If you ask people what the holidays mean to them, you'll usually get the same old tropes: time with family, warmth and humanity, selflessness, goodwill toward men.
But we know – and you do, too – that it still takes three key things to elevate your holidays from the status of just-another-uncomfortable-family-gathering to the (ahem) blessed events that they are: lots of food, plenty of grog and a whole pile of stuff that you're either giving to or getting from your family, your besties, your co-workers and even your brother's horrible wife.
Seriously – is it Thanksgiving without your granny's creamed onions? Doesn't that post-Christmas dinner green Chartreuse really make you feel the Yuletide glow (as it sets your esophagus afire)? When do you ever get to hint around that someone should buy you a new laptop or a camera without feeling like a weird, selfish prick?
With this holiday guide, let's assume you already appreciate the warm-and-fuzzy sentiment of the season, so we can talk about the fun stuff. We'll tell you all about our plans to get Nutcrackered, eggnogged and otherwise lit up over the holidays. Then you can rifle through our listings and maybe find a few events that'll help light that festive fire under your menorah, as well.
Eat: Ever since I was 5 years old, I've had one steady request for my otherwise besmirched birthday on Dec. 28: grasshopper pie. And not that sissy stuff they peddle at Cold Stone. No, my mom's pie features a roll call of liqueurs that reinvents the concept of toasting marshmallows. I look forward to getting an inch deep in it every year.
Drink: I'm not one to distance myself from those with divergent interests, but you eggnog people – I don't mix well with you. Even loaded up with rum, I can't seem to get down a glass. Instead, I break out the brown sugar and celebrate the season with a traditional Irish coffee. (Hint: If you are using whipped cream for your Irish coffee, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.)
Get: This year, my heart is after something rather lofty – success. Before you roll your eyes, let me give you an even better reason to groan: It's not even for me. The persistence I've seen, particularly in this community, even more particularly in emerging local artists, has rosied my outlook for what could come in 2013. For now, I choose to feel festive about the future.
Ashley Belanger, associate editor, Orlando Weekly
Eat: Our Puerto Rican staples– lechon asado, arroz con gandules– and some not-so-Puerto Rican ones, like potato salad and pie.
Drink: Coquito! (Coconut "eggnog" from Puerto Rico)
Get: Some good ole' family/friend time would be good. Also, inspiration to finish projects – creative, professional, household, etc.
Katherine Massey, copy editor, Orlando Weekly
Eat: I'm a sucker for stuffing and pumpkin pie.
Drink: An eggnog latte in the morning and a Southampton Pumpkin Ale at night. Bookends for a perfect day.
Get: For gifts, I ask people to donate to Heifer International, Red Cross or HRC. That always makes me happiest.
Douglas Berger, R3M1X3D, marketing and design collective
Eat: My grandma Dumitru's chicken stew and mamaliga while visiting my family on a snowed-in Saturday.
Drink: A Laphroaig in a tiny glass, sitting by a fire, or champagne straight from the bottle, sitting by a lake.
Get: Intricate scents housed in straightforward packages: Byredo's Gypsy Water for me and Sunday Cologne for my hubby.
Dina Mack, director of operations, Urban ReThink
Eat: Mom's beef brisket and potato latkes.
Drink: The milk of human kindness, with a sidecar of Glenfi ddich 18-year.
Get: Global peace or a zombie-proof doomsday bunker.
Seth Kubersky, columnist, Orlando Weekly
Eat: A box of Stove Top Stuff ng, a jar of Heinz gravy and precisely three Goldfish crackers.
Drink: If I'm at the point of partaking (not always, anymore), then it will be Van Gogh Acai Blueberry vodka with a splash of soda. Otherwise, apple juice and/or ginger ale.
Get: Seeing as I just crossed the lunatic fringe into homeownership, I'd be happy to have all of IKEA – including the "BILLY" bookcase line – swiftly delivered to my meager house. Also, a new MacBook Pro, on which I can look up all of the problems with my old one.
Billy Manes, senior staff writer, Orlando Weekly
Eat: Everything in front of me except mincemeat pie. Really, how can anyoneeat that stuff?
Drink: As long as it's spiked, I'll drink dishwater. Gotta celebrate making it through another year!
Get: A student loan bailout ... A man can dream!
Ed "Luvables" Chapkowski, freelance writer, Orlando Weekly
Eat: All of the apple pie a la mode empanadas I can eat before passing out in a sugar coma.
Drink: Hot toddies. (Mix 1 oz. bourbon, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup boiling-hot water. Stir. Drink.)
Get: A signed poster of John Stamos.
Lindsay Gigler, bartender and columnist for Orlando Weekly
Eat: My emotions, manifested in the form of delicious chocolates and other sweets that I'll regret about eight seconds after swallowing.
Drink: Gin and tonic – I plan on raising my glass every time Dwight Howard misses a free throw.
Get: I already got my wish: no more campaign commercials.
Casey Morell, former Orlando Weekly intern, now a journalism student at University of Missouri
Eat: Given that this will be my first Christmas without a gall bladder, my wife is putting her creativity to the test by whipping up a faux figgy pudding made entirely of sand.
Drink: 2 parts hot cider, 1 part blood of my enemies, cinnamon stick for garnish
Drink: Like many Americans, I was shocked to learn that takers now outnumber makers in our society. So I'm going to let my loved ones make me something for Christmas. (Hint: Spinning straw into gold is not as hard as it sounds.)
Steve Schneider, freelancer writer and blogger, Orlando Weekly
Eat: I'll end up eating three Thanksgiving dinners in three days. One traditional one, with the extended family; a vegan one, with my boyfriend; and one solid kitchen day trying out all the weird or timeconsuming recipes I didn't have time for throughout the year – like Ruth Reichl's poached whole turkey breast with lemon and pine nuts from the Gourmet cookbook, 2006 edition.
Drink: I'll be sippin' on gin and jam made with Big Wheel Provisions Black Mission fig preserves: 2 ounces gin, 1 ounce lemon juice, 1 ounce simple syrup, 1 tablespoon jam of your choice – try BWP's tangerine-vanilla marmalade if figs aren't your thing. Shake together and strain into ice-filled glass; serve with a spoonful of jam atop the glass.
Get: My fingers are crossed for a Polaroid Z340. I still have five working Polaroid cameras of various models and ages, but with film now $30 for 8 frames and available by mail order only (the-impossibleproject.com), the spontaneity is gone so they rarely come out. The Z340 prints digital images on paper, meaning I'll have a hard copy and a digital file. It's not my beloved SX-70, but it might be … even better?
Jessica Bryce Young, arts and culture editor, Orlando Weekly
Eat: Caramelized Brussels sprouts.
Drink: Caipirinhas, lots of them.
Get: Affordable birth control options and a weeklong vacation.
Denika Robbins, production manager, Orlando Weekly
Eat: Brick-oven fi red pizza from Eternal Tap.
Drink: So Fresh and So Green, Green, Terrapin's annual fresh hop beer. Limited release, so load up your beer closet (or "fridge") while you can.
Get: this Book is full of Spiders (Seriously, dude, don't touch it) by Cracked.com's David Wong. Cutting, Lovecraftian horror. And dick jokes.
Scott Horn, freelance writer, Orlando Weekly
Eat: Cookies, cookies and more cookies (Did I mention I will be eating cookies?)
Drink: I will indulge in as much hot chocolate as humanly possible … with whipped cream on top, of course!
Get: I would like a new pair of cat-eye glasses. I have awful vision, but always enjoy splurging on new frames to help me forget that fact.
Jennifer Guhl, marketing and public relations manager, the Enzian, Eden Bar and Florida Film Festival
Eat: My immediate response would be, "Everything in sight," because, let's be honest, that's usually the case. But what I enjoy even more than the holiday bingeing is my annual holiday baking day. Every year I devote an entire day – sometimes into the night – to mixing, measuring, sifting and gifting dozens of sweet treats. While each family member/friend has a favorite – anything from peppermint bark to blondies to gooey pumpkin bars – each year I'm sure to add a fresh new holiday indulgence from my kitchen.
Drink: I come from a family that's accumulated a ton of holiday recipes. Last year I was lucky enough to marry into a family that also dusts off their own bounty of passed-down dishes each year. None, though, are as "spirited" as my mother-in-law's homemade spiked eggnog, which we'll whip up again soon after she graciously shared the how-to last year. I'd share with you the ingredients, but I'd have to … well, you know the deal.
Get: I've lived in Florida for most of my life, meaning that a good majority of my holiday memories have involved sunshine and sand. This year, I want to see snow, so I've planned a long-weekend trip to Chicago in early December. The only things this thin-blooded Florida girl needs are a pair of waterproof leather Bryn boots ($200, thenorthface.com) and a comfy-cozy Marc New York fur parka ($249, nordstrom.com). I'll soon be making snow angels all over that Windy City –if Mother Nature complies, of course.
Aimee Vitek, calendar editor, Orlando Weekly
Eat: Anything and everything that involves either pumpkin, gingerbread or peppermint chocolate.
Drink: Seasonal beers and all variations, adult and family- friendly, of egg nog.
Get: I want all of my family and friends to stop buying pointless gifts for each other and instead buy more excellent wine and drink it together.
Hollie Mahadeo, general manager, the Enzian
Eat: A nice vegetarian alternative would be nice. Save the turkeys!
Drink: I'd choose egg nog, with a generous helping of rum.
Get: I hate to be boring, but the old standby, an Amazon gift card, is usually my topchoice.
Cameron Meier, film critic, Orlando Weekly
Eat: Pie. All kinds. Pumpkin pie (especially cold, for breakfast). Apple. Pecan. I actually made it my New Year's resolution for 2012 to learn to make the perfect pecan pie, and I'm pretty damn happy with the results. So now I'm onto the next challenge: I'm going to learn to make a Momofuku Crack Pie. It's going to be awesome, and I'm going to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Drink: When I'm with family, I'll probably be drinking white zinfandel out of a box. But after I've eaten all that pie, I'll probably want to settle down on the couch with the dogs and sip some Knob Creek bourbon. And I'm totally looking forward to at least one visit to the Courtesy Bar downtown this holiday season for a Sazerac or two. Or maybe a Betty Ford bloody mary. You know, for the day after.
Get: I thought I already had all the Mac products a girl could ever want, but then Apple came out with the super-adorable, thin and light 11-inch MacBook Air ($999-$1,099). A tiny computer that could fit in my purse. I want it. So badly. Even though I don't really need it. So, more realistically, I would be thrilled to get more local artwork to hang in my office – I have too many favorites to name.
Erin Sullivan, editor, Orlando Weekly
Eat: No idea what I'm going to eat, but whatever it is, I'm going to take the time to find out where it comes from. I recommend you all do the same.
Drink: My liver will be subject to my latest tradition: drinking in the tibetan Book of the dead while drinking Winter Park Distilling's Bear Gully Classic Whiskey. This will take from December until my Christmas tree dies. And it's aluminum.
Get: Give me peace on Earth and a really fantastic Armageddon on Dec. 21 so that I don't have to spend any money on my family and friends.
Trevor Fraser, freelance writer, Orlando Weekly