Just before sitting down to write this, I ate a miniature candy bar. And out the window went all my good intentions, probably to serve as paving stones somewhere.
This is a dangerous time of the year, a time when common sense, determination, and will power are buried under mountains of chocolate, oceans of egg nog, and turkeys, turkeys, turkeys, as far as the eye can see.
Colleagues bring trays of cookies into work, and it’s just downright unfriendly not to help yourself to a handful or two. And everyone knows that candy canes make the world seem brighter.
Parties proliferate at this time of the year; the food is richer and heavier. After two months of this, many of us will be heavier too, but few will be richer.
In my own case, the fall from healthful grace came a week before Halloween, when I stepped on a scale for the first time in a couple of weeks. I had been exercising steadily and eating relatively well, considering my job, and the number that looked back at me from the scale was quite pleasing.
My weight was the lowest it had been in a year, and in that instant of smug satisfaction I knew, without the hint of a doubt, that it would not be that low again for several months. The next day, I had a wonderful (which is to say highly caloric) meal at The Chef’s Garden, and it has been downhill ever since.
Which is good because at this point, downhill is the only way I can walk.
Halloween was promising, at first. Although a member of my household to whom I am married opened up our big bag of candy a couple of days before the actual holiday, I strenuously refrained from partaking. The Sirens’ song was seductive and constant and quite loud, yet not so much as a morsel did I eat. Even on Halloween night, as I was giving out candy to others, I was a steadfast chocolate abstainer.
And then, shortly after the last little pirate and ninja visited the house, my resolve collapsed. The admirable (if I say so, myself) restraint I had shown during the previous days turned out merely to be a way of putting chocolate IOUs into a personal bank. That night, I ate the candy I would ordinarily eat on Halloween, plus all the candies I hadn’t eaten in the days leading up to it.
Disinclined as I am to blame myself for this sorry state, I have chosen instead to blame bears and Arctic ground squirrels. Along with many other animals, these gain significant amounts of weight just before the winter months — Arctic ground squirrels sometimes double their summer weight. By the same token, from Halloween to New Year’s Eve, our national Time of Relapse, many of us put on weight to be warmer for the winter. Right?
Surely, that explains all the food-related holidays, parties, and celebrations crammed into two short months. Surely, that explains the mashed potatoes, the pumpkin pies, the rum balls, and the sugar cookies.
But there is an obvious solution, which I would like to modestly propose:
Move the holidays.
Not Christmas, of course. Everyone likes Christmas on Dec. 25, and it has been that day for a couple of thousand years, so we’ll let it slide. And we may as well keep New Year’s Eve on Dec. 31, although to be perfectly frank we could start the new year on the first day of any month. We would only have to rearrange the pages on the calendar so the year begins on, say, July 1.
But Halloween is entirely about candy now, and pirates and ninjas. The original meaning of the holiday, a time to pray for souls in purgatory, has been completely lost along with the need for it to take place on the night before All Saints Day, Nov. 1. So if Halloween were to be moved to, say, mid-August, it could be a fanciful way to cheer up those late-summer doldrums.
Thanksgiving, too, could be moved without ruffling any, uh, feathers. A nice, big, delicious meal served at the beginning of March could be a pleasant way to say farewell to the passing winter and herald the coming spring.
If we spread out the holidays, we could all eat the better for it.
Contact Daniel Neman at