What I Want for Christmas

Stories. I want stories.

You see, I’m about to get on some planes, see some loved ones, some liked ones and some tolerated ones, and engage in the bittersweet, aggravating, soul-warming, rich, shallow, crazy, predictable, surprising, labour-intensive rituals of the season.

In between I’ll be doing some course prep, some marking. Christmas, for academics, is fraught with the semester behind and the one just round the corner.

What are your seasonal stories?

What is the most uncomfortable, enjoyable, absurd Christmas, Hanukah, Diwali, solstice or Kwanzaa meal you ever ate?

How do the Christmas lights make you feel? What are you doing solstice eve?

What are you baking, cooking or eating this season?

Is there a certain taste, spice or smell you long for? Did the shortbread end up being dry as sand, did your latkes satisfy?

Are you en famille?

Are you in exile?

Have you managed to create your own queer, irreverent, or politicized celebrations?

Do you love to wrap yourself in peaceful solitariness and ignore the whole damn thing?

Thank you for all of your lovely comments, anecdotes, food recommendations and recipes this past year. And thank you for quietly lurking and reading. With this blog I do feel connected to a larger human story.

But right now, I need to be fed.

So please, be my Scheherazade, and tell me a story (so I can prolong this blog’s life into the new year!)


  1. Well, I’ve just finished my first semester of graduate school at a program that is 3,000 miles from everything I know and love. On the wrong coast. So, the holidays mean even more for me this year. Being with friends and family no longer feels just like a trite cliche that I trot out every year for lack of something better to say.
    Food has always been my favorite part of the holidays (Turkey and Cranberry Sauce in November, Latkes and Applesauce in December), but this year I think I will be nourished by those around me more than just by the food.
    Happy Holidays.

  2. This year, we’ve managed to pull off what seems like a holiday miracle – both of our respective families are descending upon Hamilton, and it’s all because we moved the Christmas celebration date to the 28th.
    Food is always important and this year I’m pretty much in acknowledged control (unlike other years when I’ve just managed to “help” out) – slow roasted pork shoulder is the main order of business (overnight a la Jamie Oliver – don’t sniff). We’re also hosting a New Year’s feast featuring turkey – both are coming from a local organic farm.
    The holidays for me are about crafting happiness & love – either from food, raw materials, some selective shopping, or parties.

  3. We are dusting off my great grandmother’s recipe for Swedish Almond Cake. This recipe came in a handwritten cookbook when she came over to this country. My grandmother always made it this time of the year. My partner Tim and I never made it before in our thirty years together but will try it this year. I had it translated by a friend who speaks Swedish. She has offered to translate more recipes as long as she can have a copy of the book.

    Tim’s family will be coming over to our place the Sunday after Christmas each person will be bringing something for our smorgasbord. We will have good food, presents, talk and I hope everyone goes home by early evening as I will have to work the next morning.

    All my best for this holiday season to you Marusya.

    P.S Keep all your beautiful photographs coming. They are such a joy to look at.

  4. Aaron,
    I’m glad you’re finding comfort in family, friends, & cranberry sauce this year.

    Sounds delish.I like the phrase “acknowledged control.”

    That Swedish Almond cake sounds really good.I wonder why, after all these years, you and Tim are inspired to take on that iconic family recipe…

  5. My aunt who always made the Almond cake passed away this past year. She was the keeper of the flame. She never used a cookbook but just knew how to make things. I am not much of a baker so the job has fallen to Tim. He is the cook and baker in our home. We will make a few extra cakes and give them out to family. We use the cookbook for this cake and wonder if it will be as good as my aunts.

    One recipe in the cookbook and one that I still turn my nose up at is head cheese. Growing up my uncle had pigs and I remember in the cellar kitchen a large crock of head cheese. UGH. I think it is scary stuff no matter what.

  6. I’m pondering the definition of orphan at this time of year. Am I an orphan in Vancouver, in spite of family in Toronto still? I’ve always believed powerfully in extended non-biological families — I am invited to their homes over the holidays; I invite them to mine. And I treasure that.

    But I want my mother to call me on Christmas Day like she always did, even though we’re Jewish. And she can’t; she’s immersed in a place so lost to us we don’t even know if she can hear the radio we insist is left on for her all day in the nursing home. I want my father to take over the phone from her and send his gruff love. But he can’t; he’s dead. I want my brother and sister to call me, rather than me calling them (sometimes they even do).

    So I will make my mother’s chopped liver for new year’s eve dinner and I’ll bring out my father’s scotch glasses. And I’ll toast my blood family with my family of friends.

    And I’ll keep pondering the definition of orphan …

  7. I thought I was cooking christmas dinner, a stoutly English one, here in Rome. It was going to be a small affair, here in our flat, just us two, vincenzo’s parents and Carlo, I oredred the goose. Then everything changed, Vincenzo’s sister jumbled plans for a while and nobody knew what we were doing, then she got hysterical and we all agreed to have christmas at family home. I cancelled the goose.
    We ate well, good food- stoutly Italian, Fish on the 24th then filled tortellini in brodo followed by a wonderful bolito misto with salsa verde on the 25th, the sister sulked all day.
    I drank too much which made it all blurred at the edges, then I went to sleep on the sofa, like an old man. I woke, I called my family in England which made me miss them even more.
    We played cards till late which was surprisingly good fun, I won, beginners luck they all said.
    Happy new year

  8. Penny,
    You’re no orphan to me. But thank you for that beautifully written story.

    Your story of family Christmas drama gave me comfort, somehow. Glad you won the card game if not the goose battle. Happy new year to you too.

  9. Neat!

    I just browsed your site. Neat! When I get home, I will check it out more closely.

    Cheers! It is sunny today.

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