run up to crimbo

I am one of those people who orders holiday cards at the last minute. Sometimes they still turn out okay. This year: not so much. But that’s not my point. My point is that I waited so long to order them this year, they physically arrived at my doorstep this past Saturday. Less than 24 hours after unimaginable, inconceivable brutality was being reported out of Newtown, Connecticut and an entire nation – and great swaths of the world (certainly it was the biggest news here) – felt a sharp, searing stabbing directly into our individual and collective hearts. And so, between long bouts of crying, I stared at my pile of stupid ugly un-creative rushed holiday cards. How could I write pithy one-liners in them? How could I mail a bit of cheer out to my loved ones? How could I engage in such a mundane annual ritual, one which is at least 33% an exercise in polite reciprocity? I was very close to dumping them in the recycling. Then, two things happened. First, Bryan looked up from the sofa and said: “You better f*cking believe you are sending out those cards.” Not because he loves YOU or wants to send YOU cheer, but because he will be DAMNED if we are going to WASTE one pence on that order.

And second, because it occurred to me it matters. And it’s good. And a lot of us really need things that matter and are good. For a lot of us, Things Mattering and there being Things That Are Good are the only reason we don’t just drown in a sea of preemptive hopelessness.

This, from the NY Times, spoke to me:

It was not simply a question of rescheduling a ritual, a party or a gathering; these celebrations, from all the faiths and from none, push back against the dominance of the long winter night. No one is more essential to them than humans between, say, ages 5 and 9, who are balanced between the world of reason and the world of magic.

In two sentences, it kind of tied up nicely a variety of things I have been heavily contemplating this year. So I’m going to keep Jewing up Christmas (as P says) and I’m going to keep having my mind blown at how beautiful it is to have a taste of these holidays through a preschooler’s eyes. And I am going to keep blogging about it. So, what we’ve been up to lately:

Emma is a milliner on the side and we went to see (and buy!) her hats at the West Hampstead Christmas Market. Yay Emma!


the Halls had an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party which only those two could pull off: an entire restaurant closed just for the guests and a sit-down dinner, a storytelling game where every person had to tell the next part of a spontaneous Christmas tale woven out of copious amounts of champagne and wine, and a 40-person singalong of carols


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I can report the best Hanukkah presents I gave Bryan were a DVD of a crackling fire, and tattoo sleeves. The best one I received was a $3 donation made on my behalf to Wikipedia. Finally! The meanest thing I did was I wrapped up as gifts random things I needed to get Simon anyway. Travel sickness wristbands, a new toothbrush, etc.

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Jonah was in his first-ever “pageant”-like school holiday show. I was not prepared. That happens a lot I think with a first child. Bryan and I walked into the nursery school and there was a sea of parents – cameras at the ready – and eighteen little kids dressed in all-white and wearing halos. We both lost it. (And god bless this country with not even a hint of self-consciousness or societal pressure to be PC and inclusive. Christmas is BIG in England. So you better just go along with it. Every single British person who knows me and knows I am Jewish, has wished me a Merry Christmas. So have the shopkeepers. If you want to buy wrapping paper with dreidels on it, you can just go ahead and punch yourself in the face and then head straight to Heathrow for a flight over national borders, because no one is going to sell you any.) But back to my story. We both lost it and I had only 15 discrete and separate moments of euphoria watching my first baby in his little show. He welcomed all the mummies and daddies from the stage, and then later we saw him dressed in a robe as Joseph, while a 3 year-old dressed as Mary was cradling The Baby Jesus. Jonah has been telling me a lot lately about The Baby Jesus. You know what? The head teachers at the school are Muslim, and damn if they didn’t whip those little kids into shape to PROPERLY DEMONSTRATE THE BIRTH OF THE BABY JESUS. Because, as I mentioned, this is England. Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Rastafarian, Trustafarian… you will celebrate Christmas and you will like it. I know I do. Also, I got picked TWICE for the raffle! The other parents were giving me the evil eye. As though I would rig anything where the prize was an M&S Christmas Pudding (aka fruit cake). Ga-ross.

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Bryan’s office had its really cute annual Children’s Christmas Lunch (CHRISTMAS). Jonah was the first London office kid and now there are five, with three more on the way. The kids loved running around.

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the day before, Bryan was being filmed for a short being created for the company. Such a diva


our fifth London Santacon!

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we took the kids with friends to see Santa at the Zoo. I thought it was weird that this year he didn’t ask Jonah what he wanted. Weak, Santa. Weak as sh*t.


and then we celebrated Isaac’s birthday a little early. His mom had him deliberately on Christmas Eve to try to deflect some of the attention away from The Baby Jesus. That might fly in Chicago, but this is England. As if!

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Whoa- that was a long post. It’s pretty evident season 2 of Homeland is over, eh. Also, did you know in the UK they don’t say “season” for tv, but “series”? Series 2 was great. Now I just have to bide my time until I can spend Christmas day watching the 2-hour Downton Abbey special. Suckas!



Filed under beautiful joy too, culture clash, food, friends, holidays, horror, london, mommyblogging, photos, tv

11 responses to “run up to crimbo

  1. toshalot

    i JUST bought my holiday cards JUST now. online. so they won’t go out until … when? christmas eve? oh dear.
    and i want to choke every person on facebook who cries about the term, “happy holidays” and preaches, “put the christ back in christmas!” good god, my family is obnoxious!

  2. sonjey

    great post with great pictures….. I love you all so much and can’t wait to spend one more time in London with you……

  3. Jac

    Of course, it’s not so much the English being insensitive or indifferent to the sensibilities of non-Christians, but that they are so thoroughly secularised that to most of them the concept that Christmas is a religious festival, rather than simply a season, simply does not occur . Even when dressing up their kids for a Nativity play – that is simply seen as the performance of a charming myth, on a par with Morris Dancing, but less silly (and not dominated by tiresome, bearded, ale drinking “enthusiasts” – above all else, the English hate enthusiasts: that, BTW, is at the root of so many of the Anglo-American culture clashes which this blog so affectionately and amusingly documents). It’s no more intended religiously than dressing up as “Father Christmas” is intended to revere St Nicolas of Myra. So “merry Christmas” to you all!

    • Completely agree. I should have stressed more that it’s a secular celebration that people here universally want to share in. And from multiple viewings of “Love Actually”, I have become very fond of the Nativity Play too. Especially if there is a lobster involved. And hell, throw in Emma Thompson while you’re at it.

      Living here has made me realize the downside of intense political correctness as well. There is something so refreshing about an unabashed love for Christmas and wanting everyone around to be as happy. The English… unabashed? It’s a Christmas miracle!

  4. Love, love, love –
    The meanest thing I did was I wrapped up as gifts random things I needed to get Simon anyway. Travel sickness wristbands, a new toothbrush, etc.

  5. poren

    You and the New York Times say it so beautifully. I cannot help but think of the Jewish tradition of breaking a glass at weddings. The joy goes on because that is what makes life precious. But in our joy we acknowlege, remember, and feel the pain of those who are suffering and those who we have lost. How’s that for Jewing up Crimbo?
    Also, am I the only one who has to re-watch that Homeland episode?? Who moved the car?

  6. CS Pignatelli

    Top ten best posts. I laughed out loud at the pharmacy (axel has touch of strep and scarlet fever) when I got to the part about Jonah playing Joseph.

    Sent from my iPhone

  7. Ron Utt

    Hey! Joseph was Jewish, so why not?

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