Part 2 of my Christmas vacation, with a catalog of my family’s traditions.
- Doughnuts that our dad picks up from a local shop. This is more of an every-Sunday tradition. I always get a chocolate covered glazed and a blueberry, though this time they were out of the blueberry and substituted a red velvet, which was also good.
- Church in the morning. Also an every-Sunday tradition.
- Lunch at Babe’s Chicken Dinner House.
- The annual sibling walk through nearby neighborhoods. I missed it this year because I desperately needed a nap. I was sad about that.
- Random movies in the evenings. That day it was The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was good, though a little odd and sometimes kind of stiff looking. 4/5.
- Getting distracted by Christmas TV at night when I’m trying to work on my gift labels project. This year it was Christmas episodes of British comedies. It was nice to see Mrs. Bucket and The Vicar of Dibley and discover Upstart Crow and Still Open All Hours, but I regretted the lost time. Afterward I realized there was a comfortable chair in another room I could’ve used, so that’s my new project chair when the TV’s on.
- It’s not a tradition, but my brother made Christmas quiche for breakfast, two varieties. One had red and green bell peppers, and since I don’t like those, he made one with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. Delicious.
- The annual family Christmas photo. We used to do it around City Hall, but lately it’s been in the church lobby. This year we posed in front of a pile of giant presents.
- The Christmas Eve candlelight service at church.
- The annual Christmas Eve gift labels all-nighter. I usually manage to get at least a little sleep, except for last year. This time I got 45 minutes. I’ll talk more about the project in a separate section below. While I worked, I listened to music, starting with some BBC Radio. This got me distracted for about an hour and a half, because the Lancashire station played Blackburn Cathedral’s Nine Lessons and Carols service, which had an intriguing musical setting of a poem by Charles Causley called “Mary’s Song” (at 37:24 in the recording, if it hasn’t expired), and I wanted to find the composer. I didn’t and gave up to keep working.
Christmas at our house has a routine.
- The opening of the stockings. My sister Kimberly arrives from the place she’s staying at around 9 or 10 am, and that’s our cue to start. I timed things this year, and the stockings took half an hour. My sister Abbie is the official distributor of presents. She rotates through the receivers from youngest to oldest. Stockings are the easy part because she just takes it off the hook and hands it over. The tree phase requires crawling and rummaging.
- Christmas breakfast, which used to be cinnamon rolls, but lately it’s been coffee cake.
- The opening of the tree presents. This took three hours. For some reason it felt longer than usual. Some stuff I got: a FangCun Ghost Cube and a handmade card from Abbie, Remarkable Books by DK from Kimberly, the Message Remix audio Bible from Michael, Building Stories by Chris Ware and a Heritage Personal Museum from my parents.
- Christmas dinner. We basically repeat Thanksgiving dinner, with some variations. This year my brother made curry cauliflower.
- Random afternoon activities, which for me usually involves a nap. There’s also usually more TV, and that night it was a Christmas episode of Call the Midwife, which was another new one to me. A thoughtful drama based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth (brief interview). There was also another puzzle, since we finished the first one really fast and Michael got another one for Christmas.
- The lunch and movie. This year it was Corner Bakery for lunch and Green Book, a historical drama about an Italian-American bouncer driving an African-American pianist on his concert tour through the Deep South in the 1960s. 5/5. Long ago our Christmas movie outings used to be for fantasy, but they were entirely not our dad’s cup of tea, so now we do historical dramas, and it’s reconciled me to stories about real life. I found out I don’t need magic to stay interested.
- The Half Price Books sale. Our dad takes Abbie and me to one or more locations to get 20% off our purchases. I picked up a couple of books on different kinds of puzzles, mostly math.
- Airport day #1. This one was for Abbie’s flight.
- More TV. This time I discovered Midsomer Murders.
- A supplemental neighborhood walk on my own, because I knew I’d regret it if I skipped it entirely. I picked my default walk of retracing my routes to my schools growing up. It was pleasantly nostalgic, especially since those routes come up in my dreams now and then, and that lends them some extra, imaginary significance.
- The post office visit to ship things home, which I didn’t have to do this year, for once. Everything fit into my luggage.
- Airport day #2. This one was for the rest of us. My trip home went quickly and smoothly, but Kimberly’s took all day thanks to multiple delays. My coworker generously gave me a ride home from the airport, and it was the most organized curbside airport pickup I’ve ever had. She waited in the cell phone lot, called me when my flight landed, and asked me to wait outside the end of my airline’s section of the baggage claim, and a few minutes later she was there.
For my annual Christmas gift label project, I try to match the theme to something I’ve been into that year that my family can also appreciate. This time, since my consumption of audiobooks seriously ramped up during the year, they were steampunk-themed cards that linked to recordings of public domain Christmas stories. These were my own recordings, and they used a text-to-speech voice I made from my own voice. I used the mXac NLP Editor to make it. Here’s a video tutorial.
Each card had a main story and a link to extra stories. I edited the main stories down to 800 words so they’d each be 4 minutes. Here’s my personal favorite, part of L. Frank Baum’s mythological origin story for Santa Claus. That one went to my mom. My family was interested in their cards, so I was happy.
I have one more step in this project, the retrospective, where I look at how the project went so I can learn for future projects. That’ll be this week.
In 2019 I want to try scheduling my projects by month. So, kind of like in FilmCow’s update videos, each month will have a theme. January will be Month of Tidying, in the KonMari sense where I purge and organize my possessions. Finally my boxes will be unpacked from my move in July!
I’m continuing Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines Quartet with the second book, Predator’s Gold. I’ve had trouble getting myself to listen because I’m more in the mood for nonfiction, but when I am listening, it’s good.