A Taste Of Christmas

This is the first Christmas I've spent in the US in eleven years. I wrote a bit about our family's Christmas journey three years ago. We took a break from our annual year end family travel adventure to break in a ski house we bought this spring. The snow isn't great but we've got ten people here, a fire burning, and a Christmas tree up (the first one we've put up in a while).

I must say I've enjoyed getting a taste of Christmas after a self imposed fast. We did a "secret santa" instead of everyone getting presents for everyone. That worked out great. The Gotham Gal prepared a traditional Christmas feast last night. We've had Zooey and Matt's holiday record on repeat play. And we played games together untl late in the evening.

Regular readers know I'm not a believer of any religion. But I am a fan of the traditions and celebrations that come with religion. I enjoy sitting through a passover seder and I certainly enjoy the year end holiday traditions that come with the Christmas season. Anything that can get people together, talking, laughing, and just hanging out together is a great thing.

So whatever faith or non-faith that you subscribe to, I wish you a warm and loving year end holiday.

#Random Posts

Comments (Archived):

  1. Dale Allyn

    Merry Christmas, Fred, to you and your family. Happy Holidays to you and all AVC’ers. Wishing all a Healthy, Happy and Disruptive 2012. Thanks for sharing your great community with all. 

  2. Rohan

    I love Charlie’s suggestion! Sending everyone a VERY Merry Christmas wish from Thailand! :DI have lovely memories of Christmas.. thanks to having spent the first few years of my life studying in a Convent. Lots of caroling.. and fun times. :)Have a good one, everyone! Off to have dinner now! 🙂

    1. Dale Allyn

      Merry Christmas, Rohan. I just left Thailand (a couple of weeks ago). Reading in today’s news of high waves in southern Thailand, so stay off the beach. ;)I’ll be back there next month or early February, I suspect. Cheers!

      1. Rohan

        Wow Dale! Do you live and work in Asia?

        1. Dale Allyn

          Rohan, I have spent a lot of time in Thailand. I maintain an apartment there, though spend much less time there since the downturn in the economy (and focusing on a new project). Some of my work is based there. I like Thailand and the Thai people very much. 

          1. Rohan

            Ah wonderful, Dale. :)That’s nice. I know whom to contact for tips next time I plan to get here.. haha

          2. Dale Allyn

            I’m always happy to help if I can, Rohan. Enjoy your stay in Thailand!

    2. Carl J. Mistlebauer

      Rohan….I spent the Christmas of 1984 in Thailand!  I hope that you are enjoying yourself and that the Thai’s are overcoming the devastation of the flooding…Merry Christmas to you!

      1. Rohan

        Ah. Christmas of 1984.. I’m sure you have great memories.. 🙂 The Thai’s are resilient folk, I think. Their history demands that of them… Lovely place to be.. Merry Christmas right back! 🙂

    3. ShanaC

      What were you doing in a Convent?And Thailand looks beautiful!

      1. Rohan

        Heh. Studied in a convent. 🙂 Very common to have day schools run by Christian missionaries in India. :)They used to be very very good and sought after back then as well as you usually came out with very good English and good manners.:)And Thailand is!!

        1. Donna Brewington White

          You never cease to amaze me.  The nuns (or missionaries) did their job well!Merry Christmas, Rohan.

          1. Rohan

            Awww. Actually, credit where it’s due. My mom takes the cake for the good stuff. 😉 Merry Christmas indeeeeed! 😀

        2. ShanaC

          Ah, well, that is true! You do have good manners. 🙂

          1. Rohan

            Awww. I’d credit my mom for that.. 😉

    4. JLM

      Thailand, very sweet.  Merry Christmas, traveler.

      1. Rohan

        Thanks dear JLM.My girlfriend’s getting indoctrinated into Star Wars this trip! 😀

    5. Mark Essel

      Happy year end festival Rohan :D!

      1. Rohan

        Indeed, dear Mark. To you too!! 

  3. William Mougayar

    There’s a certain magic about Christmas that I think is very unique to it. For me, as a Catholic, the early years were about the Christmas midnight mass as an altar boy who sang the Christmas carols. Then it was about our ski house with the family. And now it’s about travelling thousands of miles for family reunions, almost I missed the last 2 and skyped away instead.The other best thing about Christmas is the chocolate Christmas log (Buche de Noel) with all the little decorations on it.

    1. Brandon Burns

      We’re in the same boat, fellow Catholic. But midnight mass has made its way back into my routine. My parents still live 2 blocks from the church I grew up in so, as my mom says, there’s no excuse!

    2. Donna Brewington White

      “There’s a certain magic about Christmas that I think is very unique to it.”I know what you mean, William.  I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas — love some parts of it, annoyed by others.  But there is, for me, an undeniable magic, even when I am going through the motions, that eventually ropes me in.  I immediately saw the picture of you in my mind as an altar boy.  Nice picture.Merry Christmas!

      1. William Mougayar

        Thanks Donna. Wishing you and yours the very best wishes for Christmas.

  4. Brandon Burns

    Thanks to the AVC community for the gift of shared wisdom. Knowledge is the most precious gift one can give or receive, and we’re lucky to have this special place to partake in that exchange on not only this day, but every other. The gift that keeps on giving!Happy Holidays!

  5. ShanaC

    Merry Holidays!Hmm, I’m being boring.  I’m a soft atheist jewish girl, so movies for me.  Putting some work together too. Maybe throw in some gym time.My mom isn’t making latkes this year (she makes great latkes), because she’s on a diet (and has lost the weight, go mom).  I think the biggest deal we’re making is a family trip the first of january to death valley.Does anyone know where to get a cowboy hat in NY before then.  Sun…Either way, Merry Holidays (and awesome tree, fred)

    1. Brandon Burns

      There’s a vintage store on 1st ave, forgot where exactly but its on the east side btwn 11th and 13th ish… they always have cowboy hats and boots. Happy shopping!

      1. ShanaC

        ooo, thanks.  This is just to keep the sun out when hiking.

    2. andyidsinga

      ohh …thats gonna be an awesome trip!

      1. ShanaC

        i hope so, though it will leave me off the grid for a few days (which I may need)

    3. Mark Essel

      Good times, enjoy the trip to DV.

  6. Tom Labus

    Merry Christmas everyone.I hope that you have a joyous day and are with your family.We have both sides of our family here today and assorted friends so it’s a full house.  Getting everyone around the table will be tight but will be fun.There are great smells coming from the kitchen already!!!

  7. Brandon Burns

    404 Error… disqus on android is buggy. :-/

    1. ShanaC

      🙁 Well, hope the rest of your day is better!

  8. Harry DeMott

    I’m with you – escaped religion as soon as I was able (brought up strict Catholic – became a cynic on organized religion) – but love the trappings of tradition.Last night we went to “Gods Acre” in our town, a spit of land surrounded by churches and everyone who is around comes in to sing carols as a town. Very old school New England and really nice.My British in-laws are in so it was crackers at dinner with silly hats and bad jokes.Just a really nice time all around.

    1. ShanaC

      Me too about traditions, this is just the wrong time of year for me.  I have very very strong feelings about passover.  But that is far away

  9. Peter Sullivan

    So right about what culture brings. I’ve come up out of the closet as an atheist the last few years but I still keep traditions close. As I continue to live around the world I find other nations cultures so interesting to take part of. However, in the end I am more amused and excited about how much we are all alike on the basic levels, than focusing on our distinctions. We all want love, laughter, conversation, and a feeling of being together. Merry Christmas…

  10. Carl J. Mistlebauer

    A couple of months ago while entertaining we got on a discussion of the depression and I shared my story of my Grandfather, who as plant manager during the depression was pretty well off in his small town, but every payday he divided his paycheck in three parts, one part was for living expenses, another for savings, and the third he divided up and passed out to neighbors who were unemployed.One of my guests mentioned that we should do the same thing for Christmas in our neighborhood.  So, we found 25 families who were suffering through unemployment and or other devastation and we delivered complete Christmas dinners and gifts to them last night.  We focused on families who lived in close proximity to us and we also “spied” on them to make sure we knew how many kids and their ages).We wanted to do something as neighbors, not as a church and not as a charity…just neighbors  as neighbors.  We didn’t want to involve anyone else and no publicity….we ended up with one Muslim family (“Merry Christmas and Allah Akbar”) and two Buddhist families….Now I know why my grandfather was such a grump;  to come face to face with the reality of our economic devastation so close to your own home, to realize that every single family we came into contact with was hard working, educated, and struggling due to no fault of their own.  All I can think this morning is, “…There but for the grace of God go I….” and I haven’t been in a church in over 25 years.Merry Christmas to my AVC neighbors:  I like the concept of “neighbors” much more than “community” now…..I now have a huge freezer in my garage that I bought a couple of weeks ago that I have to donate to a charity next week….. 

    1. JLM

      And how does this may YOU feel, Carl?Well played and well done!It will all come back to you ten thousand fold over.  

      1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

        JLM,Its funny, its never been about “feelings” to me; its always been about getting things done: Problems, process, and solutions.Its like in high school and playing in the state championship; while everyone else was getting all emotional and psyched up, I was basically studying my opponent, who was much more talented than I, and figuring out exactly what I had to do to overcome his talent and win the game.Emotions are only tools used to motivate, they should never be a logic for action. You do what you do because you can, because its your innate nature; thus I leave all the “feel good” stuff to my wife.Right now I want to know why capitalism is not maximizing the potential of these obviously hard working and intelligent “natural resources” and our greatest natural resource.

        1. Tereza

          I actually do attribute a bit more to the emotional side…but your resource argument is very, very apt and worth heeding.

    2. Rohan

      What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing, Carl. 🙂

    3. Donna Brewington White

      This story is both heartwarming and sobering, Carl.  Perfect for a Christmas day.  You have inspired me.  Merry Christmas!

    4. fredwilson

      A great story of holiday giving and generosity. Very inspirational Carl. Thanks for sharing it.

    5. Tereza

      Carl what a moving story. Thank you for sharing.It’s true people are suffering around us but quiet, for their pride. At our church they did emergency collections because the local food pantries are stretched — 3x usual demand and a fraction of the usual donations. These are not places you’d expect this. These are neighborhoods that look shiny + happy on the outside.Hunger in our own neighborhoods is a quiet fact right now. People are trying to hold onto their homes which are underwater and challenged to buy food. Really sad.

      1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

        It was very hard for me to realize how close to my own home the current economic turmoil had reached. I had no idea that in my own neighborhood, in homes that I drive by every day, people that I wave to when I see them, that the loss and suffering was happening….

    6. Mark Essel

      Nice move Carl, glad you and your neighbors were so generous. I can hardly imagine giving away a third of my salary, my yearly donations are under 5% gross. Your grandpa was a force!Grounding how thin the line between having and not having is. A strong community is the only security.

      1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

        Mark,My Grandfather was a very odd man….He was an engineer who designed and built his own home in the 1920’s and in the 1960’s he had adopted solar power.My mother and her brothers are the only people of the depression generation who I have ever met who have absolutely no stories of the depression.When corporate informed my grandfather that he had to lay off workers, he converted the lay offs into work hours and then got the company to agree that he did not have to lay off anyone as long as he did not exceed work hours, so he then got all the employees to agree to reduced work hours and wages and kept everyone employed.He paid cash for everything and while Main Street was four blocks away he referred to it as “…going into town.”When he retired he became a real supporter of the back to the land movement and he moved out of town and established what I refer to as his “commune” where he basically “tinkered” with ideas such as carbon footprint, renewable resources, organic gardening, and such.Spending the summer with him was like going to science camp; I remember spending one summer developing ways to capture rain water and implementing irrigation systems for crops that would maximize water conservation and I was about 15 years old….

  11. Conrad Ross Schulman

    Cheers Fred, Happy Holidays. Let’s have some fun when you get back

  12. awaldstein

    A great holiday to all…Christmas and New Year’s day are my favorite to spend in NYC.An unusual but natural stillness.Quietness as art is my theme of the day.Christmas day schedule–Gym. Hanging out. Picking the wine selection for a Channukah get together tonight. Life feels good.

    1. William Mougayar

      Stillness and quietness…Well said.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Most of my quiet, still moments of late have been in the middle of the night spent “making a list and checking it twice.”  Actually, lists plural.  I guess there are seasons to life. Merry Christmas! Happy Channukah!

      1. awaldstein

        Same to you Donna.

    3. Mark Essel

      Enjoying this time of year. Great slow down.Got a cold hike by the sound in with Michelle yesterday, she’s back at work after a long weekend visiting our families and eating well.

      1. awaldstein

        Have a great one Mark.Lot’s of planning for next year for me. Focused more than busy. Never been good at relaxing…

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Doesn’t seem as though the holidays are complete until we’ve had a good family hike!  Happy Holidays to you and Michelle, Mark!  

  13. Dennis Buizert

    Merry seasonal days to everyone. I landed yesterday morning from my vacation/internship finding trip. Slept for 14 hours without having to worry abou family vistis. I love that everyone is of a certain age that xmas presents are irrelevent. Even though i gave my family gifts, because going on vacation requires you to do so. So got my stepdad japanse single malt and my mom nd brother a shirt from nintendo world plus a book/ watch.Hope everyone will have a great extended weekend or off day. If you have to work, i hope you will get friendly customers!

  14. JLM

    There is a funny thought that comes into my head every year at Christmas.  Please do not begin commitment proceedings.  I don’t think I am crazy.  Yet.Christ was a carpenter and I cannot stop speculating as to what kind of carpentry He did.I am a bit of a wood butcher myself and can frame, floor, deck, trim, hang doors, install windows, build stairs and build a few cabinets. All very slowly, mind you.I particularly revere finishing wood as it can transform otherwise pedestrian work into masterpieces and it is an exercise in cleverness.So, I keep imagining Jesus working on a home building project and the foreman calling over to Jesus — “Hey, Jesus, will you measure up those roof beams and cut the birds’ mouths?”The birds mouth is where the roof beam meets the top plate of a wall and has a notch cut into it to sit flush on top of the top plate.  They are a bit tricky to get right.Did Jesus really measure it or did He just know the correct dimension?If He were building some cabinets, did He haggle on the price?  Was He a good businessman in addition?  Did He ever get stiffed on payment?  Was His work level and plumb?OK, Merry Christmas to all AVCers!  No more eggnog!

    1. Rohan

      Hehe. Merry Christmas JLM.So many questions..’The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask.’ 😉

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Well, JLM, this is a more elaborate version of WWJD than I think I have ever heard.I am not an expert on Jesus, but I do know that in general, you can tell a lot about a person’s character and values by how they approach their work.  You can also get a good sense about how they perceive other people.  There is also the question of whether a person’s work is predominantly a way of getting or of giving. I would imagine impeccable work.”Haggling” with someone committed to truth and who can read minds might look like:  “This is worth X, you can afford X, so the price is X. Take it or leave it.”  The measurement part leaves me stumped.BTW, I do not think you are crazy.  Merry Christmas!

    3. Shawn Cohen

      Jesus was a good Jewish man, like some of us here are striving to be. He probably took the highest law in Torah as his motto: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 🙂

  15. Aaron Klein

    Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of my friends at AVC. You’ve gotta love it when a community is so vibrant that “I’ve gotta stop by the bar and send best wishes to my pals.”My kids are 4 and 2 so Christmas is a busy one for us. A full day at the inlaws yesterday, this morning with ourselves and now on to Christmas Day with my folks.Our morning started like this. Me: “I think Santa has been here…” Four year old: “I know! I looked out the window and there’s a new jungle gym!”

    1. Mark Essel

      Hahah, merry Xmas!

  16. Rohan

    PS: Fred, just read the old Christmas post.That was very well written.. 🙂 Thanks for linking..

  17. matthughes

    My circles, like many, are a mixed bag of traditions and beliefs.Even my marriage is somewhat ‘mixed’.Being at peace with the traditions and beliefs of family and friends is important.Merry Christmas and happy holidays to AVC.

    1. fredwilson

      Totally agree

  18. tyronerubin

    Happy holidays and thank you everyone for all the wonderful insights and learning you provide on a daily basis.

  19. Darren Herman

    Happy holidays to all.

  20. RichardF

    Merry christmas everyone.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Happy Christmas, Richard! 

      1. RichardF

        You too Donna

  21. FlavioGomes

    This Christmas has been particularly enjoyable. Warmest regards to you and family and the avc community.Merry ChristmasFlavio

  22. Otto

    I’m new at commenting here but I’ve been reading AVC for most of this year. I’ve learned a lot by reading Fred’s posts and the insightful comments that follow. It’s now part of my daily routine and something I look forward to. Thank you to the AVC community and Merry Christmas.

    1. fredwilson

      I hope you continue to drop into the comments in the new year

    2. Shawn Cohen

      I’m in the same boat as Otto, exactly what I was thinking:)



    1. fredwilson

      Not egg nog?



    2. Mark Essel

      Happy Beer Excess Food year end week!

  24. Donna Brewington White

    Fred, I read your older post — shortly before my time at AVC.  It’s interesting how much I resonate even though we are coming from such different places from the standpoint of faith and religion.  Personally, I don’t like to be thought of as “religious” but realize that my beliefs would probably classify me as such by some.  For awhile I sought a minimalist approach to Christmas — wanting to stay true to the meaning and not get caught up in the consumerism and materialism.  Couldn’t always figure out how to separate the “traditions” from the excesses.  Having children has forced me to try.  They love Christmas!  So, for me, Christmas has become a sacrifice of love — I dive in!  My goal is to keep Christmas meaningful, loving, caring, fun!  I have given in to lavishing my kids, walking the fine line between generosity and consumerism or materialism.  Not sure I fully succeed, but the gifts do reflect an awareness of who they are and what matters to them.  My 10 y.o. cried when he opened one of his gifts — this made my day.  I want them to associate Christmas with lavish love.  But I want it to be real.  That’s big for us, keeping it real.Now off to prepare dinner (I cheat with meat prepared in the kitchen of a local gourmet market for me to reheat).  The day would not have been complete without stopping by AVC.  So glad you posted today, Fred, and that the community — and some new commenters (yay!) — shared as well. We need to celebrate every chance we get.  Life is short.Merry Christmas everyone!

    1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

      Donna,Everything I learned about Christmas I learned from my father….Being in the military he wasn’t involved in our lives all that much and one Christmas, the one my family refers to as “that” Christmas, which was his first after returning from his second tour of duty in Vietnam, was the Christmas where the living room and dining room floors were wall to wall gifts! I was 14 at the time and “that” Christmas made me a firm believer in Santa Claus!I asked my Dad about “that” Christmas once and he told me that Christmas was always the time where he could make up for all the things that he missed in our lives and to let us know that he really loved us.Christmas is the time that we get to make up for all the times we are too busy to be the people that we want to be.It is a time of excess and it should be. I think you have done a great job and it sounds like your 10 year old is going to continue the tradition….When you can smile at a stranger, or make a child squeal in delight, or when you can bridge the cultural gap and share your joy at Christmas time with someone who does not share your traditions or language then you truly have experienced the spirit of the season.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Beautiful, Carl.  Thank you.

    2. fredwilson

      i often think that Christmas is for kids. i know that it is a lot more than that. but certainly the magic of Christmas is best experienced as a kid or through the eyes of a child.

  25. Shahan

    You’re a guiding light Fred. Best to you and yours.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks Shahan

  26. Brad

    Love the secret Santa idea. We have done that for years It is great memories for the kids and reminds us how truly blessed we are.Sorry about the snow, it has been a warm dry winter. January will probably great.

  27. daryn

    Merry Christmas Fred! My best to you and the family.  Also, congrats on the house – I was going to comment on one of GG’s blog photos the other day that it looked like you rented a nice place this year, or at least a great kitchen!

    1. fredwilson

      as you well know, the kitchen is the heart of any home that the gotham gal creates

  28. David Noël

    Merry christmas and happy holidays to you and your family, Fred!Can’t believe I have been reading your blog for six years. Thank you for showing up every day and thanks to all AVC neighbors (I like ‘neighbors’, @tao69:disqus ) for helping me to learn a little bit every day.

    1. fredwilson

      six years? wow. that makes you a veteran. back then the number of readers was counted in the hundreds, maybe single thousands.

      1. David Noël

        Yup, beginning of 2006 if I remember correctly, my first year in tech

        1. Mark Essel

          Ha, old timer. I only began reading in late 2008, and commenting in 2009.Enjoy every moment of the Holidays, merry Xmas and happy new year.

          1. David Noël

            And to you, Mark!

  29. andyidsinga

    “…I’m not a believer of any religion. But I am a fan of the traditions and celebrations that come with religion”same goes for me :)Happy holidays AVCers – be good!

  30. Tereza

    Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and a splendid everything else.Been quiet on the AVC boards as there is simply just too much to do.Hey Fred I heard GG did the chicken paprikash?

    1. fredwilson

      that dish was fantastic. she blogged it. thanks for giving her the recipe

  31. Jean Tupas

    In my humble opinion, everybody loves Christmas no matter what your beliefs are (except of course Mr. Grinch :p). Christmas is a time of sharing and giving; loving and forgiving!Also, who wouldn’t love A Very She and Him Christmas? I am glad to know that you listened to them, too, for Christmas! 🙂

  32. Esayas Gebremedhin

    I wish you merry x-mas Fred and AVC community. May 2012 be as wicked as this year!

  33. panterosa,

    My winter holiday is the solstice. But cheers to those who celebrate all they celebrate, at AVC and beyond. I especially like Fred’s perspective on just being together to break bread.I read this piece from yesterday’s Op-Ed this morning about Dickens and Xmas. I have been on vacation, which means from electronics as well, which is fitting for this time of year. I don’t much care for Victorian Christmas so I was surprised to really dig the piece so much. http://www.nytimes.com/2011… the story referenced, Dickens talks about vulnerability, a part of life we don’t celebrate, but rather avoid at all costs. Now, from reading this piece, I feel we should embrace the vision Dickens puts forth in the piece which is referenced. The vision resonates as a collective community which we can become, which has a collective memory and collective aspirations, simply by subscribing to the vision as individuals. A very modern idea which I think finds a home in places like AVC. Not sure if you all would agree, so I’d love your thoughts. And happy whatever to all of you here. Being out of touch with AVC for 10 days was rather lonely.

  34. FlavioGomes

    We have a full house of family and friends. Several years ago we abandoned the gifts save for the little ones. We now focus almost exclusively on preparing the finest of food and the best wines from the cellar. Laughing, eating, drinking. The kids making a joyous ruckus in basement building cushion forts with rosy cheeks and the perspiration kids get when they’re having fun being carefree. The fellas head out and fire up the snowmobiles but this year snow is lacking. So we take night hikes through the forest by the beautiful gorge by my home. Smoking cigars and taking turns with the scotch flask. On our return, the girls will have selected a few hours of music and we dance to waltzes and pop music. We’re content and happy and reflect on our friendships.Just a little something I did as a replacement for gift cards to our family friends. Done in my little home studio. Thought I’d share with you.http://www.youtube.com/watc

  35. Mark Essel

    We visited Michelle’s folks for 7 fish of Xmas eve, my folks Christmas day traditional ham, and I caught up with grandma in her rest home Christmas eve squared (she’s battling later stage Alzheimer’s but still enjoys pudding).Plenty of smiles on the whole family, enjoying each other’s company.

  36. fredwilson

    wow. that sounds fantastic. we need to adopt some of those traditions!