I am such a Scrooge. I know I am not alone, all you other Scroogies out there. A childhood of two households meant several corresponding Christmas celebrations every year. Christmas lost its magic pretty darn quick. I love Thanksgiving. I love Valentine’s Day, but Christmas?. Not so much. It seems that a lot of my issues with Christmas stem from the whole gift thing.

I wrack my brain for fun gift ideas, but usually miss on several counts every year. Its a battle keeping the number of gifts for each kid fair. This year I have the dilemma that one kid got very expensive snow board equipment which has already been used, where the other is getting a series of things that can be opened on the day. Am I gonna have at least one grumpy kid who forever thinks that he had a lousy childhood, that I loved his sister better than him? Yep.

I was on the phone with my sister the other day and suggested we just do presents for the kids this year. You know, with the economy and all. “Yea, that sounds good, but I already got your present,” she said. Doh! K, so mental note: make the suggestion earlier next year.

And so, I scramble around, trying to keep the NPR piece I heard recently about a book called “Scroogenomics” out of my head. The book that suggests that buying people gifts is a very inefficient way to buy goods. People spend money more efficiently on themselves than they do on other people, with the exception of those that are closest to us. It amounts to tons of waste. More stuff to lug to Goodwill.

I’ve done my best to mitigate this waste in the lives of the people I love. A wine club for my father and stepmother, homemade cookies, jams, and other consumables, and for the rest, I try for practical gifts. I ask people specifically what they want. And like so many of us, leave it all till way too late. I dash to the mall, and after only an hour I have a headache. I go online, hunting out sites that deliver to Canada.

People ask me what I want, and I am always at a loss. I want for nothing. A Paperback is usually my answer. They don’t believe me, but really this is the one present that never fails to make me happy.

And so, the things I do love about Christmas? They never seem to involve the presents. Its the tradition of smoked salmon and cream cheese for breakfast, the Tourtiere (a traditonal French Canadian meat pie) for Christmas Eve dinner (see recipe below) and that lazy time after all the presents have been opened when the kids are engrossed in playing with whatever they received and I am in slippers and a new sweater, flipping through my latest paperback with a giant cup of tea.

Baaaa Humbug.

There are a zillion versions of this, but this recipe works for me every year. Its almost better in left-over form.


* 1 lb ground pork
* 1/2 pound lean ground beef
* 2 medium potatoes, peeled and grated
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
* 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) savory
* 1/4 (1 ml) ground cloves
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
* 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
* Pastry Dough, top and bottom


1. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to break meat into small pieces. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and cool.
3. Roll out chilled dough, and cut two pieces for one 8-inch pie or 8 individual pie plates.
4. Line pie plate with one of pieces of pastry.
5. Fill generously with meat mixture.
6. Top with the other pastry and pinch edges together.
8. Bake at 400 degrees F until golden brown, serve hot.

Its great with Mango Chutney and a green salad.

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  1. annie December 13, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    I have always loved gift giving and am told I give great presents. I think that's because I start shopping in September that way, there is no pressure.

    It is a stressful time of the year and there is pressure to measure up to the myth of the season. I am just letting it be what it is this year. We are striving to keep the consumerism low and not worry about making things "perfect". I struggled a bit with that the last two years with the family blending thing, but I think we have a routine now that we are fairly comfortable with.

    It's impossible to be 100% fair with children. One of them will always end up a little ahead or behind (in their view) at different points. I am not sure if there is a solution, but I think it's normal and all evens out somewhere in adulthood, so try not to overthink it.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. dadshouse December 15, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    I love doing nice things for people, but I hate buying gifts. Xmas is 10 days away, and I haven't even started shopping. I'd rather invite folks for dinner, head out for drinks, go on a nice hike – spend quality time together, rather than tell everyone I'm not available because I'm shopping for stuff they probably don't want or need.

  3. BigLittleWolf December 15, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Our "gifts" of the tangible sort have dwindled in the past few years. And without any issue as children grow older. And understand the realities of financial pressures. This year will be even a little skimpier on the "object" side. In fact, very little – a few practical things I picked up 6 months ago and set aside. Otherwise, a handful of small things, not expensive, I know will make them laugh. And special things to eat.

    I hope there will also be a house filled with teenagers when my son comes home from college at last, in 7 days (but who's counting).

    We will be here, together, at home. At least for a few days. Cookies and chaos and each other. Gift of the best sort.

  4. svs December 17, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    My favorite memories of Christmas were mostly centered around my mother. She would make us paint these ridiculous ceramic tree ornaments…and it wasn't just us kids. If you were a friend coming to our house at Christmas, you'd be painting a tree ornament. I still have an artfully painted ceramic Santa, "Mike Miller-1976" painted on the backside. I wonder what happened to Miller?

    We did a lot of baking too. We would save tins for 6 months. Bean cans, corn cans, chili cans, even dog cans. By Christmas, all of the cans became our baking vessels. Pumpkin bread, zucchini, spice cake, you name it, my mom baked it in a tin can. I remember the excitement of opening my presents and getting the toys I wanted, but it never quite felt like it did when we delivered those baked goodies to the neighbors at Christmas time. This year, next week…I will spend a lot of time baking with my kids. And we too, we deliver our baked goodies, and I will count my blessings. My two sons, my daughter, and my wife.

  5. Rachel December 20, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I thought I was the only divorced kid out there that hated Christmas. I love Love LOVE Thanksgiving but not Christmas. Thanksgiving is an "anybody" holiday but Christmas is more of a "family" holiday and it sucks not having a real family. I feel ya.

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