Merry Fake Christmas
By: Alexandra Hall
Plenty of people look forward to the holidays as a time of meaningful authenticity. Me? I’ve been faking my way through the season since college. Not on the emotional front; on the contrary, I go all waterworks just watching the Grinch have his epiphany, every time. What I’m talking about is all the other expectations that come with Christmas: the hyper-cute, straight-from-the-heart-because-it’s-homemade crap that supposedly defines the holiday. These Martha Stewart–mandated gifts and crafts and food and doodads and decorations are supposed to warm our souls but actually just make me feel guilty for not having the time to make them. And yet admittedly, there’s no denying that the season just isn’t the same without it.
Exhibit A: The “from-scratch” chocolate-drizzled macaroons I slaved over for hours, which were actually born of an ultra-easy mix from Stonewall Kitchen and, in fact, took me 20 minutes to make. No one will recognize them (in spite of Stonewall’s ubiquity), because I doctored their chocolate blanket with cardamom and cinnamon — which lends an unusual spice to their sweetness, not to mention an oh-so-inventive luster of originality.
Another case in point? The white chocolate pretzels I’m giving coworkers and neighbors. Their coating’s a tad uneven, so they look hand-dipped. And actually, they are — just not by me. Instead they’re made by someone in Stowe, Vermont, behind the counter at Mountain Cheese & Wine. I stumbled upon these treats one weekend, gasped at their cuteness (each bunch comes in a cellophane bag tied with a pretty red ribbon), realized they were just $2.95 each, and promptly bought 20. If anyone asks, they took me all weekend to dip and package.
Home décor and party hosting gets the fake-homemade treatment, too. My porch is wrapped in pine boughs that look straight out of a Town & Country spread, and come pre-twined from Brookline’s Allandale Farm. I did the easy part — the hanging — and saved myself a solid eight hours. For my holiday open house, am I seriously going to muck up my oven by baking a gooey Brie-and-chutney in phyllo? Please. That’s why the Whole Foods cheese department was invented. (And, for the record, their fig paste with a wheel of Isigny Ste. Mère is far tastier than that tired baked monstrosity, anyway.)
These half-truths even extend to my own head…literally. The last time I had two hours to sit in a chair while someone created an updo on me was for my wedding. The next best thing? Hair jewelry. Style your locks as usual, add one strategically placed sparkly bobby pin, and voilá — you suddenly look like you put in the effort to create a festive ’do.
If any of the above dishonesty comes off as contrary to the spirit of holidays, I submit this: The time saved by such lies means I actually get to chill and make merry with my family. And if that’s not a sacrifice worthy of Gift of the Magi, I don’t know what is.