Tuesday, December 28, 2021

A Restful Holiday

 Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.”

W. Somerset Maugham

For a second year in a row our family has enjoyed a restful holiday. Taking things at our own pace. Not beholden to guilt-wielding family members expecting us to drive 12 hours to visit them, only for them to ignore us. Taking the time to relax, eat slowly, and relish the little delights the season brings. It’s one of the few decent things we’ve retrieved from two years of horrid, deadly covid plague coursing through our society. I’m hoping we can keep it after the pandemic (hopefully) subsides. As expected – and as I’ve long believed – it was a time to indulge in fantasy diversions of media and gaming, complimented by food, family, and fun to brighten this most darkest of seasons.

The day before Christmas Eve everyone was home, my wife off from work and my son in the midst of the first two weeks of holiday break from school. We’d taken things at a relaxed pace all season. We’d ordered presents earlier than usual to avoid shipping delays, shortages, and slow deliveries. Most presents we’d already wrapped so we didn’t have to rush-wrap things at the last minute. The tree was up weeks ago, followed shortly by our G-scale train set encircling its base. I decided not to hang lights outside (beyond the strand of lights on our sasquatch cutout, Skookums) just to avoid the stressful hassle (made more difficult this year because the gutter guards prevent me from using the easy gutter light clips). I had one last attempt at baking holiday treats after my marathon of baking Dresdner stollens that began before Thanksgiving.

This hoiday baking project has
stollen all of my time....
My only real busy portion of the holiday was cooking our traditional Christmas Eve dinner: ham, boiled potatoes, and kale with pinkelwurst (from my mother’s north German ancestry). It’s a fairly simple meal – far easier than coordinating the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green beans for Thanksgiving – though this year I tried a sweet raisin sauce to compliment the ham in the absence of our Virginia Chutney Company spicy plum chutney. For dessert we enjoyed a cream roll one of my wife’s coworkers made. The meal came together nicely and provided plenty of leftovers to sustain us in the coming week. We’ll also feast on a host of sweets accumulated for the holidays: rum balls, lebkuchen, my sad attempt at kolaczki, and one of the numerous Dresdner stollens I bake and give away to friends and family every year.

This is our second cautious covid Christmas. Usually my parents visit before the holiday, but this year, again, we chose to remain safe and isolated. We often have folks over for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner or invite friends over for Christmas afternoon board games with snacks, hot glühwein, and a cheese board. This year we spent the holiday on our own, though we still enjoyed old, reliable board game favorites and some newly acquired ones, with a few movies to add to the fantasy spirit.

Holiday gaming got off to an early start when we tried Calico, a game my son had received earlier in the month for his birthday. He love cats, so the theme was perfect, and though he tied for winner with his mother, he broke it by having the most cats on his quilt. In the quiet days leading up to Christmas I treated myself to a gift I knew nobody was getting me (always a risk this time of year): a slew of Peter Dennis’ amazing paper soldier PDFs from the Peters Paperboys website, including British colonial troopers, Zulus, Boers, and Afghans, along with some stands of trees and a few interesting freebies to try out. I also got an early gaming surprise: my Kickstarter copy of Scott Almes’ Unsurmountable compact solitaire game arrived in the post.

Despite this early gaming, presents opened Christmas still included more games. My son got his mother Sakura from Osprey Games, continuing our tradition of getting her games with garden and bird themes. My son was delighted with his random assortment of 100 Armies in Plastic soldiers from across the company’s historical range (he’d just gotten a similar package for his birthday, but it still amazed him to get more). My wife got me a mossy terrain mat and some autumn trees for my wargame modeling efforts. My parents sent me a Wings of Glory World War I starter set and the Alien board game from Ravensberger, all things that will see use on the game table soon.

Our holiday had plenty of movies, too. Christmas Eve, after dinner, we settled into the Space Bar Theater for our traditional viewing of Elf; goofy, irreverent, sometimes juvenile humor, yet a heartwarming story. Boxing Day we watched one of my gifts, The Eligible Bachelor Sherlock Holmes mystery with Jeremy Brett; my wife gave me the entire series on BluRay for Christmas, so we have lots of classic Sherlock Holmes to enjoy in the new year.

Now we’re in the middle of a week of continued time off for my son and wife. We’ll take this opportunity to tidy up the house, tackle a few projects, and unwind from another crazy year. I’ll pack up all the wrapping paper and paraphernalia littering the basement wargaming table; not quite the “War on Christmas” but “Christmas on the Wargaming Table.” I’ll sort through my presents and find homes for everything: BluRays in our media cabinet, games on shelves in my office, books on the to-be-read pile. I expect we’ll also play more games and watch a few more movies.

As we relax for the holidays and approach the New Year I’m hoping to continue the slow recovery of my creative spirit. It’s ebbed the past two years as I’ve spent my time, focus, and energy, by necessity, on adapting to pandemic privations, taking care of household concerns, and catering to the needs of my student son and working wife at home much of the time. The weariness that many feel from almost two years dealing with covid-19 has caused in me a general ennui, a malaise that resulted in me not devoting myself to game-writing projects, lacking the will or focus to create, and flitting from one interest to another (well, more so than usual). I’ve noticed some recovery lately, though I don’t know how or why it’s come about. I’ve channeled this newfound inspiration into developing a new fantasy roleplaying game setting; alas, it means I further postpone work on my long-neglected yet increasingly probematic Infinite Cathedral setting. That along with more Hobby Games Recce writing and the inevitable detour to pursue small projects as inspiration calls to me means I’ll no doubt have a meandering New Year, but hopefully one where the pressures of the pandemic ease up for me and, I trust, the rest of the world.

I do not know what the New Year will bring; I’m hesitant to even hope for anything good lest I jinx it and set myself up for inevitable disappointment. I’m not sure we’ll pursue our usual plans for New Year’s Eve – inviting folks over for a meal and board games – given the omicron variant racing through the populace. It’ll remain a similar holiday as last year: quiet, subdued, and heading to bed well before the stroke of midnight. We’ll still celebrate as a family, I’ll still cook something special, and we’ll find some distracting solace in watching movies and playing games.

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt


  1. Peter, I hope you and your family have an enjoyable New Year's Eve no matter what you choose to do and a joyful and safe New Year.

  2. Thank you for your kind wishes, John. Here's hoping everyone's New Year is filled with hope, health, and happiness.

  3. Peter, thank you for your inspirational insights as always with your end of 2021 thoughts. What a year it's been... That Dresdner stollen looks tasty! And I've been baking up a storm as well these days. I'll drop you an email soon. I wish you and the family health and prosperity in 2022!
    - Brett

  4. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, Brett. Hope you and yours enjoy a successful and healthy New Year!


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