Most of the year being away from home is just fine. Daily life doesn’t give us much to miss, but the holidays are a different story. Do we want to be at an ugly sweater party? Yeah, you betcha! Do we want to be feasting on unhealthy food just because it’s a holiday? Of course! Here are the key things about the holidays we miss.
December is a deceptively good month at home. The fun of the holidays outweighs the fact that in Minnesota the temperature drops below freezing; a mark it won’t rise above until sometime in May. While the air outside becomes frosty, inside it’s a different story, the warmth of people abounds. Everywhere becomes festive, downtown Minneapolis hosts a nightly parade, stores that seem barren in the summer are wrapped in decorations, and people open their homes to share great food, catch up, and drink a little too much eggnog. Overall, December is a month that I wish were longer.
Ever seen The Hangover? At the end they find a digital camera with photos of the night before that show scenes that are unbelievable for even those that were there. Our friend’s holiday party is like that. Part of you wishes there were no digital cameras and facebook, but you also realize that’s a big part of the fun. The party doesn’t really celebrate the holidays, rather it uses the holidays as a reason to party, in costume. This year’s theme, Punk Rock Christmas, will celebrate the decade we were born in, but too young to rock mohawks and leather jackets without our parents’ agreeing to pay for them. Being the season of giving, there is a gift exchange where you can expect to walkaway with household essentials such as stuffed bobcats and profane inflatable objects. This is one holiday party that is a shame to miss.
Stuffed bobcat!? You know you want one and the gift exchange is a great place to get it.
A close second to missing Punk Rock Christmas is being able to indulge in eating without shame. The holidays are a time when it’s seemingly OK to catch up with family while holding a plate that only contains prime rib, lamb, and turkey.Sure, there are plenty of other things I could put on my plate, some carbs for example, but why? Spending time with loved ones and a plate of meat is what makes December different from Thanksgiving when people will plop sweet potatoes onto your plate against your will. The holidays are all about food, family and friends, which makes December a great month.
I have always had a white Christmas, being from Minnesota having snow on the ground is a sign that the holidays are just around the corner. While we have chased summer weather around the world, I miss the snow that tells me it’s time for holiday parties, ice sculptures and long standing family traditions. Sure I wish I could attend friend’s ugly sweater parties and play secret santa, but what I miss most is our traditional Christmas Eve meal and our eclectic Christmas Day gathering of friends and family.
My plate of food with Swedish meatballs, Swedish sausage, lefse and a tiny bit of obligatory lutefisk.
Like many Minnesotans our holiday tradition is to feast on dishes inspired by our Nordic ancestors just as Garrison Keilor describes in A Prairie Home Companion. It’s not the gourmet quality of the meal that makes it so special it’s the tradition of eating it every year. I love reminiscing about how much Grandpa liked lutefisk, and the teasing among my cousins that goes on to eat just a small bite of the vile fish. The work and attention to detail that goes into getting the right lefse and making the painstakingly difficult ribbon Jell-O is all part of the magic of Christmas Eve.
Just like Christmas Eve, Christmas Day also has a set of traditions including breakfast as a family and then honey glazed ham, much preferred to lutefisk, with hot mulled wine brought by a close family friend. It’s these traditions and the people that I celebrate them with that I miss while abroad. While we will have a memorable Christmas in Turkey it just won’t be the same without lutefisk, stuffed bobcats and ribbon Jell-O, these things are uniquely special to the holidays at home that can’t be replicated on the road.