And when Santa squeezes his fat white @%# down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of @%#holes this side of the nuthouse.
December 15, 2011 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Christmas! Christmas! I seek non-annoying Christmas music, good Christmas cocktails, delicious Christmas food and Christmas desserts. What are some good things to do on Christmas Eve/day in NYC/Brooklyn?

My fake pep is due to the fact that I'm spending Christmas away from my family for the first time this year. I'm relieved to skip out on the holiday traveling, but the idea of not being home for the holidays has exceedingly bummed me out.

However! It's also my first Christmas with my awesome new husband AND we're having another couple over to celebrate. I basically want to wake up Christmas morning, light candles, put on some Christmas music, and celebrate the whole damn holiday with style.

I like Sufjan Stevens' Songs for Christmas but would like other suggestions. Nothing too religious or mystical.

I may make my mother's breakfast casserole with eggs and sausage, but other ideas would be great, too. I know ham is traditional, too. I'm considering something light, like a Christmassy mimosa, to go with them. I also want to make a dessert to share for our guests.

Any other ideas for nice traditions are also welcome!
posted by zoomorphic to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
For Christmas music, I would suggest the soundtrack of the Charlie Brown Christmas special soundtrack. Much of it is instrumental, and the stuff that isn't doesn't have too many (or any at all...?) religious undertones. It is also very good music.
posted by fuzzysoft at 11:18 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Royksopp's remix of O Holy Night.
posted by empath at 11:28 AM on December 15, 2011

The Kinks' Father Christmas.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:43 AM on December 15, 2011

On a less contemporary note, you can't go wrong with the Louis Armstrong Christmas album.

Since you're getting together in the morning, how about opening stockings as a group? I love that part of Christmas. Tiny gifts galore! And it's so fun to see what everyone else got.
posted by anonnymoose at 11:46 AM on December 15, 2011

For music, how about Christmas in Sweden? For drinks, I recommend mulled wine, and for dessert, Buche de Noel.
posted by scarykarrey at 11:48 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really like this whole album by Crystal Theory for a change from traditional Christmas music.
posted by GreenEyed at 11:49 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

On the music front: the mix CD I made for friends and family last year worked a treat, and included the following:

* Bruce Springsteen's cover of Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town
* Adam Sandler's "Hannukah song" (I know it is not a Christmas song, I don't care)
* Two songs off Sting's "winter" album (the rest of it is worth a listen, but may ping your "mystical" radar -- however, Soul Cake is lively enough, and is a cover of a folk song about caroling, basically; and Christmas at Sea is an adaptation of a Robert Louis Stevenson poem and is gorgeous)
* Run DMC's Christmas in Hollis
* Greg Lake's I Believe in Father Christmas
* "Fairytale of New York" (not linking because, seriously, you've probably heard it)
* Two things from the "Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack
* Denis Leary's Merry F*%#-ing Christmas
* The Eels, Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas

For food: if you have a crock-pot or other slow cooker, this is ideal for having some mulled wine or cider ever ready. (You can make a great punch with just a quart of apple cider, a pint of rum, a cup of orange juice and a pint of cinnamon schnapps dumped into a slow cooker and just left on "low" all afternoon. Throw in some orange slices if you really wanna get fancy.)

On the dessert front - I recently made a fantastic ice cream sundae sauce out of cranberries, orange juice, and cointreau -- basically, it was this, and feel free to add a little more orange juice if it's not liquidy enough. I just served that with vanilla ice cream in a parfait glass and it looked amazing. The Ocean Spray website has a whole section of dessert recipes, as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:02 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Christmas crackers are awesome, even more so if you embrace the cheesiness, tell the stupid joke, and wear the little paper hat.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:03 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

This Sparkling Pear and Cranberry Cocktail would make a great mimosa substitute. Seasonal and delicious. The other cocktails listed there are also really good. I made the sparkling pear cider for Thanksgiving and it disappeared faster than I could mix up batches.
posted by SugarAndSass at 12:03 PM on December 15, 2011

Oh -- another song that may cheer you up a little if you're missing the family. It's Elvis Costello teaming up with The Chieftains, fair warning ("The Chieftains" sets off a lot of people's "oh god i'm so sick of them" button), but it's actually a funny song about how sometimes, by the time December 26th rolls around, no matter how close you all are you've gotten on each other's last nerve by that point; and thus, The St. Stephen's Day Murders is a song about the joys of killing them all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:06 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

The entire Low Christmas record is great, but you know, it's Low, so there is a fairly spiritual aspect to it BUT (and I've said this before) if there was any justice in the world their song, "Just Like Christmas" would be a standard.

Santa's Beard Cocktail:

1 part light creme de cacao
1 part brandy
1 part prepared egg nog

Add ice, shake and strain. Serve with a dusting of fresh nutmeg and or chocolate.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:08 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also, you could have a traditional Jewish Christmas, and spend the day at the movie theater and then have a bunch of Chinese food.
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:38 PM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

We Wish You A Metal Xmas is great. Christmas with crunch. Doesn't get better than that.
posted by theichibun at 12:41 PM on December 15, 2011

Best answer: If you like Sufjan's Christmas album, you may like Julian Koster's (of Neutral Milk Hotel) The Singing Saw at Christmastime album - it's gimmicky, but lovely in a delicate, reedy little way. It veers melancholy a little, but I think it would be good at night when your friends head home and you want to hang out in the candlelight with your husband and let all the combo happy/wistful feelings of your first holiday together wash over you.

As for drinks, one of the best Christmas parties I ever went to had a Choose-Your-Own-Champagne-Cocktail table with a selection of a sparkling punch base like the above cranberry/pear nectar, creme de cassis (for Kir Royales), bitters for traditional champagne cocktails, and Pimm's. Guests could pick their base and then top it off with sparkling wine. A little extravagant, but it felt very "special" and really set it apart from your average house party.

Definitely do stockings! As for activities, if you want to stay inside games and snacking/drinking in the afternoon can be fun, depending on your guests' bent - a superlong game of Monopoly or something.

If you want to venture out, NYC is lively and festive on the actual holiday.

Watch animals open presents in Prospect Park Zoo!
Go ice skating in Central Park!

I don't know where you live in BK, but the Christmas light displays in Dyker Heights are supposed to be spectacular - perfect for a Christmas Eve nighttime stroll with a thermos of hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps (even if you cheat and have a car service drop you off/pick you up.)

This is also probably not a bad day to stroll up Fifth Avenue and look at the windows - it'll be less crowded than the weekend immediately prior.

This got long and nutty, but I love Christmas in NYC and I wish you the merriest one possible.
posted by superfluousm at 12:42 PM on December 15, 2011

OH MY GOD SHIT YES DYKER HEIGHTS. That is UNREAL. And seconding the "take a car there" -- or get a Zipcar and drive down there, park and walk around, and drive back (I, uh, know where you live, and it's about a 10-minute drive if you take the BQE -- get on the BQE up at Tillary, shoot straight down for the 86th Street exit, and get right off and go about 10 blocks straight).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:50 PM on December 15, 2011

I grew up (and, uh, live, unfortunately) near the Dyker Heights stuff and, yes, it is amazing.
posted by griphus at 1:18 PM on December 15, 2011

Jethro Tull's Christmas album. A great mix of traditional carols and folk/jazz renditions of some others. Plus the cynical Christmas Song, and Another Christmas Song.

Santa, pass us that bottle will ya?
posted by Gungho at 1:30 PM on December 15, 2011

Best answer: Previously.

Personally, I think the Jackson 5 Christmas Album is awesome, cheerful, and non-annoying.

Where to drink proper eggnog. If you don't want to venture out, make eggnog at home. Super simple and delicious.

Chinese And A Movie: Raiders of The Lost Ark & Jurrasic Park: get there early to guarantee a decent seat at a table of you don't like balancing a plate on your lap. Alternatively, go see It's a Wonderful Life at the IFC.

See also: Where to Eat Christmas Eve Dinner in New York City and Where to Eat Christmas Day Dinner in New York City.

Have a drink at Rolf's.

Dinner at Balthazar (which is usually decked out very nicely for the holiday).

Attend the public caroling at Gramercy Park on Christmas Eve, 6pm. The only time the public is reportedly allowed to enter the park.
posted by kathryn at 2:02 PM on December 15, 2011

It's not strictly a Christmas cocktail, but The Nooner reminds me of Christmas (with oranges and spice). Alas, the Navan vanilla liqueur it calls for is no longer made, but it works well with any orange or honey liqueur as well.
posted by mattbucher at 2:40 PM on December 15, 2011

You may like Christmas With the Rat Pack (opens in iTunes)
posted by n o i s e s at 2:53 PM on December 15, 2011

Count Basie's Good Mornin' Blues has made me happy all month long. I sway to it and pretend I'm Julie Delpy in the final scene of Before Sunset.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:55 PM on December 15, 2011

Don't forget the WPIX Christmas yule log, which will be crackling softly on your television screen from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. One not-too cold Christmas Eve, after our annual bouillabaisse dinner and Buche de Noel, we quickly went to see the Rockefeller Center Tree. So pretty and so quiet on Christmas Eve.
posted by Elsie at 4:39 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really love this recipe for panforte if you're looking for something different. Think fruitcake but chocolate and cherry and super dense and delicious. Well worth the investment of slightly pricy ingredients (hazelnuts, dried cherries, good chocolate). My notes to myself for the recipe say "OMG, fab. Try sticking to 30' cooking time, might be less difficult to cut?"
posted by maryr at 8:10 PM on December 15, 2011

Well, Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift For You is the best Christmas album out there, in my humble opinion.

This opinion is also shared with Brian Williams of the Beach Boys, who said it is his favorite album of of all time. Not favorite Christmas album. Just the best album ever. Of all time.
posted by k8lin at 9:30 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

The girls in the Betsy-Tacy books picked out a special ornament each year.
posted by brujita at 8:24 AM on December 16, 2011

Best answer: Macrina Bakery's Savory Bread Pudding is kind of a fair bit of work, but super awesome-y Christmas-y to me--I use toasty Russian black bread and combined with the fresh orange zest, cranberries, spicy sausage, sage, and warm spices it just seems really cold-weather-festive. Saveur has a recipe out recently for popovers made with goosefat and rosemary--seems pretty holiday-ish to me (but then, growing up we always had a huge roast beef and Yorkshire pudding made from the drippings so...). I say it all the time here but I love Ina Garten's Rosemary Cashews, the pine-y aroma and the spices scream Christmas to me. Colcannon is good hearty cold-weather food. Laurie Colwin's Nantucket Pie is really more of a cobbler, and the hue of the cranberries make it seem Christmas-y. Melissa Clark's Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread.

My favorite winter drinks aren't really brunch-y (scotch at 11am, ouch!) but some of the hip jello shot blogs/books have festive recipes. If you can find a recipe or a good mix, Mexican hot chocolate is wonderful this time of year. Or really good, fresh (local) eggnog with really good bourbon--sooo good. Or rompope. Milk punch? Saveur has one for a cranberry shot called Cram. Kir Royalles are more New Year's-y, but this is definitely the right season in general. If you're adventurous you could become one of those people who gets excited about Beaujolais Nouveau--modern wine snobs tend to sniff their nose at the idea, but if you're not like that you might enjoy the surprise of it, and the cyclical nature, and take it in stride as meant (it's supposed to be a sort of vague general preview of the flavor profile for the year to come's French wine harvest). You could make cranberry simple syrup and make vodka or gin drinks with it. Sugared rosemary garnish rubbed along the rim of cocktail glasses is another possibility (got it from Jamie Boudreau, might wanna check out his recipes on the small screen network). Sugared cranberries are a less-common option candy-wise this time of year; bacon truffles are making the rounds too. And Cranberry Bacon Rosemary Chutney. I have a weird ritual now of making pretzels, slathering them with mustard, and drinking beer with 'em, but that's probably just a me-thing not a cultural thing. Baking international holiday cookies (appenzeller biberli...well this is a self-link and to LJ even but it's my organizing list this year for holiday cookies if you need some inspiration or ideas) is a fun change of pace from the usual sugar cookie ornaments too--Chowhound has a bunch of threads about this where people throw out names and recipes and you can wiki/sniff around for elaboration, and there's sites like etc.
posted by ifjuly at 7:02 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

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