The Personalities of Christmas

Christmas is just a day away and the journey through hell to visit beloved family is upon many an innocent soul. This yearly event brings together a mish-mash of individuals from extended family to close personal friends, long-time family friends, to who the hell are these people. Every holiday gathering has them. Those people who you don’t know, those people you don’t like, and those people you would never hang out with if they weren’t related to you.  For your convenience, I have listed the personality types you will find at nearly any get-together this season in one easy go-to guide.  Keep this with you at all times; your survival may depend on early identification of The Personalities of Christmas.

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  1. Aunt Edna: Aunt Edna isn’t really anyone’s aunt.  She is just included in holiday gatherings and drinks egg nog while pinching the cheeks of children (anyone under the age of say 30) and clucking annoyingly.  No one knows exactly where Aunt Edna came from, she just showed up one year and kept coming back.  It’s all good though; Aunt Edna makes the best cookies. Just avoid a full-frontal approach if you prefer your cheeks unpinched.
  1. The Gift Giving Overachiever: This is usually a female.  No matter what you give, she one-ups you.  But not in a good way. I know, sounds weird, right? Buy her a thoughtful gift card to her favorite store?  She will give you a hand knitted king-sized comforter she has been working on since last Christmas, knitted with her own hair that she collected from her hairbrush and shower drain.  By the way, here is a matching pillow sham. Start early after the gift-giving ends the year before in a quest to find the weak link aka the newbie to the family who has no idea about psycho overachiever so you can be sure and talk them into trading her should you draw her name again in Secret Santa. Hey, Cousin Joe did it to you when you married into the family so it’s only fair the torch get passed onto the next sucker new member of the family.
  1. The Gift Giving Underachiever: Sorry, guys, but this is usually male.  He is so stressed at the idea of choosing gifts, facing crowds in stores, and Christmas music piped over loudspeakers that he shuts down.  Finally, on Christmas Eve after the stores are closed, he heads out.  His lucky wife will receive a 7-11 coffee mug (with free refills!), a lotto scratch off ticket, and a Valentine’s Day card with “Be My Valentine scratched off” and “Merry Christmas” handwritten across the top. The gift will be wrapped in a grocery store plastic bag and duct tape.
  1. The Pampered Pets:  There are many pet personalities, and everyone loves to bring them all together during the holidays.  Fluffy the cat will be stuck halfway up the tree, and Rocky the dog will be tangled in the Christmas lights (because he chased Fluffy the cat up the tree).  Great, someone, we’re not sure who…but the Ne’er-do-well is looking particularly frizzy and singed…just chewed through the cord to the Christmas tree light and blew a fuse. Tiny little yappers become irresistible to the larger dogs who will chase them with thoughts of sugar plums cannibalism dancing in their little doggy heads.  One especially bad at his job scent hound will shred half the wrapping on each present searching for that elusive squeaker toy or treat that’s sure to be under the tree but getting only that flannel shirt for Grandpa or slippers for Mom, and his owner will frantically try to avoid re-wrapping them by using Band-Aids, staples and Gorilla Glue to fold the paper back around the gifts. It’s okay, though; the Gift Giving Underachiever still has plenty of duct tape to go around.
  1. The Kid Who Still Believes in Santa: You have to buy different types of wrapping paper to wrap the gifts that “Santa” brought and secretly resent giving Santa the credit for the PlayStation under the tree because Santa’s not the one that worked overtime for months to get the money to pay for that thing, dealing with people you already hate and not sleeping just to work double shifts and…and oh nevermind, it’s the thought that counts, right? You will invest in letters from Santa, and brave the frigid night to go out and place reindeer footprints on the roof and lawn. You may be really dedicated and invest in reindeer poop to throw in your yard. You’ll stay up late at night or else set the alarm for reaaallly early just so you can shake that damned set of sleigh bells ever so slightly to create a buzz of excitement throughout the sleepy house. You threaten vile, murderous acts against the older child and any other family member who feels the truth should be set free for the younger child (and really – how would that look to Santa after all??). And in the end, it’s worth it to see this kid’s face in the morning. After all, you’d do anything to keep him at this innocent age.  But, sadly, he will become:
  1. The Kid Who Finally Realized That Santa Doesn’t Exist: You saw this coming last year when she began to question the logic of a man in a sled pulled by magical flying reindeer breaking into people’s houses to leave gifts in every house across the globe.  Your explanations were getting more and more bizarre as you tried to keep the dream alive by making up stories of Santa having to hire helpers to hang out in malls, using time machines to navigate time zones, and being a millionaire to pay the wages of all the hard-working, unionized elves.  Trying to keep this one away from the Kid Who Still Believes in Santa is a logistical nightmare. Hence the threats of vile, heinous acts against your very own offspring (who, ironically, is doted on the other 11 months of the year). One of these days, you just know Krampus is going to show up on your humble doorstep if not for your lies, then certainly for your threats against a child who simply wants to spill the beans tell the truth.
  1. The Tipsy Sipper: I can identify with this one, just a little bit.  I find that a nice glass, or box, of wine helps holiday parties run a little smoother.  I start my holiday sipping on Labor Day, and usually stop around Valentine’s Day.  Nothing wrong with seeing your friends and family through wine-colored glasses.  The Tipsy Sipper is a lot different from:
  1. Uncle Albert: You already know he snuck a flask into the party, spiked the punch bowl, and is currently telling deep, dark family secrets to the mailman and anyone else who will listen.  You will eventually find him in the shrubbery out front, sprawled out in his Santa boxer shorts and tangled in Christmas lights that used to hang ever so brightly and prettily on the gutters, yelling incoherently at the sky about something that happened to cause Cousin Jack and Cousin Harold to stop talking back in 1956 while the neighbors live stream him in all his glory to Facebook.
  1. Cousin Gertrude: When you hear Cousin Gertrude is coming, you can’t help rolling your eyes. “No! Who invited her?” someone will inevitably say. “Well, she IS family after all,” someone will reply…as if that makes it okay.  If you are lucky, Cousin Gertrude will be on her medication and sitting quietly on the couch, meditating or doing yoga. If she is off her medication, she will be sitting in a corner, mumbling to herself and laughing as she watches the wall while the family pretends not to notice. No one ever wants her to try to reenact what she sees on the wall like she did last year (we’re all still trying to recuperate from that fiasco), so it’s better to just go about your business and not encourage her.
  1. The Crafty One: Pinterest has nothing on this one.  The Crafty One, armed with a glue gun, a piece of felt and a paperclip will MacGyver a multi-cultural animated holiday centerpiece worthy of the White House.  Your construction paper napkin rings never had a chance, no matter how much glitter you put on them.  She also sewed her own Christmas dress and is currently fabricating a sports sedan in the garage out of tin cans and pallets. She is nothing if not perfect and was put on God’s green earth to make all others feel inadequate but what comes out of her mouth is a pseudo-humble “Oh, this thing? It’s just a little something I threw together!” I suggest hitting the punch bowl early.
  1. The Cook: “I just brought a little snack,” says the Cook as she unloads a U-Haul of covered dishes and crock pots into your house. The Cook is usually a sweet great-grandmother who learned to cook southern style.  Her food is stick to your ribs old-fashioned goodness, but everyone will be passed out an hour after eating it.  If she didn’t bring food, she will wander into your kitchen and find a box of stale Ritz crackers, a bag of rice, and a can of mixed vegetables in your cupboard and whip up a little seven-course dinner.
  1. The Opinionator: This unique individual prides himself on being able to single-handedly offend every person at the party.  No subject is taboo to the Opinionator, and he will not back down from a good debate about everything from politics to religion, veganism, child rearing and Star Wars versus Star Trek.  He may be indirectly responsible for creating The Tipsy Sipper. Okay, maybe not so indirectly.
  1. The Gossiper: She will be the one making witty observations about everyone at the party, everyone who didn’t show up, and people she has seen on dog food commercials. She will gossip behind everyone’s back while forming alliances like a Christmas themed Survivor show.  You are always nice to The Gossiper because secretly, you fear her just a little bit.  She filmed your karaoke version of Funky Town, and she isn’t afraid to use it.
  1. The Christmas Cheer Spreader: The Christmas Cheer Spreader put her tree up on Halloween.  She wore candy cane earrings to Thanksgiving dinner, and she is the reason Christmas advertising starts in June.  She finished her Christmas Shopping in August (she was late this year, she’ll have you know) and her presents have been wrapped since Labor Day.   Although we would rather eat dirt than let her (or anyone else) know, we all sort of secretly wish we were the Christmas Cheer Spreader as we stand in a Target line on Christmas Eve with a cart full of clothing that we already know will need to be returned because the only size left was petite and who is anyone kidding?  Petite.  Yeah, right.

Holidays are not stress free, and God knows every holiday function is doomed to failure from the start, if you invite people, that is. Oh, I’m not saying every event is sure to fail in epic proportions – although those are certainly the most exciting. Perhaps it will only fail in small degrees…because nothing can be perfect no matter how much we want it to be. Because people are involved, family is involved. And people, especially family, are simply not perfect.

Still, take a minute to appreciate every friend and family member in all their flawed glory this year; it is the mixture of personalities that makes the season memorable, warm, and usually hilarious.

I’ll drink to that. 

The Twelve Truths of Christmas

Christmas is nigh. Isn’t that what they say in all the traditional poems? I admit it; I enjoy this time of the year.  Spending an hour untangling all the lights for the porch, only to find that strand you meticulously hung over the tree at the side of the house has a burnt-out bulb and is rebelliously unlit. People grimacing festively in an attempt to appear happy in the lines of Walmart as they are regaled with Holly Jolly Christmas for the thousandth time. Just while standing line. Arguing over “dibs” on the last box of generic, non-gender specific, all holiday inclusive non-religious box of cards left on the shelf. Okay. I will admit that I absolutely love holiday cards. I specifically look for ones that focus more on nature or animals or snow-covered lanes…but I adore them all and have quite the collection. I have so many that if I never bought another card, I would be well into my 80’s before I ran out. My daughter Sarah has forbidden me to buy any more for this year, but I have news for her – I’ll just hit the sales after Christmas to restock my stash for next year! That’s what she gets for not being more specific on her stationery ban.

I have, over the years, found some things that never change.  I know you are reading this on your phone, hiding from guests in the bathroom at your party.  So, pull up a bottle, or box (I don’t judge), of wine and enjoy these Twelve Truths of Christmas.

  1. Santa Claus is a better weapon than any other ever devised.  If they had an adult version of Santa Claus, there would be no crime.  Threatening an adult with “if you don’t return that library book, Santa will bring you coal” would be very effective, if only the price of coal wasn’t enough to make that threat a welcome alternative to vacuum cleaners and cookware.  Poor Santa is already the most used threat in the world of children, with threats beginning December 26 and lasting through December 24 of the next year.  I personally prefer Krampus-themed threats – but that’s just me, and admittedly I’m not the best parenting role model.
  1. Facebook will post over 12 million pictures of dogs wrapped in garland sitting under the tree, trees knocked over with expensive ornaments shattered on the ground and shame-faced pets standing nearby, and cat butts sticking out of the top of the tree branches. Each picture will be accompanied by a thoroughly appropriate “Aww, how cute.” The posters of such cliché comments, however, are actually thinking to themselves “my precious Fido and Buttons would never dream of doing such a thing…they are just so well behaved.” Then, of course, precious Fido and Buttons become just another Facebook statistic by knocking over the tree and everyone posts the required “Aww, how cute.”  The circle of Facebook life is now complete.
  1. If you want to believe in the power of last minute redemption, look no further than kids in December. For eleven months out of the year, Billy and Sally Mae are hellions.  Rude, obnoxious, spoiled hellions.  The magic of the season strikes on December 1st, and suddenly these two future ax murderers are the picture of perfectly behaved children.   They must be on to something, because every year Santa brings them cool stuff no matter how naughty they were the first part of the year.  This reminds me of felons who find sudden clarity and remorse in court when faced with jail.  Not to say that Billy and Sally Mae are future felons or anything. But, you know, just saying.
  1. At least a third of the presents you buy will be for people you don’t really know. Of that third, half will be for people you don’t even like.  In the true spirit of the holiday, you will be buying gifts for your mailman, the teacher who grades on a curve, your kid’s bus driver, the guy who serves you coffee at McDonald’s, and your sister’s hairdresser’s brother.  You will take one heroic step more in the spirit of the season and get “something small” for the janitor at your son’s school, even though you don’t know his name and he sort of creeps you out.  Yay, Christmas!
  1. Whoever wrote those impassioned songs about the joys of holiday shopping has never had a fistfight with an 82-year-old grandmother in Toys-R-Us over a Hatchimal. Don’t worry that you don’t even know what the hell a Hatchimal is. No one does. Shopping brings out the worst in all of us.  The tension, the pressure, and the expense stretches our nerves to the breaking point.  We play right into the greedy hands of manufacturers who, every year like clockwork, deliberately under-manufacture the hottest items on the toy list so retailers can hike the prices to unreal levels while at the same time creating a shortage vs demand situation.  Shamed parents will pay those prices so that Billy and Sally Mae don’t miss out on the toy of the year. The same toy that will sit in the dark of the closet after about an hour of play – if you’re lucky.   Normally pleasant people find themselves being unpleasant; I can assure you, 82-year-old grandmothers can still have a wicked left hook.
  1. There is a reason there is so much talk of holiday spirits. Tis the season for eggnog.  And spiked cider. And wine.  And even just plain beer.  This is the true “holiday spirit.”  The stress can cause even the most well balanced individual to crawl inside a bottle of rum and stay there until the New Year.
  1. The sales, commercials, and songs begin earlier and earlier each year. Don’t even get me started on store decorations. They won’t stop until the first official shopping day of Christmas is Labor Day. Hey, Christmas!  Thanksgiving called, and it wants its week back.
  1. The reason you waited until the last minute to buy Aunt Gertrude’s present is because you have no idea what to get her. Unfortunately for Aunt Gertrude, you still have no idea; and your imagination is all used up after buying for fifty-hundred other relatives and she is getting a pizza scented candle from Walmart because that was the only scent they had left on the shelf.  Wait; do they actually have pizza scented candles?  What a great idea! It’s mine, people…no stealing.
  1. The Elf on the Shelf is Santa’s spy. Spying is treason. Treason is punishable by death. Don’t blame your kids for trying to drown the Elf on the Shelf.  They are merely doing what is required by law.
  1. It’s hard to feel jolly when your credit cards and bank accounts are giggling behind your back. On an unrelated note, you can sell blood plasma for about $50 a pint.  True story, Google it.
  1. No matter how hard you try to pull off the perfect holiday get together, your dog will poop out tinsel in the hallway, your cat will get stuck in the tree, you will put your 8 pound ham in the oven at 9 AM and forget to turn the oven on, your child will pee on the neon green, orange and puce comforter that you bring out once a year because Auntie Evelyn knitted it by hand and will be coming over tonight, and you will use cooking alcohol in a “one for the recipe, one for me” kind of way not recommended by the cook book. It happens. To everyone. Get over it early and you just might survive.
  1. Christmas is a flawed holiday, perfect in all its imperfections. Slow down and enjoy every moment of this totally impossible, thoroughly enjoyable holiday because it passes all too fast.

The Holiday Party (or How NOT to get on the Naughty List)

There’s still plenty of time to be put on Santa’s Naughty list. So watch out! What’s the quickest way to do this? Oh sure, you could deface Nativity scenes in front of a church or slash inflatable snowmen in your neighbor’s yard, but I tend to think that most of the people reading this blog aren’t evil in that way (you’re not, right!?) so I’ll focus instead on a common slip up that even the best of us can fall victim to, thus ensuring a lump of coal in the stocking.

The holiday party. Two words of advice: be careful. If you haven’t had your work party yet, heed these words. You don’t want to be that person. There’s one at every holiday gathering. That person who drinks too much. That person who makes inappropriate comments to the senior partner. That person who for one night mistakes his work colleagues with his old college buddies. Be careful, everyone.

I don’t quite understand what happens at these parties, but it’s almost like there’s an aerosolized drug in the air that turns some of the people into Mr. Hyde versions of themselves. Maybe the pull of finally being able to cut loose is too great an urge and they have trouble reeling themselves back. Maybe the desire to get things off their chest is too strong to stop once the eggnog is flowing through their veins. Maybe the stress of the whole Secret Santa gift thing is too much to bear. Whatever it is, this transformation is mystifying to me mostly because it happens every year.

I’m not saying not to let your hair down some. Have fun. That’s the point of the party, after all. But also be mindful for goodness’ sake.  These are people you’re going to have to see again on Monday in the conference room. Do you want to be the reason people quickly shush whispered conversations when you walk into the room? Doubtful.  But alas, the holiday party brings out all kinds and those whispered conversations are going to take place about somebody.

The worst (in my opinion) is when the secret Casanovas start showing up. You have the IT guy who has a couple mugs of mulled wine and decides the party is the best time to bare his soul to the svelte account executive he’s been harboring a crush on for the past six months. It’s pretty simple: try not to ask anyone out on a date at your holiday party, especially if it’s your boss. Trust me, it’s been known to happen more than a few times. Another simple rule: if the object of your affection has on a wedding ring, abort abort abort! And ladies… please, please, please keep ALL of your clothes on. No matter how tempting it might be to do otherwise. Essentially, whenever you do something where HR might need to get involved, you know you’re going down the wrong path. Sadly, with a little too much mulled wine, you might not realize this until Monday morning…therein lies the paradox of holiday work parties.

On top of that you have the guy who decides to go all Chevy Chase on his boss and let him know how he really feels (oh come on, who hasn’t seen Christmas Vacation?). Not a wise move either. Hilarious to the rest of us… obviously. We’ll be sitting at our tables enjoying the hell out of it. But it’s definitely not a wise move for him.

And should you end up in a mutually amorous situation, do us all a huge favor and find someplace truly private to have your tryst. That sorta, kinda semi-dark corner just 6 feet away from the dance floor is NOT as hidden as you may think. People will see and then they will talk.  Oh, how we will talk!

I don’t know which alter egos you readers have, if any, all I’m doing is advising that you exercise some caution. That flare-up of your more hedonistic self isn’t going to be the one that has to look co-workers in the eyes on the next work day.  It’s worse than that walk of shame home after a one night stand (*ahem*…I only know this from what I’ve seen on T.V.).  Because the walk of shame to the conference room for that Monday morning meeting, past people you’re going to see every day for the rest of your work life with that company,  is going to be a killer.

Have some spirits and bond with your fellow cohorts, just try not to end up on that Naughty list. It’s a hell of a lot easier getting off Santa’s than your boss’. Or so I’m told.

XMAS naughty or nice