Let’s start with this gentlemen, there are contrived holidays created by corporations to compel us to buy products like cards on Valentine’s day, trees on Arbor day, Velveeta and Rotel on Labor day. Who am I kidding; I don’t need a holiday to justify buying Velveeta and Rotel.
Then there are holidays that define the American experience - hot dogs on July 4th, chocolate bunnies on Easter, turkey on Thanksgiving and family infighting on that joyous Christmas morn.
So now you’ve brought a life into the world, allegedly. It’s time to start planning for the holiday season. It might help if we define the holiday season, the uninitiated will consider Halloween as the official start of the holidays. Not true. Halloween is a Dickens’ book reincarnated with odd modern themes. We send our children out to stranger’s homes and tell them to beg for candy that later, once the kids are asleep, we eat because we could care less that candy will ruin our teeth and because we know kids can’t count well enough to track how much product we're consuming.
Somewhere in the mid to late 90’s Halloween morphed into grown women dressing up as slutty nurses, maids, super heroes and of course, slutty sluts. I don’t know how this started but as the father of a daughter I’d like it to disappear, replaced by grown women dressing up as nuns, choir members, or Chewbacca.
Halloween doesn’t begin the holiday season, it just blows the trumpet that the real holidays are coming and it's time to marshal our resources. Now that our families are expanded and our mother in-laws, brothers in-law, sisters in-law, cousins in-law, uncles in-law, etc have worked their way into Thanksgiving and Christmas we must work twice as hard to keep our sanity.
At your wedding the pastor may have asked the gathered congregation to stand up and promise to be part of and support your marriage union. I now wish I could have pointed out a few people and told them to go ahead and “have a seat, we’ll make due without you hanging around.” Sadly many those people take their promise seriously.
Venue is critical during the Holidays. Some of you have decided to have not one but two or possibly three or, shudder the thought, FOUR Thanksgiving meals at four different homes. Stop it. There will be one Thanksgiving meal in 2013 at one home. Well, technically there could be one actual meal followed by three intense grazing periods all at one location.
There are studies that suggest the combination of starchy carbs, pecan pie, and cranberry sauce causes bloating and discomfort which, carried to its logical end, can cause death and/or gastrointestinal explosions. Do you want to be dead or exploded according to a fictional study? Me neither.
Select a venue for your meal and hold tight to it like a corn-dog at the State Fair. This is the hardest element to master in the holiday season. It took me years to accomplish it but eventually, when you quit answering your phone or stage your own death, your family will stop inviting you to things and boom, you’ve won a one stop holiday feast!
Don’t think this is a big deal? Drive around on Thanksgiving day at oh, about 3:00 p.m. and watch zombie families hopped up on stuffing and pie meandering from house to house to inject their bodies with more stuffing and pie, we’ve taken something wonderful and made it a forced march to cranberry land.
There are those among you who are wizards or at least highly gifted who have finagled Thanksgiving or Christmas into a home game for your family. Before I go on I just want to say it’s that type of forward thinking that gives the rest of us hope and keeps us going. Thank you and may you live a thousand years and tell your tale for generations to come.
The Thanksgiving or Christmas home game is the holiday equivalent of hitting Yahtzee, bingo, and finding a shiny penny all in one sitting. You get to control all the key elements: the TV, living room seating, afternoon nap locations, alcohol, and toilet selection. It’s glorious and, if you can pull it off, you are a king among men; if not then enjoy sitting on a folding chair in between fruitless attempts to get a refill and go potty.
The Santa Issue
We should address the Santa situation now. Santa is real, as real as you or I. We are his “little helpers” and while we cannot fit down a chimney or guide a team of reindeer we can sprint through a Toys-r-Us, max out our credit cards, and assemble a bicycle at 3 in the morning so our 4 year old can tear through his presents and play with the empty boxes the rest of the day. What fictional fat man could inspire that sort of devotion?
Some parents choose to “not lie” to their kids and spill the beans that the fat man isn’t real. As a parent of a child who has been made to feel like a gullible dork on a playground let me just say thanks; I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my children believe in Santa, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will introduce your kids to gluten, and high fructose corn syrup.
Sorry, got off track there.
Santa exists in our house at least until our kids stop believing in unbelievable things at which point it’s necessary items only on Christmas morning. So unless you want socks and undies tucked under the tree year after year you’d better start believing in Santa.
Perhaps your bride comes from a family of pagans that open presents Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning. First of all, this should have been discussed in the dating period at which point each of you should have just shook hands and walked away, but there’s not much we can do about it now other than stop the cycle. A compromise might be to open one present on Christmas Eve, like a lame one that no one cares about, and then open the rest the way God, Mother Earth, and John Wayne intended: on Christmas morning.
The joy of Christmas morning is a site to behold as a parent, you wrap presents for hours only to see them devoured in a matter of minutes. Children experience a sort of sensory overload on Christmas morning; this is probably a reason Al Qaeda hates us. Whatever Bin Laden, our woman can vote and dress up like naughty nurses and at Christmas our children get way too many toys. I think I just wrote Toby Keith's next single . You're welcome T.K.
My dad’s line at Christmas was that we should “savor” the experience. To illustrate this point he opened presents with a Swiss Army knife and folded the wrapping paper as if someone was going to reuse it. Like his efforts to teach me basic plumbing this instruction was largely lost on me until I had kids of my own.
The goal of Thanksgiving and Christmas is to savor memories of things and people that are gone far too fast. Just follow the guide and you and yours will experience some joy in the holiday season, otherwise the only things you’ll savor are thoughts of your own chair, that mid-afternoon nap between grazing sessions, and a familiar toilet.