I love Christmas. I really do. But at some point in the holiday season (usually somewhere around December 1st) certain aspects start to grate. Take Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer–what kind of message is this song sending, telling us that popularity and happiness will only be achieved when others realize that your personal oddities are in fact useful and lucrative? Or Frosty the Snowman. I’ll flip past it approximately 800 times on various TV channels during the holiday season. First 400 times I think he’s kinda cute with the top hat and shoe-button eyes. Last 400 times I start fantasizing about running after him with a hair-dryer.
The trouble is, the Christmas season has become all sugar and no spice. For those of us who want a little bite to the holidays, here are some quick fixes. It’s Christmas Day and I’ve got eggnog to drink, but I can offer solutions to the top three holiday offenders: music, movies, and books.
Is “Winter Wonderland” giving you headaches? Are you on the brink of eating a shotgun if you have to sit through one more hack version of “Jingle Bells” piped over bad speakers at the Gap? Fear not; YouTube has two clips that will have you grinning. First on the list is a sidesplitting “Winter Wonderland” parody sung impeccably by a men’s choir. Let’s just quote the first verse: “Lacy things the wife is missin’/Didn’t ask her permission/I’m wearing her clothes, her silk pantyhose/Walkin’ round in women’s underwear.” Second on the list is men’s a capella group Straight No Chaser, singing a seemingly straightforward “12 Days of Christmas” in which they eventually lose count of which ____ing day it is, break confusedly into other carols such as “Here We Come A Wassailing” and the Dreidel Song, and somehow end up in a Christmas-ed version of Toto’s “Africa.” Bloody brilliant.
By now you’re probably tired of the Charlie Brown Special, Frosty the Snowman, and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Try “The Ref” instead, a hilarious Christmas comedy starring Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis, and Denis Leary. Leary plays a harassed cat burglar trying to escape on Christmas Eve with the score of a lifetime, and forced to hide out in suburban Connecticut by taking a quarreling couple hostage. Trouble is, the couple can’t stop fighting even when an armed man is pointing a gun at their heads, and soon the burglar is reffing the family disagreements and tearing his hair out. Priceless lines abound, but here’s one for anybody with a relative they would just as soon stayed home: the quarreling couple’s pathologically-bullying mother, finally held up at gunpoint by the burglar who hisses “Nobody move, or I shoot!” After which the beleagered daughter-in-law says with complete sincerity; “Go ahead, shoot her.”
Ah, that annual piece of Christmas torture known as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. I am probably going to hell (or at least coming across as an incredible philistine) for saying that I hate Dickens with the fire of a thousand suns, but I make no bones about it: I can’t stand his cumbersome humor, his lengthy expositions, or his absurd character names. Worst of his offenses is A Christmas Carol, a piece of sanctimonious treacle that was forced down my throat in some institution of learning or other, and on which I have been gagging ever since. I keeping hoping that someday Scrooge will push Tiny Tim out a high window before we can get to “God bless us every one!” but in abeyance of that miracle, I’ll settle for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s On The Banks of Plum Creek. Wilder’s collection of autobiographical growing-up-on-the-frontier novels will thankfully outlast the dreadful Little House on the Prairie TV show they spawned, and Plum Creek has a particularly good Christmas segment where the heroine’s father heads to town for Christmas candy to stuff his daughters’ stockings, and is caught on his way back by a freak blizzard. He holes up in a snowbank for four days, surviving on the stash of candy and finally emerging alive but with no Christmas presents. The family celebrates minus presents but plus Dad: a far better Christmas message than the “Buy now, buy more!” mentality of “Let’s open Walmart at midnight on Black Friday so everybody can start buying as soon as possible.”
Having sufficiently salted your holiday, I’m off to enjoy mine. Not eggnog, come to think of it. Too sweet. Try dry champagne