I mean – it’s been a long year, no?
But Christmas is here, and it is officially time for reflection and celebration. Here goes.
Christmas at Catering by Michaels
I have been with Catering by Michaels for around ten years, and I’ve seen some changes. One thing that remains the same: we do Christmas right! Each year our culinary team creates new and innovative items for our special holiday menu; our pastry chef practically moves into his pastry kitchen and spends every waking hour making assorted Christmas cookies, cakes, pies – oh my!
And my dedicated full-service sales force puts together some uber-creative and very special corporate and social holiday events. The place buzzes with energy – phones ringing nonstop, answered by our stalwart and steadfast delivery specialists. These ladies Get. It. Done. Our kitchens chug nonstop, pushing out countless pounds of roasted tenderloin, steamed crab claws, house-poached yummy shrimps.
In my sales department, our dedicated Director of Development sneaks in when we aren’t looking and leaves lovely Christmas and Hanukkah decorations in our shared spaces. We do a candle exchange (which always ends in hilarity), a cookie contest (which ends with us lugging dozens of amazing creations home to our families), and stop to share some wine and bubbles with each other as often as we can, in between phones a-ringing and events a-running and client gifts a-slinging.
I’ll spare you the overused platitudes about how different this year has been from any other. You know it. I know it. Catering by Michaels is a completely changed place. Catering as a concept is completely changed – FOR NOW.
But I will still sneak around and (safely!) put little gifts on all of my colleages’ desks. I will still bring in a couple bottles of bubbly that we will (safely!) share together. And we will continue to celebrate our successes. These successes are smaller but not diminished; they are a little quieter but no less important – because Catering by Michaels is chugging along, making great food, and being an integral part of our clients’ celebrations.
Christmas at home
John’s furloughs as a lieutenant with the Chicago Fire Department have almost always been early in the year, so Christmas is a local affair for us, and sometimes a lonely one, at that, when he is working on Christmas day. This year…well, there is nothing about this year that is typical, is there? But John will be working on Xmas Eve and home Christmas morning.
We go in for the usual bits during the holidays – there is a tree with decorations, there are lights, there is eggnog with brandy and cinnamon. (One bit of hilarity is John cannot keep a secret. I know well in advance what’s wrapped under the tree. I beg and beg to have one surprise…and then he tells me anyway.)
We will have coffee with Baileys and light a fire – but will stop short of presenting the cat with any presents. After all, she doesn’t have thumbs to open the wrapping.
One of our favorite parts of the holiday experience is Bing Crosby. It tracks that John would love a crooner who got his start as the face and voice of American post-Depression & post-WWII can-do and stick-to-it-tive-ness. I often refer to John as my Depression-era husband: he’s old-timey and says things like “watch the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves” with a straight face. Essentially my life partner is Ben Franklin, without the sexy eyeglasses.
Bing Crosby’s voice is like a hug from hot buttered rum. It’s deep and resonant and meaningfully noncontroversial. He was, at his time, the most popular artist in music and film. And his voice and visage became synonymous with Christmas. As such, our two favorite Christmas experiences are White Christmas and “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.”
If you have not seen the movie White Christmas, what the holly are you waiting for? Like other musicals from 1954, this movie is pure pablum, dipped in fluff, rolled in candy. There is one song, called “Snow,” that is the most nonsense experience you will have in your life; the musical that the actors are staging to save the old, retired general’s ski lodge (it’s a play within a play…stick with me, here) is pure nonsense, with staged numbers that have absolutely no common theme except Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen’s songs-and-dances. Seriously – this movie is pure cheese. And it is perfect. Until Bing and company come out in their charmingly matchy red Santa outfits at the end and sing “White Christmas” surrounded by awkwardly dancing ballerina girls in front of an open barn door in an inexplicably huge ski chalet in a terrible Vermont stage set, is it really Christmas?
The duet of Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” is one of the most surreal pairings in the history of music. Bing Crosby was the grandfather of popular music, a crooner’s crooner, a consummate hat-wearing, bespoke-suited, buddy-movie family man. And Bowie? A button-pushing, sexually fluid trend-smashing fashion icon and musical genius known as The Thin White Duke and Ziggy Stardust. These two are unlikely. But this song is iconically, perfectly Christmas. These are two masterful voices, generationally removed but harmonious, perfectly-pitched, and complimentary. This song was filmed during Crosby’s last television appearance and became one of Bowie’s greatest-selling hits.
So this Christmas we will Zoom with our families, order a fantastic meal from Catering by Michaels for our yule time dinner, and cue up some Bing Crosby. Pandemic or not – Christmas endures.