The 16 Christmases my partner Joe and I have shared have all had the same general theme. We spend Christmas day alone together at home in our pajamas. We eat, we drink, and we watch movies all day and night.
Except for one year in which we traveled to visit family, this has been our tradition. We like it this way. We think of it as the one day each year when the business world doesn’t dare call or email or ask things of us. It’s our sacred day of privacy, escape and indulgence.
In the early years — the Blockbuster Video years — preparations involved a trip to the video store. Sometimes there was a quick trip out for big orders of Chinese takeout. A stack of 8 or so movies were piled on the coffee table next to takeout containers or copious snacks put together at home. We had known each other barely 4 months by the time of our first Christmas together, and our first foray into this day together paved the path for this tradition. The first year was so pleasurable, why not do it again? And again. And again and again and again.
Yesterday brought a new twist to our tradition. A friend who moved back to Boston last year joined us. She arrived wearing pajamas under her parka, and carrying wine, a bottle of Jameson’s Irish whiskey, a carton of whipping cream, an electric mixer, and three tall glass coffee mugs. We skipped our usual way of making Irish coffee (Cork Irish whiskey, Bailey’s Irish cream and/or canned whipped cream) to try her grandma’s recipe (brown sugar under a layer of Jameson’s, a layer of coffee, and a layer of freshly whipped cream).
I love the creamy, crumbly British cheese known as Stilton, and this year I discovered a version of it with bits of mango and ginger in it. The flavors are subtle and the texture is dreamy. Combined with a blueberry Wensleydale and Bella Vitano rum runner cheese, it made for an absolutely irresistible cheese and cracker platter! Chocolate lavender and chocolate mate almonds (brought by our friend), pistachios, and a plate of chocolate rugelach rounded out the coffee table treats. I had planned to make popcorn on the stovetop as well, but between chatting and watching movies I never got around to it.
My favorite movie surprise of the day was “For the Love of Spock.” It’s a documentary about both the Spock character and Leonard Nimoy, directed by the late actor’s son Adam and released in 2016. I had only discovered it existed the day before, but it went to the top of our Christmas day viewing list. Partly focused on Adam’s intermittently stressful relationship with his father, it does try to cover a lot of territory. Family tensions are reflected upon with respect and thoughtfulness, however, and the remembered longings of a child competing with Star Trek fans for his father’s attention is balanced by Adam’s conversations with his sister, paternal grandparents, his father’s Star Trek colleagues, and various Star Trek convention goers.
Here’s a Youtube trailer for “For the Love of Spock.”
I read some viewer reviews complaining about the film’s personal aspects. It seems some viewers wished only to focus on Spock and not the man behind him. I thought it was a noble and loving effort for the film to consider both Spock and Nimoy, given that they were overlapping but separate beings. Iconic figures are rarely perfect. They are created by the longings of our own messy, imperfect selves. I welcomed this glimpse at where Spock and Nimoy both intersected and diverged.
To keep this post from getting unwieldy, I won’t discuss every film we watched. For the most part, we kept our choices on the lighthearted side this year.
Our friend had never seen the stoner film “Pineapple Express” and I was pretty sure she’d love it. It’s one of the those films that looks like it’s going to be agonizingly stupid, which is why I didn’t watch it for years after its release. When I did, it struck me as surprisingly hilarious, thanks to its acting and madcap action style. In my opinion James Franco makes this movie. His portrayal of Saul Silver, a dopey but lovable pot dealer is one of the funniest characters I’ve ever seen. Again, plenty of people on Rotten Tomatoes disagree with my opinion of this film. Plenty don’t.
Between movies we made sandwiches from a rotisserie chicken and various fixings (sliced cucumber, tomato, romaine, New York rye bread, mayo and mustard). We later took a 9 pm intermission to gather around the dining table for potato latkes and a brisket Joe had prepared in a slow cooker. This was yummy washed down with Bailey’s Irish cream on ice with a splash of Kahlua. (You may recall that indulgence is a key concept in this tradition.)
Bojack Horseman is an animated TV series I discovered very recently, and it was included on my Christmas day viewing list. A visitor to my art studio, flipping through my rack of small matted prints of animals doing human things (going to the cinema, flying planes, typing memoirs, etc.) asked if they were inspired by the Bojack Horseman show. I didn’t know what that was. She proceeded to describe a show with kooky plots involving part-human part-animal beings.
“It’s really silly,” she warned. Okay, I’m game. The first episode I watched wasn’t one of its better ones, but after seeing a few more I was hooked. While I enjoy the watercolor nuances within the the graphics, one of the funnest things about these 30-minute stories are the quirky scenarios going on in the background of the main story. You might miss them if you’re not paying attention, but it’s worth taking in the entire landscape of each scene.
We didn’t get to everything on the viewing list, but that’s okay. It was a lovely day of indulgence, laughs and conversation. Perhaps more of the list will get watched tonight and over the course of this week. Engaging movies, like good books, free the mind to wander, imagine and contemplate.
Wishing you a warm finish to this year!