December 17: Gingerbread Houses

DSC03771When I was young, making gingerbread houses involved sticking six graham crackers to the sides and top of a milk carton, covering the outside with gumdrops and redhots, and then surreptitiously picking them off and eating them as the days ticked down to Christmas.

No more.

Our friends are really great about holiday traditions like the carving of the pumpkin, the choosing of the tree, and the building of the gingerbread house. And so now we are really great at going along with holiday traditions like the carving of the pumpkin, the choosing of the tree, and the building of the gingerbread house.

The first year, I asked if we should be saving boxes/cartons etc. to use in our structures, and was punched in the face by a contemptuous scoff. Cartons, it seems, are cheating. (Although it’s worth noting that using graham crackers instead of gingerbread is apparently not cheating. I understand that they used real gingerbread one year with disastrous results, so they don’t do that anymore. Also, you kind of have to know what you’re building ahead of time, so you can bake enough pieces in the right shapes).

And in this house, one does not always know what one is building ahead of time. The first year, we arrived and were greeted with, “In case you were thinking of doing the Eiffel Tower, I tried to do it last year and it was a disaster. The Great Pyramids are also really hard.”

Ah. Oooohkay. Among our people, coming up with the most ridiculous plan is half the fun. In the last three years I have seen the following creations: Continue reading

December 15: Holiday Inn

holiday-innI was raised on Holiday Inn. This heart-warming tale of a guy so lazy he only wants to work on holidays is best known as a vehicle for a whole year’s worth of Irving Berlin seasonal songs. It is White Christmas‘s older, slightly more obscure and, well, bizarrely racist cousin.

Did you know that Bing Crosby can sing but not dance, and Fred Astaire can dance but not sing? Basically the whole plot revolves around this one conceit (skip to 3:12 for the musical exposition of the entire movie):

So…who would you choose? Fred Astaire always looks like himself, but at least in this movie Bing Crosby hasn’t yet taken on the appearance of a shriveled orange with Mr. Potato Head ears stuck in the sides (*cough* *cough* White Christmas *cough*).

Rosemary Clooney is surprised that you think she would be romantically linked with....this....

Rosemary Clooney is surprised that you think she would be romantically linked with….this….

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December 14: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

I find it very difficult to sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing without totally breaking down in tears.

It’s a Wonderful Life may be partly to blame for this, since of course it’s what Janie is playing in the background of George’s breakdown–and then again at the happy ending¬†(um…spoiler alert? Your It’s a Wonderful Life post is coming later this month):

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December 13: Love Actually

loveactually 2Poor Love Actually has been getting so much hate lately. The movie is ten years old this year and apparently every critic who hasn’t watched it since 2003 has decided to take a second, harsh look.

Meanwhile, the rest of us, who have been watching this movie every year since it came out, find ourselves a little surprised and bemused that these critics think they’ve, like, discovered something new about it.

I remember the first time I saw Love Actually. I went to the theater with a large gaggle of girls from my freshman dorm, and (as I recall), I was the only one who was disappointed by the movie. This is because Anne and I had been watching the trailer on a daily basis basically since move-in week (wow, really, 18-year-old self? Just watched that again for the first time in 10 years. It’s…not that great.). I’m not really sure what I had in mind at the time, but basically there was no movie on earth that was going to live up to my wildest holiday expectations.

A year later, we got the DVD for Christmas. On Christmas night when my dad suggested that we put in a “classic” Christmas movie, my mom and I voted for this one. He was taken aback, and adamantly declared it “not a classic.” But we were right.¬† Continue reading