The Story of Våffeldagen

Every March, my partner and I host a brunch and tell our guests to bring a bowl of waffle batter. We invite all the friends and family, geeks and hippies, awesome, quirky, intelligent people we can, and they all co-mingle over a chaotic five hour feast of every type of experimental waffle you can imagine.

Ok, that’s not true. I can imagine a lot of waffles. Snozzberry waffles. But we’ve had chocolate waffles, chocolate mint waffles, blueberry waffles, jalapeno corndog waffles, taco waffles, bacon waffles, peanut butter banana waffles, pumpkin waffles, and all sorts of regular old waffles, made with everything from Bisquick to home grown goose eggs. We’ve had four waffle makers going at a time, and we always end up with batter-globbed counters at the end of the day.

Here’s how that started.

In Sweden, yesterday was Våffeldagen. The Waffle Day.

Have you not heard of Våffeldagen?

I first learned about Våffeldagen from Craig Ferguson, during a time in my life when I watched The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson with zealous obsession on a regular basis.

He starts talking about Våffeldagen a bit around 5:20. The embed function isn’t working right now, so here’s the link:

Craig Ferguson on Våffeldagen.

Needless to say, my partner and I celebrated a slightly belated Våffeldagen the very next day. Nothing extravagant, just a batch of waffles with some leftover Santa chocolate chips thrown in.

The next year, when March 25th rolled around, we had the following awesome conversation, which planted the seed for what Våffeldagen would become:

“Hey, isn’t today Vaffeldagn?”

“I guess it is.”

“Let’s have some waffles.”

“Ok.”

“Can they be chocolate?”

“Ok. Can you find a chocolate waffle recipe?”

“Ok.”

You see, at this point, Våffeldagen wasn’t yet Våffeldagen. Except for in Sweden. For me, Våffeldagen was still on the level of President’s Day. As in, you have to ask, “Isn’t it President’s Day?” Then, whatever the answer is, you go about your life and don’t really do anything.

Except with Våffeldagen, we didn’t really do anything, plus we ate a waffle. From what I’ve read, that’s basically how it goes down in Sweden.

In late 2010 and early 2011, a series of events turned the Waffle Day into a Big Deal.

Here is the timeline:

  • August 2010 I find a job after a long stretch of unemployment.
  • October 2010 As a productive member of society*, I move into my first apartment with my partner.
  • December 2010 At Christmas, our relatives mainly give us things we need for our apartment. My brother buys us a square waffle maker. Dan’s brother buys us a Belgian waffle maker. We do not tell either of them that we already have a waffle maker, and could the gift be returned for something else we need?
  • Winter 2011 We remember Våffeldagen in advance instead of on the day itself.

And here is the math:**

2 waffle makers + 1 apartment + remembering in advance = inviting people over for waffles

Inviting people over for waffles x the idea of looking up different waffle recipes on the internet x “We are lazy and don’t want to cook a bajillion waffles.” =

“Let’s have a Våffeldagen potluck and invite other humans and tell them to each bring their own waffle batter.”

And that’s the story Våffeldagen, at least our Våffeldagen, and why I’ll be having a ton of people over this weekend cooking a ton of waffles. One day, it shall be the stuff of legend.


*Society still hasn’t sent me a membership card.

**If my brother (he of the square waffle maker) sees waffle math, he will hate it. Greg, I’m not sorry.

Santa’s little telescreen

Even if the decorations are still up, we’re past the time period when it’s socially acceptable for me to put up a Christmas post.  But does anyone else find the concept of Elf on the Shelf a little sinister? Elf on the Shelf creeps me out, and not just because of its plasticky 1950s smile, or its overall vibe of cutesy, overbearing innocuousness.

The basic idea of Elf on the Shelf is that it’s a minion from Santa, sent into homes during the Christmas season to track children’s behavior. Sure, Santa sees you when you’re sleeping, and he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, and probably a lot of other things that aren’t specifically stated in the song.

As a high level wizard, Santa has made it his job to know these things. With all the power at his disposal, he chooses to sit in his fortress at the North Pole, gazing into his crystal ball at children’s behavioral problems and tracking their circadian rhythms.

When I was a kid, if I fought with my brother near Christmas, I would be told to behave because Santa was watching. But that was ok, because I knew that Santa had been watching all year and would account for all data, even if it seemed like my parents weren’t. Santa knew all. He knew when it was really my brother’s fault, which was always.

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The only elf on my shelf.

Santa watches you the way a parent watches you, albeit with better magical surveillance equipment. He’s tall and distant, authoritative yet jolly, a benevolent giver of gifts. He’s part of a long tradition of telling kids to behave because a magical creature will know if they don’t.

Stories about bad things happening to wayward children have been around forever. “Stop your shit, or that fanged shadow-demon-thing in the forest is going to emerge from its lair and harvest your kidneys.” In our consumerist culture, it only makes sense that the horrible, bad thing involves deprivation of material goods.

New traditions appear, and old ones fade away. That can be for the best. Traditions also reflect the culture they come from, which is why I believe it’s worth looking at them with a critical eye and asking if they reflect something good. The story of Santa watching isn’t a perfect one. I’ve already mentioned the consumerist aspect, and those who are so inclined wouldn’t be hard-pressed to find other criticisms as well.

Elf on the Shelf is some combination of a snitch, a security camera, and a telescreen. It looks like a friend, but it’s there to do a job. It will betray you the instant you do something wrong. The intimacy of it, the fact that it’s up on a shelf in the living room, makes all the difference. I’m not exactly losing any sleep over it, but this is the kind of thing I find disturbing at a cultural level. While I don’t have kids, I am still invested in the health of the friendly little surveillance state culture I live in.

So, if you are the type of person who doesn’t take down their decorations until March February January, know that your Elf on the Shelf sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows what you do on St. Patrick’s Day Valentine’s Day Martin Luther King Day, and he watches you watching TV.  And he eats nachos while watching you watching TV, eating nachos.


 

Coincidentally, a friend of mine posted this article about a day or two after I wrote my first draft on this post. At first I thought it was coincidence, but who knows. Maybe she snuck an elf on the shelf into my apartment when she helped us move.

Christmas swashbuckler

Today, I am a hero. Both the regular kind of hero, and the Christmas kind.

Actually, hero might be too strong of a word. Is there a word to refer to someone who fights against their normal morning slothfulness to do errands before going to work? Who finally returns DVDs to Big Lots for a refund after they’ve been sitting on the passenger’s seat for a month? Who pretends they don’t have social anxiety and asks people to be job references? I’ve overcome a lot of my lesser tendencies today.

But, I’m also a Christmas hero. Between this paragraph and the last one, I looked up “hero” on thesaurus.com. After all the synonyms meaning “hefty sandwich” was a list of awesome words. So when I say I’m a Christmas Swashbuckler, you know that this is not so much a reality-based or funny story-based title as it is a thesaurus-related whim.

Anyway.

My awesome new apartment has very few downsides, but one of them is that we aren’t allowed to have a real tree. This is due to the landlord’s insurance policy and the fact that dropped needles are a fire hazard. My mom got us a nice little spruce shrub in a pot, but adorable as it is, I’m having a lot of Christmas Jealousy over other people’s trees.DSC02239 My partner and I agreed that it isn’t worth it to buy a fake tree if it’s going to look like it’s made of pipe cleaners and sadness, so we agreed to go clearance fake tree shopping on December 26th after I get out of work and spend the evening decorating our new tree.

Today’s specific timeline of errands and car repairs made me decide to order Chinese food for lunch and dinner. Since I was six minutes away from the restaurant and the food would take fifteen, I pulled into a store that I hoped would have maple sugar candy (another errand, this one Grandma-given), even though I kind of knew it was actually a thrift store now.

The thrift store used to a large gift store, the kind of place that sold maple sugar candy, Yankee candles, and country primitives. Despite my lack of interest in most of their stock, I always liked going there around Christmas because it had that craft store cinnamon smell and was always decorated full-on for Christmas, like it was Santa’s workshop. Basically, depending on mood, it would either warm my heart with Christmas magic, or send me into a crushing depression.

The gift store was now a Christmas Thrift Store, at least for now, and as soon as I walked in, I saw a small grove of artificial firs. One of them was short and full, just like the real trees we always bought, and it had the same kind of realistic branches that I saw on a $400 tree just yesterday. “I am not lucky enough for this tree to be for sale,” I said to myself. “It’s probably a decoration.”

But I was lucky enough, because Christmas Magic.

As it turned out, the timing was even better than I realized. After I pulled up my car to get the tree in, I heard the woman at the store talking to someone on her phone. “Well, we had one you would have liked, but someone’s picking it up now. One is ugly. Yeah, like the Charlie Brown tree. And the other has fake snow on it. It gets everywhere.”

If the morning chain of events had been a couple minutes later, the store could very well have reserved the little tree for the person on the phone.

Instead, I now have a tree in the back of my car. Here is a Christmas tip from me to you: if you have a compact car (say, a 2001 Chevy Prizm) get a 5’ Christmas tree. It will fit in your backseat, even though your eyesight will tell you that this cannot happen.

Later, when my partner is asleep, I will sneak the fortuitous tree into our living room and decorate with the sneakiness of an elf and the daring of a swashbuckler.

Christmas lies

DSC02239

Softly glowing LIES.

Over the past month and a half, three separate people have told me that Christmas is on Friday this year. Two of them even talked to me at length about the benefits of a Friday Christmas, namely a weekend off instead of a miserable return to work, and plenty of luxuriating in gluttony and presents.

Naturally, I was excited. I don’t get vacation days, and I’ve had to go in to work on December 26th every year since 2011. And that really put a damper on Christmas itself, by essentially turning it into a Sunday, the most off-putting off all the weekend days.

You know this is going to end badly, right?

I spent a month in a glorious state of an assumed Friday Christmas. In my daydream, I would awaken and spoil my appetite for breakfast by munching on stocking candy, stay in my pajamas until 1pm, and spend most of the day playing with my new Legos (someone get me Legos, ok?).

A couple days ago, I mentioned to my boss that the December schedule he printed was wrong, because Christmas was on a Friday this year.

Finally, I checked a calendar for myself.

Yeah.

Guess I’ll have fun playing with my Legos on some crappy day like December 27th, if I even receive Legos on a Thursday Christmas.

There is a moral to this story, if it can even be called a story. Maybe it’s more of a grievance, or perhaps a saga. Actually, there are two morals.

One: spreading rumors and lies can hurt people. More than anything that ever happened to you in high school, more than any shit anyone ever posted about you on Livejournal, this story/grievance/saga really illustrates that.

Two: If you don’t trust other people’s medical advice without doing your own research, don’t trust them to tell you when Christmas is. No one would assume that three separate people would be wrong about something so non-contentious and easily verified, but apparently it does happen.

And a third moral: think very hard before you purchase your name as a domain name. Do you think that your own father is the type of person who woud lie to you about Christmas? And that, if he did, you would want to legally change your name and cut all ties because you can’t decide what hurts more: the Christmas misinformation, or the lies.


 

Note 1: Did you know that Black Friday is now an entire season? Black Friday deals starting in late October? I feel like I don’t even need to rant about that. It speaks for itself.

Note 2: I’m turning thirty in six months, which you would probably not guess from basically any aspect of this post.

A holiday to fill the august void

Summery green, humid pond.

August. You can see the humidity.

In my family, the 4th of July is big enough to imbue much of June with a Christmas-like anticipation. There are even a few days post-4th with same lazy quality as December 26th. Then the rest of the summer lasts for five hellish eternities, eternities as tortured as though they were all spent drinking weak, acidic coffee and listening to that noise the baby from Eraserhead makes. The vicious heat of July stretches into August, and from August to infinity, or so it feels to my heat-addled brain. Even as a kid, my hatred of the endless heat outweighed my hatred of school, and I would wish for September to start. It may not be so hot that I can’t sleep, but it’s still hot enough for the middle part of the day to be an unacceptable, activity-preventing haze. And there are no redeeming holidays.

The only official August holiday I can think of is VJ Day—Victory over Japan Day—and Rhode Island is the only state that still celebrates it. I grew up in Rhode Island, and I don’t think too many people there want to give up a Monday off from work, even while acknowledging that VJ day is creepy and outdated. And even in Rhode Island, VJ day doesn’t do very much to improve August.

Then there’s Lughnasadh. Celebrating the start of the harvest season and honoring the Celtic god Lugh, Lughnasadh is one of eight neo-pagan high days. Celebrations usually involve competitive games. In a group where the attendees tend towards bookishness, this can involve things like thumb wrestling and rock, paper, scissors, rather than races and feats of strength. Voice of experience. While it’s a fun holiday, and a great excuse to celebrate seasonal foods, it is ultimately a religious holiday. So I don’t think it’s going to get the widespread adoption that a Big August Holiday needs.

There is a an enormous roster of made-up* holidays out there, and I think one of them must qualify. Some of them are too specific, or dedicated to foods I don’t like. I’m looking for something that can justify a day off of work, a cook-out, and possibly some activities. After doing some reading (mainly here and here), these are my top candidates.

Sister’s Day

I am a sister. Not a nun, just to clarify, but a female with siblings. This is a self-serving choice, but not one that would do anything for me, since I can’t even imagine my brothers showering me with presents and grilled meat on Sister’s Day. Plus, it would probably suffer from the same food-gendering as Mother’s Day. Dads are supposed to get steak, while Mom wants breakfast in bed and quiche? Who thought of that one? What about steak in bed?

Senior Citizens Day

Acknowledging Senior Citizens, giving them a pat on the back and a steak, and congratulating them for having gone through decades of shit is not a bad idea. Better than pretending they don’t exist. This is also a self-serving choice. It will take decades to pay off, if I live that long, but I will gladly contribute to creating hoopla around Senior Citizens Day if it means that, thirty-six years from now, the youth will prostrate themselves before my throne (ok, it’s a recliner. With a heated blanket) and shower me with gifts they picked up an hour ago.

Left-handers Day

Banks will switch their pens on chains to the left side. Even if banks also decide to close for this auspicious day, they will still do it. Activities could include left-handed games. Like, instead of going out to play normal badminton, everyone plays left-handed. And those of us who are left-handed or ambidextrous defeat them easily. It will get old very quickly for the right-handed folk.

National Aviation Day

I saved the best for last. This is already a federal obversance, and this year it’s on Tuesday, August 19th. I’m not sure if it’s always the same day, or if it moves around based on the full moon or day of the week or airline schedules. According to timeanddate.com, here’s what people do on National Aviation Day:

On this day, some schools organize for students to participate in classroom activities that focus on the topic of aviation. Activities include: discussing aviation history, including the efforts of the Wright brothers, Amelia Earhart and other aviation pioneers; and engaging in interactive tasks about airplanes and other means of flight transport, as well as careers associated with the aviation industry. Aviation enthusiasts and students may visit museums about aviation history and technology.  Some people visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina at this time of the year.

That sounds mildly interesting to me, but not if I’m going to do it every year. First, there needs to be a cookout with aviation related activities. Kites, paper planes, and toy rockets can all be brought out to celebrate this day. Maybe a historical storytime for the kids. Of course, there will need to be more movies. Christmas and Halloween have tons of movies. Thanksgiving has a few. Even Independence Day has one. We need to have a movie like It’s a Wonderful life, only about Amelia Earhart, a movie that we can expect to see on TV to every National Aviation Day’s Eve

The point is, National Aviation Day is the most ripe with possibilities for celebration. And even if you don’t do a damn thing besides have a meal with family, if any of that family had to fly in from afar, you’ve participated.


*recently made-up, that is. When someone says something is a made-up holiday, what they really mean is that some person invented it rather recently, instead of a government or religion inventing it quite a long time ago. All holidays are made up, even Christmas, which was designed by a committee including Jesus and Santa.