Monday 8 December 2014

Hope for a Chilled Out Christmas

I have just written my annual "What Happened Last Christmas" column for the CR, and now I am full of nervous energy because last Christmas was just that stressful. Living it over again makes me feel like I have had five cups of coffee.

As I hope I make clear in my column, this was not at all B.A.'s fault. Poor B.A. Every year he tells me to take it easy, and every year I yell at him for telling me to take it easy, and every year I go nuts and end up weeping somewhere, usually on the kitchen floor.

Well, I am not going to do that this year! This year I will listen to B.A. and take it easy.

It helps, of course, that my mother is coming and therefore will do some of the baking and cooking. Oh, what bliss! She can cook and bake, and I can wash dishes and everything else, and I will not get stressed out.

That reminds me that I have forgotten my nerve pill.

Okay, I have taken it.

Not to be unappreciative of the wonders of Polish culture, but I am seriously glad I am not making the traditional twelve-dish Polish supper this year. I cannot believe I did it two years in a row, and I cannot believe it never occurred to me until too late that Polish women never make all twelve dishes by themselves. Generally all the women in the family (and sometimes some of the men) contribute something.

So although I am very glad I have done it, and it was very interesting and the dishes are quite delicious, I am also glad I am not doing it this year or, indeed, ever again. That said, I think a special Christmas Eve supper is a wonderful idea, especially if one has to stay up so late to go to Midnight Mass anyway. So this year I will have Wigilia soup with Wigilia dumplings, plus the salmon with orange that B.A. does so beautifully, plus kutia, a poppyseed pudding which I think is really delicious, plus kompot, stewed fruit juice, which is also delicious, plus--No. That's it.

Most of all, I am going to stop trying to make Christmas perfect, as perfect as my parents made it every year. If I am ever in prison, or in hospital, or somewhere else unpleasant for a long time, I will think about how wonderful Christmas was when I was a child, and how lucky I was to have parents like that and an increasing number of brothers and sisters to share them with.

Even when I was as old as eighteen, Christmas was bliss. On top of the food and fun traditions, according to my diary, I got everything that I asked for:

two rolls of typewriter ribbon
a year's worth of typing paper
The Riverside Shakespeare
Some Great Reward by Depeche Mode
the soundtrack to Amadeus  (from Nulli, incidentally)

In addition I received purple "slouch socks", a perfume atomizer, black nylons, bath stuff, blue pyjamas, a hair clip, a gold-metal belt shaped like a double headed asp, a china goose (from my 10 year old brother) and a handkerchief.

That belt was AWESOME!

Wow, it's kind of amazing now thinking about the energy in a house with nine or ten closely related people, five of them under 19, opening presents in a decorated room with the smell of coffee and baking in the air. So much love and excitement and generosity in one room.

My parents have done many impressive things, but at the moment, what impresses me most is they made up to five children simultaneously supremely happy every year.

Not being called to do that, I will do the next best thing, and concentrate on making B.A. happy, which means having the most chilled out Christmas I can manage.


  1. Your menu sounds wonderful, but if you ever want to vary it, Ina gartens has a new make ahead cookbook, with dishes you can, well, make ahead- some as long as two weeks ahead.

  2. Ooh. I don't think I would like to do that. I am not a make-ahead kind of person, in part because we have limited freezer space.

  3. Have a relaxing Christmas and take it easy! Doing all that work alone is admirable but probably not sustainable.

  4. I am not sure it is admirable, either, if it ends up with me prostrate! I must remember the reason for the season.

  5. I enjoyed the column. Alabaster? Really?
    Aged P

  6. Yes. Alabaster. My face is pink (or strawberries and cream, to make it sound nicer), but the rest of me is alabaster--the alabaster written on the nylons package, anyway. So please do have a look at the supermarket or Shopper's Drug Mart and see if they have cheap nylons marked "Alabaster".


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