Christmas isn’t a Hallmark card with smiling gingerbread men and festive peppermint sticks.
Growing up in the Middle East in the mid-eighties, Christmas was different.
We ate rice and curry -not turkey and mashed potatoes. We slurped payasam - not eggnog. We warmed up on chai – not apple cider or hot chocolate. We made Kulkuls - not sugar cookies, fudge or brownies.
We didn’t have real Christmas trees, or advent calenders, or fireplaces lined with red stockings. Come to think of it, we didn’t have fireplaces. Period. We didn’t build gingerbread houses or snowmen with carrot-noses. We didn’t write letters to Santa, or put out milk and cookies.
We put up plastic trees, listened to Jim Reeves and ran away from aunties who tried to force-feed us fruitcake (<= cruel + unusual punishment). We stood in assembly lines in the kitchen executing Grandma’s Christmas recipes, amidst animated conversation and rowdy laughter. We played hide-and-seek with our sweaty cousins and attended midnight mass in a poofy dress that our mothers made us wear. Maybe that last one, wasn’t all that different from the rest of the world.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that Christmas isn’t a Hallmark card with smiling gingerbread men and festive peppermint sticks. It’s a time where broken and lonely hearts are lost in the cacophony of mall traffic and parking lot wars. People who have the day off and have nowhere to be, no one to see and no one to call. People who has lost their loved ones, their homes, their jobs or their health. People who are eating TV dinners in empty apartments with no twinkly lights.
I know this, because I’ve been that person. I’ve keeled over the bathroom sink sobbing. I’ve gone to bed with a pillow soaked in tears. I’ve emptied out an entire box of Kleenex in one sitting.
I’m awake, aware and alert this Christmas.
On that necessary but slightly depressing note, here are 5 things that made me smile this week. Yay!
Sarah Kay + Maple Hot Cocoa + 5 Best Toys of All Time + Fish Twins + Zooey Deschanel = TGIF
1. Don’t let Sarah Kay’s beautiful doe eyes fool you. And while you’re at it, don’t let her petite frame or winsome smile fool you either. Sarah’s spoken word packs a punch. I’ve listened to “If I should have a daughter” on repeat in the last couple of weeks. If you don’t have time to hear the full eighteen minute of her TED talk, listen from 0:14 to 3:37. You won’t regret it. I promise.
2. One of my favourite food bloggers, Ashley of Not Without Salt, has the perfect holiday gift idea that can be made in minutes. Layer a glass jar with the ingredients for Maple Hot Cocoa, including real vanilla bean and a side of marshmallows for a gift with a personal touch. A gift card can’t give you the warm fuzzy feeling a festive jar of Cocoa Mix can. Instructions here.
3. While parents everywhere are scrambling to get their hands on 2011′s “it” toy, W.I.R.E.D. magazine took a different approach on this piece, “The 5 Best Toys of All Time.” I’ve featured 3 of the best toys here, any guesses on what the other two are? Look here for answers.
The Cardboard Tube – This one has to be my favourite. I have so many vivid memories of make-believe fencing battles with my sister in sari shops.
4. Fish Twins – Ever wondered what your amphibian body double would look like? For what it’s worth, I think I’d look like a cross between Nemo and Flounder from The Little Mermaid.
5. Last but not least, adorable Zooey Deschanel singing a Christmas tune in plaid. You’re welcome.
So dear friends…
1. What did Christmas look like in your house? What did you eat, bake and listen to? Any quirky family traditions?
2. Have you ever been heartbroken or lonely during Christmas?
Love you more than Buttered Baguette Bread Pudding, (<- Recipe)