No need to accelerate the tradition

Published 10:30 am Friday, November 12, 2010

Either the squirrels or the deer — or maybe both — have eaten the faces off our Halloween pumpkins. At any rate, it’s time for the jack-o-lanterns to go in the trash because their season is well behind us.

That means it’s also time to deal with the tradition of Christmas decorations.

I use the term “tradition” loosely, because we seem to have drifted far from what I remember as the tradition of putting up outdoor Christmas lights.

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Much like the annual “checking of the snowblower,” the true tradition of Christmas light installation requires delaying until well after the first snow fall — or at least until it gets really cold.

Anybody can climb up on the roof or balance on a ladder when it’s 60 degrees and sunny with a light southerly breeze. It takes a much hardier — some would say “fool-hardy” — individual to achieve the same result when the roof is covered with ice and snow patches. No one ever said traditions have to be fun. They just have to be traditional.

Likewise, it is not hard to unsnarl light strings when they are warm and flexible. It’s a real achievement when sub-freezing cold makes fingers numb and wires as stiff as old sticks. You know you’ve accomplished something.

So I have been fighting to keep Christmas from lapping over into October. I have conceded that because age has made me less bouncy I should reduce my roof-ice exposure, and I’ve taken to putting those highest lights up before the snow flies. But no more. And no turning the lights on until after Thanksgiving.

This is a hard tradition to maintain, because once those Christmas displays start going up in stores, it seems like it’s time to start decorating — even if it is only the middle of October.

But lighting up early is as bad as abandoning any other tradition. It’s like eating a big meal of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries and sweet potatoes on Nov. 12. It’s like trick-or-treating on Oct. 15. Thanksgiving dinner and trick-or-treating are both good things, but only during their season.

My previous efforts to reduce holiday madness — celebrating grandparents’ day, etc. — have met with little success. But I’m hoping that more people will join in on confining Christmas to its correct season.


One place where it might be time to break with tradition is in cooking the turkey. Like most, I’ve seldom had much success getting the various parts of the bird to cook perfectly. Usually the breast meat is overdone or the legs and thighs underdone.

So why not cook them separately? This had never occurred to me until this fall, when I saw several articles from chefs who advocate cooking the turkey until the white meat is just right, then removing and returning to the over the legs and other slow-cooking bits.

While that might not produce the picture-perfect turkey on a platter, it does sound like better eating. And I’ve never been a fan of carving at the table anyway; it’s just about impossible to do gracefully.