Marxmas: A Commie Candyland
The holiday season is finally over. To be honest, the holidays were a little depressing. It has been brutally cold all month. Also, I experienced a chest cold that lasted from Thanksgiving through Christmas. I have not been very active because of this. I have mostly felt like hiding under blankets and sleeping. I worked on Christmas and New Years at a domestic violence shelter. So, it was a little grim to have no holiday meal, no time with loved ones, or no celebration. It was just work and…going home to sleep. While I don’t believe that my lethargy is seasonal depression, I do think these circumstances put me into a state of semi-hibernation for the past month. But, perhaps it is alright to slow down and rest from time to time.
Things perked up as I planned Marxmas. Marxmas is the socialist alternative to Christmas. Each year, Twin Ports Socialist Action hosts a Marxmas party for our friends. For the past two weeks or so, I have been frantically planning for the big day. This year’s theme was “Commie Candyland.” The theme was chosen because my friends and I dressed up as the characters for Halloween and it was a way to re-use our costumes. My life for the past two weeks have been related to the preparations for this epic annual party. The party involved a skit wherein the Candyland characters are trying to overthrow Candy Capitalism. The skit had four acts. Each act was punctuated with rounds of Pictionary, trivia, and “hodgepodge” challenges, as three teams competed with each other for the purpose of overthrowing the king/candy capitalism. The skit/game ended with the victory of the rebels, the singing of The Internationale, and the breaking of a cupcake piñata meant to represent candy capitalism. All participants received prizes, the house was decorated to look like a version of “commie candyland”, and included a feast of two tables of food. Oh, and there was also a soundtrack of 36 sweet related songs! This party was an ambitious undertaking.
I wanted the menu to be very colorful, but also with a wide variety of sweets to match our theme. I also wanted the non-desert foods to be as vibrant as candy! Many of the guests are vegetarian or vegan, so that is also a consideration.
Desserts: baklava, Turkish delight, revolutionary gingerbread men, cupcakes, cake, dried fruits and nuts, a cringle, a wide variety of candies, fruit fondue, and a giant chocolate chip cookie in the likeness of Karl Marx
Drinks: Orange Dreamsickle punch, coffee, Cranberry punch
Not Desserts: Pita plate with hummus, falafel, and olives; chips and salsa; vegetarian meatballs; vegetarian orange chicken; phyllo asparagus, Forbidden rice bowl with edamame and mushrooms; vegetarian sushi-sweet potato, asparagus, and cucumber; shitake; beets and sweet potatoes.
One enormous time sink was actually decorating the house! I envisioned that the house should look like a magical candy dystopia. To this end, I created two large posters that depict scenes from my imagined Candyland universe. One of the posters represented “Kandygrad” the industrial center of Candyland. The other represented a battle in “Sweetbearia” the icy frontier of Candyland. Both are part of the nation state called Chokovia. The posters introduced new characters. All of this made me decide that I should really create a graphic novel called “Candywars” (though changing out the Hasbro related things to characters of my own creation). But, we’ll see if I have time for that..
To continue on the topic of decorations, the room was decorated with dozens of balloons and streamers. I created some candies from tissue paper and cardboard, which were placed in various places around the room. Admittedly, I did buy some decorations on clearance after X-mas. I just did not have the time to create elaborate decorations beyond my posters, candies, balloons, and streamers. Different parts of the room were decorated to represent the regions in the game. For instance, there was a blue and white color scheme where the team from Sweetberia was meant to sit. The team from Kandygrad sat in a red and pink area. The villain team featured a makeshift throne for the king.
The party mostly consisted of a skit/game. The skit began by introducing the characters from Candyland as well as the political situation therein. I pretended to be Lord Licorice, a villain aligned with King Kandy. I was also the narrator/game master. The acts of the skit was broken up by rounds of a game, wherein three teams would compete with each other in trivia, Pictionary, and hodgepodge. The category was determined by which color block the teams landed on while moving along the Candyland board. For instance, red and purple were trivia. There were 19 categories of trivia-each somehow related to candy. The Pictionary items were all current events from 2016. Hodgepodge included everything from acting to memory challenges. One memorable acting challenge involved the marriage of two characters in a Candyland style wedding. The game was integrated into the actions of the skit. Each act was an event- such as a prison rebellion in Sweetbearia, the abduction of Queen Frostine, and the ultimate victory of the rebels. As the game master, I had some discretion over the trivia or Pictionary challenges that I posed. However, in the end, the rebel teams actually won the game without my intervention! It was interesting to see the teams become upset when they thought that the game was rigged and how the villain team seemed genuinely disappointed when they lost and genuinely boastful when they were ahead. While it was only a game, the integration with the skit seemed to up the emotional ante for the players. This also was likely because everyone was playing “roles” in the game. I invented a book of non-canon characters so that anyone who attended the party could be a character.
The game ended when we broke the piñata. The piñata was meant to represent Candy Capitalism. Personally, I love pinatas. I try to have them at parties whenever I can. I even have a piñata song. However, each party that I host usually ends up with a lot of leftover candy on the floor. This is a bit of a bummer. But, the truth of the matter is that adults like the idea of pinatas a lot more than filling themselves with candy. After a lifetime of candy, there is diminishing returns on the joy that it potentially brings. Instead, it brings cavities, stomach aches, and weight gain. Kids love pinatas and candy. Adults- not so much. To improve upon the piñata, I filled it with candy- as well as condoms, lube, safety whistles, and carbineer compasses. I think this improved the outcome of the piñata, as much of the adult centered loot was taken.
The people are what makes a party special. Usually, 20-25 people attend Marxmas. This year had our lowest turnout in a long while. But, there was a good quality of people and this made the space less crowded. I think conflicting schedules and bitter cold kept some attendees away. Honestly, everyone was a hoot. My friends dressed up as characters from Candyland and were good sports about the game. The game ranged from silly to demoralizing. For instance, when a rebel team was in the lead during a time when the villains were supposed to be in the lead- I gave the rebel team a very difficult Pictionary topic: Muslim genocide in Myanmar. I would tip my hat to anyone who can successfully draw this in two minutes. On the silly side of things, I later had Mr. Mint move a gummi bear to this mouth from this belly button-while lying on the floor-without using his hands. I really love my friends for attending these parties and making my vision a reality.
Aside from attending the parties, I must thank my friends for their help making the party possible. For instance, Jenny, Angie and I made a chocolate cake. I have never made a chocolate cake from scratch. It was the best cake I have eaten in my life. The frosting tasted as rich as gelato or ice cream. The cake was epic! Angie randomly decided to make a giant cookie. This cookie turned into a Karl Marx cookie. Wow! Adam and Lucas helped me decorate and clean. Adam did all of the cleaning after the party, which is about as fun as cleaning up elephant turds after the circus was in town. But, he was happy to have the house return to normal, since he was not as fond as I was of the candy wonderland. He missed seeing the thousands of books we have everywhere.
Each year I exhaust myself to make a great big party. It costs me a lot for the food, prizes, and decorations in terms of time and money. But, it brings me joy. I like to create an experience. I think of it as my version of a potlatch. I don’t mean to appropriate a Native American practice, but many cultures hosted big feasts with gift exchanges. This exhausting event redistributed resources and could build the prestige of a leader. Now, I don’t think that the event that I host significantly redistributes resources or builds my prestige. However, I do think it serves the purpose of building social bonds. My friends always tell me that I spend too much time or money on it. They want me to scale back the party. But, I take a lot of joy in creating an experience for my friends and giving them something like this. I want to create a memorable experience. I want to create happiness. This is a gift that I want to give to people on this day- even if it means I have to work non-stop for three days before the event to make the final preparations! Maybe all of our holidays involve some remnants of a forgotten time (to Europeans)- when we celebrated to give. This is useful in capitalism as it drives consumerism. Yet, the urge to give is socialist at its heart, even if it is distorted by free market interests. Hidden behind the labor, plates of food, and endless trivia is the promise of an economy of plenty. It seems like an impossible dream, but I think that is the heart of Marxmas. Celebration is role playing the fantasy of possibility.