Thing #13 – Hallmark Friendship

“Gosh Jenna, you must LOVE Christmas if you’re watching these incredible Hallmark films so much!” Meh, it’s quite the opposite. I don’t really consider myself a Christmas person. Decking the halls feels like an obligation, parties trigger my social anxiety and shopping is my most hated chore (other than putting gas in my car).

I do, however, love tradition and family. I love coziness and warm drinks. And when I immerse myself in these Hallmark characters who are SO into Christmas, I become a Christmas person by proxy. They’re doing the heavy lifting while sit back and live vicariously through them.

My friend Gina has a love of Christmas so immense and pure that she is basically a Hallmark character. In her home you’ll find more than one tree showcasing her collection of ornaments. She twinkles when she talks about her decorating routine and her Christmas traditions. It only seemed fitting that we spend the day together like two Hallmark characters might.

Scene: Two 30-something nonprofit executives in large Midwest city sitting on bench lacing Read the rest

Thing #11 – Hallmark Movies

I remember it clearly. It was a Sunday in early December 2016. I was flipping through channels and stumbled upon a Hallmark Christmas movie. I’d never watched one before. Within three minutes of allowing myself to be transfixed by a redhead grappling with her department store career, I was trapped.

I watched until the last 20 seconds when the couple climbed into a sleigh and shared their long-awaited first kiss while – weirdly – their family and colleagues watched in approval. It was terrible. The plot was predictable. The Christmas spirit felt pushy. The fact they could persevere through all those romantic situations and wait until the last minute to kiss proves 1) they have extraordinary willpower or 2) I’m way more of a make-out slut than that redhead.

How could anyone think this was actually good? These people were too Christmassy! I was annoyed. Even so, I was on the couch in tears. I wanted to feel this mix of warmth, annoyance and Christmas spirit again as soon as possible. Plus, I was genuinely … Read the rest

Starbucks Holiday

Christmas has come and gone. You’ve probably spent sleepless nights wondering if I was able to find my holiday spirit this year. Yes, I kinda did. I’d give myself “B-/C+.” Enough to pass, but not enough to warrant a gold star. I credit my mediocre success to listening to the Trap Christmas station on Spotify, using inordinate amounts of Christmas emojis and watching my Christmas Cactus bloom for the first time ever. Most notably, I spent the month of December sampling Starbucks holiday drinks with Sissy.

Since we no longer live in the same city and can’t spend December together doing our usual traditions, like decorating sugar cookies while watching Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, we improvised. We took a list of nine limited-edition coffee drinks from the polarizing coffee chain and checked off as many as we could, sharing impressions and recommendations with each other along the way.

We aren’t typically into fancy coffee drinks, so this was a festive deviation from our typical routine. And before the holiday season slips away, I want Read the rest

An Eclairy Christmas to all

Somewhere along the line, my Christmas spirit has dwindled. The magic of the season doesn’t hit my twinkle receptors like it once did. But one thing adulthood has taught me is sometimes to make it through the day, you have to fake things so hard that you start to believe them. Oh come on…don’t act like you haven’t done this. This is my current Christmas strategy.

At risk of sounding annoyingly pretentious, one place I felt genuinely Christmasy was in France a few years ago. We celebrated Christmas in Paris, but also spent time in Strasbourg – the Christmas Capital of France. While nearly every European city has a Christmas Market, none do it like Strasbourg, where some version of a market has been held for several hundred years. Quick FYI: a Christmas Market is an expansive outdoor festival of food, lights, hot drinks, music, shopping and togetherness. And sometimes a ferris wheel.

Strasbourg is in the Alsace region of France near the German border. Imagine precious, delicate French things and warm, wooly German things … Read the rest