Welcome to Home for the Holigays! Although it’s been said time and time again — the holiday season looks quite a bit different in 2020. Many of us will be spending these special days solo, in the cozy comforts of our homes. In this series, a few of our writers welcome you to spend the day with them virtually, and live-tweet one of their favorite holiday films, with the hopes and wishes that it will make us all feel a little less alone.
Home Alone for the Holigays
For most of my life, the holidays have been about family, music, and the church. Growing up I always sang in the choir that my dad led, bouncing from tenor to alto for Handel’s Messiah and popping into whatever vocal groups needed an extra voice. But as my relationship with the church, my parents, and my faith grew more complicated — and as I worked a number of grueling retail jobs through the holidays, year after year — December became a difficult time. A lot of joy got stripped away from the season, and I found myself longing to feel that old excitement again, that sensation of love and magic that had always drawn me to the holidays.
This is the first year in over a decade that I won’t spend Christmas with my ex-husband and one of our families. Instead, I’m living alone in a new apartment in Brooklyn, and am more excited than I thought I would be to begin creating traditions for myself. It’s a chance to reflect on which bits of the holidays I really care about, and to consider where I’ve just been going through the motions — trying to please everyone by making sure their favorite songs, dishes, and treats were included. What do I really love about the holidays? This year I get to figure that out, and I’m starting by focusing on Yule rather than just letting Christmas take over.
I’m keeping things simple: just a string of quiet, lovely, restful days of joy and connecting with my favorite people. I love to cook, so this year will absolutely include some of my favorite dishes. Instead of spending a week preparing, shopping and cleaning, I’m going to keep it easy by focusing on the bits I really love — and the things that make my new person happy. A massive cheese board is on the menu along with homemade olive tapenade, plenty of fresh bread, nuts and dried fruit, olives, and brie baked in pastry. I’ll make both lasagna and enchiladas this week, warm comfort foods that can be prepared in advance and thrown into the oven whenever J and I get hungry. I love jazz and simple arrangements of holiday classics, so I’ve already assembled a playlist to enjoy in the background all week. Wooden-wick candles with notes of clove, cinnamon, and leather will be burning merrily in every possible corner, I’ll have my favorite YouTube fireplace playing on repeat, and maybe New York City will even get a little bit more snow.
It’ll be a new kind of holiday celebration for me this year… and I can’t wait to get started.
My family never really rewatched holiday movies growing up — my father was a classic film buff, and had me watching Hitchcock far younger than I should’ve been. With the exception of the Star Wars trilogy and a handful of cherished movie musicals, we rarely rewatched films as a family. But one film that we could all agree on, one that always seemed to bring a little extra joy to the season, was the 1997 version of Cinderella featuring Brandy, Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters, Victor Garber, and a whole host of other brilliant and iconic performers. The combination of the classic musical and the inclusive cast, along with the cheesy yet timeless special effects, never fails to delight me. And as I continue to open myself to new possibilities, to allow new kinds of magic in, this feels like exactly the right film to celebrate the season.
I still believe that this is the best version of Cinderella out there, and while it’s historically been very hard to find, is finally available for streaming on YouTube. I want to make this a part of my own new tradition, and let Yule be a time for fairytales, magic, and chosen family.
If you haven’t seen it, guess what? Shelli Nicole will be watching and live-tweeting it Tuesday December 22 2020 from the Autostraddle Twitter at 8 PM EST! It’s available to stream here on YouTube.
A Fairytale Yule
I’ve spent the last few months heavily investing in fancy pajamas and have zero regrets about it. My new apartment is cute but drafty, and even under a pile of blankets, I’m usually cold: so for me, it’s all about layers, robes, and warm socks. I have been coveting these striped pajamas lately, but I already own this set and have no plans to wear anything else. If I do have to get properly dressed, it’ll be in something easy and comfortable — like this kickass Wildfang jumpsuit.
In spite of the inevitable cold, Yule itself will be a warm, relaxing day, filled with the safety and comfort of queer love, and the joy of creating new magical traditions with another witch. I anticipate gentle teasing, intuitive magic, and prioritizing restorative rest, both for me and for my new love.
12:00 AM – 9:00 AM: Waking up slowly, to the smells of freshly-brewed coffee and dreams of the cinnamon rolls that still need to go in the oven.
9:30 AM: Actually get out of bed, pour the coffee, and bake the breakfast that I brilliantly prepared the night before.
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Morning tarot card pulls with J. Candles burning, music playing, the beautiful stillness of a morning with no responsibilities or obligations.
1:00 PM: Realize we have eaten all the cinnamon rolls and didn’t figure out lunch. Prepare an elaborate cheese board to make it seem like I planned this in advance. Devour all of the cheese and gaze wistfully at the fruit that we pretended we would eat.
2:00 PM: Yule spell. The start of a new tradition, with reflections on the past year and wishes for the upcoming one. More candles.
3:00 PM: Think about calling my parents, then remember that they don’t even know what Yule is. Feel deeply pleased with my life and my choices.
3:15 PM – 7:00 PM: Another new tradition begins, and we watch The Princess Bride AND Brandy’s Cinderella. Yule will forever be associated with fairytales.
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM: Put a pan of lasagna, another thing I brilliantly prepared the night before, into the oven. Prep salad and garlic bread, sipping wine and sharing stories of holidays past.
8:00 PM – 9:00 PM: A leisurely dinner. Holiday music, new candles, more wine. Pretend that we’ll clean everything, then decide we deserve a break. Take my girl to bed instead.
A Holigay Sangria
Due to a clerical error (i.e. a quickly placed and overly enthusiastic wine order that turned out to be tragically incorrect) I find myself with access to a large amount of red wine. While I’ll be doing my best this holiday season to enjoy as much of it as possible, it seemed prudent to find other ways to work through this unexpected gift.
Sangria is so ridiculously easy to make, and always seems to impress people. Plus it’s a great way to use up any leftover fruit, juice, or club soda you have lying around —especially if you also have a random bottle of brandy or liqueur. Some people like their sangria super sweet and fruity, while others like myself prefer a dryer, spicier mix. The recipe here will work beautifully as is but is infinitely customizable, so feel free to play with proportions and make it your own.
Yule this year is meant to be quiet, relaxing, comforting, and joyful. With so many new traditions beginning, and a few old favorites getting incorporated into this next chapter of my life, I feel full of hope in spite of the challenges this year has brought. Sending love and warmth to you and yours.