the party, or just bring several dozen of one type of cookie to exchange with one another. Either way, fun will be had.

Making Christmas cookies is a tradition shared in many families. I remember making cookies with my grandmother. The extra table would be assembled and the cookies laid upon it for display. Then, the joy of tasting samples or eating imperfect cookies before Christmas would commence. Of course, once the baking and tasting were done,the cookies were packed away and saved for that most special of times-Christmas Dinner Dessert.

Sometimes Christmas cookie making can be considered torturous. For example, making molasses cookies for the first time for me was torturous. How about when your cookies turn too brown for even a dog, that would be torturous. (but truly, that’s never happened, right?) Or how about when your husband sees flames in the oven from your daughter trying to bake cookies and he decides to use the fire extinguisher on them? Ack, what a mess! Actually, those weren’t Christmas cookies, but the idea is the same.

A fun recipe to make with children is gingerbread people. They can help by mixing the ingredients or just with the decorations, either way it is a memory builder. Remember to take lots of photographs! Gingerbread villages are fun to do, not just a house, but an entire village. The creativity and love will be endless. Gingerbread house making also makes for a good party. It would be fun to have one’s Sunday School make a gingerbread version of your church (maybe rice crispy treats would be easier for this).

There are many, many recipes for Christmas cookies. Ask your relatives for their favorites or check out www.tasteofhome.com or www.food.com for some ideas.

Here’s a snappy little tune to go with your ginger snaps!

Chocolate Daleks

Chocolate Daleks!

Okay, I admit that maybe Dr Who’s arch-nemeses aren’t particularly jolly or festive but I had this interesting notion the other day and decided to put it to the test.  I will also admit that I am neither Michelangelo nor Martha Stewart so the results are a tad primitive.  I will happily leave it to my readers to enhance and refine as you see fit.  With all caveats thus disposed of, I humbly present my recipe for Chocolate Daleks.

Recipe

  • Box of ice cream cones, flat bottom variety
  • Chocolate covered raisins
  • Miniature peanut butter cups, the really small ones
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Chocolate frosting
  • Cake mix, either box or from scratch according to personal preference

Tools

  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Rubber Scraper
  • Muffin Pans
  • Tea cup
  • Spoon (optional)
  • Wax Paper
  • Awl or ice pick for pilot holes
  • Spatula or knife to apply icing

Everything you'll need to make a platoon of Chocolate Daleks.

Everything you’ll need to make a platoon of Chocolate Daleks.

Alright, I did say CHOCOLATE Daleks.  I'm not a from-scratch kind of elf, so I leave it to you to go old school or do the box mix.

Alright, I did say CHOCOLATE Daleks. I’m not a from-scratch kind of elf, so I leave it to you to go old school or do the box mix.

If you've ever made cupcakes before, you know just what to do here.

If you’ve ever made cupcakes before, you know just what to do here.

My cake's recipe left me a little short of batter, but this was just an experiment.

My cake’s recipe left me a little short of batter, but this was just an experiment.

Fill your cupcake papers about 2/3 full.

Fill your cupcake papers about 2/3 full.

Plant the ice cream cones on top of the batter firmly and then follow your cake recipe's baking directions.  Mine took about 19 minutes at 350°.

Plant the ice cream cones on top of the batter firmly and then follow your cake recipe’s baking directions. Mine took about 19 minutes at 350°.

Our batter is in to bake.  Take a moment for a cup of tea before moving on.

Our batter is in to bake. Take a moment for a cup of tea before moving on.

Okay, let's lay down some wax paper.  Dealing with Daleks is always messy!

Okay, let’s lay down some wax paper. Dealing with Daleks is always messy!

Open the pretzel sticks and the PB Minis.

Open the pretzel sticks and the PB Minis.

Gather enough pretzel sticks and PB Minis to make our sensor arms.

Gather enough pretzel sticks and PB Minis to make our sensor arms.

Drill a pilot hole for your pretzel sticks.

Drill a pilot hole for your pretzel sticks.

Carefully slide our pretzel sticks into the pilot holes.  We don't want to break the PB Minis or the pretzel sticks.

Carefully slide our pretzel sticks into the pilot holes. We don’t want to break the PB Minis or the pretzel sticks.

They look sort of like the autonomous brooms from Fantasia, but we'll make sensor arms out of them a little later on.

They look sort of like the autonomous brooms from Fantasia, but we’ll make sensor arms out of them a little later on.

Time's up!  Take those cupcakes out for cooling.

Time’s up! Take those cupcakes out for cooling.

If you haven't already guessed, our chocolate covered raisins are for the eyestalks.

If you haven’t already guessed, our chocolate covered raisins are for the eyestalks.

Gather enough pretzel sticks and chocolate covered raisins to create the eye stalks

Gather enough pretzel sticks and chocolate covered raisins to create the eye stalks

Snap pretzel sticks in half to form the eye stalks

Snap pretzel sticks in half to form the eye stalks.  We’ll need to drill pilot holes for the pretzels in our chocolate covered raisins.

We've got all the pieces ready, let's make a Dalek!

We’ve got all the pieces ready, let’s make a Dalek!

Drill some pilot holes for the extremities with your awl.

Drill some pilot holes for the extremities with your awl.

Insert pretzel sticks into the pilot holes

Insert pretzel sticks into the pilot holes. Once this guy is frosted, it will be hard enough to find the holes so let’s make sure the pretzels will fit when we’re ready.

Coat your Dalek with Chocolate Frosting

Coat your Dalek with Chocolate Frosting

Break the pretzel stick from the sensor arm to form the blaster arm, also break the pretzel stick from the eye stalk to form the head lamps

Break the pretzel stick from the sensor arm to form the blaster arm, also break the pretzel stick from the eye stalk to form the head lamps

Add extremities to complete your Chocolate Dalek

Add extremities to complete your Chocolate Dalek

Your completed Chocolate Dalek

Your completed Chocolate Dalek

Sure I admitted that Daleks aren’t very jolly, but it doesn’t mean they have nothing to do with Christmas.  Back in the early 60’s when Dr Who was just getting started, there was a season of Dalekmania.  A number of bands did comical Dalek related songs including “I’m gonna spend my Christmas with a Dalek” by the Go-Go’s.  I’ve included a link to a modern reinterpretation of the song by Yulenog and Nathan Kuruna.  I got my copy and it’s a gas!
As for the Daleks themselves, here’s an awesome bit of trash talk between the Daleks and the Cybermen. Both species are on the Naughty List, I assure you.