Some friends were over the other night. We picked up A&B Pizza in Seaside. We sat on high stools at our bar. When we moved to the beach, I said farewell to my dining room table as this house has no dining room.
After the pizza, women moved to the living room. We talked about Christmas preparations, past and present. My friend has a thing where she only does Christmas every other year. This year is her year off. She’s going to Hawaii.
“For years our tradition never changed,” I said. “Christmas Eve we had a festive meal at home of oysters Rockefeller and smoked salmon and deviled eggs. We opened a couple of presents. Christmas morning, after coffee, I made pancakes and then we opened more presents. Then I’d start fussing with the Christmas dinner, which took all day to make. I did prime rib with Yorkshire pudding; we had string beans dressed in sautéed shallots and roasted chestnuts and Brussels sprouts. I’d make an apple pie. As a snack in the middle of the day I put out a bowl of my mother-in-law’s famous shrimp dip.”
My Christmas gift list used to be long. There were lots of gifts to give. There were gifts for my son’s teacher and his bus driver and gifts for my son to give his friends. I gifted my hairdresser, our babysitter, the UPS driver and the guy who plowed our driveway. My husband gave gift cards to everyone in his office; at the barn where my pony lived, I gifted all the grooms. My girlfriends always wanted to get together for a holiday drink or meal and that always involved exchanging presents. Then there were the presents that had to go out early by mail to my in-laws and my stepsister. By the time Christmas rolled around I felt pretty broke and in the hole, but it seemed there was no choice.
Christmas these days is a far more modest affair although there are still gifts to give. The list has shrunk considerably, which is good but a little sad. I’ve realized over the years that wrapping all those presents (and truth be told I am a terrible gift wrapper) put me in the holiday spirit.
We used to put up a Christmas tree and a wreath and festoon the house with greens. For a joke, one year instead of a tree, inside the house I had one of those outdoor white painted metal lighted reindeer. My holiday decorations these days is condensed to strings of white fairy lights. I leave them on 24-7 because this time of year, it gets dark early and they cast a soft, friendly light. I have them in the living room and our bedroom and even the bathroom where they make the perfect nightlight.
I hope my son and daughter-in-law won’t feel shortchanged by our smaller, simpler Christmas. There will still be pancakes Christmas morning, and there will be roast beef, if not prime rib. A great gift my friend gave me the other night after we’d demolished the pizza was emotional support and permission to skip the Yorkshire pudding.
“It’s so bad for you and makes such a mess,” she said.