Give me something to sing about
January 17, 2021 3:43 PM   Subscribe

This stupid year, December 48th 2020 edition. My mom died on Christmas, a victim of corona. We buried her on 12/31. As you can imagine, times are grim on a micro level as well as the macro. Give me your ideas on celebrating something during the "yo, the holidays are over, man" period of the bleakest winter days.

There is a teen Kid Gyre who had a pretty unhappy Christmas break. (not to mention, me) I want to have a do-over of sorts. What sorts of things/ideas do you guys have that we could do? I have looked at Candlemas - which is intriguing, but I'm not sure how exciting "get up Kid Gyre, we're having Crepes!" will be. I was thinking of ... we will have a fancy meal the eve of ?? do over?? and then take off work/school for ??do over??? day..... the potential threat of the virus is keeping me from saying "Fuck it, let's hie off to the beach" so other fun activity suggestions appreciated.

Non-religious household here, not looking to cast disrespect on anyone's beliefs. But geez, I hate bleak January and February in the best of years - cold, dark, dreary. I just feel like we need something to look forward to for a bit.

Any suggestions?

(bonus points for knowing the title reference)
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. to Human Relations (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Can you have a fire of some sort? I bring a momento or write out something positive/negative to burn.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 3:46 PM on January 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Indoor beach day? Make it summer for the day. Hawaiian shirts and shorts, turn the heat right up, all the lights on, inflatable palm tree in the corner, the sounds of waves lapping on the shore in the background all day. Your favourite summer food and drinks, watch some summery movies, play summer tunes. Mix in buying a few surprise gifts for each other just to compensate for the fact that the traditional gift-giving season wasn't much fun.

It might be too much levity for you all in the circumstances and feel forced, but just an idea.
posted by penguin pie at 3:53 PM on January 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so sorry for your loss, Gyre.

A bonfire would be a great idea, or any excuse to get together and do A Thing. You already have the right idea, just pick the best things from the holidays and do them on a special day.

My step-sister is dealing with acute leukaemia right now and Christmas 19/20 she was in hospital and struggling to stay alive. Obviously we couldn't celebrate the holiday in the same way that year, so we had "Eastermas" in the spring, vaguely around Easter. We ate Christmas food, exchanged presents, made silly Easter hats and had a mini egg hunt around the house. It was a lot of fun. We're planning Eastermas 2 this year.
posted by fight or flight at 3:56 PM on January 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Mention of the beach makes me wonder what the weather's like where you are, but if it's like Northern Europe I'd propose making sauerkraut or other fermented things from such environs (kimchi being the Korean parallel). The Polish market near me has all sorts of cool variations.

(Technically a fall, post-harvest-time activity, I think? But let us reap the cabbage of our discontent, from the supermarket.)

Bonfire, great idea—did you know that one practice the Yule Log is derived from is dragging an entire tree into a castle's courtyard and setting the whole thing on fire? I'm not finding it in a quick search, but I've seen a copy of a woodcut or an engraving depicting a scene like this on the internet somewhere, so it must be true.

Yes, sorry for your loss.
posted by XMLicious at 4:11 PM on January 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Also sorry for your loss. I don’t have any good suggestions, but I wanted to let you know that I totally get the reference. As the man sang, the pain that you feel only can heal by living.
posted by ejs at 4:19 PM on January 17, 2021 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: I am liking the bonfire idea! And do like the Eastermas idea, things that we can look forward to. Meal suggestions also appreciated!
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 4:30 PM on January 17, 2021

Best answer: I'm sorry for your loss.

I'm a food-as-love-language sort of person. So I would look to cook the dream dishes, the ones I'd never let myself invest in before. Roast goose, croquembouche, buche de noel, Escoffier, Julia Child, Bourdain, especially the ones that can soak up half a week with prep. I'd work on long, meditative dishes, barbecued brisket, pork shoulder, or vegetarian stews and cheesework if you don't dig on flesh. Dal can be just as soothing. Heck, I'd figure out how to make that fermented batter, season a griddle, and make a run at dosas.

I'd learn how to make bread. Feeding others feeds me. That's the way I'd go.
posted by Andrew Galarneau at 4:32 PM on January 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There are many good ideas here; my suggestion is that you consider doing whatever you do on February 2nd. In the U.S., that is Groundhog Day, but it has very old roots as a cross-quarter day, midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. In Celtic tradition it is called Imbolc, and in the Catholic Church it is Candlemas. There are various Celtic, Christian, and Wiccan customs associated with it, including bonfires, lighting candles, and eating crepes (France) and tamales (Mexico). And I too am sorry for your loss.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 4:41 PM on January 17, 2021 [10 favorites]

Speaking as a Chinese person: Chinese New Year is the best (February 12 this year). So much food and fun. See where you and your teen fall on the zodiac! A great opportunity to learn about and support your local Chinese community (safely this year, of course) and eat some delicious dumplings and cakes!
posted by thebots at 4:44 PM on January 17, 2021 [18 favorites]

Mardi Gras is February 16 this year. Fat Tuesday is really the last day of the extended Carnival season, so you can start partying as early as you dare.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:09 PM on January 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday evening this year, so I would just do it up all weekend. It doesn’t have to be about romantic love.
posted by joycehealy at 5:18 PM on January 17, 2021

I would suggest taking an extra do-over day to make a long weekend AND celebrate the stuff coming up like Valentine's Day, so you get extra.

Effigy of 2020 to burn? There's something extremely cathartic about a big bonfire.

Cheesy cauliflower - white sauce and cheese, steamed cauli, bake until golden on top (mmmm)
posted by freethefeet at 5:46 PM on January 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

How about a tongue-in-cheek Groundhog Day celebration?

When I finally threw in the towel and gave up on ever getting Christmas cards out on time, I began to send out Groundhog Day cards instead. Stretching my (extremely limited) artistic ability to the max, I make my own card design and have it photocopied onto card stock. Then a paper cutter and some glue - voila! Super-silly cards to send.

Combine this with a ritual showing of the movie Groundhog Day and a dinner consisting of whatever everyone's favorite food is. Maybe a "pin the shadow on the Groundhog" game, or whatever other game you can dream up.

Follow this with Groundhog cookies that reflect the shadow motif - some dusted with white sugar, some spread with dark chocolate.

I treat it, not as a parody of Christmas, but as if Groundhog Day were itself a second-class holiday trying (poorly) to imitate successful holidays like Christmas. (For instance, cards usually exhort people to "keep the HOG in Groundhog Day!" )

Nothing serious. All goofy. Permission for everyone to be silly.
posted by wjm at 6:12 PM on January 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah I feel like a ritual of some kind is in order and burning things in a fire is a good one. Maybe singing songs together that have emotional resonance in your family or for your mother? Or eating specially meaningful foods. Everyone brings a poem and reads it...

So sorry about all this.
posted by latkes at 6:13 PM on January 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Around these parts, people have taken to dumping Valentine's Day for a much better event, Second Halloween. Perhaps you could find a way to make that work for you?
posted by pleasant_confusion at 6:36 PM on January 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Is there an upcoming birthday of some famous/historical/fictional person that you'd want to celebrate, in whatever way you imagine they would celebrate it?
posted by unknowncommand at 6:49 PM on January 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Perhaps some kind of multi-day movie marathon could be a fun happening?

Sundance Film Festival is Online this year if your family like movies and if they are later in the teens (you could buy passes for the whole thing, or winners day, or individual films ).

Other film Festivals that could be fun: All The Star Wars Movies in order, All the Toy Story movies, all the batman movies, All the Harry Potter Movies, a bunch of Hitchcock movies....

I also think the bonfire idea is a good one. In Santa Fe, we burn our glooms .
posted by wowenthusiast at 6:54 PM on January 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm glad someone else brought up Chinese New Year. It's one of my favorite holidays and I always liked how it was an excuse for my family to get together post-New Year and pre-Memorial Day.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 7:13 PM on January 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

One of my friends had a year like 2020 when she got breast cancer and her oldest son (of 2) was in a serious bike accident causing brain damage. When things got better (he was out of rehab, she was in remission), she decided to have a year of firsts: first experiences. One of the things she did that I remember was to climb the mountain where the sun first hits Australia. She did a new thing every month. So perhaps you could look at hobbies and experiences within your budget that you would never had considered before, and schedule them. Scary things, educational things, volunteer things, growing stuff, painting (a wall or something to frame and hang on a wall) and while you're doing it, honour your lost loved one by talking about what they would have thought about each activity, whether they would have laughed, joined in, or call you crazy. That way you get to take them with you.
posted by b33j at 8:43 PM on January 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

Backyard birdwatching has become my thing...and I saw a freaking hawk swoop into my neighbor's yard yesterday! In a suburb! But anyway, putting out a feeder+camera setup and seeing who stopped by can really brighten up a dreary day. I have a simple feeder this year (seen fair number of finches) but thinking about one of those for next. You can also use it as an excuse for walks, to see what you can spot.

Oh and to clarify, I am a VERY casual birder. I know a tiny bit, but I don't even own a proper guide. I just like seeing them. They are alive and beautiful and funny.
posted by emjaybee at 9:41 PM on January 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

A Buffy marathon?
posted by Coaticass at 10:38 PM on January 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

This may not be the kind of thing you're looking for but how about repainting and redecorating parts of your home. Change up the wall colors, move furniture to different places, even switch room functions. It's a fun kind of thing to do with a teen that can help shift attitudes, like maybe from despair to hope. And the physical labor involved can be cathartic.
posted by mareli at 7:40 AM on January 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The moon is full every. single. month. Keep track of it and enjoy the full moon in winter.
Take a walk in nicer weather, sleep outside in a hammock or on a cot, and do some stargazing.
Have an outdoor fire and make s'mores or hotdogs. Use campfire colorant for different effects (not while cooking). Don't forget the hot cocoa, spiced wine, and gingerbread cookies.
Take pictures or videos while spinning around with sparklers or tiny colored flashlights on a string. Sing campfire songs. Tell ghost stories. Make hand shadows.

If it's too cold outside, set up a fireplace display.
Make some fondue and warm brownies. Taste test a variety of international coffees. Make snow ice cream, or homemade ice cream, and top with fudge sauce.
Cuddle up with a blanket and watch movies, or listen to classical music with a wintery theme. Check YouTube for Winter Olympic videos. Or watch cold-weather sports like ice hockey.
Bonus points if the full moon is visible from the window.
posted by TrishaU at 8:05 AM on January 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You could have a Burns Supper on 25 January, if you live somewhere that haggis is available or orderable. Looks like, though it's not allowed to be imported to the States, there are places that make it there for the local market with a slightly different recipe (example). It's a great winter food, peppery and comforting, served with mashed neeps (I think that's maybe rutabaga in the US? Yellow root vegetable) and tatties (potatoes) and a creamy, whisky sauce. Vegetarian haggis is also a thing and very tasty.

March the haggis in to dinner with much pomp and some bagpipe music playing, everyone can try out their Scots by attempting to read a verse of the Address to a Haggis, then someone plunges a knife dramatically into the haggis and bursts it open with glee. I'm sure there'll be lots of beautiful Burns Night playlists on Spotify that you can play while you eat.

It might make a nice alternative 'special dinner' if you've missed Christmas. Could also be combined with heading out for an after-dinner bonfire, feeling nicely centrally-heated by all that haggis you've just eaten, with whisky in your hipflask and ginger cordial in your son's.

And now I really want haggis for my tea!
posted by penguin pie at 8:23 AM on January 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

To go along with any or all of the above: years ago at the National Storytelling Festival I heard naturalist and storyteller Doug Elliott recount a delightful natural history of the groundhog's hibernation as metaphor for annual renewal, as well as its place in Native American lore. It's folksy, fun, kid-safe, and I found it fascinating. I've been to the annual festival about 20 times, and this is one of the few stories that has stayed with me through the years. Written sample here, with a CD of the performance, a songbook and a hardback book about (all on sale til Groundhog Day!).
posted by conscious matter at 8:55 AM on January 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing celebrating on or around the second of February. It marks the halfway point between winter and spring and is accompanied by surge in daylight increasing by several minutes per day. You really feel the extra daylight which fills me with hope that yes, winter will soon be over and the spring renewal will come. The tradition I know of is to have a fire where you clean and burn the old stuff that's accumulated from the last year. This could be literal stuff or figurative...burn a list you've made of all the old (habits, ideas, problems, etc,) you want to clean out. Get rid of junk and make space for new things to enter.
posted by hannahelastic at 9:28 AM on January 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: When I was a kid, my parents had not much money and so came up with a variety of cheap/free entertainments. One I’d forgotten until now was that sometimes we would have “midnight feasts” a weird indoor picnic where the kids got to stay up late and parents had a drink, for “no particular reason”.

Sometimes we all wrapped up warm and went for a walk as well, with that lovely late night stillness (this was in a very rural area). It felt quite magical, walking quietly through lanes and fields looking at the stars, with our excited dog running circles around us. I think a lot of us are suffering from a monotonous unchanging routine and benefit from a break from the norm.

Agree that Burns Night is fantastic. Definitely recommend veggie haggis, cranachan and whisky.
posted by ElasticParrot at 9:49 AM on January 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your suggestions! I may go full festival February and celebrate ALL THE THINGS.

Now off to see if haggis is available in my area.....(US - rural)
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 4:04 PM on January 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

I have been getting a lot of joy out of the 72 Seasons app, which refreshes every five days with info about the specific Japanese micro-season that corresponds to the date. I find it nice to have winter subdivided into these small units, each with cozy foods, activities, etc. to learn about.
posted by delight at 11:44 PM on January 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

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