I genuinely love Christmas. I acknowledge all the pressures, all the consumerism, all the complex feelings, but I just truly enjoy spending four weeks in a scented haze of sugar, bell noises, twinkling lights, and metallic shiny things. And now that I have a kid, I can justify almost any completely ridiculous Christmas purchase with: “Memories!” Even when it’s something that is obviously for me and me alone, because my preschooler cannot have flavored coffee or hot toddies. Here’s all the shit I bought to entertain myself this year.
It started off sometime in October, with a Spode Christmas mug that came with a matching coaster, perfectly fitted to the cup’s bottom—how clever! Let me tell you: the absolute last thing I need is another mug, much less another Christmas mug and, for that matter, I don’t really have enough nice tabletop surfaces to require a coaster. What, am I worried about my workhorse Ikea dining room table? But this was my third straight Christmas being tempted by these extremely affordable little items, which pop up at TJ Maxx like mushrooms after rain as soon as the weather cools off, and I finally succumbed.
Not long thereafter, I bought two packets of fancy hot toddy mix. The irony is that actually, despite my visions of coziness by the Christmas tree, these got me through the week before the election and I haven’t looked at the stuff since, probably because the simple fact of its getting dark at 4:45 is enough to depress my spirits without adding alcohol to the mix and getting downright maudlin. Instead, I have been enjoying twice a day my favorite seasonal grocery store discovery, two teas by Twinings: “Peppermint Cheer” and “Winter Spice.” In fact, I ordered five boxes off the Twinings website because it has since sold out at my grocery store and that’s where I am, emotionally. Also, the Christmas coffee count is now at two—one bag from Starbucks and another from a local place, Bear Mountain Roasters. I’m concerned that due to various logistical complications I’m going to miss Trader Joe’s gingerbread coffee this year, much to my dismay, because I truly love that stuff.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, I saw a TikTok about how you could buy clear ornaments from Michaels and decorate them with glitter and Modge Podge. I decided this would be an absolutely adorable project to do with my four-year-old. She had a slightly different vision, and decided to stick googly eyes on everything. “Now our tree can watch us!” she announced triumphantly in her little baby voice. Terrifying! I love it!!!
Elsewhere in the consumables department, I am attempting to eat my feelings about the fact that I won’t be in Georgia for the holidays. Specifically, I ordered myself a tin of chocolate-covered and candied pecans from Preister’s Pecans of Fort Deposit, Alabama. You see, I used to spend Thanksgivings sitting in my great aunt’s yard, eating pecans off the ground (which to this day I can crack using two of them in my bare hands); after dinner was done, we’d relocate to my grandmother’s and launch into Christmas, the highlight of which was wandering into her utility room and removing the lid from every single cookie tin until you found the one with your preferred snack. (As a child I preferred the fudge, but as an adult, I think most fondly of these cinnamon stick bars that I’ve never known anybody else to make.) More than almost anything else, I associate the holiday season with the sound of those tin lids popping off. So when I finish the pecans I’ll have another tin to add to my own growing collection. I also bought one from Target in a cute holly pattern.
In other tinned-treats news, I was made aware of the existence of “Quality Street” candy, which I had to try because a) apparently it’s an institution b) it’s got fancy Victorians on the lid and c) the name kind of sounds like a sarcastic joke. I figured I’d save it to eat while watching Christmas TV. Well, I did not save it and I can happily report it exceeded my expectations because all of the varieties come in different brightly colored wrappers and every time I pop off the lid it feels like I’m Smaug contemplating his horde of jewels and gold. Plus, great tin to add to the collection.
I should also mention that I bought a copy of the People special edition dedicated to Christmas with the royals. Absolutely nothing in it was new to me, but I enjoyed it. I am probably going to try to make their cinnamon star recipe. I love pictures of the trees at various palaces. If I had the time and money, my home would look like Prince Albert himself personally supervised the decorations. Only, my choices are a bit more haphazard. I must confess the most absurd item I bought, which is a nearly one-foot tall light-up penguin wearing a glitter Santa hat and holding a present. He is so goofy looking I can barely even believe it—he looks like he’s not quite sure how he ended up at the party, but he’s going to roll with it—and I pictured him as more of a five-inch situation while adding him to my Target cart (he was $10). But now that he’s here I like him so much I impulse purchased a companion melamine cookie plate after loading my cart with all the cleaning essentials I’m concerned might once more go out of stock with local Covid cases surging. The cookie plate version is even more endearingly goofy. I now own two whimsically goofy, faintly glazed-over Christmas penguins.
The grand finale, after which I have cut myself off, was the Vermont Country Store order. You see, for, again, multiple Christmases running, I have wanted one of the retro light-up Chrismas trees that were a ubiquitous feature of homes in the 1970s and ’80s, made by everybody who took a ceramics class over a three-decade period (which was a lot of people). If I had actually been going to estate sales this year, I probably would have bought one in August at a great price. But of course, I wasn’t. And the ones sold by “Mr. Christmas” at Michael’s for a slightly lower price are just too bright green. And so I shelled out $39.99 on a dark green beauty with little painted-on touches of snow. I am so thrilled with this purchase, I can barely even tell you.
Just as good, though, was the impulse purchase I threw in at the last moment: A tiny little metal Christmas house that’s actually an incense burner. I took a chance on this; two years ago I nearly gave myself a full-on asthma attack burning scented candles which, it turns out, do not work so well for my personal respiratory system. But it seems that incense is safe! So my house now smells like a Christmassy little head shop full of surreal ornaments covered in googly eyes stoned-looking light-up penguins and plenty of seasonal munchies, which is accidentally an absolutely great concept for a Christmas TV movie. Call me, Hallmark!