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NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2020

CONTENTS 12 Some Good Things Happened in 2020 Uplifting stories from this year that you might’ve missed. 14 Overheard During the Holidays The Digest staff shares cliché conversation clips from their families. 16 Where to See Christmas Lights in New Jersey ‘Tis the season to see some socially-distanced Christmas lights. (Sorry, dad, our house did not make the list.) 19 12 Christmas Tree Farms in New Jersey Didn’t get your tree yet? No problem. The Digest has you covered with the best Christmas tree farms in the state. 20 Whose Idea Was This Anyway? The bizarre history behind our favorite Christmas decor. 26 Meeting Your Significant Other’s Parents Survival Kit Don your marriage material sweater and get ready to meet the in-laws. 29 Season of Support: A Roadmap of Local Businesses Come together and learn how you can make a difference. 32 Non-Commercial Gift Guide 2020 is anything but conventional, so let’s make it non-commercial. 40 Wake Up Somewhere Different This Christmas Can’t swing a trip to the North Pole? Try these Northeast getaways instead. 46 Classic for Whom? How indigienous peoples celebrate the holidays. 51 Artisan Gift Guide A guide to gifting options from local New Jersey craftsmen for the 2020 holiday season. 56 There’s Always Room For Dessert America’s holiday baking habits, by the numbers. 58 Cinematic Christmas The story of why my family’s favorite holiday tradition is going to the movies. 62 California Contingent The class anxieties of the holidays come at a cost.


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NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2020

PUBLISHER Thomas La Vecchia EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Michael Scivoli ASSISTANT EDITOR Abby Montanez SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER Christine Lisi JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER Emma Hite PHOTOGRAPHER Peter Bonacci EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Hanna Guido Liana Imparato Garrett Rutledge Grace Shaver STAFF WRITERS Devin Frasche Will Huck Jessica McLaughlin Amaris Pollinger In loving memory of

WINNIE 2007 - 2020

@thedigestonline | thedigestonline.com The publisher takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information or claims of any advertiser in this publication. The advertiser is solely responsible for the info, statements, claims or warranties mentioned in their advertorial or advertisement. Reproduction of, or use without written permission of the publisher, of editorial, periodical, or design content of any manner is strictly prohibited.

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STAFF LETTERS This is our eleventh Holiday Issue, and I think we’re all in need of a little holiday cheer. We’re putting up our trees earlier. More importantly, we’re counting down the minutes until we can finally say goodbye to 2020. On the bright side, we have so many young, talented contributors in this issue. It’s brimming with satirical humor, unique history and of course, quirky personal stories— check out “California Contingent” on page 62. When we were tasked with putting together a gift guide this year, we wanted to do something a little different. Shopping local is more important than ever before, which is why we’ve chosen to feature some wonderful New Jersey artisans that are keeping tradition alive. Please join me in geeking out over every piece of leather Jersey City-based studio BillyKirk creates on page 51. 2020 might’ve changed up our content calendar, but we’ve tried to not lose our sense of humor along the way. Navigate life with the in-laws with our survival kit and read our obnoxious overheard holiday quotes. Here’s wishing you all a happy holiday season and a final farewell to this whirlwind of a year. We’ll see you in 2021, where some big changes are coming for The Digest.

Every time I work on The Digest Holiday Issue, I can’t help but think to myself, “How can it be the end of the year already?” Not that I want 2020 to go on any longer, but typically I’m pushing back against celebrating too early. This holiday season hits different though. I gave my apartment a festive nudge—in November. My Christmas shopping has started earlier than ever before. And our own holiday issue inspired me to take one or two premature trips down memory lane. Read my essay on why my family’s favorite tradition is going to the movies on page 58. Instead of fighting time, I’m actually finding enjoyment in revisiting these better, happier moments. And I hope you can do the same when flipping through our issue. Whether you want to relive what it was like meeting your S.O.’s parents or would rather focus on some good that 2020 had to offer.

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November/December 2020

Some Good Things Actually Happened in 2020 By Grace Shaver

2020 has been anything but a typical year. People have compared it to the final season of a television show where the writers’ room has decided they’ve given up on a cohesive theme. Instead, they’ve opted for chaos and a multitude of plot twists. COVID-19 has been the curveball of the century. We were forced to shut our doors and keep our distance from the ones we love. Amidst the sadness, despair, and often existentialism, it felt like there was nothing to celebrate. The unique situations and tragedies individuals faced should not be downplayed. There was, however, some good news this year. Here’s just a few of the uplifting stories you might have missed. 12

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Parasite Wins Big at the Oscars

Shelter Pets Find Homes

Before the realities of the pandemic came to be in the United States, “Parasite” became the first international film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. This was a wonderful milestone for the film industry, as movies in languages aside from English don’t often get the recognition they deserve.

Being stuck at home awarded more people the time to foster and adopt pets in need of homes, which is certainly good for both animals and humans alike. Having a pet aids in anxiety and stress reduction, and can help with loneliness. Adoptions were double their usual rate by the end of June at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles. At Animal Care Centers of NYC, the foster to adoption rate was 25 percent, a 15 percent jump from the average rate before the pandemic.


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November/December 2020

Astronauts Return Safely to Earth

Drive-In Movie Theaters Make a Comeback

In April, three astronauts safely made it back to Earth after spending six months in space. The Earth they returned to was entirely different from the one they had originally left, but their safe landing was a reminder of the accomplishments of humans and how as a species, we can adapt and survive the unimaginable.

During the summer, with few options for fun and time to spare, drivein movie theaters made a comeback. Drive-in concerts have also become a new way to enjoy live music. People headed to outdoor venues, parked their cars, and saw their favorite performers from afar. Stand-up comedy turned to outdoor venues, too.

Lakers Win the NBA Championship, Honor Kobe The Los Angeles Lakers won their first championship since 2010 in October. This win came after the passing of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant earlier in the year. It was Lebron James’ fourth championship win. The NBA season was weird but proved that large groups of people can remain in contact if proper precautions are taken. The 2020 season offered a glimpse into what the future of sports, and society, might look like.

Wolverines Discovered in Washington State After 100 Year Hiatus In Washington State, after more than 100 years of not habitating the area, wolverines returned to Mt. Rainier National Park. Wolverines are extremely rare in the United States, and the discovery of a mother and her two cubs confirms that the national park is a healthy natural environment.

Production of “Hamilton: An American Musical” Airs at Home In July, Disney+ made Lin-Manuel Miranda’s original production of “Hamilton” available for streaming. The broadway show was viewed and enjoyed by households around the world, and it offered a connectedness that people had been missing. With Broadway shut down until at least May of next year, streaming “Hamilton” serves as one’s front-row ticket until the near future.

Volunteers Plant 250 Million Trees in India In India, social distancing didn’t stop a regularly scheduled environmentalism initiative. Volunteers planted 250 million trees as part of an ongoing project. Of course they kept their distance from one another, but they nevertheless made a difference.

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Overheard During the Holidays

... And Other Things Our Families Say

“That was my scungilli salad.” “You snooze, you lose.” Hungry Italians. Christmas Eve. Dead mollusks drenched in olive oil. What could go wrong? Michael Scivoli | Editor-in-Chief

“Let’s all go to sleep and hope Santa brings more wine.” Said during and not during the holidays. Hanna Guido | Editorial Assistant

“Mess up that Christmas dress and I’ll give you something to cry about.” My grandmother’s infamous words. Amaris Pollinger | Staff Writer

“Are you making a balloony? Make me one!” My mom, asking for a Bellini on Christmas Eve. Liana Imparato | Editorial Assistant

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“Let’s get drunk for Jesus.” My angry Italian “religious” family. Devin Frasche | Staff Writer

“Shake up your balls!” My dad yelling at my grandpa as he calls our Christmas bingo game. Emma Hite | Junior Graphic Designer

“What should we see this year for Christmas? American Sniper?” My family’s idea of a happy holiday. Abby Montanez | Assistant Editor

“ Diles que es a las seis y media para que lleguen a las siete!” My grandma makes sure everyone shows up on time… even though that never happens. Michelle Coneo | Staff Writer

“It’ll be next Christmas before she opens that thing.” My cousin to me as we watch our grandma try to open her gifts without destroying the wrapping paper. Christine Lisi | Senior Graphic Designer

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Where to See

Christmas Lights in New Jersey ‘Tis the season! The holidays are upon us, and with it comes all the essentials—hot chocolate, Christmas trees, the unending flow of cheery music. And it wouldn’t be a typical season without the annual battle we all face against our impossible tangle of Christmas lights. (I can see my dad struggling to unwind the knots now.) But whether you’re planning to wrestle with your lights this year or not, there are plenty of extraordinary displays across the state to give you an excuse to step outside your home and admire another’s handiwork. Check out 10 of the best places to see Christmas lights in New Jersey. Sorry, Dad, our house did not make this list. BY LIAN A IMPARATO

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1 Orchard of Lights Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ Demarest Farms welcomes families to their “Orchard of Lights” celebration from Nov. 24–Dec. 29. Visitors take a guided tour from their own cars through the 32-acre orchard, decked out with bright, colorful lights and holiday scenes. After making your way through the drive-thru lights display, you can enjoy time around the fire pit (with s’mores!), hot chocolate, and pictures with Santa. You can also get some holiday shopping done at the farm store, where gifts, trinkets, and decorations are for sale. You must reserve tickets for the Orchard of Lights in advance of your visit.

2 Night of Lights Creamy Acres Farm in Mullica Hill, NJ Each holiday season, “elves” convert Creamy Acres from a dairy farm into a Christmas wonderland. The farm promises visitors a magical experience under their sparkling lights and family-friendly atmosphere. From their Night of Lights Country Christmas hayride to their Barnyard Walk, Creamy Acres sets up its expansive property with bright Christmas lights everywhere. Families can enjoy the hayride, musical dancing tree light show, and “Who” Village with concessions and fire pits to keep warm! Creamy Acres Farms’ Night of Lights is open on select days from Nov. 27–Dec. 26. Be sure to book your ticket in advance of your visit.

3 The Cook’s Christmas Lights Jackson, NJ The Cook’s Christmas Lights are one of the most extravagant displays in all of New Jersey. This family’s set up incorporates more than 30,000 lights, a 20-foot spiral tree, and fun music for a nightly lights show that starts at the end of November and runs through Jan. 1. Beginning at 6 p.m. each night, the Cook family kicks off their show, with the lights twinkling in step to the music. The community is welcome to drive by and watch the show. The family also uses their famed lights display to raise awareness and funds for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Onlookers can join in on the season of giving and donate—100 percent of the funds raised by the Cook family’s project benefits the organization.

4 Christmas Fantasy with Lights Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township, NJ The Christmas Fantasy with Lights at Storybook Land began on Nov. 14 and continues through the end of December. The beloved amusement park offers rides in view of their beautiful holiday scene, sparkling with more than one million lights that are lit by Santa each night. You can also visit Santa’s House to say hello! Guests must make a reservation before their visit to the lights at Storybook Land.

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5 Christmas Lights Show & Village Skylands Stadium in Augusta, NJ The Christmas Lights Show & Village at Skylands Stadium boasts a mile-long, drivethru display with dazzling lights and holiday scenes. The winding path of the lights show gives way to a winter village at the end, complete with carnival rides, a skating rink, and a live nativity scene. Families can tour the village and its extensive walk-through lights displays, while also picking up treats—from hot chocolate to ice cream, as well as craft beer for adults—along the way. The lights display and winter village kicks off on Nov. 20 and runs through Jan. 1. Book your ticket in advance of your visit (one car per ticket).

6 DiDonato’s Magical Holiday Express DiDonato Family Fun Center in Hammonton, NJ The DiDonato Family Fun Center transforms their facility into a holiday wonderland in one of the most spectacular displays of Christmas lights in New Jersey. DiDonato’s Magical Holiday Express offers a train ride through millions of lights or the chance to walk through the extravagant display. The holiday village includes a toy cottage and snack area, and families can also bring their kids to a meet and greet with Santa and Mrs. Claus. COVID-safe, each train car is sanitized after use, and Santa and Mrs. Claus wear face shields for their visits. The Holiday Express takes place from November through the end of December, so be sure to book your ticket before your visit.

7 Magic of Lights PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ The Magic of Lights at the PNC Bank Arts Center brings sparkling holiday scenes, seasonal characters, and digital animations to this drive-thru Christmas lights experience. From Nov. 2–Jan. 2, the Magic of Lights invites families to drive around the colorful path of lights and decorations. The lights display is open daily throughout the holiday season and goers will have to book their ticket before making the drive (one car per ticket).

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8 Christmas Lights Show Hayride Johnson’s Corner Farm in Medford, NJ Johnson’s Corner Farm kicks off holiday season Nov. 27 with a wide range of family activities, including their Christmas Lights Show Hayride. They also host a light show by the lake, with fire pits and marshmallows for roasting. The farm is decorated all around with thousands of colorful, sparkling lights to admire while you enjoy treats from the outdoor Christmas Cafe (including hot chocolate, cider, chili, and hot dogs) or decorate gingerbread cookies. Santa also makes drive-by visits on his tractor for the kids to wave hello and grab a gift from his red wagon. Guests must book their tickets before visiting the farm.

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The Gress House Holiday Light Spectacular Union Beach, NJ The Gress home is known for their extraordinary Christmas set up. The family constructs an elaborate holiday scene, including thousands of colored lights, inflatables, plastic figures, and special effects. The family earned national attention when their house was featured on the “Great Christmas Light Fight” on ABC and has used the popularity of their “overly decorated home” for good. Through their Decorations for Donations initiative, the Gress family has raised thousands of dollars in support of the Children’s Miracle Network in Mountainside, NJ over the last several years.

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South Jersey Holiday Light Show Bridgeport Speedway in Logan Township, NJ The South Jersey Holiday Light Show launches Nov. 19 on the race tracks at Bridgeport Speedway to bring brilliant holiday-themed displays in a drive-thru experience. Families can tour the mile-long route in their cars and take in these larger-than-life set ups to the tune of holiday music. With displays up to three stories tall and reaching 50 feet in length, the speedway is expected to be one of the most incredible displays of Christmas lights in New Jersey this season. Book your ticket (one car per ticket) for the light show, open from Thursday–Sunday until Dec. 19, and then daily through Dec. 30.


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Christmas Tree Farms in New Jersey

It’s the most wonderful time of year again, at least for some of us. But to get into that holiday spirit, there’s one age-old tradition that has to come first: getting your Christmas tree. In this weird year, the holiday season will take a little more planning and finessing. Just like every event, tradition, or what have you in 2020, you’re probably wondering if something as simple as getting a Christmas tree will be the same this year. Not to worry, because you have this lovely guide for Christmas tree farms in New Jersey to help you.

What’s Important to Know This Year Christmas tree farms ARE open this year. The places you see listed are a selection of those who have confirmed they’re available for this season. The list isn’t all-encompassing, not every farm could make this list. I also tried to keep it as geographically comprehensive as possible, so there were only so many I would include for each area of Jersey. Don’t be afraid to make a call to your favorite location to see about availability this year.

BY GA R RET T RU T L ED G E

NORTH JERSEY

CENTRAL JERSEY

SOUTH JERSEY

1 | Sunset Christmas Tree Farm Blairstown, NJ

6 | Keris Tree Farm Allentown, NJ

10 | Edwards Christmas Tree Farm Wrightstown, NJ

2 | Wyckoff’s Belvidere, NJ 3 | Kevin’s Tree Lot Edgewater, NJ 4 | Evergreen Valley Christmas Tree Farm Washington, NJ

7 | Cherryville Farms Pittstown, NJ 8 | Barclay’s Tree Farm Cranbury, NJ 9 | Anne Ellen Christmas Tree Farm Manalapan, NJ

11 | Spruce Goose Christmas Tree Farm Chesterfield, NJ 12 | Picea Acres Jackson Township, NJ

5 | Hidden Pond Tree Farm Mendham, NJ

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Whose Idea Was This Anyway?

The Bizarre History Behind Our Favorite Christmas Decor The holiday season in America means something different to everyone. To some, it’s the most wonderful time of year (or perhaps the most stressful); to others, it might be another demonstration of American capitalism. Whatever the season means to you, we can all agree on one thing: it’s full of bizarre, sometimes humorous traditions. No holiday demonstrates this better than Christmas. The most wonderful time of year is about mood and aesthetics, often more so than being about Christmas Day itself. Despite all of the peculiar rituals this time of year, none are as famous as the traditions of decorations. The time, money and effort put into Christmas decor is something to behold, but we can’t help ourselves; it’s not the same without them. The history of decorating is passed down from earlier generations, and often quite literally, as grandmas relish the opportunity to rid themselves of even more of their belongings. Though many Americans religiously engage in these staple decorating traditions, most of us don’t know why or where they come from. As much as some might like to blame America’s unwavering need to commercialize everything, many of these traditions have origins much deeper than that. Some are even hundreds of years old, with roots beyond America. With that said, let’s take a look at the largely unknown history of some of the most classic Christmas decorating traditions.

BY GARRETT RUTLEDGE

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CHRISTMAS TREES Perhaps the most famous holiday tradition of all: the Christmas tree. The practice of decorating trees dates back to the Middle Ages in Germany. European settlers then popularized this tradition in America in the 19th century, as the first Christmas tree lot opened in 1851. Today, roughly 80 percent of U.S. households use artificial trees instead of the real deal. I can confidently say that I’m now disappointed in 80 percent of Americans. Sorry everyone, but I’m prepared to die on my shrinking real-tree island.


CANDY CANES Some of you might balk at the inclusion of this one, but I’d argue candy canes are just as much of a decoration as they are a popular holiday treat. The origin of candy canes goes back to Germany from around the 17th century. There is one man responsible for their arrival and prominence in America: August Imgrad. An immigrant from Germany, Imgrad started the trend stateside in 1847 in Wooster, Ohio by placing candy canes on trees, or so the story goes. Interestingly enough, candy canes used to only be white for some 200 years, with the iconic red stripe emerging in the early 20th century. Nowadays, 1.76 billion candy canes are produced every year in the U.S., as dentists everywhere have nightmares about this cavity producer.

POINSETTIAS Do you ever wonder what the deal is with those big red flowers you see everywhere during the Christmas season? Yeah, me too. If you don’t know by now, these flowers are known as poinsettias (at least in the U.S.) and have solidified themselves as the Christmas flower in America. Just like many of the other traditions, these flowers didn’t originate in the States; they’re actually historically native to Central America.

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CHRISTMAS LIGHTS The tradition that has us all thankful for blackout curtains and possibly has caused more conflict between neighbors than just about anything else: the infamous Christmas lights. Disgruntled suburbians everywhere have Edward Hibberd Johnson to thank for this one. He had the idea back in 1882 to wrap them around a Christmas tree, and by 1914, lights were being mass produced in the States. The lights have become something of a spectacle in modern times, with light shows at popular houses drawing crowds from far and wide. Like many other Christmas traditions, an entire industry has built up around these lights, with 150 million sets sold in the U.S. each year. They’ve even become a staple of comedy and pop culture, with movies like “Deck the Halls” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” wonderfully displaying the comedic undertones of this tradition.

D O O R W R E AT H S Another Christmas decoration seen in homes, office spaces, and just about anywhere else across the country: door wreaths. The origin of wreaths dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times. Wreaths served as gifts that symbolized good health and fortune in these ancient cultures. The Christmas wreaths we see on doors today, embodying a circular shape often with red ribbon and plastic berries, stems from the holiday’s Christian meaning. It’s believed the berries were added to symbolize the blood of Christ. Whatever they mean to you, chances are you’ll have one in your house.

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Meeting Your Significant Other’s Parents Survival Kit Congratulations, you did it! You made it past the first line of defense in your new relationship: their friends. You’ve finally been deemed “pretty cool” by his lackluster crew in between Call of Duty matches, potentially even referred to by name instead of John’s girl. Or, maybe you’ve overcome relentless half-joking threats and interrogations from her girlfriends. Now comes the real challenge. Your proverbial Everest. So ignore the potty-trained cat, because it’s time to meet the parents. Regardless of how much your boyfriend or girlfriend has talked you up to their parents, they are still biologically programmed to find something about you they don’t like. So just like any other examination, start with preparation.

By Devin Frasche Rescue Wine

When in doubt, open a nice bottle to break the ice. Don’t be afraid of clichés. Tell them they have a lovely home, compliment the meal if it was homemade and pay for it if it wasn’t. Don’t shy away from making jokes! Everyone loves a good joke, and dads love bad jokes, so either way it’s a win. If you want to tell a story in which you’re the hero, make sure you follow up with something embarrassing. So have a drink and take the edge off. (Just don’t rescue yourself too much.)

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Repression Duct Tape

Your S.O. is your own personal resource into the minds of their original roommates. They know their likes and dislikes, and where past qualifiers have gone wrong. Don’t go rogue. Save the whole “being yourself” bit until after you’ve won them over. Basically, wait until your second Christmas before telling them you want a Pikachu onesie or a new Magic booster pack.

Marriage Material Sweater Dress appropriately, and keep in mind who your target audience is. Don’t dress as if you were going to the club. Your potential in-law isn’t impressed by your Yeezys. He thinks they look stupid. And you won’t win over mom with your political stance written across your face mask. Pretend you’re going out to eat with gam-gam and you should be fine.

Moral Compass

This is one of the very few times when you should ride the fence or smile and nod. Be as honest as you can, but don’t lie. If you lie the first time you meet your S.O.’s family, you’re stuck with it for the foreseeable future. It’s a slippery slope. If her dad is a die-hard hunter and you’re a pacifist that’s afraid to say something, you may have to shoot Bambi’s mom in the future. Save a deer. Don’t lie.

Dead Cell Phone Battery

First impressions are paramount. Remember, firm handshakes without squeezing too tight; because not a single person alive has ever been impressed when you vice grip their fingers. No elbows on the table. Say please and thank you. Simple, right? Manners go a long way. Most importantly, keep your phone in your pocket for once and be present throughout the evening. This isn’t the time to check the waiver wire for free agents in your fantasy football league. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s always cool to care, and your S.O.’s parents agree.

Patience Pills

Being a girl-dad myself, take it from me; your girlfriend’s dad hates you without needing to meet you. I don’t care if you’re a genius prodigy that lived up to his potential, or the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize. He’ll never think you’re good enough for his daughter, but he may eventually stop threatening you. That’s progress. So take a chill pill and have some patience.

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SEASON OF SUPPORT:

A Roadmap of Local Businesses There’s no doubt that the 2020 pandemic has been toughest on small businesses. It’s forced our favorite restaurants, boutiques, salons, coffeehouses, and plenty more to change up their normal operations and get creative to stay afloat. Enter curbside pick-up, makeshift outdoor dining spaces, and streamlined online services. Our small community businesses stepped up to keep taking care of us, and their employees, even when the odds were stacked against them. And after a trying year, the holiday season seems like a fitting time to recognize their efforts. You can take advantage of this season by not only donating to your favorite charities but also by giving back to your local businesses. We’ve made a few suggestions to start you off. BY LIANA IMPARATO

SHOP LOCAL I’m breaching sensitive ground here, but I’ll say it anyway: ditch Amazon, at least in part. You don’t have to cancel your account or boycott the delivery truck every time it passes your house, but buying from local businesses is vital to empowering the community and its economy in today’s small business crisis. Take your holiday shopping to your local clothing boutiques, antique stores, independent book shops, markets, and so many more. If you’re looking for online shopping options, many businesses have taken the months since the start of the pandemic to expand their reach. These local institutions—whether you visit them in person or online—offer products, services, and ambience reflective of the community. They possess a kind of charm that can’t be replicated or found among online corporate giants.

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BUY GIFT CARDS As you consider gift options for the people on your holiday shopping list, local presents work even for those it’s hard to shop for. While you might not know the route to go in buying a tangible present for your coworker or acquaintance, you can still share a slice of the community, and yourself, with them by keeping it local. Gift cards to community businesses are quick and reliable last-minute present options that provide a personal touch. They’re also an easy way to support the local economy. A gift card to your live-by-or-die coffee shop tells your coworker a bit about you (and your caffeine consumption habits). The gift also turns into more support and possibly a new patron for the business. An easy way out holiday present that benefits your community—it’s a win all around.

EAT IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD Restaurants have taken an especially hard hit this last year, with the industry poised to lose hundreds of billions by the end of 2020. While take-out and delivery services have sprung up to close the gap forged by the loss of steady in-person business, it’s hard to replace the on-site dining experience for restaurant owners and patrons alike. Take your Friendsgiving celebration to a local restaurant this year, or treat your family to a holiday brunch. Our local eateries have been both vigilant and innovative in securing our safety while still making the dining experience a positive one. The best way to thank your favorite local restaurants for their service is by frequenting them.

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TREAT YOURSELF None of us are immune to some of 2020’s most unkind maladies like Zoom fatigue and the distress of the coronavirus news cycle. Neither are our local businesses free of the dreaded (and seemingly unending) video calls or the burdens of the pandemic. Set aside time for some self-care, but do so with your local friends in mind. Visit a salon to get your nails done before your holiday dinner, or make an appointment at a spa. There’s also plenty of local crafting opportunities if you’re looking to use your hands for something other than navigating a keyboard. Taking some time to get out of the house and decompress is healthy—especially after the year we’ve collectively had—and it also supports these businesses that still suffer the similar fallout of months stuck behind a screen.

SHARE THE LOVE Social media is one of the easiest ways to offer our support, but we often forget how powerful a tool it can be in bringing attention (and patrons) to local businesses. Share your shopping adventures, good eats, and fresh haircuts by tagging the businesses you visit on Instagram or Facebook. Highlight your positive, safe experiences and plug the store. It costs you nothing, and it could prove valuable for their business. They’ll appreciate the extra exposure—plus, you might even get reposted onto their own social media pages!

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BY JESSICA MCLAUGHLIN The year 2020 has been an emotionally grueling one. But, if nothing else, it also brought a sense of perspective and opened our eyes to how fast our lives can be remade into something else entirely. It showed us the importance of small daily sacrifice: wearing a mask and staying six feet apart to ease the lives of others. The year also revealed the fatigue of isolation and with that, the insignificance of material items. Instead, we were faced with the longing for laughter around full dinner tables and the healing that comes from a single hug. This holiday season is about making up for lost time with family and friends and ensuring those around us feel special through warm-hearted and thoughtful gifts. Here are a few ideas you can share with your loved ones to create lasting memories that will carry into the new year.

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Make a Scrapbook Fill the pages of a scrapbook with photos and other sentiments (concert tickets, pressed leaves, etc.) that remind you and a loved one of the moments you’ve shared. If you’d like, you could even leave a couple of pages blank in hopes of filling them out together. There are a few templates available online if you get lost along the way. The idea is to create something unique, representing the relationship between you and a special someone.

Give a Subscription Box A niche subscription box is a gift that will continue long after the holidays. With hundreds to choose from, there’s bound to be one for every person on your list. Each month, a carefully curated box arrives in the mail with new items: books for the avid reader in your life, tools for the craftsmen, or make up for your favorite fashion guru. Subscription boxes are ideal presents for hobbyists, those who enjoy supporting small businesses, and the giftees in your life that are tough to shop for.

Handcraft a Coupon Book Many retailers sell generic coupon books with fill-in-the-blank sheets, but it’s easy and inexpensive to create your own. You can tailor them for whomever you’d like: a coupon to take Mom out for lunch or a night out (without the kids) for your spouse. The coupon book will give your friends and family endless opportunities to make memories with you throughout the year.

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Write “Open When” Letters Another easy-to-craft gift idea is “open when” letters. You can create as many as you’d like, similar to the coupon book, with a personalized title on each envelope. A few examples: “open on Christmas,” “open on your birthday,” “open when you’re having a bad day,” etc. You can include a note or letter for your loved one to re-read for years to come.

Gift a Virtual Class Nowadays, a quick Google search will offer you many ways to learn a new skill or help you brush up on an old one. MasterClass, the e-learning website, lets you practice photography with Annie Leibovitz or your comedic timing with Steve Martin. You can purchase an annual subscription or buy individual classes. Another option is Coursera, which offers philosophy and mathematics courses for those who want to expand their knowledge of the world around them. And if a collegiate experience isn’t the right thing, Craftsy has classes on knitting and woodworking. Or, if you would like to support a local business, try a virtual paint and sip class or yoga studios in the area.

Plant a Tree or Name a Star The Trees Remember is one of several websites dedicated to planting trees in honor or celebration of a loved one. The gift is a thoughtful tribute that will last for generations, while also helping restore fragile ecosystems in U.S. National Forests. The company gives the recipient a personalized card with the tree’s location and a card for you to write your own message. Adopting or naming a star in the night sky, available through the Online Star Register, might also be something to look into if you have a star-gazer in the family.

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Making

Spirits

Bright Holiday Gift Options From Super Buy-Rite Jersey City BY NEIL SHRODO

As we reach the end of the year, it is a time for family, friends and celebration. The holidays are the perfect excuse to show someone you appreciate them, or to treat them to something special just because! Here is a list of our favorite wine, bubbly and beer selections to gift this holiday season—great for loved ones or yourself! Goulart Gran Reserva Cava Spain’s Cava region offers some of the best bubbly on the market today, but this one is exceptional! James Suckling, the former European bureau chief of “Wine Spectator,” scored this bottle a 91 out of 100. He remarked, “A dense and rich Cava with lots of cooked apple and lemon character and plenty of bread-dough undertones. Full-bodied, frothy and fruity. Richer style. Drink now.” $19.99

Cuillier Comtesse De Belle Rêverie This wonderful Champagne, the Comtesse De Belle Rêverie, is a Pinot Noir dominated blend offering a great aromatic complexity and aromas of red currants. The color is pale yellow with golden highlights. The bubbles are fine and form a lasting and delicately creamy ring of mousse. The palate is balanced and full, with a distinguished, persistent finish. $29.99 on sale


East by Northeast Pinot Grigio This Pinot Grigio is off the charts with flavors of orchard fruits, white flowers, orange peel and apricot. Mediumbodied and refreshing! $11.99 on sale Boen “Tri-Appellation” Chardonnay Say cheers this season with the most popular white wine in the world, Chardonnay. This offering blends together grapes from three different California counties— Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Barbara. To quote the label, “Opulent flavors with a silky, alluring texture, flavors of apricot, lemon-cream tart and vanilla. This triappellation Chardonnay is elegant and lingering on the palate.” $14.99 on sale (normally $29.99)

Folk Tree Pinot Noir This is a Pinot Noir mainly from Arroyo Grande and Santa Barbara Highlands on the Central Coast. Fruit-forward, you’ll pick up on flavors of ripe red fruit, cherry cola, wild strawberry, with a touch of spice from the subtle use of oak. The palate is very giving, with a plush body for Pinot, and hints of raspberry, cherry and plum. $9.99 Monasterio de las Vinas Carinena Reserva 2014 A fantastic Spanish red that is medium-bodied with incredible complexity. It has an expressive nose of ripe strawberries and violets, while on the palate it is balanced, with fruity spiced currants, red plums and a touch of salinity. $14.99 on sale (normally 19.99)


Symphonie de Haut Peyraguey Sauternes 2013 This is the perfect wine for apple pie with its rich sweetness and complex flavors of apricot jam, marmalade, dried pineapple, honey and caramel! $19.99

Austin Hope Cabernet Paso Robles 2018 Sometimes you just want a special red to drink while celebrating with your family, and this is that red! “Aromas of fresh black currants and cherries accompanied by subtle smoky notes and dried spices. On the palate, this lavish, powerful wine is layered with juicy blackberry, ripe cherry, vanilla bean and brown butter.” 95 out of 100 points by “Wine Enthusiast.” $52.99 on sale (normally $74.99)

Spirits and Craft Beer Casamigos Blanco Tequila 750ml $41.99 on sale Grey Goose Original Vodka 1.75L $39.99 Club Card Special Glenfiddich 14 yr Bourbon Barrel Finish Single Malt 750ml $58.99 on sale Johnnie Walker Blue Label 750ml $187.99 on sale Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale First brewed back in 1981, Sierra Nevada’s seasonal craft beer was ahead of its time both for Americanmade IPAs as well as seasonal beers in general. Now referred to as a “fresh hop IPA,” this ale is made when the first hops of the season are brought in, and that freshness carries through to the resulting ale. Bright aromas of citrus and pine dance over this bold and intense celebration of the season. $10.99

(per six-pack)

TRÖEGS Mad Elf Ale After catching the microbrew bug in college in the 1990s, brothers Chris and John Trogner opened their own brewery in central Pennsylvania, and every year they release one of the best seasonals on the market—The Mad Elf. A dark Belgian ale brewed with West Coast honey and cherries that give it a rich amber color. The flavors of this sweet and malty ale are subtle with tart cherry flavors, honey and mulling spices. It is a strong ale, around 11 percent ABV, but watch out, it is so smooth you probably won’t notice! $15.99 (per

six-pack) on sale


Wake Up

Somewhere Different

This Christmas

BY WILL HUCK For those of us who celebrate Christmas, it’s a time for family, love and laughter. We haul evergreen trees into our living rooms, hang wreaths and lights wherever possible and master our favorite family recipes. All for the single purpose of coming together. It’s not to say that preparing for Christmas is bothersome—in fact, it’s one of my favorite traditions. But after decades of practice, a reprieve from the chaos of holiday chores sounds, at the very least, intriguing. Imagine you wake up on Christmas morning, well-rested and surrounded by family. But something’s different. You’re not worried about getting the ham in the oven or making sure Uncle Ted has his brand of whiskey. Why, you wonder? Because you’ve woken up somewhere different on Christmas. All the details— food, sleeping arrangements, activities— have been taken care of by the gracious hosts at your resort, hotel or B&B. All you have to do is throw on your favorite ugly sweater and enjoy the holiday. It sounds like a dream, I know, but this Christmas it can be your reality. Whether it’s an all-inclusive resort in the Berkshires, a hotel at the center of a lively town or a mountainside B&B, wake up somewhere different this Christmas.

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KIMPTON TACONIC Buried deep in the picturesque mountains of Vermont, the Kimpton Taconic is a boutique hotel perfect for a holiday retreat. Whether you choose to stay in a guest room, suite or cottage, the accommodations are spectacular and full of yuletide spirit. Guests can expect tastefully curated artwork and a view of the surrounding mountainside (hopefully covered in snow). Best of all, the Kimpton Taconic is pet-friendly with no additional fees, so your furry friends can come along for the holiday. While at the resort, patrons can unwind at the spa, take a dip in the heated pool, peruse an exclusive boutique or enjoy a lavish Christmas meal at the Copper Grouse. Nearby, you can stroll through downtown Manchester to embrace the town’s immaculate decorations. Plus, there are plenty of activities away from the hotel to satisfy the adventurous spirit. Test your off-road driving skills at the Land Rover Experience or grab your skis and hit the slopes on Stratton Mountain.


TWIN FARMS

Vermont Barnard, VT Woodstock, VT

Just south of Burlington, there’s a resort called Twin Farms—with 300 sprawling acres of bucolic serenity. It was once the personal estate of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Sinclair Lewis, where he and his wife often hosted notable political figures and literary experts throughout the 1940s and ‘50s. Today, Twin Farms remains a one-of-a-kind resort, where family and friends can experience the beauty of Christmas in Vermont. The five-star accommodations and amenities at Twin Farms are second to none. Visitors have their pick of 20 unique cottages and various suites that are perfect for an intimate Christmas morning with their S.O. As for activities, relaxation and luxury are on offer—this means seasonal farmto-table meals, fine wine pairings and spa days. If you’re looking to roam off-campus, you can visit the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, tour a working farm or head up to the Killington Ski Area for a day on the mountain.

Manchester, VT WOODSTOCK INN Situated in one of the prettiest Christmas towns in the Northeast, experience the holiday like never before at the Woodstock Inn. Historic homes are decorated to the nines with lights and Christmas ornaments, and horse-drawn carriages line the streets. As the special day approaches, enjoy various musical performances by choirs and orchestras, as well as countless holiday-themed activities in the streets. Furthermore, feel free to spend an afternoon at one of the many nearby ski areas. The Inn itself offers cozy yet tasteful accommodations for its guests. Stay in the charming Woodstock guest rooms, the decadent Legacy suite or the Tavern rooms equipped with reading nooks and other structural quirks. As for culinary experiences, the Woodstock Inn has five restaurants, including the Red Rooster, known for its exquisite Christmas Feast. Plus, Richardson’s Tavern offers its regular dinner menu with Christmas Specials during the holiday season. Also, don’t forget to unwind at the spa—holidays are for relaxing, after all.

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Stockbridge, MA

Nantucket, MA

THE INN AT STOCKBRIDGE Stockbridge, MA is a wonderful tourist destination full of Christmas spirit. Buried in the rolling hills of the Berkshires, the town is surrounded by beautiful winter scenery, which complements the residents’ knack for holiday decor. And with plenty of outdoor activities within driving range, including various ski mountains, Stockbridge is a winter holiday paradise. In fact, this little town is so wonderful that it was often featured in multiple Norman Rockwell paintings. In light of this, the Norman Rockwell Museum is a popular attraction for tourists in Stockbridge. While there’s plenty to do in town, the Inn at Stockbridge offers incredible amenities. This cozy bed and breakfast offers everything from locally sourced meals and complimentary happy hours, to calming massages and a state-of-the-art fitness center. It even has a beautifully decorated library for guests to curl up with a book or enjoy a fire. The suites, to say the least, are intimate and comfortable. Whether you’re staying in the Main House, the Cottage House or the Barn, you’ll wake up feeling well-rested on Christmas morning.

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THE NANTUCKET HOTEL & RESORT It may be known as a summer getaway, but Nantucket is the ultimate vacation spot year-round. Like many tourist towns in the Northeast, the island goes all out for the holidays. Downtown is completely decked out in Christmas decorations, which makes perusing its shops and restaurants double the fun. In lieu of the Christmas Stroll—a Victorian-themed festival that was canceled due to COVID—the island’s annual celebration has been reimagined as the Nantucket Noel. Hosted at the Nantucket Hotel & Resort, it will include a bevy of Christmas celebrations for family and friends. As for your stay, prepare for a carefree, luxury getaway by the Nantucket Sound. From your suite at the Nantucket Hotel & Resort, you’ll be able to overlook the water as you sip your coffee or cocoa on Christmas morning. Curated and prepared by Executive Chef Al Cannito, the resort will also offer a first-class Christmas menu. This includes “Santa’s Brunch,” as well as a spectacular dinner that’s a staple on the Island. To top it off, the resort will also provide complimentary ferry rides on and off the island.


Hamburg, NJ

New Hampshire

New Jersey

Portsmouth, NH

THE INN DOWNTOWN If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, your best bet is heading up to Portsmouth, NH. Known as one of the best Christmas towns in the Northeast, Portsmouth is the ultimate holiday vacation spot. Visit the Music Hall for holiday performances, ice skate on Puddle Duck Pond and go on special candlelight tours of historic homes and museums. Plus, the decorations throughout downtown Portsmouth are said to be some of the best in the area. The Inn Downtown places you in the heart of this festive city, while making you feel comfortable and at home. Given its central location in Portsmouth, guests are just a walk away from countless shops, restaurants and activities. It also provides a nice alternative to the many Victorianstyle bed and breakfasts that seem to have overrun the Northeast. Visitors can choose from 10 studio apartments in the building, each of which offers a kitchen and modern decor.

CRYSTAL SPRINGS Located in Sussex County, Crystal Springs Resort is one of the state’s most luxurious holiday escapes. If you examine it by the numbers, it might just be the Northeast’s most expansive resort as well. Not only does it offer two sprawling hotels—Grand Cascades Lodge and Minerals Hotel—but it’s also home to two spas, three pool complexes and 11 eateries, (which includes a wine cellar and a beer garden). At Crystal Springs, the holiday experience includes delicious food and a spectrum of Christmas activities, including Winter Wonderland, Winter Workshop and more. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the Crystal Tavern and the Springs Bistro offer seasonal three-course dinners to celebrate the holiday. Furthermore, between the resort and its surrounding landscape, the activities are endless. Visitors can explore a vast array of wineries and distilleries, peruse the many shops in nearby Warwick or check out the Emmerich Tree Farm.

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Bolton Landing, NY

New York

THE SAGAMORE Founded in the 1880s, this sprawling resort has provided a charming Christmas escape for well over a century. Its marvelous location—an island on Lake George—makes it one of the most unique holiday retreats in the area. Whether you’re in the Historic Hotel or a lakeside condominium, guests will be ensconced by the scenic landscape of the Adirondacks that surrounds the lake. The Sagamore has a vast selection of restaurants on-site for holiday-inspired meals to bring the family together, as well as exquisite brunch and dinner menus for Christmas day. Fine dining options include authentic Italian cuisine at La Bella Vita Italian Restaurant and a genuine New York Steakhouse experience at The Club Grill. Although it’s easy to get lost in the food at The Sagamore, don’t forget to make the most of its other amenities. The Sagamore takes pride in creating a whimsical Christmas experience, ripe with decorations and family-friendly activities.

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PRACTICING GRATITUDE BEFORE IT WAS COOL

For some Indigenous peoples, celebrating Thanksgiving is about basic human decency, not colonialism, or even the first Thanksgiving feast between the Wampanoag tribe and English settlers, but the celebration of gratitude and diversity among human beings. Besides, it was the Wampanoags that provided the food and the age-old ideology of gratitude, giving thanks before that Instagram influencer told you it was cool. That being said, Native tribes aren’t all the same. Each has its own stories, history, and way of life, and while some things are common among them, you can’t

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compare a Cherokee to a Navajo and lump them into the same category. This is why there is no easy answer for how, or if Indigenous peoples celebrate nonNative holidays. Plus, many traditions and ceremonies are sacred and not shared with anyone outside the tribe. For example, members of the Seneca tribe greet the dawn of November 22nd with a memorial ceremony and prayer held to honor the spirits of those who were lost to genocide. For them, Thanksgiving is a day of ceremonial remembrance and spirituality, sometimes accompanied with public mourning. Other tribes refuse to acknowledge the holiday at


CLASSIC FOR WHOM? HOW INDIGENOUS PEOPLES CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS

Non-native holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas often make many tribal communities pause to reconsider if, and what, they might be celebrating. Being multicultural, with Muscogee (Creek) blood that runs deep, I often find myself in this strange gray area and the holidays are no exception, especially Thanksgiving. I mean, I love pumpkin and sweet potato everything—but should I be sitting down to a holiday whose origin is so questionable? So, how do Native Americans celebrate the holidays, if at all? The answer isn’t as easy as one might think: they do and they don’t, and no one tribe is the same as another. I’m here to share a bit of what I know and help you navigate the holidays a little more mindfully.

BY AMARIS POLLINGER

all, as they feel their own heritage isn’t acknowledged. Personally, I start every Thanksgiving with an old Thanksgiving memorial, specifically honoring my matriarchal Creek grandmother for her strength, sacrifice, and fortitude.

IS CHRISTMAS A THING? LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE FOR THE WINTER SOLSTICE

Before celebrating Christmas, Natives honored the Winter Solstice, and many still do alongside the Christian holiday. Commemoration of this day has longer roots than the recognition of Christmas.

Indigenous people throughout the world paid homage to the Winter Solstice, and Native Americans were no exception. Traditionally, it’s a time for honoring the “return” of the sun (ahem, “birth of the sun”) family, the spirits of one’s ancestors, and, of course, gratitude. Some tribes will hold Winter Solstice ceremonies where they spend a few days prior to making prayer sticks, which they’ll plant in the ground during the ceremony. Others hold days long festivals that are sacred and not for the public eye, like in the Zuni Pueblo tribes. In others, (and similarly to Christmas), there can be giftgiving with one important difference—The Handsome Fellow.

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WHO IS THE HANDSOME FELLOW?

Tribes like the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, among others, choose to honor their own gift-giving mystic, The Handsome Fellow. Just like with Thanksgiving and the spirit of gratitude, gift-giving was already a large part of many tribal communities, so it’s no surprise that many adopted the European Christmas or made Santa Claus synonymous with the Creek leader Chief Hobbythacco (translating to “handsome fellow”). It was customary for people of the tribe to give gifts to their chief, and usually, the chief would happily share this same bounty with the people, particularly those in need. Chief Hobbythacco was notorious for being both benevolent and kind. Legend has it that The Handsome Fellow, or Chief Hobbythacco, dressed in white buckskin as a symbol of his kindness, giving gifts to children. This was traditionally practiced throughout the year but has now become synonymous with Christmas.

IT’S THE GIVING SEASON

So that “Go around the table and say what you’re thankful for” bit isn’t just a one-day way of thinking. Generations before the Wampanoag tribe sat down with English settlers—marking the “first Thanksgiving feast”—many Indigenous people were already living by the rule of gratitude. Because this is a Native American philosophy, some have made peace with the past, and rather than celebrate the first Thanksgiving feast, the holiday is a celebration honoring the ancient practice of gratitude, creation, community, and the harvest. The perspectives and traditions for non-Native holidays vary from tribe to tribe, and family to family within the tribe. As long as one respects the true origins and history of Native American culture, there is really no right or wrong way to enjoy the season. When celebrating any holiday, be mindful and consider where

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your traditions truly come from. Take into account who you are honoring, and how you can do so in a compassionate manner. Jacqueline Keeler, a writer, activist, and member of the Dineh Nation and Yankton Dakota Sioux said it best when questioned about her decision to celebrate Thanksgiving: “It was their way [Native Americans] to give freely to those who had nothing. Among many of our peoples, showing that you can give without holding back is the way to earn respect.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Many reservations do not have the proper funding or care they need and as a result, many look forward to the holidays and the donations made possible through fantastic organizations like Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), Association of Indian Affairs, Native American Heritage Association, Navajo Water Project, and the Native American Rights Fund, among so many others. If you truly want to make a difference in the Native American community and aid in their cause, donate today.


Protect what matters most, today and always. As a New York Life partner, my goal is to help you protect your family in times of need. Life insurance ensures the safety of your family. New York Life is ranked #73 on the Fortune 500 list and has helped people protect what matters most to them for 175 years. Get the conversation started today with New York Life.

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New York Life Insurance Company Partner, New Jersey General Office 379 Thornall Street 8th Floor, Edison, NJ 08837 Cell: 908-347-4228 Email: mbruscianell@newyorklife.com www.newyorklife.com


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Artisan

GIFT GUIDE A GUIDE TO GIFTING OPTIONS FROM LOCAL NEW JERSEY CRAFTSMEN FOR THE 2020 HOLIDAY SEASON.

BY MICHAEL SCIVOLI

I

n the summer of 2019, I found myself in a lesser-known region of the Tuscan countryside. I spent a week in a medieval village called Barga. The town’s ancient charm has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Sure, there are cars and Vespas weaving through the narrow, web-like streets and oddly shaped buildings—but it’s the town’s markets I’ll remember most. There was an artisan or shop for everything—cheese, leather, wine, butchery. This is what we’re missing at home. This is real life, I thought. But then I thought harder. And it turns out, that wasn’t entirely true. For all our development and infrastructure, you just need to know where to look. Our local communities may not gather for sales in the square every day, but they’re still filled with talented New Jersey artisans. You know, the people who make really cool shit. There’s something undeniably nostalgic about a 21st-century leatherworker or independent watchmaker. Their crafts are reminiscent of a time when those local artisans were all we had. Sure, hitting that Amazon app on your phone is time efficient. But I don’t want to live in a world where every bottle of gin is one of 100 million. Or where every leather wallet is identical to the other thousands behind it on the assembly line.

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BillyKirk

TRADE: LEATHER GOODS | WEBSITE: BILLYKIRK.COM Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend a cocktail mixing event at BillyKirk’s temporary studio in downtown Jersey City. I walked away with perhaps the coolest custom passport holder and bar bag I’ve personally ever seen. (I even got to stitch the holder myself.) Since then, I’ve been obsessed with this local artisan. BillyKirk is the brainchild of Chris and Kirk Bray. The two brothers founded their brand in 1999 to counteract the trends of mass production (and subsequent inferior quality). Each item they produce can be embossed or customized to the individual. When it comes to uniquely-designed leather gifts with character, BillyKirk should be your first inclination.

No. 289 Roller Bar Belt | $99

No. 471 Large Leather Valet Tray | $47

USE CODE BILLYKIRK_DIGEST15 *15% OFF ALL NON-LIMITED EDITION PRODUCTS No. 479 22” Carryall, Camo | $605

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Corgi Spirits

TRADE: SPIRITS DISTILLERY | WEBSITE: CORGISPIRITS.COM During an editor’s roundtable, a publisher from Miami asked me what was hot in the New Jersey spirits scene. Before the words “gin is in” left my lips, I was met with some smug remarks. But, kids, gin is most definitely in. Jersey City-based small-batch craft distillery, Corgi Spirits opened its doors in 2017 right off Pacific Ave. Founded by Bob Hagemann, the close-knit company operates like a fun-loving family—as the distillery’s name suggests. Before they were able to open their outdoor patio during the early days of the pandemic, they pivoted to hand sanitizer production, which they donated to first responders. You can return the favor by picking up a bottle of gin from them directly (or at several local retailers).

Earl Grey Gin 750mL | $35.99

Very Merry Gin 750mL | $36

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Jono Pandolfi Designs TRADE: HANDMADE CERAMICS | WEBSITE: JONOPANDOLFI.COM

Not long after I was introduced to Hudson County’s booming restaurant scene did I discover the artisan responsible for each chef’s canvas—ceramicist Jono Pandolfi. Before I knew it, top New Jersey chefs everywhere were geeking out over Pandolfi’s latest designs. At one point, Pandolfi became so sought after that he was putting out 200 handcrafted pieces per day. From his Union City studio, Pandolfi employs a 16-step technique to craft architecturally sound tableware that’s both intricate in design and minimal in color. He loves working in the confines of each restaurant’s unique table space and has excelled at it for years. Pandolfi’s designs are also available for purchase via his website. It’s true what they say, after all, “You eat with your eyes first.”

Coupe 4-Piece Place Setting, Toasted Clay / White Glaze | $140 Includes: 1 Coupe entree plate, 1 Coupe salad plate, 1 Coupe cereal bowl, 1 Coupe Alaska bowl

WHAT DOES “Shopping Local” DO? 1

2

3

4

5

KEEPS MONEY IN YOUR COMMUNITY.

EMBRACES YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD’S UNIQUENESS.

CREATES CHOICES OUTSIDE OF BIG BOX STORES.

IS BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.

FOSTERS LOCAL JOBS.

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Brew Watch Co.

TRADE: WATCHMAKER | WEBSITE: BREW-WATCHES.COM I was first introduced to Brew Watch Co.’s designer and founder, Jonathan Ferrer, in 2018. The NJIT grad spent his early years with Movado before transitioning into his own unique brand, where he serves as everything from watch designer to company photographer. Though the New Jersey native has transitioned a lot of his day-to-day to New York City, his designs are indicative of his hometown roots. “Coffee shops are my place of peace. This is where I enjoy designing, meeting with people and it just seems as though everyone around me is enjoying their time, too. So I thought it would be cool to put my own personal story into that. It’s a story that other people can relate to, which is the most important thing—relatability and connecting. That’s why I called it Brew.” — Jonathan Ferrer, Brew Watch Co.

Retromatic | $425 Crystal: Sapphire glass, Water resistance: 5atm (50 meters), Bracelet: 20mm, brushed stainless steel 316L Colors: Burgundy, Black, Blue, Green

November | December 2020

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s e r Th e

s y a alw

m o o R

t r e s s e d for a By Abby Mont

nez

38% of people give

away their fruitcakes instead of eating them

1 in 4

Gen Xers bake their own holiday goods

Pies, cookies, and cakes are among the top sweets to bake or buy

3

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48%

of people admit to craving gingerbread flavors around the holidays

1/2 of Americans

have been involved in a holiday baking disaster

63% of households have a traditional dessert they eat every year

Ame rica ’s Baki ng H a bits, By the Numbers

Holiday of 93% Americans

bake cookies during the holidays

Nearly 1/2

of Americans admit to using classic recipes over contemporary ones November | December 2020

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Cinematic Christmas The story of why my family’s favorite holiday tradition is going to the movies. BY ABBY MONTANEZ

I

can’t remember exactly when my family broke tradition, but I do know it all started when my mom asked me to Google “restaurants open on Christmas.” That year, we found ourselves at a nearby Houlihan’s passing around pitchers of red sangria and shoveling overcooked fettuccine Alfredo into our mouths. This chain restaurant weirdly felt like home, even though we were metaphorically far from it. For us, the tradition of dining out began on a whim and has since merged itself alongside my favorite activity of all— going to the movies. To me, this pastime epitomizes the true spirit of the season. People either want something to do with their families, or manage to get away from them for at least 90 minutes. When the five of us sat down in a dark theater on Christmas Day to watch a buffed up Bradley Cooper (circa 2014) take on the role of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, we remained present yet blissfully adrift.

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10

Famous Movies You Didn’t Know Were Released On Christmas

1 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Opening Day: $35 million

2 American Sniper (2014)

Opening Day: $30.5 million

3 Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Opening Day: $24.6 million

4 Les Misérables (2012)

Opening Day: $18.1 million

5 Django Unchained (2012) Opening Day: $15 million

6 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) Opening Day: $11.8 million

7 Catch Me If You Can (2002) Opening Day: $9.8 million

8 The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Opening Day: $9.1 million

9 Fences (2016)

Opening Day: $6.7 million

10 Little Women (2019)

Opening Day: $6.4 million

If you’re questioning the festive nature of this all, well, there are still aromas of butter wafting through the air. Although, it’s not freshly baked pie you’re smelling. Loose upholstery strings from the scratchy theater seats continue to tickle at the backs of your arms, akin to your aunt’s couch. The reason I believe my immediate family started to stray from tradition in the first place is because Christmas had simply lost its luster. So much had disrupted what used to be. What happens when there aren’t any grandparents left to visit? Or everyone rolls their eyes at the thought of attending Midnight Mass? You don’t have to play by the rules. The idea of going totally giftless has even been tossed around. Instead, we talked about putting the money towards a group safari in Africa. Although, traveling now seems like a distant memory. When left to our own devices, my family’s quest for a cinematic Christmas began, and I’ve come to find out that we’re not alone on this journey either. Far from it actually. In a 2018 study conducted by Marcus Theatres, the fourth largest movie theater circuit in the country, 72 percent of their 4,500 members reported that they’ve made going to the movies with either friends or family a yearly holiday tradition. November | December 2020

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ne could conclude this all started back in 1947 when Paramount made the decision to debut “Road to Rio,” the firstever movie to come out on Christmas Day. There were murmurs from the studio about whether or not audiences would show, and if releasing a film on a religious holiday would be interpreted as disrespectful. Turns out, even though the movie was far from Christmassy in tone, the charm of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope was enough to win over movie-goers, and the film turned out to be a huge success. Since then, Hollywood has made it a point to capitalize on the month of December, and the eight-day stretch between Christmas Eve and New Year’s has been reported as one of the busiest times at the box office. Granted, things might look a bit different in 2020. So, what types of films do studios release during this period? Well, Christmas just so happens to be the perfect affair for award contenders. In fact, from 1986 to 2005, it was estimated that half of all the Best Picture winners from the Oscars were released on December 15 or later. In other years, titles including “Titanic” and “Avatar” were among the biggest holiday season box office hits of all time. When I went to see “Fences” on Christmas Day in 2016, Viola Davis later took home the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. That’s not to say this time of year is all business. Walt Disney Studios is known for sparking joy among audiences of all ages—regardless of where you stand on the “Mulan” remake—with major preChristmas releases from the “Star Wars” franchise. According to U.S. box office figures from 2019, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” brought in $32 million, the second-highest showing numbers ever earned on Christmas Day. The top spot belongs to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which pulled in $49.3 million on December 25, 2015.

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For some, the saga has become just another part of the festive build-up—like watching “Miracle on 34th Street” or “Home Alone.” However, there won’t be any Disney family blockbusters at the theater this year, since Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” reboot lost its original holiday release date. Instead, Warner Bros. has announced the premiere of “Wonder Woman 1984” is scheduled for Christmas Day, unless it’s postponed for the fourth time due to the current public health crisis. Which reminds me, tradition doesn’t preserve itself. If all attempts at leaving the house this holiday season are cancelled, does that mean my tradition of going to the movies ends in 2020? Not necessarily. Traditions were meant to evolve (or even skip a year). Which is how I originally went from sitting down at the dining room table, to waiting in line at a crowded Houlihan’s. That being said, what’s made this moviegoing tradition so special for me, aside from getting to avoid the emotional turmoil brought on by relatives, is the notion of being all in one place at one time. Together, but separate. Whether we’re inside of a physical theater or not. The moments in between wellchoreographed car chases, Denzel Washington monologues or Kevin Hart antics are the ones where we as a family share belly laughs, rushes of adrenaline or sometimes even a cathartic cry.


The evolution of thought begins with a New Theory.

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California Contingent The Class Anxieties of the Holidays Come at a Cost

N

BY HANNA GUIDO

obody is ready on time. Like fish wiggling on hooks, the four of us ricochet off each other’s limbs, then settle by half steps into the 1993 Ford Aerostar. Our father is yelling, and our mother has a fingerprint of perfume behind her left ear. I’m proud to smell like hairspray. We ride along, past the neighborhood brocade of twostory colonials Henry Ford commissioned for his white workers. There are decorated heritage lamp posts every 10 feet, and their glow projects maternal warmth in the steel dusk of winter. I know the cost of each wreath because my father works for the

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city. Even when I’m older and many states away, I won’t be able to see one without thinking of the price my hometown decided it was worth: $8. At the holiday midnight mass, we bless ourselves with the lukewarm liquid of the spirit and file behind our extended family, hugging and kissing below the Seventh Station of the Cross. The church was commissioned by Polish wealth and built by Polish labor. I sit in a pew with my siblings, the three of us girls all under 14 and carrying hand muffs that match our small British-looking hats. We appear as though we’re sitting on the audition bench for “Shrunken Margaret Thatcher,” minus the bulbous hair. Above me


hangs the painting of a gaunt Jesus shouldering the weight of murder, greedy kings, and poisonous flowers, while my small hands are nestled in department-store fur. My older sister calls the opulence of the church Polish Gucci. I call it a catholic Fabergé egg. The glitz and opulence promises a new start for our vegetal souls, never mind the idea that paradise could be as fake as fake fur. Some of my earlier memories of Christmas have an aura of anxious urgency. Urgency to make the impression on our extended family that we had a good life. “Absolutely not a want over here!” These were the same people who, during the other 355 days of the year, we

shared small hotel rooms with, errands, and the horrors of the Iraq War. But regardless, once the time of Christmas struck, we were our mother’s hired help, toasting pine nuts and painting the dining room “a less olive green.” It’s as though people in the middle class save up their class anxiety throughout the year to expel it turgidly for two hellish weeks. At age 12, I was not immune to this same anxiety. You can’t cosplay Margaret Thatcher and be immune. I wanted a Hoover vacuum that Christmas. Maybe I thought if I owned a vacuum, I would be the one giving out the orders, instead of the one cleaning the ice trays.

ABOVE ME HANGS THE PAINTING OF A GAUNT JESUS SHOULDERING THE WEIGHT OF MURDER, GREEDY KINGS, AND POISONOUS FLOWERS, WHILE MY SMALL HANDS ARE NESTLED IN DEPARTMENT-STORE FUR.

November | December 2020

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nd then one year, our family from California decided to come for Christmas. And that’s when the charade really throttled our necks. My aunt and uncle lived in Hollywood and before that, New York, so it was just accepted that our home and city must have made them feel like someone was trying to stick a dirty glove in their mouths. Our mother wanted us in French braids, and we were going to serve beef Wellington, like a fancy hotel restaurant with a lobby that smells of chlorine. Our dog was neutered quite possibly just for the event. Had we put up a white picket fence, it would have needed to be whiter. There’s a Samuel Beckett quote that goes, “nothing is more real than nothing.” But the superficial is the most real because it’s the most cunning. It damages even as life is enjoyable. When I look back at it now, those hats and muffs that my sisters and I wore made us feel good, and yet entitled and falsely special. There’s something sickly about all that, like a Seventh Station Jesus. But still, reaching heroic proportions of irony, our posturing came into its final form: literal acting. We were encouraged by our parents to put on mini recitals for our relatives on Christmas Eve. Where did we find the time, you may be wondering. I practiced starchy violin notes, while my brother wrote the three of us into

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plays. When I wasn’t given the lead, I told my brother my schedule was already iffy for next year’s production, that I might be gone seeing a landmark. With every effort for a crisper picture of middle-classdom, traditions were put on the sacrificing rock. We never practiced our Italian culture or learned about the Feast of the Seven Fishes—a vigil for awaiting the baby Jesus, apparently with enough salted cod to feed the neighborhood. It’s like a synapse of lineage was broken and replaced by magazine paper. We didn’t know about the Italian bakery on the east side of the city that made the dessert for our parents’ wedding. We didn’t know that our great grandmother, a firstgeneration Italian, a seamstress, and a sudden widow in a new country, used to only cook with a cast iron skillet, and that it was still in the family. To not live with these small bits picked from the forest floor of family history is a plodding degradation of what it means to be a family at all. In many ways all this is about storytelling too. What metaphors do our families have access to that help us cope and divine the importance of the present? The idea of a vigil on Christmas Eve is a great example. Traditions are not just memorized rituals. They’re tools for having more chess-playing quiet in our fast-food minds. Enough at least to realize that family can be a living, breathing center.


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The Digest | November/December 2020  

The Digest | November/December 2020