Welcome to Maoist Orange Cake. Each week one of our Divas posts a thoughtful (but not necessarily serious) essay on whatever calls forth her Voice or strikes her Fancy. We invite you to join us wherever the discussion leads.
Motto of the MOC: Sincere, yes. Serious? Never!

"I would also like to add that ‘Maoist Orange Cake is possibly the best name for a blog ever. Just my twopence." -- The Sixth Carnival of Radical Feminists, 1 October 2007

The Twelfth Carnival of Radical Feminists is up at The Burning Times blog and mentions one of our posts, Helen 'Wheels' Keller, for recommendation. Orangeists spreading our zest!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stuff I Hate About The Holidays

the angry kitty captures my mood...

We're at that part of the holiday season where I begin to think Scrooge had a point---I mean Scrooge before his conversion. I feel like George Bailey when he knocked all the stuff off the table. Or the Grinch, when those damn Whos wouldn't shut up.

The Holidays can be wonderful, but aren't there times you just want to close the drapes and wish it was over?

So I thought I'd get this off my chest, and maybe the rest of the divas could too!

What is it that bugs you the most about the holiday season?

Here's my list:

1. Oprah's Favorite Things Show--I don't find it entertaining to watch middle-class people getting free presents. And the screaming! Now of course, all the shows are hopping on the bandwagon; I saw something similar on "Ellen" today.

2. Ice Storms--Now the ice storms we used to get in March come in December. Great.

3. Christmas Carols--I love the classics; it's the contemporary songs I'm talking about. Where are the new ones? Every year it's the same old stuff, over and over and over. I mean I loved "The Little Drummer Boy" as a kid, but if I hear it one more time, I'm gonnna hurl. And what about Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah? Can we sing about those holidays for a change?

4. The "War" On Christmas--I mean really, people. Come on, now!

5. Green Bean Casserole--This may sound weird for someone who cooks all the time with mushroom soup to say, but I really don't like it all that much. Can't we come up with a new, quick and easy vegetable dish to bring to the potluck?

Well, those are my issues.

What say you, my divas?


Maggie Jochild said...

A few years ago I saw America's Test Kitchen (on PBS) make "green bean casserole" from scratch -- fresh green beans steamed lightly, mushroom soup made from real mushrooms and cream, then hand-fried onion rings. I was inspired to emulate it once (it's a lot of work) and it made the "fast" version inedible for me from then on.

The holidays, like so much else, has become a means of commerce. When I was a teenager, my mother read Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death, the first expose about the funeral industry, and practically read it aloud to us as well. She decided then and there to be cremated, and she had her way. From that point on, my consciousness about "ways they make money from what we cannot avoid" was raised. Alix in one of her songs has a line "They profit on us throughout our lives and through our earthly ends, it's just outrageous".

As far as I'm concerned, capitalism is dead in the water. But I don't know what to replace it with (yet). Something NOT based on constant growth and profit, that's all I can say for sure. We can reclaim our celebrations, milestones, seasons, food, and arts then. Or maybe we have to reclaim them first, and the economy will follow?

pamish said...

What is this War on Christmas? Where can I sign up?

kat said...

Things I hate about Christmas:
1. Christmas carols. All of them. With the sole exception of ones written before the year 1500. And sadly, the only Hannukah carol that I know has to get lumped in with the bad christmas ones (when you're in a choir, the director always sticks one token hannukah song in the program. It's always the same one and it's annoying).
2. holiday themed television shows and/or "christmas specials"
3. christmas shopping: I don't really give presents anymore, because it sucks to be guilted into buying useless, unwanted crap for everyone you know.
4. the constant pit in my stomach as a kid when I knew that all my friends would be getting mountains of presents and I would not. My parents did what they could, but that weird jealousy mixed with disappointment have managed to stick with me.
5. being argued over like a thing when my parents fought for who would get me for the blasted holiday.
6. generally everything about christmas.

That rant aside, there is one thing I like about christmas, and it's not even related to the holiday: lights in trees. Not Christmas trees, per se, but those are fine. The best is when it's outside trees (along the sidewalk or whatever) get strung with lights. It's like the leaves are replaced with light, which I find really pretty.

....guh....I accepted a caroling gig this year.....the things I do for money....

shadocat said...


The "War On Christmas" was a concept cooked up by the conservative pundits in this country---the "war" was supposedly organized by liberals to take all religious meaning out of the holiday season, therefore taking the "Christ" out of Christmas. Although if there really was a war on Christmas, I'd be tempted to enlist.

Kat you have my sympathies. My idea of the seventh circle of hell is being strapped to a chair, and being forced to listen to Andy Williams sing, "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year".

Liza said...

Um, speaking from the other side of the coin. I'm in retail and I'm loving the christmas buying. During other parts of the year I can go for weeks without a sale, so christmas is pretty exciting. Love to slide those credit cards.

I have narrowed my gift giving so that only my children get presents. Our decorations consist of one small fake tree with the same lights and balls we've had forever (it's a cheery little bugger though) My store has no hint of Christmas (except for the shopping) but no decorations or icky christmas music. My retail neighborhood is very post industrial and low on the tacky scale. Cheery white lights here and there, but that's about it.

In our family we celebrate Solstice, but we do it on Christmas day so we're in synch with the rest of our little part of the world.

Last year for solstice dinner we had Chinese take out (being good New York Jews, even though we live in Vermont).

What I hate about Christmas is that almost everything around here is closed (except the Chinese restaurants and the movies - yea movies!!) I find that really annoying. Even if I don't feel like going anywhere, I want the option. It kind of creeps me out that celebration is mandatory and based on the Christian calendar. Hey, life doesn't come to a standstill on Chanuka. Although it does on Thanksgiving, which also annoys me.

I do love "bring a torch Jeanette Isabella" and I can play it on the recorder. It's the only song in my repertoire.

kat said...

I really like the sound of how you do things. Seemed like your family had Halloween awesomeness, no?

Anyway, I'd love to just veg and eat chinese takeout and go to the movies instead of the whole freakin' celebration thing.....

I do have one little confession, though. I LOVE (!!!) the movie "A Christmas Story"....you know, the one with Ralphie and the lamp in the shape of a leg.

Love it. Love it.

kat said...

could we really wage war on christmas? please? Maybe Dumbledore's Army could take on Santa. I'm sure it wouldn't be any harder than Voldemort!

Maggie Jochild said...

Lize, seems like we have a hard time thinking selectively about retail. When I think of what PSAW has, or the kinds of gifts I'd really like to give people, that's not the "useless crap" Kat mentioned. The fact is, artists and those who support them are woefully underpaid in this culture, except for the four or five in each genre we elevate to pop god status -- and excluding Hollywood/sports entertainment industries.

It was in San Fran that I got into the habit of eating Chinese food on X-Mas eve/day, and now I know why -- all those New York Jews in my life. Never made that connection before. Live and learn.

I love "A Christmas Story" too, Kat. And "Boys Town" - I know I'm a sap, but when Mickey Rooney looks up at Spencer Tracy and said "He ain't heavy, he's my bruthah", I completely fucking lose it. Every time.

I especially loathe the animated Christmas shows. Especially, especially that first Rudolph -- I remember when it came out as a kid, and even then I found it creepy. Okay, there is a modern version by Ardman Studio called Robbie the Reindeer, Hooves of Fire I think, which is hysterical, but that's because it's larded with cynicism and in-jokes -- like, when the reindeer is humiliated beyond endurance and heads out of the North Pole dwelling into the storm, he says quietly "I'm just going out and may be some time". Sacrilege. Made me howl.

To change the thread a jog -- when we used to do solstice rituals, back in the day, we never maintained that ancient, nature-based cultures didn't know the sun was gone forever. Their astronomy and observatories were quite advanced. No, it was a welcoming of the cycle of death and rebirth, kind of how Langston Hughes writes about the "dark sacred night". Darkness as GOOD and necessary, not equated war and loss. Which is a jarring, disturbing equation when it's accompanied by people of color faces. At least to me.

kat said...

ooh, the other thing I hate (I know, I know, maggie's trying to change the subject...): Hearing "Merry Christmas" when it's only the first week of december.

A post over on Feministing described an attack on the NY subway over that particular phrase, in which some "religious" folks were claiming that whole "war on christmas" thing. The thing is, if you're really religious, you should know that Dec. 2-24 are Advent. It's supposed to be penitential, like Lent. You're supposed to abstain and not celebrate anything. So saying "Merry Christmas" too early is really anti-christian.
so. there.

shadocat said...

Liza, any store not playing "icky Christmas music" would be a top attraction for me, were I in Burlington. And my family also has the tradition of Chinese food on christmas day, started actually, by that movie, "A Christmas Story."

If I had ever said "Merry Christmas" (as a child) to anyone before Dec. 24th, a nun would've slapped me upside of the head.

One more thing I hate? Lexus, Infiniti, and other luxury car commercials, where fancy people are giving each other fancy cars with big red bows on top for Xmas. (Not that I wouldn't want one myself, but geez, do I really need one more reminder that I'm "po"?

shadocat said...

Oh, and I was at my mom's the other day, where I was forced to watch "Dr. Phil"---nothing but an hour long commercial where he gave away free crap and the audience screamed.

kat said...

I've suffered through similar bs like that with my mom (probably on Dr. Phil). What irked me the most was the way that the price of everything was repeated over and over.

Am I the only one who was taught that telling people right off the bat how much your stuff costs is totally crass??

And Liza, would that everyone bought their holiday gifts at independent art galleries or someplace similar. Imagine how much more interesting the country would be...

kat said...

oh, and to respond to the "can't we come up with another quick, easy vegetable" quandry: glazed carrots. About 5 minutes of prep, they cook in about 7 minutes, and they're delicious. 'nuff said!

Liza said...

Always by local. That's my mantra. Support your local independent retailers. And if they provide locally made goods, even better.

That way you support your neighbors and your neighborhoods, keep your local economy healthy.

Also, the less something has to be transported, the better for the environment.

I know you all know this. But it never hurts to repeat it.

Maggie Jochild said...

Quick, easy vegetables: Asparagus, steamed with a drizzle of mustard butter. And all asparagus is organic because the beds die if chemicals are used on them. Another option: Frozen peas, which are often fresher and healthier than the ones you'd hull yourself. They cook VERY fast in the microwave, add some grilled onions or cracked black pepper, and yumster.

I second everything Liza says about buying local, and for all the same reasons plus one that's more amorphous: Human culture has its origins in a response to geography, and our increasing dissociation from local weather/terrain/wildlife just cannot be good for us. Human monoculture is a dead end. Especially spiritually. Fostering strong local economy gives us a chance at maintaining local control of our environments.

And -- one thing I miss about how Christmas used to be, even 30 years ago, is caroling. My friends and I did it often, spontaneously, sometimes making up feminist or political lyrics which always went over well because people are frickin' THRILLED to have someone come to their door and just sing for them. It was a great way to teach children carols, it wasn't anything like the canned carols because it was a group shared activity, and it was spending the evening giving to your community.

kat said...

So, I'm suspending my war on christmas just long enough to coo over the card that my piano students gave me. It's just a note card, with their picture glued to it, and both my name and the word "christmas" are misspelled. It's really obvious that they did it themselves, and it's adorable.

The day they were taking the christmas card picture, I pulled up to their house to find the mom dressed up but in fuzzy bedroom slippers, the oldest kid whining about not wanting to always have the first lesson, the youngest kid all dressed up but zooming around on her scooter, almost knocking people over, and the middle girl, in a party dress, hair combed (which never happens), diving head first into the neighbor's hedge to try to drag the cat out for the picture......

I love my little motley crew of students, they're too cute.

Caroling to those of us in music world means getting hired to stand around (often in Dickensian garb, for some weird reason) and serenade people, most of whom don't care. It's a little depressing. And we're so sick of the bloody "Messiah" that we've made up rude alternate texts ("There were shepherds imbibing in the fields, drinking scotch on the rocks by night" is my favorite).

Asparagus is always organic? who knew?

Jana C.H. said...

Kat-- The Messiah? Watch the Flying Sasquatch. My next edition will forgo obscure trivia in favor of my original filk, "The Impeachment Chorus".

Jana C.H.
Saith JcH: Let's impeach 'em! Let's impeach 'em! Let's impeach 'em, Let's impeach 'em, Cheney and Bush!

Jana C.H. said...

Christmas carols as muzak. ARRRRRG! Worse than regular muzak because I know all the words and my brain insists on singing along.

Something I like about the holidays but has happened to me only once or twice: get-togethers where people sing carols, not as the main purpose but just as part of the fun.

Jana C.H.
Saith JCH: All parties without activities are tiresome.

kat said...

yeah, humans as muzak.....no fun....

I don't know if that's better or worse than the other holiday singing, which is feigning devotion at catholic and episcopal churches in exchange for lots of money (well, lots for a musician, which is quite small by some standards). At least in that situation, you're more likely to sing good, interesting music instead of just the standards.

At the caroling gig this weekend, we sang the wrong verse to O Come All Ye Faithful. You're supposed to do the "sing choirs of angels" thing, but instead we sang the satan verse.....oops.

shadocat said...

the "satan" verse? there's a satan verse? Do tell...

silvio soprani said...

I can play "Bring the Torch" ("Un Flambeau, Jeanette, Isabella..." learned it in high school french class!)--on my accordion. It is one of my favorites too. If we both had mics and cameras, we could jam online! (sorry, I am not the hi-tech yet!)

I am determined to make another Maoist Orange Cake to commemorate our friendship and the way it got started. Must wait for next paycheck to buy the oranges, the honey, and the almonds. Perhaps it will be a New Year's Maoist Orange Cake!

At which time will post some sort of picture of it here.
Until then,

kat said...

oops, wrong song. We messed up O come all ye faithful, too (we did the god from god, light from light eternal verse that no one ever does, except in a church service).

It was the other "O Come" song....hehheehee....sorry, momentary childish reaction. Oh Come O come Emmanuel has a verse about Satan's tyranny and how jesus is gonna throw down, or some shit like that....I'm paraphrasing.

yeah, Silvio, I'm in the same boat. I'd love to be baking, but it just won't happen right now. Maybe I'll give New Year's cookies instead of Christmas cookies.....no one would mind, right? Or just claim that I'm observing Russian/Serbian Christmas (6th of January)....

geogeek said...

I've hated Christmas passionately for about 20 years, but find that some of the passion has gone out. Interestingly, I think this is partly because I manage to stay out of the retail and musical frenzy (good) and becuase there aren't very many kids in teh family these last few years (not so good). I am thinking of sending real cards through the mail for Perihelion, which is Jan. 2 this year.

silvio soprani said...

Dear Kat (and Geogeek)--

I want to affirm the perpetuation of obscure holidays. I have an old college friend who for years has celebrated Easter by sending all her friends and family homemade cards that affirm rebirth, growing things, Spring, etc.

I personally lost touch with Easter after growing up; to me it was always about being bought a new Easter outfit (and the hated hat) and perhaps a chocolate bunny or two.

But after receiving my friend's cards year after year, I really began to privately celebrate the return of flowers and crops and grass...and perhaps there was an element of middle age in this also--the returning Spring does truly seem like a miracle once the bloom is off the rose, so to speak.

Anyway, Kat, I never seem to have the money to send Christmas cards every year. I used to feel really guilty when I would receive them from my far flung friends. I would feel like, "they really value me; why can't I manage to prioritize the 20 or 30 bucks it takes to buy, write, and send cards?"

Then I began waiting until New Year's week (next paycheck after Christmas!) and I would send out "congratulations on the new year and I wish you lots of prosperity and fulfillment" kind of of greetings. I am sure they are still just as welcome.

The important thing, i think, is to make the opportunity to tell your loved ones that you love them. And while people may say you should treat your friends well all year, what's wrong with taking one special occasion a year to make a big deal out of it?

personally, I love receiving a card that says "I value our friendship."

And not everyone is lucky enough to have been welcomed into the Moist Orange Cake blog. So we must all get our strokes where we can.

Everybody, I have to confess at this point that I have a real problem expressing the negative most times. I was brought up to believe "if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all." As hard as I have tried to surmount this conditioning, I have not and perhaps can not. So if I disappear from time to time, it is most likely because I am trying to deal with negative feelings in the comfort of anonymity, even though isolation is not comforting at all.

But I do appreciate how you all let it all hang out, and i will catch up in my own time.

In the meantime, I am reading, even if not always posting.



little gator said...

My mother lives in senior housing and gets a bunch of cards every year from a local class of sixth graders(for non USAns, that's about age 12)

All handmade and many hilarious.

"Dear Mrs. ****- How are you ? Fine." was my fave.

kat said...

similarly, gator, I got the best tardy slip ever from a 5th grader at the beginning of the week:
reason: "School started before I got there."

kat said...

Different holiday, but I hates this nonetheless:

Did anyone hear the little story on NPR yesterday about a friendship disintegrating? The one where a woman said that her friend suggested The Most Awful Halloween Costume Ever?
The two were going to go as a pregnant lady and

get this

a "sexy" midwife.

a sexy midwife?????
what the fuck????????????

okay, now back to your regularly scheduled Sunday morning.

april said...

Coming on this thread a bit late, I know, but...

Kat I feel a certain instant kinship with you based on our mutual loathing of xmas, erm, "traditions" which are irritating, wasteful and just plain dumb.

I would sign up to Dumbledore's army in a heartbeat. We can go tripping about the streets at midnight, waving our multicoloured pom poms and softly chanting, "Solstice is the reason for the season (you morons)"... I would string fairy lights in all the trees, while simultaneously dismantling all those appalling nativity cut-outs.

Then we would block the signals on all holiday-themed TV shows (except the most witheringly satirical), all muzak speakers humming "Jingle Bell Rock" and every person's voice saying "Merry Xmas" until Dec 25th.

Then (my DA work is never done) take all those Lexus with ribbons on top, and hock (or ebay!) them to buy Chinese and party hats for kids.

Sigh, that's better. Now I love the holidays.