Roll out the holly! Deck the halls!
The Christmas season means sugarplums and sugar cookies — plus family parties, late Christmas Eve sessions in church, early Christmas morning sessions in pajamas.
There are wonderful things about the coming days — and here are a dozen staff-generated diversions and duties that people will enjoy as the holidays begin.
“Atta boy, Clarence!”
Film and holiday lovers must put “It’s a Wonderful Life” on their television lists. The 1946 film about George Bailey’s tragedy and triumph in Bedford Falls has been the must-watch Christmas movie for the past 30-plus years, surpassing the 1951 Alastair Sim version of “A Christmas Carol.” This year, the movie will once again be seen at 8 p.m. Christmas Eve on WNYT (NewsChannel 13). NBC secured rights for exclusive broadcast in 1993.
Proctors plans three screenings of the film on Monday — at 2, 4:45 and 7:30 p.m. — for $5 on the giant screen in the GE Theater.
It might be harder to find Alastair’s career-defining performance as old Scrooge; Turner Classic Movies has scheduled the 1938 Gene Lockhart version instead.
Yule love the fire
Christmas Eve is the best night of the year to have a home fireplace. And we’re not talking about one of those modern gas-powered models. Throw on a few pieces of maple and ash and wait for the flames, the crackle and the cricket on the hearth. Fireplace color crystals — available at most stores that cater to fire fans — will put blue and green flames on the logs.
Seven fish a-fryin’
Keep your seven swans a-swimming, your eight maids a-milking. Italian-American families often stage the traditional “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” a Christmas Eve dinner that can include anchovies, sardines, salt cod, mussels, smelt and shrimp. Plus pasta, vegetables and baked goods. The habit dates from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays, during Lent and on the eve of specific holy days.
Christmas Eve is the only night of the year when people attend church services at midnight. Although the number of late night-early morning services has decreased in recent years, some churches — such as St. Gabriel the Archangel Church in Rotterdam and St. Madeleine Sophie in Guilderland — will still celebrate the silent night late at night.
Families with small children must be prepared for early morning dashes to the Christmas tree. The anticipation has been building for weeks, and kids will rip open their presents, check their stockings and begin playing with new toys in record time. Gifts of clothing will be briefly admired and then set aside. Parents whose kids have waited until 7:30 a.m. have received the gift of sleeping late.
Silver and gold
With December comes Christmas music, although some local radio stations have been broadcasting holiday songs since mid-November. Singers who are generally out of the public ear — like Burl Ives, Andy Williams and Bing Crosby — make their annual returns with such celebrated holiday tunes such as “Silver and Gold,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “White Christmas.”
Eggs in the glass
Eggs leave the frying pan and hot water boils for the month, as masters of the blender mix eggs, milk, sugar, cream and nutmeg for thick cups of eggnog. Bourbon is an option — some say a must — for anyone willing to try a recipe featuring raw eggs. The squeamish might prefer a hot toddy.
One of the more romantic Christmas traditions, legend says anyone standing under the mistletoe is fair game for a December kiss. That comes from Norse mythology, as north men and women used the parasitic plant as a sign of love and friendship. Reference sources say the ancient druids believed mistletoe possessed mystical powers that brought good luck to their households and scared off evil spirits.
Candles on the mantel — or any other place high enough to thwart children and pets — are signs of the season. An amber glow will also provide vanilla, cinnamon, blueberry, evergreen and bayberry scents for kitchen and living room. Avoid tapered candles in favor of safer jar candles. And people who want to avoid flames altogether can make battery-operated candles — remarkably realistic — options for holiday decorating.
There might be Easter cookies, Thanksgiving cookies and Fourth of July cookies, but no holiday cookie is as popular as the Christmas cookie. Pecans, almonds, frosting, red and green sugar, figs, lemon and butter are generally on the ingredient roster. Cookie bakers say people can forgive themselves for the calories that come with a plate full of cookies and a glass full of chocolate milk in December. New diets can wait until January.
Christmas dinners — and New Year’s Eve dinners — almost always come with a toast. It’s wine and champagne for some adults, ginger ale and grape juice for some adults and all kids, and words of wisdom for everyone. In some families, toasts are written down and placed in holiday memory books.
Bowls full of hard, striped candy are one definition, bowls full of football are another. Sports fans will get big helpings of college football games during the holiday weeks, with the Holiday, Poinsettia, Pinstripe, Peach, Orange and Rose among the games on the 39-bowl schedule.
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected]
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Categories: Life and Arts