I've been casting around for something to lighten the season-affective depression mood here. And what better than a Christmas meme? Stolen from Jess.
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I like wrapping paper better. And I'm cheap that way, too. But I love how easy gift bags are...
2. Real tree or artificial?
Always real, although I don't have anything against fake ones. I think it would be cool to get a live tree and plant it one day, but that's not feasible for now, given our lack of outdoor space. Our first tree together was so scrawny the lady gave us a discount. It was more like a branch, stuck into a little pine disc with a hole in the middle. Then there was the year we carried a medium-small tree two miles through the city back to our apartment. I'll never forget the look of wonder on one little boy's face as we passed. Did he think we were Santa's elves? Or the Grinch's henchmen?
3. When do you put up the tree?
My family had a rule about not putting the tree up until Christmas Eve. We'd buy it a week before and leave it outside. Then, my mom would spend all day Christmas Eve cleaning. In the mid-afternoon my dad would put the tree up, and then either he and I or my brother and I would string the lights around it. (By this time my parents had usually had their annual Christmas Eve fight.) And then, torture of tortures, we had to sit and have dinner before actually decorating the tree. But it was pretty magical to look at the freshly decorated tree for the first time, before going to bed to await Christmas morning.
FG and I are not so strict, though it's usually not more than a few days ahead of Christmas. One year we didn't have time to even buy the tree until Christmas Eve. That was some scrambling--we thought we might not find one, actually. This year, I don't know... no tree yet, but I expect one of us will suggest we do it sooner or later.
4. When do you take the tree down?
The family tradition was New Year's Day, and I've basically stuck with that. FG gets pretty stressed about the tree not staying up too long (that's *her* family trauma) so getting the tree down in an expedient, non-stressed way is something I can do for her.
5. Do you like eggnog?
I used to drink it like it was going out of style. Seriously, I'd go through cartons of the stuff. Now it's a bit too sweet for me. But yeah, I agree with Jess: add plenty of booze and it picks up considerably.
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
No idea. I got a lot of presents as a kid and found Christmas a little overwhelming, honestly. I never knew how to seem appropriately grateful, and all of it was stuff I was kind of neutral about anyway (stuffed animals, Barbie dolls).
7. Do you have a nativity scene?
No. We both had creche scenes we were attached to as kids but have never found one that seems right for our household. Maybe someday, maybe not.
8. Hardest person to buy for?
I'm not great at buying presents. Either inspiration hits or it doesn't. I finally learned to stop buying people books I either loved to death or wanted for myself or both. When FG and I were going through bad times, I had a very hard time buying presents for her. She got some stinkers as a result. (How romantic is a $10 Chinese tea pot? I mean, really.)
9. Easiest person to buy for?
FG, generally speaking. The only limitation is money--there's so many things I'd like to get her. But I know she'd like us to stay solvent, too. ;)
Oh yeah, the cats are easy to buy for, too. And yes, they've got their own stockings. How sappy is that? But they're cute.
10. Worst Christmas gift ever received?
My aunt used to send, for Christmas and birthday, little dresses or frilly nightgowns. The really awful part was that she shopped for them based on my cousin's size. Although she's two weeks older, I've always, always been bigger. Luckily my mom didn't make me wear them, but they always made me feel terrible anyway. Knowing she meant well (she lived across the country and didn't really know me at all) helped, though.
11. Mail or E-mail Christmas card?
To receive? Mail. We used to send lots of cards by mail, too, but not so much any more. Yes, you see the theme emerging, we've really become pagan heathens over here.
12. Favorite Christmas movie?
It's A Wonderful Life. I know, I know. I can't help it. I cry every. single. time. Donna Reed completely melts my heart and I identify with George Bailey 100%. Zuzu's petals, the fight with the teacher's husband, oh don't get me started.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Haha, today! Except I bought FG's major present weeks ago, and gave it to her then, too.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Of course, lots of times. What am I supposed to do with all those terrible candles from random people? That's what they did too, right? There's just a few of those candles making endless circuits through Secret Santas and Yankee Swaps, I'm convinced.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
We have a little tradition of making something new each year for our Christmas celebration. So I'm going to say, whatever FG comes up with for the new thing each year. Now, there's one exception to that, when she made something so awful that words cannot do it justice. FG, this is your story, my dear. And may I suggest you beg her to post the pictures, too? Oh my god, the pictures.
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
I love them all: big and darkly colored, little and brightly colored, clear, pink. For my own tree, my only preference is not to have them blink.
17. Favorite Christmas song?
Jehovah (this isn't super common but I like it--it's about the birth story, and all the logistical problems of finding a place to stay, and the refrain is Jehovah, Hallelujah, the Lord will provide. I'm not really religious at all but I find that a very comforting song & notion.)
I also like Bruce Springsteen's version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, and I've always loved Silent Night.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Stay home. My favorite Christmases are the ones FG and I have spent together, enjoying the peace of the day, making a special supper, playing with whatever new toys we've gotten each other...
19. Can you name Santa’s reindeer?
No, Santa did that already. It would be rude to give them new names at this point.
20. Do you have an angel on top of the tree or a star?
A funny blue blown glass ornament that I call a star but it isn't, exactly. But it belonged to my grandparents and they gave it to us for our own household and it means a lot to me as a result.
21. Open presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
Usually Christmas morning. Sometimes one the night before. Two years ago, we opened them all the night before. Good thing, because FG was coming down with the chicken pox and was too sick to do anything by Christmas day.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
How stressed people get and how much negative family energy gets generated. There are such high expectations to achieve in such a short time that there's always disappointment. I'd rather have it be a time of quiet, winter-solstice reflection, without all the booze and presents and enforced togetherness that isn't always desired or appropriate.