Dec 10, 2009

Christmas Survival Guide (originally from Chill Magazine).

Christmas is definitely in the air. And by "the air", I mean, "your face". Everywhere you look are LED icicles, ever-more-obese Santa effigies, and aerosol-snow that looks like it's been applied with a pressure-washer set to "kill". On the radio, The Jingle Cats have been sprung from their pound, and somewhere Bing Crosby is wondering why he ever did a duet with David Bowie. Thankfully, Christmas doesn't last forever; but here are some pointers and other reindeer games that will help you survive the holidays...

One thing you'll notice these days is that your average service provider has become more desperate than a squeegee-kid at a wishing well. More needy than an American banker. More awkwardly conciliatory than David Letterman on his wedding anniversary. I'm talking about 'Seasonal Tipping Disorder'. 

My views on "tipping" make Mr. Pink look like Robin Hood; but at Christmas, I find it especially grating when a bartender who's barely tolerated my existence all year, suddenly gets all Bob Cratchit when I come through the door. "Evening, guvnah! Have you lost weight? Might I suggest a mulled wine and handing over any cash in your pocket?"

Here's Mr. Stingy's "tips" for downplaying holiday gratuities:

  • Make sure you have some Loonies and Toonies on you at all times. Barkeeps sometimes like to "forget" your change near Christmas. (Hey, I used to sling beer. We're a desperate bunch.)
  • If you must take your wife to a restaurant, try to pick a place with the words "Bell" or "King" in it.
  • Get your hair cut before December 1st and ride it out til January.
  • Suspend newspaper delivery for the month. At the very least, gift the paperboy a laser-scope so he can start hitting porch once in a while.

What if you're the guy who actually needs the tips? Simple. Treat people nice all year 'round, and don't give me seventeen dollars in silver when you bring my change. Other than that, be content with 15%, and make sure the beer's cold. By the way, Little Miss Sassy-Waitress, "Tipping" is a city in China, but is now referred to as Xiphyang.

If you're stuck in an office job, but smart enough to schedule your holidays well in advance, ask to work on Christmas Eve. Sounds stupid, but even Leona Helmsley used to let people go home at noon, and there's always some woman from Accounts Receivable running around with a bottle of hootch for your coffee. Just sayin'. It might not be overtime, but it's an easy day's pay, and you'll be home in plenty time to read The Night Before Christmas.

Oh, a quick word about office parties. Don't. A potluck lunch is one thing, but no good can come from being at a free bar with that young intern your wife hates. You know—the one who thinks The Breakfast Club is the new sandwich at Tim Hortons. Do yourself a favour. Buy everyone a box of Toffifay, and go to a movie by yourself. At least that way, there's no possibility of performing karaoke.

Christmas morning

As an adult, there's generally two ways of picturing Christmas morning. Norman Rockwell or Norman Bates. If you belong in the rose-tinted world of the former, then deck the halls! I'm not going to rain on your Santa Claus parade. But I generally look upon the majesty of a Yuletide morn in much the same way credit card execs look upon a consumer stampede at an electronics store: equal parts excitement, greed, and barely-concealed disgust.

As an aspiring grumpy old man, I see not so much the greeting cards and presents, as the carnage they herald—mainly, the wrapping-paper abattoir that engulfs the living room by 9 o'clock. I can't see the Christmas tree for the forest, in other words. 

Let's get something straight. I'm not some hemp-weaving, enviro-Scrooge, looking to deprive kids of the frenetic awesomeness that was my childhood. I'm not against Christmas, and certainly not against kids. I'm not even against mindless wastes of time and money—as the seven "fart apps" on my iPod can attest. What I am against is my annual certainty that this year it will all somehow turn out differently. 

This year... the kids will be satisfied with everything they get. This year... my Dad won't give me a battery-powered shoe-straightener. This year... my hands won't be sliced into figgy pudding from opening 47 clamshell packages with a steak-knife. Seriously, what kind of vindictive manufacturer encases a stamp-sized product in a hard plastic sarcophagus that you could make truck-bumpers out of? Why not just give me that puzzle-cube from Hellraiser and spare me the slow death?

But it all comes down to holiday tradition. Doing the same (stupid) things every year creates the warm cultural tapestry that we all share. Even if that tapestry is used to staunch arterial bleeding in the emergency room.

Making the most of it
It's not like Christmas is just one day, either. It's called the holiday 'season' because it lasts for almost 3 months. Astronomically, Christmas starts the moment you've wheeled the green bin to the curb on Thanksgiving night, and officially ends in late January, when you've vacuumed the last of the 10 squintillion pine needles from your floor. That's a lot of cheer to ration out for one holiday.

In the same way that basketball games should just start at 90 points per side, then play out for 3 minutes, the holidays (officially known as RamaHanaKwanMas) could probably be wrapped up in about a week. And that includes the Boxing Month cage-match where grown men line up at 3AM, just so they can buy a $5 BluRay of Scary Movie XII: Night of the Living Audience Member.

Here are my suggestions for improving the holiday time-warp:
For starters, Christmas-themed ads shouldn't be allowed to start until December 18th and would halt immediately on the 23rd. The only programs on TV during that week would be The Grinch, the Fat Albert Christmas Special, that BB-gun movie, and—if you're up late enough—Die Hard. "Yippie Ki-Yay, stocking-stuffer!" The only thing on-air between the 25th and 31st? That 'burning log' movie. Even newspapers should be forced to print stills of the log in various stages of combustion and decay.

If you're still with me, I'd like to go one suggestion further. No more buying other people gifts. People should buy themselves (and their kids) one—and only one—completely awesome thing. That's it. Give some cash to charity, and casually flip the bird to every greeting card store you walk by. (Wouldn't that be a Hallmark moment?) Then, everyone would gather for a nice dinner to talk about the cool things they bought themselves. Also, turnips would be outlawed.

No matter what your faith (or lack thereof) let's just be nice each other, and save our natural hostility for when it's really needed. Valentine's Day.

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