The 24 Trillion Days of Christmas

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University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik gets in the holiday spirit a little earlier every year, and she’s not happy about it.

Just this past week it hit. I considered the steps involved in hiring help for a marketing project I’m working on and thought, This’ll never get done until after the holidays.

Already an uncarved pumpkin sulks on my front porch. Beside my computer lies a free magazine full of Thanksgiving recipes. When I drove my daughter and her friends to Jo-Ann Fabrics for costumes last weekend, the airheads on Z-103 were yapping about their reindeer sweaters. For all productive purposes, the year is over. Only the most dedicated among us will accomplish anything besides gaining weight, wasting money, and managing stress until January.

Once upon a time “the holidays” meant Christmas and New Year’s. Then they tacked on Thanksgiving. Now Halloween has joined the omnibus and it’s frightening to think what’s next. The holiday spirit — that gassy mix of obligation, alienation, and exhaustion, shot through with disorienting flashes of generosity and goodwill — is gaining strength like a hurricane over the Gulf.

I am probably more prepared for this situation than most people, because back when there used to be careers in print journalism, I earned my living writing for women’s magazines that assigned their stories six months in advance. So honestly, I have been wrestling with the urge to produce holiday articles since late May. Yesterday the monkey on my back won, and I wrote a New Year’s piece for Baltimore Style. Today I find myself unable to control my need to give you tips, so tips you will get. Take these seven steps to stretch your holiday resources over the 10 weeks ahead, and to please your man like he’s never been pleased before. Oh — sorry, those were different tips. Maybe next time.

1. Even if you do not get many trick-or-treaters or if you will not be home on October 31, lay in as much Halloween candy as possible. Those miniature Snickers and loosey Starbursts are the over-the-counter Ritalin and Prozac of the holiday season.

2. Preempt Thanksgiving panic by doing as the Texans do: order a Greenberg smoked turkey from It solves the problem of how to get the side dishes and the turkey done at the same time and it’s also really good, unlike regular turkey, which usually ranges from various versions of bad all the way to surprisingly not so bad. Unlike everything else that “cannot go wrong,” the Greenberg smoked turkey cannot go wrong.

3. Do not spend even a minute worrying about your drinking, smoking, failure to exercise and other bad habits. To everything there is a season; this is not that one.

4. One of the more restorative holiday traditions is going to the movies. You didn’t know this was a holiday tradition? Well, now you do. You could start with The Perks of Being A Wallflower, featuring the young god Ezra Miller, whose performance gives an excellent answer to the question of why girls keep falling in love with gay guys, which unlike holiday to-do lists has not been given enough attention in the media. The soundtrack (David Bowie, Cocteau Twins and the Smiths) provides relief from the “Silver Bells” Pandora station that will soon be playing everywhere you go. When the movie you see includes Christmas scenes, as does this one, you’ll likely feel a little better about the holidays for several hours afterwards.

5. While email has made it easier than ever to send out a holiday letter detailing your family’s 2012 accomplishments and struggles, people won’t mind if you skip it. With Facebook and Twitter, the Christmas letters have been arriving  all year long.

6. Surely you have already realized that you can order all your presents online, pretty much up until the last day, and there is no time like the present for signing up for Amazon Prime. You can probably find anything else you might need in a grocery store, including wrapping paper and syrup of ipecac. You never have to go to the mall again!

7. According to the Mayans, the world is ending on December 27th (which can only happen if the world hasn’t already ended on November 6th).  On the plus side, an apocalypse means that any holiday faux pas you commit will not be long remembered.

Despite the powerful forces working against me, I hope to continue this column, however randomly, drunkenly, and crankily, through the dark days ahead. It’s the least, and probably also the most, I can do.

Marion Winik writes “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a column about life, love, and the pursuit of self-awareness. Check out her heartbreakingly honest and funny essays twice a month on Baltimore Fishbowl.

Marion Winik

Marion Winik

University of Baltimore Professor Marion Winik writes Bohemian Rhapsody on the first Wednesday of the month. She is the author of "First Comes Love," and, forthcoming in fall 2018, "The Baltimore Book of the Dead." She is the host of The Weekly Reader on WYPR. Sign up for her monthly email at
Marion Winik

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  1. Yes, indeed. Add these seven rules to Deepak Chopra’s Seven Laws of Spiritual Success and the Seven Hermetic principles, and you might be able to get through the upcoming seasons with feelings of cheer instead of dread.

  2. and for first timers amazon prime is free for 1 month, a boon for efficiency.
    (that’s me laughing as i click away.)

  3. Brava, Marion! When did we forget that the holidays were supposed to be fun? Let’s all be completely subversive and actually laugh, relax, and enjoy ourselves: Your tips will certainly help.

  4. I have felt Grinchly toward Christmas since about age 12. Twenty years ago I married Santa Claus and became Chief Elf and all-round Thaumaturge. Bring on January 3.

  5. Up here in Canada we don’t have the big thanksgiving pressure so that is one relief…but just one! My daughter wants to be Katniss, the Hunger Games heroine in the black costume that lights up with fire. The hair is tricky enough and this??!?!?! I always need good movie recommendations so I am excited to see The Perks of Being A Wallflower, but best of all Marion, it is so good to hear your voice that echos my own sentiments, obligation, alienation, and exhaustion….the alienation is especially so sad because we are BOMBARDED on all sides that we must be cuddly, warm, peaceful together…… happy. And most people are running crazily doing all those obligations there is no way to really, truly deeply feel connected to one another.

  6. The holiday spirit — that gassy mix of obligation, alienation, and exhaustion, shot through with disorienting flashes of generosity and goodwill — is gaining strength like a hurricane over the Gulf.

    That’s a classic right there.

  7. The holiday spirit — that gassy mix of obligation, alienation, and exhaustion, shot through with disorienting flashes of generosity and goodwill

    • I suppose I should read the other comments before posting mine, but this pain patch on my *ss here in Oakland is making me fuzzy. Anyway, another great piece, Marion.

  8. Though I hate to cook (and love to eat), I’ve always found that cooking a turkey is about the easiest thing one can do. Because one doesn’t have to do it — the oven does.

    Roasting is one of civilization’s great gifts. Season that baby, plop it in a 500-degree oven, and bingo, you’re done. I’m with Barbara Kafka on this — only high heat will do. Slow cooking isn’t roasting, it’s simmering. And no, no, no wrapping in foil, which will steam your turkey, not roast it.

    The fact that you can add a bunch of vegetables to the mix means that you have yummy and nutritious side dishes as well. The oven does all the work, and leaves you time to do other things.

    Since you mentioned Amazon, here’s Kafka’s fab book:

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