Our Eating Lives features stories about how food, cooking, and eating have shaped who we are and how we live.
The decorations have gone up, the holiday music is playing, gifts are stored lovingly under the tree, elaborate meals with extended family planned and prepared days in advance. Well, somewhere this is all happening; not at my house. Even Festivus (“the holiday for the rest of us”), with its formal airing of grievances and feats of strength, is too laden with significance and ceremony for me.
My tiny but cozy coterie of husband, cats, and bunnies is all I can handle, and more importantly, all I want; thanks anyway, Santa Baby. Here, chez Shea, we’re running on fourteen years of non-engagement with the rest of the world for the year’s biggest holiday, and we couldn’t be happier.
It all began in South Korea, 1999. Future Husband and I absconded to Seoul that September to make some money and travel; going back to Canada for a week in December, having been away only a few months, hardly seemed worth the horrendous jet lag that would have resulted. We spent our first Christmas together mostly out of laziness, but it was a blessing, an eye-opener, and a joy.
That Christmas Eve, we lay about eating pizza and watching strange Korean game shows, our favorite of which involved contestants wearing Matrix-style leather pants and coats and trying to run up walls to kick balls hanging from the ceiling. (I know. TV is so much better there than here.) The next morning, we slept in, and then left the house only to pick up some mandu from a nearby restaurant. We probably meandered over to Kyobo to buy some books.
The point is this: we didn’t age ten years shuttling between all our divorced parents’ houses, trying to remain emotionally neutral while crossing familial demilitarized zones; we didn’t eat too much; we didn’t have to sit at hideously uncomfortable dining room chairs used once a year to make sure we didn’t enjoy all that food too much; we didn’t have to stand in front of a freakishly low kitchen sink with our arms in greasy water washing those horrid black roasting pans, evil things designed to be impossible to clean in a normal-sized sink.
We ate satisfying but un-fancy things and relaxed and took a little walk-about and napped. We looked at each other on Boxing Day and said: NEVER AGAIN. Never again would we subject ourselves to the horrors of Christmas when it meant nothing to either of us personally, and when it was so much nicer to visit family at times with no emotional significance whatsoever!
Since then, with one exception that proved we were right to avoid Big Family Get-togethers like the plague, we’ve spent Xmas together. My husband and I do exchange gifts, but we never wrap them and we certainly don’t put them under a tree we’ve brought inside. The bunnies would eat these things and then try to build nests out of them; but we’re also just too happy with how our tiny living room is set up to consider rearranging it. Yep, we’re pretty much completely outside the whole tinseled and belled to-do here.
We’ve made our own little rituals. On Festivus eve, we have homemade pizza (a different one every year! There’s been vegan cheeseburger pizza, Thai chickpea pizza, and pesto pizza with roasted Brussels and homemade vegan chorizo) and watch a very terrible horror or sci-fi film. The Resident Evil series has been a particular favorite: nothing says peace on earth and good will towards men like watching Milla Jovovitch killing zombies.
On Festivus day, we don’t air grievances; we do the opposite of this: we eat pancakes and then schlepp about in our pj’s feeling sleek and happy and reading fat novels. This year, I think we might even bust out the waffle-maker, because that’s how we shuffle along. If we feel like it.
Happy whatever it is you celebrate, friends; may there be tasty vittles and comfy couches in your life this holiday season!
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