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Holiday Guide

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Photo: Frank Hamilton, License: N/A, Created: 2010:11:10 16:37:17

Frank Hamilton

And how do we know it’s the most wonderful time of the year? Well, because there’s a song about how it’s the most wonderful time of the year. In fact, as soon as Halloween creeps past, the red and green decorations start to go up, the sale prices start to go down, the songs about most wonderful times and silver bells start to play, and it begins to look a lot like Christmas. (Hey, another song.) In fact, it sometimes seems that the massed host of songs, decorations, events, foods and drinks, awkward social situations, and TV specials have come to define the holiday season, despite so many of those same songs and TV specials and so being devoted to reminding us of the True Meaning of Christmas, which is supposed to have nothing to do with all of that stuff to begin with.

When we began thinking about this year’s Holiday Guide issue, we started thinking about what we actually look forward to about the holidays, which are often things that have less to do with The Holidays ™ than with the sometimes incidental events of these weeks that have come to mean something to us, personally. Maybe it’s a drunky meet-up with old friends the night before Thanksgiving, or that pause on Christmas afternoon when it seems like the whole city is quiet and calm. Whatever it might be for us, it’s probably different for you, and frankly that’s why it’s special.

And that’s the thought we had in mind when compiling the Holiday Guide issue: aspects and observances of the holidays that don’t have that much to do with the official holidays. We polled various Baltimoreans on the rites and rituals that give some shape and meaning to the season for them, and sometimes maybe only for them. Anna Ditkoff looked in on Christmas at the House of Ruth, where many families celebrate the season in a way they never could have imagined. Henry Hong explains his bittersweet role as keeper of his family’s Thanksgiving tradition. Lee Gardner gets the other side of the sit-on-Santa’s-lap experience with photographer Mike Newman. Cartoonist Emily Flake details one, um, nontraditional Yuletide. And as always, there are the non-traditional shopping ideas in our gift guide and the mighty Holiday Guide itself, our comprehensive rundown of all the traditional seasonal stuff from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, which is, well, OK, still pretty cool.

“Observe and Report” interviews conducted and/or gift guide blurbs written by Andrea Appleton, Michael Byrne, Laura Dattaro, Lee Gardner, Tim Hill, Joe MacLeod, Bret McCabe, Van Smith, and Wendy Ward. Cover photograph by Frank Hamilton; thanks to Signarama on Light Street for the twirly sign and Son of Santa for twirling it.

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