Thursday, December 10, 2009

ח' נרות והלכה כבית הלל

We're into the double digits of December, which means it's okay to drink egg nog before noon. Alcoholism from now until January 1st is considered acceptable "holiday cheer". It also means time to crank up the other spirit.

Easy enough for Zero Mostel to dance around singing the praises of Tradition!. Zero was Jewish, and smart Purim cookies that they are, Jews have it all over and done with in 8 tidy, fire-retardant days. Plus they get to eat fried food and jam-stuffed doughnuts.

We pagan Christian agnostic cynical atheist sentimental Gemini single mothers are not so lucky. We have to drag this thing out from the first flap of the mandatory cardboard advent calendar until January 1. And since I have been known to toss the tree out into the yard on Boxing Day, I ask, why does our NHL advent calendar has 32 waxy chocolate days?

Most of our traditions were lost in our move to Toronto-and-back last year, and while I have been scrambling to replace our mantle Santa and handmade stockings, it occurs to me that many of our fucked-up family traditions centre around being too far away from loved ones, hockey, and food.

Now don't start picturing Martha Stewart getting down with Norman Rockwell because for starters we don't even have a table. My first tradition is to crank up the oven and make the traditional Bits & Bites, or as I call them Burnt Offerings. (Jack calls them, "Mom, no one likes those but you.) I lay these tabasco, salt, butter, and more salt treats on the neighbours, the local senior shut-ins and the hockey coaches, and while I usually pick out all the cashews and cheese thingies before I load them into empty cigarette cartons and stick on a bow, the occasional burnt Shreddie does escape. But it's a tradition.

Next is the holiday shopping downtown. I avoid the mall at all costs because I hate the mall as much as I hate shopping, but I do find a hearty hour of shopping downtown is bearable when followed by a boozy two-hour brunch at The Lord Nelson Hotel. For instance, renting art for someone special and art deprived means you can can be in and out of the Art Sales & Rentals at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and seated in a dimly-lit, comfy booth in under 15 minutes. David Lacey is December's artist of the month and his landscapes trump a new toaster any day. Plus the Gallery Gift Shop is loaded with local handiwork and beats the hell out of sweating it out in Future Shop.

The post-shopping brunch at The Lord Nelson is a tradition for us, and now that the little bastard has discovered Eggs Benedict I can't wait to introduce him to their Lobster Eggs Benedict, or as I call it, The Lord Nelson's Prayer. Brunch at this fabulous old hotel comes with a complimentary Caesar or champagne. Deliver us from extra-spicy evil.

I made a turkey dinner once when we lived in San Francisco and what a fucking absolute waste of time that was. I slaved for the entire day beginning at dawn. I made pies, and cranberry sauce that didn't come in the shape of a can, and I stuck my hand up a raw ass, and for what? My kid ate a slice of white meat and some mashed potatoes and left to go play with his new toys, leaving me stuffed and alone to clean up. Screw that.

And while I have always maintained that the only thing worse than spending Christmas with my own family is spending it with someone else's, this year I have been saved. Enter Cousin Sarah.

When Cousin Sarah first mentioned Christmas dinner with them, I imagined screaming, exhausted children, not being able to leave when I felt like it, and helping with dishes. I broke out in holiday hives just thinking about it. Then, Cousin Sarah said she was making something extra special for Christmas dinner:


Yes. Reservations. This year, we are going to test out a new tradition by eating Christmas dinner at the Westin Nova Scotia. I was a little skeptical at first, but now all I can think about is a plate full of shrimp and stuffing, and snapping my fingers so some poor bastard making minimum wage will come up behind me and take it away. No fist fights, no drama, no cleaning up, no one giving me the stink eye for eating just skin and stuffing – and technically, I'll be with family. And here's the kicker: no guilt. Not even a smidgen of Jewish guilt.

It's a fucking miracle.

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is at 1723 Hollis Street. The Sales in Rentals is just inside to the right.

The Lord Neslon is at 1515 South Park Street.