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.

Christmas Spirit Showdown

The release of the movie Krampus was a couple of weeks ago. Of course I went to see it because a horror Christmas comedy starring Adam Scott…DUH. It’s like the movie studio had me in mind when they were sitting around drinking copious amounts of eggnog trying to come up with fresh ideas. Great movie. If you’re into that sort of thing, you should definitely go see it.

However, it’s brought to the forefront of my mind the general gift-giving tradition of the holiday season, what it means to parents of temper tantrum throwing children everywhere, and I’m left wondering about the whole Santa vs Krampus thing once again. 

So the movie comes out. It’s all about an ancient demon that arrives around Christmas time to kidnap and eat all the nasty little kids (or in the case of the movie, people in general, not just kids) out there that made the world a worse place. “The shadow of Santa Claus” he’s called in the movie. His origins are Eastern European (because of course) and I couldn’t help but think that these downtrodden Slavic parents maybe sort of had the right idea.

I mean, think about it. It’s easy to wave off being forced into good behavior. A kid, or an adult for that matter, could play off not wanting a particular toy (hey, adults want toys too!) after he’s caught throwing rocks and knowing that his top-of-the-list item won’t be under the tree this year. “Pssssh, I didn’t want it that bad anyway. I’m glad I threw that rock.” Simple.

Or just blow off being good one day knowing they’ll just make some grand gesture a few days later to make up for it…most likely accompanied by that doe-eyed look that no-one can possibly resist. As if Santa has a selective memory and only the most recent stuff sticks. Make sure the last memorable thing was a positive one and that iPad is as good as got. Which when you look at it realistically, works. Kids have that game figured out.

The point being that from a Santa perspective, the consequences aren’t very dire so the kids, and people in general, aren’t that set on being “good,” at least not for the long game.

But with Krampus, well boy howdy, there you have some serious repercussions if you mess up. It’s not just, “You’re not going to get that Lionel train set.” It’s more, “I’m going to stuff you in a burlap sack, drag you to my hellish lair, and then eat you alive.” I don’t know about you but my rock throwing days would noticeably diminish (at least in the winter months) if I thought Krampus might be watching.

Scared Straight

‘Tis the season when we Christmas-lovin’ folk start looking at the world through red and green colored glasses. We’re rushing to buy trees, hoarding the best milk for those cold nights when hot cocoa will be divine, making space on our mantle where fuzzy stockings will be hung, and whispering stories into our children’s ears about an evil demon that will drag them to hell if they don’t behave.

Wait…what!? Did you just hear a record scratch?

That story of Santa?  Boring! What a goodie-goodie that guy is. He rewards the good kids with gifts. Effective enough, I guess. But there’s the lesser known Bizarro Santa known as Krampus, a horned beast concocted by Germanic and Eastern European countries (with original ties to Norse Mythology) to scare kids and keep them on the straight and narrow path throughout the year. How you ask? Well, it’s simple really…Krampus threatened to stuff the bad children into his doggy bag and take them down to the fiery pits of his lair where he would feast on them at his leisure if they dare step out of line. Now that’s what I call problem solving.

Santa is to Superman what Krampus is to Batman. Santa is an out-and-out hero with a seriously naive outlook on the goodness in the world and caters to that, while Krampus is that creature lurking in the shadows of Gotham inducing terror into any wrong-doers until they straighten themselves out. Superman may get the sponsorships but Batman gets the results.

Just try it. If your kid’s throwing a tantrum in the aisle at Toys R’ Us, use the good ol’ Santa card and see if your howling monster of an offspring snaps to attention. Maybe you’ll get lucky, maybe not. It sure didn’t work in the case of the child throwing a fit at the Fresh and Greens last year.

But if you pull out the Krampus threat, I bet he or she will snap to attention a lot quicker knowing their soul is on the line instead of a 10-speed bike. Put yourself in your kids’ shoes for a second and listen to these two phrases:

1) “Santa won’t give you that train set unless you stop yelling.”

2) “Krampus is going to eat you alive and feast on your bones unless you get yourself under control right now.”

I’m no child psychologist but I’m going to take a wild guess that Option #2 might be a tiny bit more effective. You never know until you try, right?

Eastern Europe might’ve been a harsh place to live back in Krampus’ day, but one thing’s for sure, they knew how to keep their kids under control. Seems like there’s a lesson in there some place.