Five totally random things that I love about the holiday season that have absolutely bugger-all to do with presents:
1. Clementines. Also called "Algerian tangerines," which sounds so sexy and exotic, doesn't it? There is something so right and perfect about these bright and happy oranges in the wintertime, and especially around Christmas when the nights are at their longest and the little bit of remaining daylight is consumed by stress, fatigue, ennui, and (in my case anyway) the annual bout of seasonal depression. They are easy to peel, easier to snarf down, and I have yet to meet a person who doesn't like them. Even the smell of them is cheery. When I pack my lunches I need to limit myself to only two per day, or I would finish the whole box before I got a single present wrapped.
2. "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits -- the complete 8:26 full-length version. This is a song that I came to adore later in life than I should have; for years, I claimed to "hate" this song because of the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, where this video beat out a-ha's "Take On Me" for Video of the Year. I still contend that the latter video is far superior, but I'd have to (continue to) be an asshole to insist that Knopfler's song isn't infinitely better. Plus, it was parodied by Weird Al, so you know it's good. This song is the perfect antidote for those all-holiday-music-all-the-time radio stations, especially when the stereo is turned up to 11.
3. The smell of snow. I am not a big fan of driving in inclement weather, but after a lifetime of living in the Northeast and especially after four winters in Syracuse, I have learned to love it when the afternoons get cold and the skies turn that particular shade of grey and the air smells clean and frosty. If you close your eyes tight and pay special attention, you can also detect the slightest aroma of rich hot chocolate with extra milk and lots of Marshmallow Fluff and maybe some freshly-baked snickerdoodles. Or maybe that's just me.
4. Old holiday movies on cable. Blasphemer though I may be, I have never been a fan of "It's a Wonderful Life" (face it, Capra was the U.S.'s answer to Leni Riefenstahl, and Riefenstahl was better at her job), but I am apparently genetically programmed to be unable to turn off "A Christmas Story" or "A Muppet Christmas Carol" or "White Christmas" if I come across them. Same with the new classics that I associate with Christmas lately: "Bridget Jones's Diary" and especially "Love Actually."
5. Christmas cards. Love to get them, but I love to send them, too. Even though I usually send out about 850 squillion every year, it is still one of my favorite things to do to prepare for the holidays. Sometimes it takes months to find the perfect cards, sometimes only seconds, but it really is one of my favorite things to do in December. Because I am some kind of masochist or something.