Last weekend was a magical flurry of holiday parties, and I closed it off at 9pm on Sunday with the realization that I was coming down with a cold. And so it was that just a few days later, I was curled up on the couch in the glow of the Christmas tree’s colored lights, cuddling into a blanket and downing tea. I’m feeling better now, but Ben’s battling a different rendition of winter sickness. We had our own little Christmas celebration a few nights ago nonetheless, complete with pink sparkling wine and our favorite cheese and Dungeness crab that we cracked open with our hands and that I somehow managed to not get all over my new dress. We listened to Christmas music, talked about the coming year, exchanged gifts. It was glorious, despite the fact that Ben had to lie down on the couch as soon as we finished dinner.
These juxtapositions are what it’s about, aren’t they? Parties and champagne and abundance alongside sick days and loss and sadness. Christmas, for me, is the joyful culmination of the year behind us, challenges, struggles and tears all included. I’ve felt this way as far back as I can recall: that I desperately need this moment, just exactly now—when the snow is falling in Michigan, when I was writing term papers and taking exams, when I felt utterly lonely in my single lady apartment, when I am weary—for my hope to be renewed. We need something joyful, something to save us from drudgery, pain and our broken selves. We’d be lost without it, without the twinkling and the music and the coming together and the reason behind our revelry.
I’m just so grateful that this story is about much, much more than me.
I haven’t figured out exactly how to say this as clearly as I wish, as clearly as I can feel it in my bones, so I’ll leave you with lyrics from one of my favorite Christmas songs. May your holiday be merry and bright, with forgiveness falling on you and yours the whole season long, and right on into the new year.
FROM “DARLIN’ (CHRISTMAS IS COMING)”
by Over the Rhine
So it’s been a long year
Every new day brings one more tear
Till there’s nothing left to cry
My, my how time flies
Like little children hiding their eyes
We’ll make it disappear
Let’s start a brand new year
Darlin’ Christmas is coming
Salvation Army bells are ringing
Darlin’ Christmas is coming
Do you believe in angels singing?
Darlin’ the snow is falling
Falling like forgiveness from the sky
Adapted from Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks
Makes 2 cups of sparkling cranberries
2 cups fresh cranberries, picked over
2 cups water
2 cups natural cane sugar
Natural cane sugar (or other larger grained sugar), for coating
Granulated white sugar (or other fine grained sugar), for coating
Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside.
Make a simple syrup. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a gentle simmer, then turn off the heat. Let the syrup cool for a couple minutes, then pour it over the cranberries. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, drain the cranberries. In small batches, toss them with the cane sugar until well coated, using just a scoop of sugar at a time. Place the coated cranberries on a baking sheet to dry for a few hours.
When the cranberries are dry, do a second toss with the regular granulated sugar. Let dry another hour before serving