No, sad to say, this isn’t actually about food. Food is in fact mentioned, but no ingredients were harmed in the making of this column. As I have said on numerous occasions, I am in disposal and not manufacturing, which is no doubt a huge relief to anyone near my cook stove.

But it is about seasoning of sorts, about the flavor of things, and of course the expectations that fuel anticipation. Sarah Lee and Marie Callendar will breathe a huge sigh of relief, I’m sure, that I will again be purchasing their assorted pies this year rather than depend upon my own questionable skill.

Still, everything has a flavor if you will, and Christmas is no different. We have all come to expect certain things from the Season of Giving and depending upon those expectations we have all developed a concept of what the “ideal” Christmas will be. This idealized version could be the result of childhood memories of wonderful Christmases past with a varying degree of nostalgic glow framing that picture as we favorably “photoshop” our recollections. The ideal we hold up in our mental “View Master” slides could also be of less than glowing memories, and a resulting determination that every other Christmas must become another layer to blot out those memories.

Whether our memories are good or bad, or even somewhat indifferent, those memories are the seasoning of all our Christmas dishes. But like the late, great Billy Mays said — “But wait, there’s more!”

Our flavor of Christmas is also affected by what everyone else is cooking and what seasonings they use. And then there is style that tweaks the flavors a bit, too. Even the “Scrooge-iest” television viewer would have to admit that, when it comes to Christmas movies, the Hallmark Channel can really cook. Ah, cinnamon and romance ... sort of puts the holly and jolly together in one neat little bite-sized package. Save the town, drink eggnog, and fall in love, all while learning the true meaning of Christmas.

But I’m sure you get the point. Everyone’s idea of what Christmas should and shouldn’t be is affected by not only what spices we add to the pot, but also to a large degree by whatever everyone else has in their spice rack. And really that is OK because Christmas is more a participation sport and less a spectator sport — though everyone does like to watch a good game once in a while, too. They even have those on Christmas for just that reason, in case you have been living under a rock in a cave underwater for the last 50 or so years. And I’m sure there has been more than a little eggnog consumed during those.

Now none of this is a problem whatsoever, unless of course we lose sight of our Christmas while looking at someone else’s. New flavors are always a wonderful addition, and sometimes they can even become part of our own menu. And, in this case especially, there is no need to throw out the old in favor of the new. The two can accommodate each other quite nicely and improve the overall experience if given a chance. We just have to be careful that we don’t see something new as fundamentally better simply because it is different and take care to not judge what we have harshly as a result.

I thought of this as I was standing on front porch watching it rain yesterday. The temperature was fairly warm for early December, and though things change rapidly this time of year, I remember thinking that Bing Crosby would have a hard time pulling out a White Christmas this year. Then it occurred to me that “White Christmas” was a stylized version of the season, and I don’t like driving in the snow anyway. No, the ideal Christmas for me — my favorite flavor, if you will — is simply healthy family and friends enjoying the season. Honestly, it’s much better when I don’t have to shovel the driveway.

So, enjoy the sleigh bells if you can, ice skate if it’s available, or simply sit at home and watch the Hallmark Channel with a big mug of ’nog. Watch them light the tree from home or at the Rockefeller Center if that’s your thing. But never forget that “merry and bright” has less to do with someone’s inevitable electric bill than it does with how we feel and the people with whom we share the season.

I might never dream of a “Rainy Christmas,” but I will always enjoy a good “Drowse” after a great meal with people near and dear to me. That’s how I season the season.


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