Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Every family has their rituals and amusing tales surrounding holidays throughout the year. Then there's December, with all it's trappings. My husband Al, and I don't favor big splashy fetes, but I hope these three little stories of our own holiday celebrations will amuse.
My husband and I had been married almost two years when my mother-in-law asked if I would like to host Hanukkah dinner. I'm not Jewish so it was a great honor. Regrettably, I was also young, headstrong, and don't remember if I asked for advice, or if any was given.
The classic meal, originated by “Bubbeh” my husband's grandmother, was salmon croquettes, cheese blintzes, and potato latkes. A meal full of love, memories, and carbs. I didn't care for the menu much. My family never had iron-clad rituals that couldn't be altered, so I went for it!
They were sure to be wowed with my fresh salmon loaf and cucumber dill sauce. I kept the latkes, dropped the blintzes (big mistake), and added a green salad. I don't remember dessert.
If that wasn't enough, I forgot all about their family menorah and bought a sleek new one to light.
Well, can you imagine the reception my new and improved Hanukkah dinner got? My in-laws are extremely polite people. Very little was said, or eaten. Mostly, I remember their stunned looks. At the end of the evening my mother-in-law quietly took me aside, and told me I wouldn't be doing Hanukkah again.
Did I learn anything? Humility is an attractive asset, stupidity is not, and don't mess with tradition.
In normal times, before Covid, when the big day rolled around I was so exhausted from filling orders and craft shows, I just wanted to sleep and sit quietly. We don't have children, so December 25 is a day we spend together, fix a nice meal, and watch a movie. But, on Christmas Eve night there's one special thing we look for...the Space Shuttle.
Our town has a fabulous Christmas Eve parade. For hours, it snakes back and forth through the city streets. Anyone can participate. You can cover your bike with lights, build a float, or just wave and yell “Merry Christmas” from your car window. The fire department, police, and local businesses all have floats, and Santa and Mrs. Clause bring up the rear. But, if we are lucky, somewhere in that procession is our talisman. In the back of a pickup truck is a giant inflatable Space Shuttle festooned with lights. That's it, now it's Christmas!
The real Space Shuttles were retired in 2011. This year's parade was canceled due to Covid. I don't know if we will see the Space Shuttle next Christmas Eve. Who knows, in years to come we might be saying, “It's just not Christmas until we see the Space X capsule.”
New Year's Eve
We try to take a little trip in the winter. There's no set date. We pick a destination and wait for prices to drop. We favor small walk-able southern towns with good seafood. In 2015 surprisingly the cheapest day to fly was New Year's Eve. Our destination was Apalachicola FL.
Ever heard of it? Apalachicola is a small fishing town in the Florida Panhandle on the Gulf of Mexico. There are great restaurants, and you can walk to all of them. It's not touristy or over developed. The surrounding forest, wetlands, and seashore are all protected. Ticks all our boxes. Our family and friends love it.
That afternoon we checked in to the Water Street Hotel, a terrific place, with views of the Apalachicola River and salt marshes beyond. What about dinner reservations? Most restaurants were closed that night. One of our faves, **Caroline's, down the street, was open. But they couldn't seat us till 8:00. No problem.
We wandered down the quiet street to the restaurant. There weren't any cars in the parking lot. Were we the only customers? The hostess wanted to seat us in the dining room, but they had a splendid deck over the water, and it was a beautiful warm evening. She sighed and said we could sit anywhere we liked.
Well, what a sublime evening! All was perfect, the balmy breeze, lapping water, amazing food, even an occasional pelican flying low over the river. We feasted on fresh shrimp, red snapper, grouper and key lime pie. There were no other diners.
After dinner we drifted back up the street to the hotel, and were in bed by 11:00. Sweet dreams! Before dawn I woke to the sound of engines. Two shrimp boats were heading out to sea. I smiled and thought, just another day, but in a brand new year!
I hope your December celebrations are joyous and safe,
December 1, 2020
**Caroline's Restaurant and the Apalachicola River Inn were damaged in hurricane Michael in October 2018. They never reopened. It was sold in the summer of 2020. You can read about it here: https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2020/07/07/apalachicola-landmarks-river-inn-carolines-boss-oyster-plucked-out-bankruptcy/5383023002/