1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Either, depending on the size/shape of the gift and who is receiving it. Square or rectangular things that are smallish or medium-sized? Wrap it up. Gift for a special person? Wrap it very carefully in special, pretty paper and ribbons. Oddly shaped items or gifts for people I am not close to? Bag, tissue paper, and (optional) ribbon, which I curl. It looks pretty and takes all of two minutes.
2. Tree: real or artificial?
Real, baby. My family's always had real trees. I suspect when I live on my own I will have a small rosemary plant (I see them every year at Whole Foods during the holidays and WANT) that will get tarted up for Christmas.
3. When do you put up the tree?
Depends on when Mom has a free weekend. It has to go up before any holiday parties and whatnot -- this year is the earliest we've ever put it up, I think. We got it on November 30th.
4. When do you take the tree down?
Usually shortly after New Year's, when the kids are still home from school so they can help collect the ornaments (we lose one or two every year, though we know to look for the more important ones)
5. Do you like eggnog?
Ew, no. It tastes of wrong. What the hell is 'nog', anyway?
6. Favourite gift received as a child:
I don't know. Possibly the gifts I remember most clearly are a ceramic snake (light purple with pink and green spots on it) and a big set of crayons. Like, ridiculous-big. 200+ colors, I think. Maybe not that many, but a LOT. I recall being utterly delighted that I had the EXACTLY RIGHT colors to draw the snake, which I still have.
7. Do you have a nativity scene set up?
Usually. Mom's been trying to collect a really nice one (some of the pieces are absolutely beautiful), but we've accidentally bought a couple parts in the wrong scale (7" instead of 5")... so we have a Giant Mutant Baby Jesus and Roy the Monster Camel.
8. Hardest person to buy for:
Probably my father. He is quiet, little is known about him, and he virtually never expresses any desire for material goods. When he does, it's usually because of something like his computer being older than Emma and he needs a new one, which is something he needs to pick out for himself.
9. Easiest person to buy for:
Probably my sisters. With Nicole, I just look for the most god-awful, ugliest thing I can find, and she will wear it ironically. Alternately, anything with Hello Kitty on it. If I manage to find something hideous with Hello Kitty, it is like the Holy Grail of Nicole-gifts. With Emma, I'm a decently good judge of what she'll like. I was REALLY good at this when she was younger, because I am mentally seven, but it's more difficult now that she's branched out into Being A Girl. It's just not something I ever really got into like she and Nicole have. I like to think I'm pretty good at gift-giving in general. I could be delusional, though.
10. Worst gift ever received:
Um, purely on the basis of receiving it again and again... Jewelry boxes. I have, over the course of my life, received at least a dozen jewelry boxes. There was a period where I got them from multiple people at every gift-giving occasion, because it is one of those reasonably 'safe' gifts to get a girl at the age I was then when you don't know her too well. Problem is, I have minimal jewelry. The only thing I regularly wear that could reasonably be called jewelry is maybe my watch, and I only remove it to shower.
11. Christmas cards:
Don't really do 'em, never have. I might if I wasn't so lazy and didn't have such crappy handwriting. I'm not so good at cards. Emails, either. Letters in all forms, really.
12. Favourite Christmas movie:
I don't know that I really have one. Jonathan introduced me to "Love, Actually", which I adored, but I can't watch it without thinking about him now, so that's ruined forever.
OMIGOD, I JUST REMEMBERED -- Prancer. Loved this movie as a kid. Never really got into all the claymation stuff, but a little girl rescuing and caring for a reindeer? Awesometastic.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
I LOVE Amazon's "gift idea list" feature -- I have one for most of the people I am close to. It lets you import their amazon wishlists if they have them, which is also awesome. I tend to use that and a special bookmarks folder to keep track of things I see throughout the year that would make good presents for specific people. I have been known to buy special gifts that scream "IDEAL PRESENT FOR ________" right after Christmas and save them for a year, but I tend to avoid actual purchasing until I can make sure they (a) would like it and (b) do not already own it.
14. Have you ever "recycled" a Christmas present?
My family used to have a small collection of gifts for "recycling" -- usually things we received that we already owned. I think I received the Chronicles of Narnia book set a couple of times... Same for Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie books. Most of the things were books, now that I think about it. Nicole and I were big on reading. The collection dwindled and at some point the remainder was donated to charity or a library or some such.
15. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas:
Green bean and corn casserole. Also my aunt Alice's marinated cheese thing, which always say "holidays" to me. Possibly because it is sprinkled with red bell pepper and bright green parsley, and always looks quite festive.
16. Are the tree lights clear, coloured, or both?
Usually colored. I prefer clear, because I think it looks more elegant. But I am outvoted.
17. Favourite seasonal song:
I love Christmas hyms, especially the ones that sound kind of spooky. I always felt that Christmas was such a gothy holiday (before I knew what 'gothy' was, mind you)... celebrating the birth of someone whose entire purpose was a horrific and painful death, something he was AWARE of. The ultimate doomed hero. Quite romantic.
18. Do you travel or stay home for Christmas?
Lucky enough that I've never had to travel for Christmas... most of my mom's family resides here in Houston, and we've little contact with the majority of my dad's family.
19. Can you name Santa's reindeer?
Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Donner, Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, and one I have forgot. Poor forgotten reindeer. He gets no love.
20. Do you have an angel or a star on top of your tree?
Star. Always a cheapish plastic 'stained-glass' multicolored star. Problem is, we lose it forever every other year and wind up getting a new one... which means whenever we move out of the house, there's going to be a dozen or so Christmas stars tucked away in secret corners.
21. Do you open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
Family-we-don't-live-with present exchange on Christmas Eve, Family-we-live-with and Santa-gifts in the morning. The Santa-gifts have dwindled, and now that we approach the second year of Officially Not Having To Pretend Santa Might Exist (Emma is growing up. *snif*), it will probably dwindle even further.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year:
The so-called "War on Christmas" people (oh your God, HAVE A BIG MUG OF SHUTUPNOG AND ENJOY YOUR GORRAM HOLIDAY), and the soul-crushing crowds EVERYWHERE. I consider it a minor miracle that I have gone to many, many grocery stores AND malls on Christmas Eve as often as I have and survived with minimal psychological scarring.
23. Favourite seasonal tradition:
24. Family member you try to stay away from:
I'm extremely fortunate in that I don't have any family members I try to actively avoid. Though usually someone pulls out a camera or other recording device and I have to spend my time standing carefully behind them to avoid being caught on film. My mother has a series of pictures from every year of my life consisting of me with my hands in front of my face to obscure the horror that is Me.
25. Do you attend any religious services in celebration?
Used to attend a candlelight service on Christmas Eve... back when my grandparents lived a 30-second walk from the church. That church is now demolished to make way for new homes, so. The church where we are currently members probably has a Christmas Eve service... the past few Christmases we've gone to services at the church to which our former congregation relocated, but it is far away. I do not know what we are doing this year, only that I will beg Gabe to PLEASE just go to make my mom and grandmother happy. An hour or two of sitting quietly and possibly holding a candle will not kill him.