By Linda Kupecek

I have always been conflicted about the holidays. Part of me yearns to be all ho-ho-ho while I whip up a cauliflower and stilton bisque, a cucumber radish turkey stuffingwreath, and maybe a roast suckling pig adorned with a turkey giblet necklace. The other part, the more realistic part, just wants to hide under the covers and wait until it’s over.

I am not Scrooge. I am just a person who feels for all those desperate souls (mostly women, sadly) who start to suffer heart palpitations sometime around the end of November and who can’t even begin to relax until they are staring groggily at a huge pile of dinner dishes stuffed into the sink and dishwasher at eleven p.m. on December 25. Christmas, Hanukkah, no matter the holiday feast, somebody has to cook it. Sadly, unless you live in a really evolved household, one person. Ditto with the clean-up. Same poor soul is staggering around with mops, dishcloths, cutlery and china, while everybody else happily conks out in the living room or in their beds. This is when the lifestyle of the upstairs crowd of Downton Abbey looks really, really good, no matter how many dead diplomats they have carried from one end of the mansion to another.

As we grow older, the angst diminishes. It is okay to be low key over the holidays. It is okay to be alone, whether by choice or circumstance. It is okay not to please others. Frankly, I think it is more meaningful to make a modest donation to the Food Bank, or  just trot down there to volunteer the few days before Christmas, than to curse and cry over a recalcitrant turkey, or  soupy mashed potatoes, or failed stuffing. One dear friend said bitterly, “You slave for days, prepping, shopping, planning, setting a beautiful table, and all anybody gives a hoot about is the stupid stuffing!”

I personally went on strike a decade or so ago on the stuffing front. If you want stuffing, you can darned well bring your own, because I am not making it. Stuffing, schmuffing. If you are invited to Christmas dinner, you eat what is thrown on the table in front of you.

This of course is a moot point with me, as I have not hosted a Christmas dinner for some years. When most of your relatives have passed away, and your friends are barricaded behind closed doors, praying the plague passes them by (or else they have astral traveled to hide out in Florida) you most likely will be spending Christmas alone.

This has been my mantra as I mature. Christmas alone is just fine. I count my blessings. I remind myself that I am grateful that I can afford any sort of meal, knowing that there are families who are unable to serve even the basics without hardship. All the lavish feasts featured in high end magazines somehow tidily forget that there are parents who go to the supermarket with forty dollars, wondering how they will feed a family of four for two weeks on that. I am grateful for what I have, and every year, I determine to do better in donations and kindness.

So there. Stuffing, schmuffing.