Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Very Geeky Holidays

I’m thankful that throughout my life the holidays have always been a time to indulge my inner geek and share it with others. It’s become a quiet tradition, not always something planned, but something that simply happens on its own. But before I wander into my rambling missive on the subject, I want to wish all Hobby Games Recce readers, everyone who supports my gaming efforts here, at Griffon Publishing Studio, and elsewhere, a joyous and geeky holiday season...or, if you prefer, Christma-yu-kwanza-kah-nalia (hopefully you can find your specific holiday somewhere in there).

“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
The holidays bring out some of the most sacred family traditions among western cultures (and I’m assuming among some non-western cultures, too). Growing up we had some pretty standardized practices adjusted over time for our ages, involvement in religious rituals, and other changing factors: the Christmas tree went up and was lit according to a particular schedule; trains often ran around it to enhance the holiday’s playful spirit; we shared a traditional Christmas Eve dinner of ham, potatoes, pinkelwurst, and kale, with stollen and cookies for dessert, with a full turkey dinner on Christmas Day (I have no idea where my parents found the energy to do both); we opened presents, one at a time, taking turns in order from oldest to youngest (I assume as a lesson in patience for us younger folk); and, of course, we attended church at some point, first the early evening children’s pageant, later the spectacle of midnight mass with music, lights, and ceremony rivaling the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. Even though the years have passed and I’m married with a child of my own, our household’s new traditions have evolved, some carried over from our treasured past and others we establish together as a family. We still set up a tree and trains, but we also festoon the front of the house with modest holiday lights and, when I bother, decorate our eight foot-tall sasquatch stand-up, “Skookums,” in the front yard (left over from Halloween); I bake stollen to give as gifts to friends and family; we enjoy the traditional ham dinner, though we graze through leftovers on subsequent days; and we open presents Christmas morning instead of Christmas Eve with a sense of well-ordered chaos.

When we were kids our parents encouraged us to pursue various interests. The holidays were a great opportunity to reinforce those. Trips to New York City often included a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and its amazing arms and armor collection and its ancient Egyptian galleries (including the complete Temple of Dendur). Christmas gifts included a new Star Wars or Middle-earth calendar, soundtracks to my favorite movies from that year, books relevant to my interests, and some roleplaying game resource or board game. After opening presents Christmas Eve we each retreated into our own world, immersing ourselves in books and toys until sleep (or church) demanded our attention.

Holiday tradition: a guest reads
The Littlest Shoggoth....
Even as we grow older and become parents, having geeky holidays remains important. Our season always gets off to an early start because we celebrate my son’s birthday about a week before the actual winter holidays. This year we enjoyed some extra bits of geekiness and reinforced some established geeky traditions. For the past few years we’ve managed to attend one of the Greenberg Train Shows in our area and find an Aristo-Craft holiday car to add to the G-scale train circling the Christmas tree (this year it was a gingerbread-themed passenger car with interior lights and a smoking stovepipe). My brother – my son’s “alpha” uncle – not only brought his old Britains Deetail knights for the Little Guy, but managed to bring me some dollar packs of Armies in Plastic men now available in Just-A-Buck stores in New York and Ohio. When we had a few friends over for a holiday gathering we asked one of them to read our son a “traditional” holiday tale, Stan!’s The Littlest Shoggoth. After the usual Christmas Eve dinner we settled down to watch the heartwarming Elf to remind us about the holiday spirit.

I received some game- and geek-related goodies this year – a 12 foot-long Fourth Doctor Who scarf my wife knitted, The Lord of the Rings: Journey to Mordor game from a friend, the soundtrack to Jason and the Argonauts, the Safari Ltd. cryptozoology toob, and a rolling cart for my wargmaming miniatures. I also reveled in my seven year-old son indulging his own geeky pursuits. Although he got a smattering of Star Wars and Harry Potter gifts, this year he’s into Pokemon...shirts, plush Pokemon, plastic figures, Pokeballs, the Pokemon Cookbook, etc. As dutiful, geeky parents we got him a learn-to-play starter set for the card game; we’ve already played through the tutorial version and several games with the 30-card decks on our own. We’ll see if it takes...and then decide whether to go to the next level and get some full, 60-card pre-constructed theme decks to play.

In the past I’ve discussed how the holidays seem tinged with elements of fantasy (“The Season for Fantasy”) and recalled a fond New Year’s Eve rife with gaming and geekdom (“New Year’s Eve Gaming”). It’s a time when kids are off from school and adults take off from work, friends gather, and we have time to spend reveling in the fantasies of the season. Individuals indulge their geeky pursuits to differing degrees within their own, everyday lives, depending on free time, spare cash, and other opportunities. The holidays bring us together to spend time with each other and share a bit of ourselves: conversation, meals, gifts, good cheer...and our geeky interests.


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