How Hanukkah Harry hasn’t helped us delay gratification

My Fellow Inebriates,

Surrounded by Gentiles in Langley, Canada, I almost forgot that today is the start of Hanukkah.751_menorah_325 copy

My Jewish uncle (who wraps the best-looking Christmas packages in the whole family) emphasizes that Hanukkah is a small occurrence on the Jewish calendar—not a “me too” answer to Christmas but a celebration in its own right. Uncle B is a good sport about Christmas even though he cultivates a broad misanthropy that blankets all faiths and he would happily downplay both Christmas and Hanukkah if his Catholic-raised wife (my mum’s sister) would permit it.

Another thing I haven’t mentioned—Uncle B doesn’t talk to bears. Despite our obvious animation and partial intelligence, he doesn’t see the bears at LBHQ. He’s like that kid who sees dead people, except the dead people are bears, and he doesn’t see them. So he’s actually not like that kid who sees dead people. But Uncle B has more brain cells than I do, so maybe he’s right, and Scary and I aren’t really here.

"You bears are actually not real."

“You bears are actually not real.”

Which is to say, Uncle B doesn’t care what my Hanukkah plans are (harassing Hanukkah Harry for eight gifts). Nor is Uncle B going to show up with eight gifts.

I was thinking this when Christine arrived last night with her famous canvas bag. Eight days’ worth of gifts sounds great, but they are very small gifts—arguably the sort that make you crave larger gifts. (A teeny bottle of Patron, for example, would just foster rabid desire for a large one, but perhaps HH should bring it anyway as an experiment.)

Eight days of moderate satisfaction. Eight days of relative restraint.

So when Christine rang the doorbell I decided to throw my lot in with her rather than Hanukkah Harry, who actually forgot to visit us altogether last year. What could be in her canvas bag?

She’d brought stuff, and we had stuff waiting. While the kids gobbled pizza, we sampled eight things, unconsciously shooting the eight-present wad before we even remembered it was Hanukkah Eve.

cannery scotch ale

Cannery Squire Scotch Ale

Hazy dark copper with a soap-sud head, this ale gives off a woody, malty, butterscotchy aroma with perceptible peat. It could be chewier on the palate, but it delivers a mellow sweetness that goes down easily. Pretty ordinary, though. I’d get it again, but only if it were cheaper.

Capitão Rayeo Reserva (2009)

capitao raeyo reservaA blend of Syrah, Trincadeira, and Aragonez, this Portuguese red wine is aged six months in French oak barrels and weighs in at 14% alcohol. It would benefit from decanting, which we didn’t bother doing, only to find that it had developed into a gem by the time our glasses were finished. A cheap gem too—at $14 bucks, it serves up rich fruit, supple tannins, and some unexpected depth.

Ola Dubh 16

OLA DUBH 16The product of a collaboration between Harviestoun Brewery and Highland Park Distillery, this dark “black oil” boasts 8% ABV and exudes oak, smoke, peat, and molasses. On the tongue it’s surprisingly moderate in weight, Scotch-like characteristics becoming more pronounced and diverse. Roasty-toasty with vanilla, chocolate, and coffee, the overall sensation is velvety and marvelous with a nice boozy burn.

Innis & Gunn Rum Finish

innis_and_gunn_rum_caskBeer with a rum-cask finish? OMG! Why aren’t more brewers doing this? The malty, enveloping INNIS & GUNN—but pirate-style. Rich mahogany bronze with gorgeous clarity, this 7.4% elixir fills the mouth with toffee, smoke, candied fruit, vanilla, and the promised rum essence. Every taste bud is rewarded with a symphony of masterfully harmonized flavors. What a treat. We knew whatever we had after this would suffer by comparison, so we switched gears…

Canadian Cream

We’d been thinking our homemade hooch was barely a success, but it surprised us by being pleasant and drinkable. While all of us agreed it wasn’t exactly Bailey’s, it wasn’t nasty either.

Canadian Cream II

Bailey's and Homemade side-by-side comparisonUnbeknownst to me, my mother made a second batch of Wiser’s whisky–based cream liqueur, this time tasting and tweaking as she went, loosely following a much simpler recipe reliant on fewer canned items and therefore ending up fresher-tasting and more successful. Still not a match with Bailey’s, but totally yummy. But why the hell didn’t my mum invite me to help???


DSCN2695If we can drink rum-flavored beer, we can eat whisky-flavored balls. I promised I wouldn’t describe Christine as “eating my balls,” but we all agreed my balls could use more booze. Even a spray-misting with more whisky would have helped them. But then again, perhaps Wiser’s just doesn’t have enough character to carry a whisky ball.


Highland Park 12

Cue angel song! Cue God-rays! Ahhhhhhh, this was what Christine’s canvas bag contained. Silky and palate-coating with a teasing honey sweetness, HIGHLAND PARK 12 lulls you with malt, then surprises with delicate smoke and vanilla, barely perceptible peat, and an endless finish. Christine, Christine, Christine…sigh.

You see, I passed out after our wee dram and didn’t wake up until the next morning. Christine had had coffee and left, sensibly opting out of the family’s planned “breakfast with Santa.” I awoke alone, with a furry tongue (like every day). And I was sad. I would have liked to hug her good-bye.

So there you have it: eight days of gifts, all in one day—the day before Hanukkah. We did the opposite of what scientists advise for optimal emotional and intellectual development: hastened gratification rather than delayed it. If you’re familiar with the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, you’ll know that, of preschool children offered a marshmallow along with two options (eat it immediately or wait 15 minutes and get two marshmallows), those who chose the second option grew up to have higher SAT scores, more self-assurance, higher social competence, and better reasoning abilities.

By taking our eight gifts before Hanukkah, we didn’t take option 2. We didn’t even take option 1. We took option 0, which probably explains a certain brain-cell shortage in yours truly 😉

Happy Hanukkah, my fellow inebriates.


Of course I’m not hedging my bets. Not really.

My Fellow Inebriates,

I was still recovering from my parents’ insensitive revelation that Santa’s been pretend all along, when my friend Scarybear went all apeshit at me on FB.

Scary thinks there’s no way anybody’s parents could ever deliver the swag Santa does.

I had thought that too, especially about my parents, who are always chasing clients for payment, saying the sky is falling and that we’ll be on bread and water soon.

I really want to believe that Santa’s real.

But it’s hard not to compile evidence now that the belief bubble’s been popped:

We have no chimney. How does he get into our house without doing a B&E?


Santa’s everywhere. Lots of them are fake. Maybe all of them are fake.

"Those ones are fake. The real one's real."

Why do my parents get sneaky and secretive just before Christmas?

"I don't know. Because tax season's coming?"

This is a honking big planet. How does Santa do it all in one night?


I think Scary would be a good fit for the Tea Party. He’d probably be a good Flat Earth guy, too, if Star Trek hadn’t won him over already. His suspension of disbelief transcends any and all inconvenient information, leaving him free to believe whatever the hell he wants, and, just like all good believers, he knows it’s unquestioning faith that anchors the whole thing.

But what if he’s right? What if Santa’s for real and I’m going to miss the boat with my cynical questioning? OMG.

Okay, well, if I’ve messed everything up with Santa, there’s still another guy…and he comes tomorrow. YEAH!! Hanukkah Harry!…

Dear Hanukkah Harry,

I have a bad feeling I’ve been blacklisted by Santa, so I’m wondering if it’s too late to become Jewish. I’ve heard there are a few hoops to jump through, but maybe I can do them after New Year when I have more reading time.

I hear you visit for eight days rather than one, Harry, which makes me wish I’d known about you sooner. I’m really sorry I’m not Jewish yet, but if you don’t mind my waiting until next year to contact a rabbi, here are some little requests:

  • Day One: Smirnoff vodka
  • Day Two: Macadamia nut liqueur
  • Day Three: California Cult Classics Chardonnay
  • Day Four: Case of Cariboo
  • Day Five: Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum
  • Day Six: Blue Curacao
  • Day Seven: Bacardi 151
  • Day Eight: Jagermeister

I’m not really sure how you operate, Harry, or whether it’s cool to ask for Hanukkah booze. (I know it’s okay to ask Santa because he often looks inebriated.)

Lastly, if you know Santa, please don’t tell him I asked for all this stuff because I don’t want him to think I’m hedging my bets. Which I’m totally not—I asked for different booze from you—so it’s all good, right?

Cheers, Harry, and thanks for reading my last-minute letter. I’m sorry I didn’t believe in you before. Sometimes my parents keep valuable information from me.

Yours truly,