By Regina Connell.
[Ed: This is part of a three part series about what we love about the holidays, kicked off by Anna Hoeschen.]
I am an unabashed lover of the time that starts just before Thanksgiving and runs to about mid-January. It’s the darkness. The layering and the coats. The focus on bringing light into the world. The way people just smile at you on the street, even though you know they’re over-stressed, over-fed, and under-rested. I even like the shopping, yes I do. And the wrapping. And the giving.
Here’s what makes me love the season so…
The smells. It is all about the cedar and juniper and fir. And the decadent Feu de bois candle. And a new favorite since last year: my German wooden Dragon Smoker from legendary toy company Dregeno (extra points for its utter ridiculousness) and its Crottendorfer incense cones.
The sounds. My seasonal playlist has developed a very specific arc that goes something like this: starting in late November, it’s Thanksgiving by George Winston from his December album. Then on to my very personal mix: everything from John Lennon and Chrissie Hynde on the respectable end to Wham on the highly despicable end. And if you’ve never listened to Bing Crosby and (ohhh yes) David Bowie crooning a duet of Little Drummer Boy, this year needs to be the year. For bonus points, see the video and watch Bing trying not to get too distracted by our David’s mascara.
But I digress. The pop is followed in early-mid December by a little Eartha Kitt before we go straight to the main event: Handel’s Messiah, and Carols from St. Pauls Cathedral, starting with with the lone boy soprano singing Once in Royal David’s City and ending with Hark the Herald. And a continuous loop of O Magnum Mysterium (Morten Lauridsen) with its meditative, swelling choir makes for a very happy, very chilled out girl. And yes, it’s Ella on the way to New Year’s. Thank God my car is reasonably soundproof. At least I think so.
The taste. It’s all about Christmas/Dundee Cake—yes, a fruitcake—made with my version of the recipe from the incomparable Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Meals of Rose Bakery by Rose Carrarini. Trust me on this: anything that relies on the maceration of Thompson and golden raisins, currants, cranberries in whiskey for 8-24 hours has got to be good. If you’re completely put off by the fruitcake idea, though, you should try Lee Havlicek’s Panettone. Sublimely better than store bought.
The feel. Ah it is about touch. The hugs of friends. The bracing cold and the joy of coming into a warm room. The indulgence of a morning in bed. And good 3-ply cashmere. I don’t think there’s anything else to say.
Mostly, though, I love the relative calm of the season after a crazy year, and the time to think about what makes me happy at this time of year, and to share it with friends. That feels like the biggest gift. Happy holidays and yes, Merry Christmas, everyone. May you savor every moment.