(No, this isn't any kind of official Thursday Thirteen thing, but it inspired me.)
1. Thanksgiving! It’s a special time for me, a wonderfully warm, quiet, reflective holiday, even when the house becomes a zoo with all the visiting family and the refrigerator is so crammed with leftovers you have to be careful opening the door.
2. Family. I don’t get enough time with my family. Even though my oldest daughter and her family live in the same city, our busy everyday lives mean we don’t see each other often enough. And my other two live in Washington, DC and Oxford, England. My son and daughter-in-law won’t be coming from England this year (they’ll be going to her family’s home in Kent), but my youngest daughter will be and I never get to see enough of her either. Plus we often visit or are visited by aunts, uncles, cousins and others we don’t see very often.
3. Church Services. There’s a warmth and joy about the Advent and Christmas services that moves me.
4. Baking cookies. I’m not much of a cook but I do love baking cookies. I like it even more when my grandchildren help. Yes, really. I love eating the cookies, too—way too much.
5. The Music (Part A) – Christmas Carols, Trans-Siberian Orchestra…. Never heard Christmas Eve Sarajevo? YouTube has several versions of it:
From a movie TSO produced (I’m not wild about the visuals on this but it’s the best musically): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iY4Tom6-wM
A Live version (A TSO concert is an unbelievable experience, but it doesn’t translate well in recording, so it’s hard to hear the music or words.
A house lights rendition. Hey, it worked well with Wizard in Winter, so why not?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2LtOVBHgoY
(Oddly the house lights version captures the spirit of the music surprisingly well!)
6. The Music (Part B) The ubiquitous novelty songs:
This is my favorite:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6Ht0KXpZ6c (Jeff Foxworthy’s words, but I love the way this other guy sings this.)
And Christmas just wouldn’t be complete without Robert Earl Keen’s Merry Christmas from the Family:
7. Lights. My neighborhood does an unusual and spectacular display during the Christmas season. Called lighted tree balls… They’re balls made from chicken wire woven with strings of lights and then hung high in the trees. Hundreds of homes in our neighborhoods do this and it turns the place into a fantasyland. They don’t photograph well, but this video actually came out quite well and gives you some idea of what it’s like:
And yes, the display turns our normally quiet neighborhood into a traffic nightmare.
8. The Aromas. I’m especially fond of these because until I had surgery on my nose about ten years ago, I had very little sense of smell. I still don’t have the most super-sensitive nose, but I can now smell the aroma of pine greenery and baking cookies and harvest-scented candles.
9. Hot spiced cider. I don’t have a specific recipe. I just put about four cups of cider in a pan, throw in a broken cinnamon stick, sprinkle on a bit of Allpsice, Nutmeg, and ground Cloves, then heat and let it simmer gently until it smells so good you can’t wait another minute to sip it. For a bit of added punch, pour in a jigger or two of vodka.
10. The Movies and TV shows. But not It’s a Wonderful Life. Eeek. Can’t stand it. Sorry.
Give me The Muppet’s Christmas Carol (or almost any variation of the story), Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday Inn, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated TV version, not the awful movie), Charlie Brown’s Christmas, even The Nightmare Before Christmas. Yeah, I’m weird that way.
11. Football, mostly the pro variety. It gets more exciting as the season draws to a close.
12. Peppermint bark. I love the stuff and have to stock up since it’s generally not available any other time of year.
13. The Release on December 13 of my novella, A Vampire's Christmas Carol, in the anthology BENEATH A CHRISTMAS MOON, Cerridwen Press.
What are you looking forward to during the holidays?
-- Karen McCullough