Advice From the Trenches

More Tips from the Trenches: How to make the yuletide bright on a budget

As 2022 draws its last shuddering breath, the world is on a mad dash though Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas. What generally follows is a crawl to the denouement of New Year’s Day, when we will all be hit in the face with the consequences of whatever delusions we’ve permitted ourselves through the holidays. My wish for all of us this holiday season is that those delusions are worth it.

For those of you who will be spending the rest of 2022 in the Trenches, you are probably already short on cash and maxed out on credit cards. Here are some ideas about how to make the yuletide bright on a budget, from some veterans who have weathered many a festive season out on the holly-trimmed fringes.

  1. My broke buddies have a tip for homemade gift-givers – don’t hand out random craft objects that no one really needs. They just end up in the trash. If you’re going to take the time to hand craft presents, make stuff that people can use. Joe, a freelance musician, is an amazing cook and and his inspired creations are something to look forward to. This year, I got a delicious Vietnamese ginger soup with rice noodles and shrimp. My cousin Suzanne, a textile artist, makes beautiful brocade bird ornaments trimmed with plumes and spangles that are keepsake quality. My neighbor Jake makes compilation tapes that are a mix of melodious classics and new favorites such as Merry Fucking Christmas from “South Park” thrown in. Great fun as a background track when conservative relatives stop by.
  2. Performance artist Kevin suggests a fun holiday party game – Stupid Human Tricks. Just about everyone has some weird, quirky ability to display, or an interesting trick to show. Are you double jointed? Can you whistle through a peculiar aperture in your body? Can you juggle? Purr like a cat? What is really fun is if you get everyone to do their stupid human tricks all at the same time, just as a new guest walks in the door. There is nothing quite like walking into a party and finding a whole roomful of people randomly standing on their hands, bending over backwards, or tooting a kazoo with their nose.
  3. My neighbor Phyllis is an artist with a home studio who can’t stand having people stop by unexpectedly and interrupt her when she’s in the middle of a creative flow. She’s also a really nice woman who doesn’t want to have to hurt anyone’s feelings by slamming the door in their face, so for a long time she never invited people to her house: “They’re like vampires – you let them in once and they think it’s OK to stop by and do the time suck whenever they want.” But she noticed that during the holidays, there’s a tacit understanding that any friendly visit is like a shipboard romance – over as soon as the season docks. She now considers December her “safe month” for having people over.
  4. It’s OK to spend Christmas alone. Socially and culturally, we have this idea that being surrounded by loved ones is the only way to spend the holidays. However, statistically speaking, these gatherings can also be fertile ground for shouting matches, drunken passion plays and domestic violence. In comparison, being peacefully alone can be an attractive alternative. This is a great time to read that book you’ve been meaning to get to or build a blanket fort and leave it up for a week, Turn on the space heater and walk around naked if you feel like it. Give yourself the gift of doing any damn thing you please.
  5. Mercury goes retrograde on December 29th, 2022 and does not return until January 18, 2023, so watch your ass. This phenomenon seems to short circuit communication, mechanical functioning, and movement whether you live in the Trenches or in the Heights. Travel plans and connections go awry and multiple complications develop in both electronics and relationships. This would be a good time to read every line of a contract and watch every word that comes out of your Tweeting mouth.

On a parting note, consider these words of wisdom from Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut: “A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it is to love whoever is around to be loved.” 

Love and joy to all of you from the Trenches.