It’s once again (sigh) that time of year when one chaotic event rolls right into the next, and the next, and the next. From post-Halloween sugar highs to open-air market shopping to making a mess in the kitchen (again), November and December are jam-packed with mistletoe-filled madness. We love the season of twinkling lights, of course, but good luck catching a breather once the ball gets rolling. Wind through the most awesomely exhausting time of year with our survival guide—it’ll be over in the blink of an eye.
What’s better than Halloween? The week following Halloween, when you’re eating candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you’re a parent, you either shelled out for the perfect Minion costume or made your fingers bleed sewing one yourself—either scenario has earned you another “fun size” Twix bar—don’t you dare let it go to waste.
Indian Sweet Treats
Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, celebrates the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness. The firework- and gift-filled feast falls on November 7 this year—right as you’ve polished off the last of your Halloween candy. Bake up your choice of traditional Indian sweets, from kaju katli (a quintessential treat made with saffron and cashew) to patishapta (Bengali rice crepes with coconut filling) to hot, spicy chai.
Does the mere thought of sitting down with your extended family after the midterm elections give you a low-grade panic attack? That’s why God invented Friendsgiving. Round up your pals and chow down on classic Thanksgiving dishes, sans in-law drama. The November feast is just like regular Thanksgiving, minus Aunt Carol repeatedly asking why you’re not pregnant yet.
Fine, you can watch the NFL all day—as long as you get out and play some football yourself. Wrangle up your cousins for a game of touch (please, for everyone’s sake, not tackle) at Nike Park, or just toss the the pigskin around in your backyard. In any case, getting your heart rate up for, like, 10 seconds, will make that pile of pumpkin pie taste even better.
Light it Up
Since your house will never look like the Yuletide Vegas Strip, instead take a stroll through the bona fide winter wonderlands of the Arboretum’s Illumination or Naper Lights at the Settlement. It’ll be more fun than electrifying yourself (Griswold–style) on your roof.
Get Your Latke On
Make like the ancient Israelites and cover every square inch of your kitchen in flour and oil. Latke-making memories will stay with you forever. Literally. Every year, the smell of oily potatoes seeps into our hair, pores, even the fibers of our clothes for weeks. Just the way we like it.
Check Everyone Off
Come with a list, get in, get out; deviate from your prescribed plan and fall into an abyss of chaos and credit card debt. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself aimless and overwhelmed, wandering Anderson’s Bookshop wondering which World War II history book your dad hasn’t read yet.
Take a Spin
Sure, dreidel is a game of luck, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get overly competitive while playing it! Spin like a kid and spin to win. You know, like you’re not a grown-ass adult who could go out and buy your own gelt if you really wanted to. Take that, Uncle Max!
Visit Kris Kringle
Nothing says “Merry Christmas!” quite like a photo of your red-faced, besweatered toddler sobbing on an old man’s lap. … Once you’ve popped a couple Excedrin, schlep the little ones down to the Santa House on the Naperville Riverwalk. The teary memories will last a lifetime—or at least until Boxing Day.
Everyone’s got that Christmas movie they can quote line-for-line. Take advantage of these sweet few weeks a year where it’s socially appropriate to shriek at your TV, “I just like to smile, smiling’s my favorite!” or “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”
Light the Kinara
While others wallow in post-Christmas depression, keep the party going with Kwanzaa festivities. The celebration of African American culture and heritage runs from December 26 to January 1. Spend the last week of the year lighting the seven candles of the Kinara, dancing to traditional drumming, and sharing gifts that celebrate creativity.
Happy New Year!
After two months of eating, drinking, shopping, fighting, and drinking some more, New Year’s Eve isn’t just the end of 2018—it’s the end of a marathon season of indulgence. You made it! By all means, pop Champagne to ring in 2019, but don’t you dare get out of your sweatpant ensemble on New Year’s Day.