The 12 bad traditions of Christmas

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Few if any holidays generate traditions like Christmas. And few folks know a thing or two about traditions like we in the military do. Traditions are in our DNA. So it seems fitting during this joyous occasion to talk about so many holiday traditions in our society, new and old, that might warrant a big ol’ chunk of coal in an oversized stocking this season. Maybe we should even consider abruptly ending them.

Here’s my list for the 12 worst traditions of Christmas:

One: Elf on the Shelf. This is some kinda brainwashing voodoo right here; a way to scare the naughty out of your kids, I suppose. “Johnny, this is Elf. He’s going to watch you, all day, every day. He works for Santa. He’ll know if you’re naughty or nice.” Might as well put Chucky in the corner, too. Consider shelving the elf and instead, sing carols around the dinner table. I suspect your kids will thank you later in life.

Two: Mall Santas. It’s no coincidence so many movies depict creepy mall Santas. That’s because well, they’re kinda creepy. Like clowns at birthday parties. All my children have freaked out at one time or another over the idea of sitting in some stranger’s lap who keeps
fake laughing at them. I’ve freaked out at Saint Nick’s assurances that he will get them that insanely expensive gift I just told them to forget about.

Three: Fruit cakes. Can we please replace this tradition with something actually good? The “fruit” in these things isn’t real, or it certainly doesn’t taste like it. The “cake” is usually dry and chalky, or over-moist and gummy. It just might be the worst tradition. EVER. It never seems to die, even if you leave it out all year. Consider shelving the stuff for the apocalypse.

Four: White Elephant gifts. Get the elephant out of the room, folks. Number 1 in this game means you will likely not be leaving happy. Several years ago, I opened the little slip of paper and stared at the number on it — 1. A mountain of gifts towered in front of me and I debated whether to pick the prettiest package, the largest, or that horribly wrapped little brown-bag blob sitting practically all by itself on the side. I decided on the largest package. That lasted long enough for Number 2 to take it from me. I spent the rest of the game being robbed over and over again. When the dust finally settled, the ugly brown package sat in my lap. Compliments of the office prankster who had wrapped it, I walked away with a whoopy cushion and a mood ring. The ring stayed black the rest of the night.

Five: Christmas tree poles. It’s a pole, folks. With lights hanging from the top. In a cone shape. It is NOT. I repeat. NOT. A tree. So why some insist on gathering ‘round this ugly homing beacon and singing carols to it is beyond me. It doesn’t smell like a tree. It doesn’t look like a tree. It doesn’t even shed like a tree. And now, thanks to some military wise men, this evil idea that lasts for three weeks out of a year doesn’t serve as the pole it was meant to be in the first place.

Six: Black Christmas trees. I remember a friend lost his home when I was young because the lights on their tree shorted and caught the house on fire. It was a very sad holiday season for them. Coincidentally, their tree looked a lot like these. Minus the shiny fake pine needles. I think sad thoughts when I’m around black Christmas trees. Maybe that’s the point, right? Kind of like Pink Floyd’s The Wall. You find Christmas sad, you buy a black Christmas tree. Then you remember those poor kids from your youth whose tree burned down and suddenly, Christmas is not so bad.

Seven: Huge Christmas balls. What do I do with these? I could buy a sturdy rugged Christmas tree and it would still end up looking like a Charlie Brown twig after I hung one of these ginormous balls from it. Reminds me of the giant stuff store I used to visit in Pentagon City Mall years ago. I felt like an elf inside there, with huge tennis balls, huge pencils and toothbrushes. I never understood what the purpose was, other than to feel like Alice after she drank too much egg nog.

Eight: Ugly Christmas sweaters. If clothing is referred to as “ugly,” chances are it’s not worth wearing. And yet, here we are, celebrating the ugly Christmas sweater at holiday parties all around the globe. This year, you can even find ugly Christmas shirts, scarves and hats. Word of advice: Buy these ugly things at a Salvation Army or some second-hand shop. They’ll end up back there after Christmas, anyway.

Nine: Inflatable decorations. Apparently these things are like tattoos: you can’t have just one. They also siphon your electricity and end up prone on your lawn. Not to mention they kinda look tacky. But mostly they kill your electric bill. During Christmas. When you’re having to re-mortgage your house to pay for gifts.

Ten: Christmas light projectors. This is the ultimate in lazy Christmas decorating. Stab the thing in the ground in front of your house, plug it in; turn the switch on. Voile! In five minutes tops, you’re done. Then all the neighbors get to drive by for the next three weeks and laugh at how tacky your swirly stars look. The good idea fairy gets mad kudos for this one.

Eleven: Pumpkin spice products. This is like that fun little song you get in your head that drills in so deeply, you find yourself singing or humming it at home, in the mall, in the car, in your sleep. You end up losing your wife and kids over it, and people at work grow to hate you. Well, “pumpkin spice ___” (fill in the blank with anything) has become that song. We can now get pumpkin spice bread, yoghurt, candies, cookies, cereal, ice cream, drinks, breath mints, spreads, energy bars, sausages, lip balms, cream cheese, syrups, treats — Thank you, Starbucks, for this idea. Please keep the next one to yourself.

Twelve: Happy Holidays. The point of this saying is to gift others. Not guilt them. If that means you bless them with a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukah, Happy Holidays or a Joyous Kwanzaa, proclaim it the way you mean it and let others do the same for you.

Whatever phrase you choose, please also add an invite for some of that egg nog and caroling around the dinner table. Then we can raise our glasses together and celebrate the reason for this season.