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When I pulled out the Christmas mugs this year, I noticed that I seem to have a merry fixation. I bought all the mugs pictured above at separate times, not realizing how similar they were in their take-home message.
It got me thinking. Mike and I do PLENTY of things to make the holiday season merry for the kids. I put up lights in our front window this year (yay for crossing off one of the “should-do” items on my December list). We get them chocolate-filled advent calendars. We shop for their presents. We light the menorah and decorate the tree. I put out the bin of Hanukkah and Christmas picture books for nightly reading. But where’s the GROWN-UPS’ merriment?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the glow of the Christmas tree, the hygge-rific-ness of reading Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer together while snuggled under a quilt, the boys’ excitement when they open their presents. But Merriam-Webster’s definition of merry is “full of gaiety or high spirits; mirthful.” For me, merry = fun. While I enjoy doing things that make the boys merry, it isn’t the same as being merry myself. Fun doesn’t fare so well as a vicarious experience (all you who’ve pretended to be a superhero or animal or firefighter in the name of your children’s fun know precisely what I’m talking about).
Going to a Christmas play or a concert would be a merry experience for me. Same with drinking some mulled wine at a European-style Christmas market. But all of those things require getting a babysitter. Having a baby honestly makes going out more trouble than it’s worth. Besides the whole pumping and getting bottles ready bit, there’s planning solid food options, explaining the whole bedtime routine, showing the sitter where to find diapers and burp rags and sleep sacks…just writing it all makes me tired. And that doesn’t even take into account food and bedtime routines for the other two, and making sure the house is in an acceptable-enough state. Plus, the going babysitting rate in Minneapolis is about $15-20/hour, so a three-hour evening out becomes a rather expensive proposition.
So. Where does that leave us with adult merry-making? With a wine advent-ure! There are now a plethora of advent calendars for adults, and I was excited when I discovered this one from Costco:
It set us back about $100, but that’s still way cheaper than, say, dinner, concert tickets, and three hours of babysitting.
There’s a new half-bottle of wine for each day in December. Every evening, either Mike or I treks down to the basement, punches open the little circle, and heads back upstairs to present the day’s variety to the other person.
Before I go any further, let me tell you we are not wine people. I mean, we are in that we enjoy drinking it from time to time, but not in our tastes or our knowledge. Though we did vineyard tours and wine tastings in Italy and Napa back in B.C. (before children) times, both of us our still pretty clueless. I’d say the overall principle that guides our selection at both restaurants and liquor stores is go with the second cheapest option. An aesthetically-pleasing label doesn’t hurt.
This lack of expertise is partly what makes the wine advent-ure so fun. We have no preconceived notions about what we’ll like or not like. And we get a kick out of the over-the top adjectives used in the label descriptions. Some nights feature the typical “notes of plum and cassis” (what the heck is cassis, anyway?) language, but then there are those we can’t even read with a straight face, like “explosively floral,” “chiseled and forward,” or “laser-focused, detailed finish.”
We’ve been keeping a little log, too. Each night, we jot down the name of the wine, the variety, the country of origin, and our ratings. When my mom was here one night last week, she got to give a rating, too. There’s also space to write down any of those choice descriptions that crack us up.
I don’t think Wine Spectator will be clamoring for our log template anytime soon, but it’s fun and it’s uniquely ours. Especially since Nate, in the midst of his very intense drawing phase, ran out of paper one day and resorted to drawing on the back of whatever he could find…flip over our wine log and presto! Smiling french fries.
I want to note that our wine advent calendar is intentionally not an exercise in drinking alcohol for the sake of drinking alcohol. Tonight, feeling a little tired and knowing I wanted to still do some writing, I only had a few sips. It was enough to get a taste and give a rating, but without affecting my functioning. Mike also had work to do, so he did the same.
And on nights when neither of us is wild about the flavor of a particular wine, we dump it. This is about a shared experience, of adding some fun to the adults’ December. Forcing down a drink we’re not enjoying does not qualify as fun.
As of Day 9, I can confidently say I want to go on this type of advent-ure again next year. It’s been a fun bonding experience that provides hours of “gaiety and high spirits” specifically for the adults in our family, all in the comfort and chaos of our own home.
What are you doing to enjoy yourself this holiday season? Plan fun stuff for the kids, but don’t forget yourself! Skip the line to see Santa. Buy the appetizer instead of making one. Then reclaim that time for some bit of festiveness that appeals to the grown-ups. Wishing you many moments of merry and bright this December.