Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What's the Meme Under the Tree?

In a Christmas spirit, looted from Whisky Prajer who linked, in turn, from here.

The Twenty Question Christmas Grilling

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? : Sorry, this isn't an "or" question. If we'd been outside and the weather was delightfully frightful, hot chocolate from scratch can't be beat. If muttering around the house is causing joy to be slowly leached from the other denizens, a chilly egg nog with a splash (or two) of Myers Dark Rum soothes this savage beast.

Does Santa wrap presents, or just stick them under the tree? : The two-headed and four-armed Santa stays up late on the third floor or retreats to the basement and measures and cuts and wraps and bow-ties until all 20 fingers are band-aided and strips of wrapping paper of unuseable lengths are carpeting the floor. A minimum of 3 self-jabs by scissors is de rigeur.

Coloured lights on tree, or white? : White or clear.
(Part B of that question): Lights on tree, still or flickering? : Flickering (me). Still (Ever-loving Wife)

Do you hang mistletoe?: No mistletoe, but a hole-y sock is hung with not much care to remind us to give out many wet & messy kisses or get the boot! Err, sock, I mean.

When do you put your decorations up? Week or two (or three) after Thanksgiving.

What is your favourite holiday dish? Nothing like a plateful of Sarma, though it's tough getting the real sour cabbage without trekking all the way to Queens, NY.

What is your favourite holiday memory as a child? One of my cousin's grandparents owned a farm situated on the slope of a mountain by the River Una in Croatia. On the other side of the river was Bosnia. One Christmas, about 15 cousins, their families, and ours invaded and occupied the farmhouse for a week. Heavy snow fell each day. Each room was heated at night with 4-5 feather blankets and a wooden stove. We stayed outside strumpetting through the snow, skiing down the mountain, sleighing on the hills and on the road. Then, after much yelling from inside the house in our general direction, we'd troop in from the moonlit fields and plop ourselves on the wooden benches at the long wooden kitchen table. We seemingly emptied the food cellar each night and then dragged ourselves upstairs to one of the 8 bedrooms. Under the covers, we peeked at the stove's "eyes", the flames flickering warmth our way. I don't remember gifts actually being exchanged at all that Christmas. We walked a few kilometers to a small Catholic church, packed to the max with heavy-breathing people. I couldn't believe anything could top each day's memories with my cousins in that glorious village.

Years later, the village and this beautiful old house were burnt to the ground during the breakup of Yugoslavia. My cousin's gone back; he now owns the land but he doesn't live there. There are no structures left. He has no desire to build any replica of that grand old ship of a house.

When did you learn the truth about Santa? Age four. In Croatia, Djed Mraz comes with the Devil on Dec. 6th. The latter scared the hell out of me; the former didn't have the chops to clear the fear. I gave up on the old goat.

Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve? Never! It's Christmas Day for the kids to go through their stockings and then open one gift. Usually, it's called the Big Gift. Then, each day after Christmas until January 7th, the kids open up one gift. We started the 12 days when the kids were very, very young. It had nothing to do with the song, but rather the Ever-Loving Wife (ELW)'s observations that opening up all the gifts on one day was a highly concentrated pleasure in a minimal amount of time. Sounds familiar? So, we started the One-a-Day thing and found that the kids seemed to appreciate and play with each gift rather than heaving it on that stack accumulating in the corner. The kids are, well, not kids now. Yet, they insist on the 12 day program even today.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? I'm in charge of cutting the tree down. putting it in the holder, and stringing on the lights. My Christmas ornament hanging days are over as I seem to have lost the Touch of Placement soon after we exchanged marriage vows. I sit back in the couch and cherish my small glass of sherry while the tree is transformed into a thing of beauty.

Snow: love it, or hate it? Adore it. Lots of it. The light fluffy kind, not the heavy wet wear-you-down as you walk kind.

Can you ice skate? Absolument! Although, my thighs sure seem to be burning a lot sooner than I'd like to remember. Bauer Black Panthers are still sharpened.

Can you remember your favourite gift? The ELW gave me a one day course at Stonecreek Studios. It convinced me that I need to win the lottery to go anywhere with this career. It was a fabulous day playing with state-of-the-art equipment. Dials! Meters!

What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Having a long overdrawn dinner with too much food, too much talk, and too much laughing with my family with no plans/commitments afterwards on one of the days during the holidays.

What is your favourite holiday tradition? Christmas morning baking of cinnamon buns, as done by the ELW. Kids spinning ever tighter circles around the gift that they'll open that day.

What tops your tree? We don't put anything right on top of the tree, but we do have an angel made of palm leaves that hangs off to one side of the highest branch. Sort of at the top, but never there. And, yes, his name is Sisyphus, which makes it all a bit corny.

Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? I'm with Mr. WP on this one 100%. So long as kids are involved, giving.

What is your favourite Christmas song? Charles Brown's "Merry Christmas, Baby"

Candy canes? Concocted by the same sadist who cooked up Candy Corn. Never ever tasted a cane I'd finish. Last on I probably licked was in early grammar school. Still have an awful taste memory of that brittle stuff.

My favourite Holiday Dessert: Pecan Pie w/ Rum. Yep, I had it at Thanksgiving. Yeah, I'll have it at Christmas. Although... my mom makes some Croatian cookies (which she hasn't given me a recipe for) that are to die for.


"Bauer Black Panthers" - nice! But I do believe my pair of Daoust's (the last model to be manufactured in Montreal) is older.
Mmmm...sarma! But don't you make your own sour cabbage? No? We don't either.

What a tragic tale of the grand ship of a farmhouse, and the whole village for that matter...we may have passed through on our last visit. My husband has a brother in Nova Gradiska, also near the Bosnian border (we drove past the River Una). Sadly, there were many burned down and bomb damaged villages. But what a fabulous memory nonetheless. Nobody can take that away.

Great Christmas traditions. I'm still waiting for the dinner invitation. ;-)
Ever-Loving Wife (ELW).

Heh. That's awesome.
I like posts including the ELW very much, too...

Darko, what exactly did you celebrate in Croatia? I'm asking for two reasons: we in Slovenia had the first Christmas as a bank holiday in 1991 (I think). I don't know about others, but presents weren't part of the greater scheme till then. Also, we had St. Nicholas bringing presents on the 6th of December and (the Russian Santa) Dedek Mraz bringing presents on New Year's Eve. Maybe I should ad that with "we" I mean your normal Protestant family in Yugoslavia.
Gwynne, the name of that formerly gorgeous little village was Kozibrod (literally translated as Goat's Bridge).

Jane, I defer all compliments of the ELW origins to Mr. Damon Runyon. They just don't write like that anymore and that's a shame.

Let's see if my memory cells can recall exactly.
1) On December 6th, the Vrag comes and scares the S_ _T out of all of the kids. He comes into a darkened room, where your loving parents have deposited you. The sound of metal chains being pulled up the stairs and then on the floor is heard. All of a sudden, a red oufitted and chained creature jumps out at us and grabs one of the unfortunate kiddies standing by the door. We never see him again (it's always a boy; the girls are too clever to be caught by the Devil). After assuring that each one of us has peed in our pants, the Vrag moves off to one side as the lights are turned on and Sveti Nikola comes out. He hands out wrapped boxes to each child. I don't remember if there was anything in the box; I know we all hoped it was achange of underwear. Sveti Nikola is judged by the kids as the cavalry that came too late. Evil has won again.
2) On Dec. 24th night, we all went to Catholic services in a packed church. We then went home and stared at the Christmas tree lit with candles, aware at that tender age that putting live flames on a quickly drying tree was not the best way to preserve the investment one has in one's home.
3) Djed Mraz was, well the best way to put it, he was that undependable uncle who everyone loved. Sometimes, he'd show up on Christma Day. Sometimes, he'd show up on New Year's Eve. Then, other times he's show up on New Year's Day. At first, we thought he was one of those political prisoners who was released once a year from Goli Otok, (translated as "Naked Island") to visit family. Knowing how inefficient the Yugoslavian bureaucracy was, we assumed that he came whenever he could, so that explained the inconsistnet arrival dates each year. Later, we found out that Djed Mraz had a weakness for good cooking (I guess that ho-ho-ho belly gave him away). He seemed to have a meal radar that allowed him to attend a family function where the best meals were. Since we alternated homes where we celebrated these holidays, Djed Mraz always made sure he was present at one particular aunt's home each year.

That about sums up my memories, invented or not.

exactly, that's how it was/it is in my memory. Only in my case, the Devil was omitted - I was a good girl, you see.
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