Monday, 1 December 2008

A Five Senses Guide to December.

I know it is here. I can see it. The dusting of white stuff that invaded last evening is proof positive that it is here. (Although in fairness to Old Lady Nature, it could have been a whole lot worse!) The malls scream December. The tinsel, green and red ornaments and ubiquitous trees are everywhere. (If you search really hard you might spot the hidden dreydl!) Rotund men in red velvet suits are now suffering their end of the year indignities; leaky diapers, screaming toddlers, frazzled parents and elves clad in green spandex. Outdoor lighting displays, while dazzling, are defying the principles of conservation. (We here in Toronto are preparing to pay for plastic grocery bags, but God forbid we should address the energy hogs of the holiday season!) Parking lots have become a bizarre game of "Who can Spot the Spot?" Crowds jostle and push and cuss, in strange contrast to the ideals of the season. Television has become of dumping ground of holiday specials, concerts, movies and animation. (Rudolph and Frosty haven't aged a day and Linus is still teaching Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas!) Yes, I can certainly see December.

I know it is here. I can feel it. My bones ache from the dampness, sudden chills and below zero temperatures. There aren't enough layers of clothing to keep me warm. My body is screaming for its daily dose of Vitamin D in order to combat my SADs. I require light and warmth. There is now a channel on the satellite that simulates a crackling fire, (Really! All it is, is a virtual burning fire that is never consumed. A sort of holiday version of the burning bush!) and I find this strangely nourishing. I crave comfort foods like soups and stews and casseroles and I don't even eat or like stews or casseroles! I force myself to exercise to stave off packing on the pounds in preparation for hibernation. I push myself out of the house in a desperate attempt to stay sane. I have begun to count down the hours rather than the days until my migration south. Yes, I can certainly feel December.

I know it is here. I can smell it. There is never as much pine in the air as there is in December. Even artificial trees are sprayed with some ungodly odour that better simulates Pine-Sol than pine tree. Ginger, cloves, allspice and peppermint are prevalent in the bakeries. (Doesn't anybody like gingerbread at any other time of the year?) Starbucks has strange coffee menu items like Gingersnap Lattes and Peppermint Mocha Twist. Cooking and baking is happening everywhere. The local supermarkets reek with a variety of  food odours that they are trying to entice the public to purchase. Perfume is prevalent as people head out into the party scene. I am overcome by the pungency of the diesel, as snow plows and salt trucks make their way through the neighbourhoods. I can also smell the panic, the fear, and the desperation as shoppers attempt to find that one missing item on their lists. Yes, I can certainly smell December.

I know it is here. I can taste it. The deep-fried rancidness of the latkes is already in my mouth and I haven't had one yet. People who would never touch a doughnut during the rest of the year, are suddenly charmed by their delectability when we rename them sufganiyot for the holiday.  Peppermint is added to everything. Hershey's kisses were never meant to include candy canes! (Strangely enough-I kind of like these!) What exactly is allspice and why must it be added to my tea? I realize that I am a Jew, but can somebody explain the attraction and taste of fruitcake or eggnog? I mean check out the ingredients for this brew and tell me that anybody actually likes it.

4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pint whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces bourbon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites

I can actually feel my arteries hardening! I am convinced that the bourbon is there for the sole purpose of anesthetizing the tastebuds! December eating is the atomic bomb of healthy consumption. Yes, I can certainly taste December

I know it is here. I can hear it. Christmas carols (and let us be honest, that is what they are- not holiday songs!) are everywhere. Radio stations give up their entire December format to Christmas. Stores play Jingle Bells so often that you can actually see a glazed-over look of submission from the employees. Big-name entertainers suddenly appear on every TV show hawking their latest holiday albums. I truly believe that the world would have gotten along just fine without "A Twisted Christmas", Twisted Sister's musical take on the season. The smart thing to do is to play last year's offerings and wait for January to purchase the soon-to-be bargain bin items from this year. Channukah is not ignored. I Have a Little Dreydl has become a December staple. (Channukah actually has some terrific music and if you are interested in some ideas, please contact me and I will put you onto some exciting new sounds that aren't all about latkes and dreydls!!) December is filled with the sounds of sleigh bells ringing and horns honking. Voices singing and voices swearing. Wrapping paper tearing and waistbands expanding. Yes, I can certainly hear December.

I realize that much of this sounds cynical. December should be a time of family gatherings and religious observance. (I have mine and you all can have yours!) It should be a time of looking back on the old and embracing the new. It should be, but clearly it isn't. It has become about consumption and greed, about frenzied spending and bottom-lines. It has become about gluttony and overindulgence. December fills my senses, but I think that it is time to get sensible about December.

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