Tag Archives: Traditions

Why I love watching ‘Die Hard’ at Christmastime

“‘Die Hard’ is not a Christmas movie,” my Adored stepson insisted when I suggested we watch it.

“Yes, it is. Let’s watch it, and I’ll point out all the holiday references.”

So we did. And I stopped pointing out holiday references after the first five minutes, there were so many of them.

The first installment in the long-running “Die Hard” series is set on Christmas Eve when John McClane arrives in Los Angeles to reunite with his estranged wife working some high-dollar gig for the Nakatomi Corporation. McClane, a hard-boiled New York cop, stumbles on a terrorist takeover of the high-rise where his wife is partying with her corporate colleagues. Expletive-laden mayhem ensues.

The movie includes Christmas decorations, Christmas travelers, a Christmas party, Christmas bonuses, Christmas punch and at one point, the elevator doors open to reveal a dead Scandinavian terrorist dressed in a Santa hat with “Ho, ho, ho” scrawled across his chest. Bruce Willis as John McClane is like a foul-mouthed tough-guy equivalent of the little dog on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” How much more holiday can you ask for?

The score is inspired, mixing snippets of recognizable Christmas songs with doom and dread. It beats another draggy “Silent Night” or sing-songy “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” any season of the year.

But let me share the greatest gift of watching “Die Hard” last night with my 19-year-old stepson: He had never watched it before.

“I’ve seen the modern versions, but I haven’t seen this one,” he said nonchalantly.

What?! Never seen “Die Hard”?!

I relish in introducing him to a classic, but usually it’s science fiction (watching “Aliens” with him the first time, after I had watched easily 100 times, was like seeing it with new eyes).


(I’m not the only one who appreciates nontraditional Christmas movies. Check out a list of a dozen of them here, where you’ll find the original “Die Hard” trailer — bonus! By the way, we watched “Reindeer Games” on Saturday night, so next up for us has got to be “In Bruges.”)

It’s in the cards

Do you see what I see?

A card, a card, winging through the mail, with a pic and a tale.

The Christmas card season began in earnest today when not one, not two, but three Christmas cards arrived in the postman’s bounty. Oh, joy!

For us dinosaurs who still enjoy snail mail greetings, this is the playoffs, the World Series of the season.

I received one card the day after Thanksgiving, and then a drought, but I expect good wishes to swell from a trickle to a tsunami by the 24th. I myself sweated out the annual missive — complete with photo greeting this year — yesterday. Seventy-four cards are in the mail. Whoop! Whoop!

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! Happy new year!

Love in an envelope.

Big birthday, little moments, good day

Well, the AARP card arrived in the mail about 10 days ago. My Beloved likes discounts, so he was actually excited about that.

Beyond that, his 50th birthday was celebrated rather quietly, without a black balloon in sight. No surprise parties, Sage, or restaurant soirées, Sheena, and I loved the concept of a limo (thanks, Wyrd) and a special album of wishes from friends (brilliant, Katharine), but I should have been soliciting ideas two weeks ago or two months ago, not two days ago. Instead of interesting beers, Frank, my husband got a big bottle of wine (from his mother), an obscene birthday card (from his uncle) and a Carhartt jacket (from me).

If nothing else, I’m an excellent procrastinator.

He enjoyed breakfast with me, lunch with his mother (and me) and dinner with his daughter (and me — I ate well today, even though it wasn’t my birthday!). “Happy birthday” was sung five different times to him. The highlight was when the waitress dimmed the lights at the sushi restaurant at dinner, and the sushi chef brought out a sculpted orange lighted with a candle and sang “Happy Birthday” a la “Deck the Halls” in “A Christmas Story” (fa, rah, rah, rah, rah …). Tyler laughed so hard! It was better than any fancy cake or elite choir.

It was a happy moment. And I guess, or hope, that’s all that counts.

Happy birthday, Beloved!

Hear ye, hear ye! Here is ye recipe for Who-hash!

As is tradition around here at Minnesota Transplant, it’s time for the annual sharing of the Whos-Down-In-Whoville Who-Hash recipe.

Hungry web searchers ramp it up this time of year, yearning for a sage to reveal the secret recipe.

Here’s the deal: No one knows what’s in Who-hash. But it’s a sure bet there are no Whos in it, and no corned beef (because if it had corned beef, it would be Corned Beef Hash).

So here you go. This delicious corn pudding recipe came to be known as Who-hash in our house when my ex-husband named it. The husband is history, but his moniker for the dish stuck.

Try it. You’ll like it. It’s great with turkey at Thanksgiving, but it’s yummy with ham at Christmas, too.


  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 can corn kernels, undrained
  • 1 package corn muffin mix (preferably Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix)

Combine all ingredients in a greased casserole dish (square, oval, circular — whatever works), and bake about an hour at 350 degrees. It’s kind of like a cake — stick a knife in the middle to make sure it’s progressed from soupy to firmish. Serves two to 12, depending on how hungry you are and how much you believe Christmas comes without trimming and bows.

Holidays not complete without lefse

If you didn’t have lefse at your Thanksgiving table, well, then you probably didn’t dine in Minnesota.

Lefse (pronounced LEF-tza) is a … well, it’s described on a number of websites as a Norwegian flatbread. After once watching a native Mexican make lefse, I realized it’s also sort of like a Norwegian tortilla. Might be like a Chinese wonton wrapper, too, for all I know about making wontons.

It’s made from potatoes and flour and fried (with no oil) on a hot griddle. It can be enjoyed with just butter (that’s how I like it), but lots of people like it with butter and sugar (hard to go wrong with those two staples) and sometimes cinnamon. Add ingredients, roll up and eat.

My mother makes homemade lefse and graciously shares it with family at holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving. Making lefse is a lost art, I think, sort of like making beds with hospital corners and canning tomatoes; she’s attempted to pass the tradition to me, but so far it’s not sticking (so to speak). Mom contributed lefse to the Thanksgiving table at my sister’s on Thursday, but I suppose some lefse fans bought theirs in Osakis at Jacobs Lefse Bakeri …

Think about that for a second. A bakery in central Minnesota specializes in lefse. And advertises on interstate billboards. And sells lefse (and lefse kits and grills) online. Don’t you think it’s just a little bit amazing that a niche product like lefse has such adoring fans? I suppose it’s like regional goodies such as Cincinnati-style chili or Chicago-style pizza — people go to great lengths for such delicacies.

I quizzed my new Illinois relatives and discovered lefse is served on some Illinois Thanksgiving tables, too, but it’s not my imagination that lefse is rather Minnesotan in nature (second only to being rather Norwegian in nature, of course). According to Wikipedia, 51.7 percent of the Norwegian American population lived in the Midwest in 1990; Minnesota had the largest number.

Norwegians are also big advocates of the Lutheran church and lutefisk, but I think lefse is definitely the sweetest contribution to the American melting pot.

Greeting of ‘happy holidays’ covers this one, too

Growing up, Mom made a big deal out of advent.

Advent, religiously, is a time of pregnant expectation. From a Latin word that means “coming,” it’s the beginning of the church year starting about four weeks before Christmas when Christians celebrate all the signs that signaled Christ’s birth: prophecies of Christ’s coming, Elizabeth’s pregnancy and John’s birth, Mary’s pregnancy and the run-up to the trip to Bethlehem. Advent is also about the preparation for the Second Coming, when Christ returns to Earth in the final days.

According to Wikipedia, the progression of the season may be marked with an Advent calendar, a practice introduced by German Lutherans. As a family of mostly German Lutherans, we adopted this practice, too.

When I was growing up, I remember lighting Advent candles on a wreathed centerpiece at dinnertime. We would light one more candle each week until all five (including the white one for Christmas) was lighted.

Nephew Logan gets the Dec. 23rd honors this year.

We also had a felt wall hanging in the shape of a Christmas tree with 24 hooks on it and 24 corresponding felt ornaments. My sister, brother and I were always jockeying for position about who got to put up the day’s ornament. In theory, it was always the biggest honor to hang the star at the top of the tree on Christmas Eve, but in practice, the best day of December for me was Dec. 23: My birthday. It didn’t matter which ornament got into which pocket on pretty much any other day, but the baby Jesus was always in the pocket No. 23 because that’s the day this baby was born.

Now that calendar hangs in my sister’s house, and my two oldest nephews began fighting a week ago about who gets to put up baby Jesus on Dec. 23 (“we still do it on that date because of you,” my sister told me — isn’t nice to know some things never change). A compromise was reached by telling them that putting up the last ornament on Christmas Eve is as cool as putting up baby Jesus on Dec. 23.

(Not everyone thinks so, but if we can settle the war that way, then so be it.)

On Christmas, please wish the Savior of the world a happy birthday. But on Dec. 23rd, birthday wishes will be accepted here.