Fine. I tried to take the tolerant approach, tried to learn about other faiths, cultures, and traditions, and tried to calm the frantic masses who are so vigorously defending their own traditions from some imaginary assault, but no one seems to be listening. Therefore I have no choice but to do a complete about-face on this issue and provide explicit rules on what should be done in December and how to do it. (It’s Christmas-centric, but so am I, and I’m the one making the rules.) This is the definitive, final, and all-encompassing way to behave in December and if you don’t agree with me then you’re some sort of heathen unbeliever and will be immediately outcast from my religion just as soon as I get around to starting one. No, don’t ask me to reconsider, it’s too late for that now. You had your chance. Just because you didn’t have these instructions before is no excuse either. They’re clearly just fundamental common sense and you should have known them all along. For example…
Rule 1 – Christmas music season opens on Dec 1 and closes on Jan 2. No Christmas music before December 1, even Handel’s Messiah. The Messiah is an amazing piece of music that was written (through a miraculous combination of divine inspiration and blatant self-plagiarism) in a mere 24 days which happens to be the same amount of time it takes to get completely sick of it if it’s played too often, so don’t start before the 1st.
Rule 2(a) – After the season opens on Dec 1, don’t overplay the holiday music and by all means avoid Christmas Carol Nausea Syndrome. Every single piece of Christmas music ever written can be overplayed to the point that hearing the opening bars will cause indigestion and no one wants indigestion around the holidays. For the nerds in the crowd, the formula for the Christmas Carol Nausea Factor is:
CCNF = ABS(Y(r) – 1964) * PR * GF
Where Y(r) is the year it was recorded (the farther away from my childhood the lower my tolerance), PR is the play rate in plays per hour, and GF is the Genre Factor. You might think that this will differ from person to person but this rule allows for no such free will. Country Christmas music has a GF of 1.5, rock 1.3, rap a whopping 2.2, and anything recorded by anyone under the age of 17 (I’m looking at you, Bieber) comes in at 1.9. These factors are cumulative, so if Bieber had the audacity to record a rap version of “Silent Night” it would carry a Genre Factor of 4.1.
Rule 2(b) – Carol versions. Nat “King” Cole sings the proper version of “The Christmas Song”. Bing Crosby sings the proper version of “White Christmas”. Dean Martin slurs the proper version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” with a certain amount of irony, given his drinking habits. A full list carols and their proper performers is available on request.
Rule 3(a) – Christmas trees. Christmas trees are optional depending on your culture and faith, but putting the top on the tree last is non-negotiable. The top is the last thing to go on the tree and the last thing to come off when you take it down. Any other tradition is heretical and wrong.
Rule 3(b) – Christmas trees may be decorated with tinsel in moderation but may not be so overloaded with it as to form an aluminum cone. The final definition of “moderation” is mine to decide.
Rule 4 – Holiday treats. Christmas cookies, boxes of chocolates, massive holiday dinners, and desserts scattered everywhere are a part of the holiday. They are delicious. You will eat them. You will not feel guilty because no one wants guilt during the holidays. If you eat too much, you may take a Tums to ease indigestion but ONLY if it really was caused by over-eating. If the indigestion was caused by overplaying of bad holiday music (see Rule 2(a)) you must suffer in silence and no Tums are allowed.
Rule 5 – Greet your Christian friends with “Merry Christmas” throughout December. Greet your Jewish friends with “Happy Hannukah” but only during the 8 days of the festival of lights. (The holiday varies from year to year so if you don’t know the exact dates surf the ‘net for 10 seconds and find out.) Greet your friends of unknown religious affiliation with “Hi.” which is still perfectly valid in December. If you choose to wing it, be attentive. If the person you’re greeting is carrying bags full of gaily wrapped packages, “Merry Christmas” is probably safe. But be careful and check to see if there are Stars of David on the wrapping paper first.
Rule 6 – Christmas eve. No presents are opened on Christmas Eve. Have you ever given or received a Christmas Eve present? Do you greet people throughout December with “Merry Christmas Eve”? No, you don’t. And you don’t exchange presents on Christmas Eve, either. They’re Christmas presents and Christmas is the 25th. Check the calendar if you don’t believe me. Instead, Christmas Eve is reserved for panicked last-minute shopping, wrapping of gifts, and the dreaded Stocking Present Loading ritual. Exemptions may be granted by mutual agreement of both giver and recipient to allow for travel, obligations to multiple families, etc. If exemption is granted, both parties must agree to pretend that it really is Christmas day and follow the proper rituals as closely as possible under the circumstances.
Rule 7 – Christmas morning. Children under the age of 7 are allowed to jump on their parents’ bed to wake them up. Traditionally, this should be done BEFORE 6am. The parents are allowed to complain about this but are not allowed to really mean it and are required to secretly recognize that it is wonderful and to remember fondly when they did it to their parents. Children over the age of 15 can be jumped on by their parents if the child has chosen to sleep past 7am. A thank you to my in-laws for enlightening me that the order of entry into the room with the Christmas tree is “oldest to youngest”. Prior to meeting them I was ignorant of this fundamental law of the universe. Stockings are emptied before presents are opened. This allows everyone to have some chocolate to wake them up before tearing into the main loot.
Rule 8 – Christmas Dinner. Christmas dinner will be served solely at the whim of a dead turkey, sometime between 3pm and 9pm. The ladies do the cooking and the men do the cleanup. (This portion of this rule is very sexist but it was imposed by the ladies, so don’t bitch at me about it. I think they were just trying to guarantee that dinner would be, you know, edible and stuff.) You will forget to save room for dessert but you will eat it anyway.
Rule 9(a) – Boxing Day. (Canadian version) You will not get sucked in by stories of mythical savings of 75% or more on the stuff you didn’t get for Christmas. You will not wait in line for 12 hours hoping to get a 50-inch TV for $12. These things stopped happening in the mid-90s and ever since then stores have been capitalizing on the frenzy created by the legends and selling tons of stuff at regular prices to people who would rather go home with buyer’s remorse than go home empty handed.
Rule 9(b) – Boxing Day. (American version) You have no idea what Boxing Day is, so go back and re-read rule 9(a) substituting “Black Friday” for “Boxing Day”.
Rule 10 – New Years Resolutions. You will not make New Years Resolutions. These only lead to Mid-Winter Despair. The only exception is that you may make one final New Years Resolution to never again make any New Years Resolutions. This allows you to end the nonsense on a successful note.
These 10 simple rules are the key to a successful holiday season and are my gift to the world this year. No need to thank me. It’s what I do.