Happy holidays to all, from my family to yours. I hope you have a joyful holiday filled with the people and traditions you love. And may the season shine a warm, caring light on you, your families, and the animals alike.
The holidays are coming. And so are my relatives. It’s time to test that great annual sociology thesis: “Is it possible to compress numbers of humans who are related by blood or marriage into a confined space for several hours, fill them with carbohydrates, tryptophan, and alcohol, and not have them tear into one another over any number of disputed points of view?” Generally, no.
At least that’s been my experience. No matter what the intentions for a peaceful dinner are, no matter what pre-victual agreements have been signed, festive family get-togethers usually devolve into raised voices, hurt feelings, and shouts of, “Susan, grab the kids. We’re leaving right now!”
Here’s the problem. Chances are we’re going to continue having holidays to celebrate. Moreover, and probably against good common sense, we’ll more than likely have family over to share the chaos joy of the season. Unless Prohibition should miraculously come back, alcohol will be served. And that folks, is the tinder and kindling for a family feud. That’s why I’ve developed a guide to help diffuse what I call “Holiday Hot Spots.”
I’ve found that flare-ups usually occur when one of the following topics is brought up:
- Politics – this one is usually a “given.” I mean, there’s a reason why they say never to discuss politics in polite company. That’s because it makes people want to throttle each other. This year I’ve put “Politics” at the top of the list because of what’s going on in Washington, D.C. If I’m in the kitchen and I hear people shouting, “Drain the Swamp,” “Lock him up,” “But what about Crooked Hilary,” “El Cheeto Grande,”or “Covfefe,” I know that I have to run into the living room screaming, “Oh my god, somebody knocked over Jimmy’s terrarium full of black widow spiders! Check your legs! CHECK YOUR LEGS!” I find that this stops the arguing, dead in its tracks. As an added plus, everyone gets a little pre-dinner work-out.
- The Media – rather than bursting into flames right from the start, these arguments usually simmer until they finally reach a flash point. If I hear the words Hannity, Fake News, Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly, Lamestream Media, or Kellyanne Conway, I know that I have to spring into action, like immediately, in order to waylay any punches that might be thrown overly heated debate that might occur. I’ve found that by saying something to attract everyone’s attention while confusing them at the same time works very well, and makes them forget what was causing the argument in the first place. I’m good at this. Just this past Thanksgiving, I casually walked into the family room and cheerfully said, “I decided to change things up a little this year. Turkey sounded sooooo boring. I hope you all like muskrat. It was free, just lying there on the side of the road. How could I resist? They say it tastes like badger.” It got their attention, yet no-one knew how to respond. And there, with their collective mouths agape, the bickering ended.
- The Outcast – most families have one. It’s the family member who is currently “on the outs” with the rest of the family. Their crime could be imagined, “I hear that he dates loose women.” Or, it could be real, “I’m glad she’s not here to get drunk and set the Christmas tree on fire again.” Whatever the reason…a prior engagement or perhaps a moment of mental clarity…they “weren’t able to come this year.” Not being there to defend himself or herself, they suffer (albeit, in absentia) the majority of the verbal abuse from the family who is gathered. I mean, right? This entertainment usually keeps everyone occupied for quite a while, and all is right with the world. That is until someone decides (usually with vindictive glee) that enough is enough and points out a peccadillo of someone who is actually present and within earshot or brings up a decades old story that is best left untold. Then it’s true confessions time, and not in a good “truth or dare” kind of way. Friends tell me that I should just do the “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” speech when this happens. However, I find that I can quickly diffuse things by setting the Christmas tree on fire. Again.
Okay, so becoming BFFs with the liquor store clerk may not be the best strategy in the world for getting through the holidays, but all things considered, it could be worse.
So, I was invited to join a “virtual cookie swap” group today by no less than three friends. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this oddity, but apparently it’s a so-called club where people share photos of cookies with each other — the kinds of confections they would LIKE to bake for the holidays (but won’t), instead of real cookies. I’m confused. It’s as if these people don’t know me at all.
You know, the holidays will be here before we know it. In my neighborhood there are already Christmas lights up on houses and throughout the town, in shop windows and on street lamps (gotta love that small town quaintness) — some were in place even before Thanksgiving. The residents here, as in many areas, are really into their decorations. I guess, I can’t blame them. In one way or another, Christmas has been celebrated for about 2,000 years — and decorations, both indoor and out, are a big part of that, always have been — at least in recent eras. This year, a distiller in London has figured out how to merge the special magic of a Christmas tree with the possible unbridled consumption of “Christmas Cheer.” I found out about this while looking for articles on ideas for spooky pumpkin faces. Go figure.
For about $40, depending on the exchange rate, you can buy a six-pack of clear plastic orbs with screw-off tops that are designed to be hung on a Christmas tree. Each one contains a little over 1.6 ounces (a large shot) of England’s Lakes Distillers premium whiskey. For about $24, you can buy a “mega” ornament that contains almost 5 ounces of Christmas Cheer! Have they offered these before? If so, why wasn’t I informed!?
When I found out that you could also buy these ornaments filled with gin, vodka, or rum, visions of alcohol soaked sugarplums danced in my head. Coupled with my discovery of the fact that whiskey Advent Calendars are also a thing (I mean, seriously where have I been??), I realized there was now a way to become gloriously semi-conscious throughout the season.
Being somewhat analytical by nature, I decided to look at the pros and cons of festooning my tree with these ornaments, and the role of an alcohol laden Advent Calendar in the house.
- The unique molecular construction of ethanol (alcohol) will diffuse the light from the tree lights, casting a warm glow of hospitality throughout the room. Yay science!
- Deciding to hang booze on your tree will impress your friends. My friends, at least.
- If you are close to losing your mind from watching Burl Ives narrate the Rudolph cartoon for the 19th time, you can lean over and casually pop open an ornament.
- When you find yourself getting sucked into a political argument with a relative, toss an ornament to them and say, “Hey, Uncle Fred! Put this in your pie hole.” He will thank you and soon forget just what he was carrying on about. Or in the alternative, you can drink one or two or three, and soon not care a hoot about Uncle Fred and his conspiracy theories.
- These are great for tree-trimming parties. Just be sure your neighbors know the ground rules: “The Drinkable Balls are for the tree, the eggnog is for the guests.”
- The orbs are reusable. Save the empties until next year. Or hell, refill them throughout the current year. Recycling at its best!
- The reward aspect of the whiskey Advent Calendar will help to motivate you to get to December 25th by giving you a reason to wake up each day. Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me…we all know how crazy the holidays can be, especially if you have a large, contentious family visiting for the season. Of course, you have to pace yourself…you don’t want to run out by December 2nd. Not saying I would…but, well, you just never know.
- The Drinkle Balls must be placed near the top of the tree to keep tiny hands from trying to find out why these ornaments are so special. Of course, I don’t have that problem any more since my kids are older, so…yay me!
- Studies have shown that households with high levels of stress usually consume all the balls within two days of being put on the tree. Don’t look at me. They’re not talking about me. Are they? No, no, I mean, no, of course not.
- Set ground rules for visitors. “My tree is NOT an open bar!” should be your ongoing mantra.
- Drinkle Balls are filled with whiskey. Whiskey is ethanol. Ethanol can also be used as rocket fuel. It’s okay if you don’t believe me. I swear I read it somewhere but for the life of me, I can’t remember where. But I do know (common sense, people!) that a Drinkle Ball placed too close to hot Christmas tree lights could cause the whiskey to heat and explode, turning your Christmas Tree into a Saturn V rocket launch.
- On the other hand, the whiskey themed Advent Calendars need to have a time lock to prevent doors from being opened before the date arrives. It would be a real downer to see that you’ve already used the whiskey shots up to 12/24, and it’s only 12/10. Again, not saying I would do that, but…oh, who am I kidding? I would so do that.
What the heck, I think I’m going to get some Drinkle Balls this year. I mean, what’s the worst thing that could happen?
Friends, danger is upon us. We are approaching that time of year when brother will turn against brother, sister will deceive sister, and strangers will come to fisticuffs over dwindling supplies of cherished treasure. There’s only one thing that can bring the madness in our society to such a fever pitch. Yes, my friends, I’m talking about holiday shopping.
Get those elbows ready for pushing people out of the way (I hear a sale on elbow pads starts today!) and start brushing up on your bob-and-weave coordination, it all kicks off today, Black Friday, and soon it will be followed by an all-out Christmas merchandise assault. I don’t know what it is about good deals, but it truly unleashes the beast in some people. Maybe it’s mob mentality that comes from being in large, billowing crowds of shoppers. It overtakes rational thought about how to treat your fellow Man and turns them into your worst adversary. Maybe it’s the pressure of finally get the perfect gift for someone you love. Maybe it’s knowing your friends will all be jealous of the fancy new TV/microwave/laptop you have without being any the wiser that you got it at 50% off, or maybe having the ability to pat oneself on the back over such an awesome deal is in fact part of it. Maybe it’s a mix of all these.
All I know is that people who are out and about doing holiday shopping will get downright mean if their mission is slowed down in any way, even by their own kids. On many an occasion I’ve seen seemingly normal parents threaten their children with the promise that Santa will skip over their house Christmas morning if they even think about throwing a hissy-fit in the middle of the store. If I could relive my kids’ childhood, I personally would’ve used the Krampus threat a lot more than I did…that’s the kind of thing that gets kids to sit up and listen.
I’m not sure who I feel for more when I see these parental showdowns in the middle of a jam-packed store…the exasperated parent driven to Santa-related threats, or the kids for throwing the fit in the first place (or at least those kids where you can tell it’s due to stress and being seriously over-tired). Okay, well, that’s actually an easy one…I feel for the strangers having to deal with both of them when all they want is to make it through the crowds to get their paper towels and toilet paper in peace.
Thank goodness I’m not a child (at least not age-wise anyway). I’ve lost my shit MANY times at the mall and would be a permanent name on Santa’s blacklist if the “no visit for you” rules applied to me. Don’t roll your eyes at me. I may be on the no-fly list for Santa’s sleigh, but it’s for entirely different reasons.
In fact, kids have it pretty good, don’t they? They can get away with a fairly good amount before they face any real consequences. But if one of us so-called “adults” yells and screams and stomps our feet in the middle of a store (maybe even knock over a display or two), all of a sudden here comes security to take us to grown-up timeout, which trust me, doesn’t involve cookies and milk afterwards.
I guess that’s what really separates adults from children. We ALL want to bitch and moan, but adults have learned how to keep all of that inside for the sake of appearances, ulcers and migraines notwithstanding. Most of the time at least. If there’s ever a time when the rage might be too much to control, it’s in these next couple months. So, please, be careful out there. Winter is coming.
Have you been to the stores lately? Have you!? It was bad enough when the stores were putting out their Halloween candy in July. July, people. But now, now our treasured holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are being merged into one mega-holiday season. I don’t know if this phenomenon has hit your area yet, but in my town the stores have Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations in adjacent aisles. Really retailers? Just why?
There can be only answer: money. Retail stores will do 30% of their annual business during the “Christmas Season.” It makes sense to make the Christmas Season last for almost 70 days. Even though the habit is being dialed back, many large retailers are now even open on Thanksgiving Day, denying their employees anything to be thankful for except overtime pay…and even that is not a guarantee given the existence of sneaky Scrooge-like scheduling gurus.
In a stroke of extreme irony, stores now have mega-sales on what is now known as Black Friday; the day after Thanksgiving. People wait in line all night to be among the first to buy something, anything that is on sale. On Thursday they give thanks for what they have, on Friday they are savagely punching and fighting people to get an X-Box or flat screen TV. Finishing off the Thanksgiving weekend is White Monday. This is the online shopper’s day to stay planted in front of a computer searching for audacious online deals. Using this logic, I expect to see Magenta Tuesday for people to have their own Holiday Garage Sales.
Although, I will interject here – one of my favorite concepts is Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and is a day of actual GIVING – to charities big and small…so Magenta Tuesday better back the hell off.
I don’t want to sound curmudgeonly, but I really feel that the flattening of the traditional holiday “spikes” turns the last quarter of the year into an amorphous blob of festive displays, shopping guilt, jammed mall parking lots, and a false fear that I might forget to buy a gift for someone.
Someone somewhere is bound to capitalize on this frenzied commercialism by inventing color-coded bins for us to stash our stashes of gifts and decorations: Orange and Black for Halloween; Brown and Orange for Thanksgiving; and of course, Red and Green for Christmas. This will allow us to keep order in our frenetic final days of the year. Sheesh, I can feel the stress coming on already.
Of course, this begs the question, “When will the madness end?” I don’t want to be forced to buy a brown bin with leaf decor for all the Autumnal Equinox goodies, or a pink bin with red hearts for all my Valentine’s Day gifts.
Am I being unreasonable? I just want to focus on Halloween until it’s time to focus on Thanksgiving. When that’s over, I can set my sights on getting into the Christmas Spirit.