Here we are again. Soon it’s going to start getting dark at 3 p.m.
The good news, or inevitable news, is we have the winter holidays to give us some hope amid the darkness and the (shudder) snow and driving through it (shudder harder).
I’m going to do something different for this editor’s note. If you like music, stay with me. If you are one of those people who don’t like music (it’s a thing: Look up “musical anhedonia” on Wikipedia), you may want to turn the page.
I was raised in a Christmas-celebrating household, and I can’t remember exactly how old I was when most Christmas music stopped hitting the same way, but I would guess it was somewhere around the teen years. Even more so as an adult, it’s hard to access the magic when there are bills to pay and snow to plow and drive through and seasonal depression to combat.
If any of this resonates, these post-idyllic holiday songs might better capture your mood:
- Among my favorite tracks to listen to while driving slushy roads in the dark is “I Think Of You (Holiday Edition)” on Manchester resident Maxine Linehan’s holiday album, “This Time of Year.” The sanity-restoring ditty details all of the frustrations of the season, right down to being “stuck behind the tourists staring at a tree.” I play it on repeat.
- When Ingrid Michaelson introduced her song “Happy, Happy Christmas” at a show at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston, she warned the audience that it’s not a cheery holiday carol as the title might suggest. The song off her holiday album “Songs for the Season” is an ode to loss and nostalgia and loving the ones you’re with.
- Northampton, Mass., singer-songwriter Heather Maloney’s holiday EP “Christmas Anyway” came out during one of the roughest parts of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Table for the Feast,” a harmonic, bittersweet carol, is longing and accepting at the same time, and makes us hopeful we can let go of past gripes.
A few others: Fiona Apple’s soulful cover of “Frosty the Snowman” (“when he heard him holler ‘STOP!'”), the dystopian “Ho ho ho” by Liz Phair (“That ain’t no sleigh bells jingling on the rooftop / The landlord is here and he’s changing the locks”) and the breezy “Till the End of the Year (Bye Buy By)” by Anna Nalick that muses on shopping away the heartbreak (“I hauled my heart to the nearest cashier”).
If you’d like to shop your tortured heart out in Southern Vermont, Jennifer Brandt takes us on a holiday shopping tour of our region’s downtowns. I hope Jen had a less frustrating experience than the one Maxine sings about (“I dodge a city plow, a salter and an SUV / That’s when some drunken Santa crashes down right into me”), and if not, I hope she listened to some good music in the car. We do know she enjoyed some good food: She also takes us on dining excursions to Reluctant Panther in Manchester and Niramit in Bennington. For more in Bennington, Gabriel Schatz recommends four new restaurants in town.
For straight-up food porn, Gordon Dossett and Stewart Cairns visited, photographed, and graciously tested several options for wintry cocktails and dishes in the Northshire — a region also known for its shopping options.
For stuff you can make at home, our nutrition columnist Katharine A. Jameson is back with a healthier twist on popular winter comfort food, and Bob Audette takes us into the exciting world of microgreens.
On the entertainment front, our young correspondent Robyn Jensen takes us inside the Hooker-Dunham in Brattleboro, and I had a brief chat with the fellow who organizes concerts at The Coffee Bar (yes, rock concerts at a coffee shop) in Bennington. Vermont Country contributor Roberta Stone introduces us to a new art space in Wilmington, aptly named I Love Art Space. Telly Halkias, a local favorite theater columnist, takes us inside Bennington’s Monument Arts & Culture Center.
Bob Audette also talks to a local musical duo — though educators by day — and Chris Mays and Kristopher Radder take us inside a high-profile show at The Stone Church in Brattleboro.
And since you can’t have winter holidays without nostalgia, Joe Rivers and Lee Ha dug up some photos from Brattleboro’s winters past.
As dependable as the sun coming up each day, even if behind clouds and snow: We have some recommendations of local cannabis shops, this time with a focus on holiday shopping options, and a list of soul-soothing movies (they’re not always soul-soothing, but this time they are) from our cultured contributor Dan Tebo.
And how could I forget: Miss Kitty is back, and friskier than ever.
As the days get shorter, may you take whatever light you can find, even if artificial. And when the frustration hits, like Maxine Linehan sings, think of the good ones.
Gena Mangiaratti, whose first name sounds like “Jenna,” is editor of Vermont Country magazine and is arts & entertainment editor for Vermont News & Media. She lives in Brattleboro with her cat, Theodora, and welcomes your post-idyllic holiday music recommendations at firstname.lastname@example.org.