After years of working in various large retail stores, when I think of Christmas an immediate sense of dread consumes me. Ubiquitous cheesy carols and advertising jingles will inevitably worm their way into my head, driving me crazy to Ken Bruce proportions. Repellent tactile tinsel and other decorations will unavoidably get in my face like a creepy uncle, leaving me repulsed no matter how many showers I take. So, in an effort to help those who, like me, have a lump of coal where their heart should be and struggle to find the joy in the season beyond free public transport, I’ve compiled some less maudlin and far more awesome Christmas fare to help you get through.
David Sedaris’ SantaLand Diaries.
You can’t go wrong with genius raconteur David Sedaris: fuck ho-ho-ho-ing, embrace your evil streak and have a good cackle at the state of yuletide consumer culture with this comical essay. Centred around his time as an Elf at Macy’s SantaLand, assisting to make Sedaris the beloved best-seller he is today, SantaLand Diaries is a brilliantly droll reflection on life’s absurdities, the humour found in personal humiliation and the strange, strangling state of capitalist consumption.
You can either read this brief piece or listen to Sedaris’ reading of the essay available on the always magnificent This American Life podcast. Personally, listening to Sedaris’ read about his time as Crumpet the Elf marks my favourite holiday tradition; on Christmas day it provides me with the gift of a pre-booze post-humour buzz that prepares me for the suburban oddities ahead.
Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas
Skip the schmaltz of the Miracle on 34th Street and have a darker, bleaker and far more interesting movie night. Made well before Tim Burton over-Burtonised his oeuvre, A Nightmare Before Christmas is the perfect combination of gothic grotesquery, morose magic, and Disney. It remains one of the best stop motion animated features of all time. Recently, Christopher Lee read Burton’s original poem that inspired the film – stick it in your stocking!
Honourable movie night mentions to: Bad Santa, Scrooged (*tips hat to Bill Murray*), National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and, for the required dash of trash, A Mom for Christmas.
Re-watch your favourite TV Christmas Special
Christmas is the perfect time to spend in the company of old friends…particularly old fictional friends. While any television Christmas special is predictably injected with the usual sickly sweet holiday spirit message, if it’s your favourite show, it is still filled with bleak in-jokes, beloved characters and signature appeal. At Christmastime, I enjoy power-discing with The OC’s Chrismukkah episodes (Summer as ‘Wonderwhore,’ Seth’s Starter Pack gift compilation, the knits and drama!), two of Community’s best – the amazing Christmas claymation journey through Abed’s psyche and their amusing meta-musical mockery of Glee – and, of course, (UK) The Office’s Christmas specials.
Aural alternatives to Christmas music
If my family is anything to go by, listening to carols at Christmas lunch is an overly-enthusiastic necessity: without this ‘music’, food won’t be served. But that doesn’t mean I have to swallow an old-generic three-for-$9.99 CD carol compilation collected from the JB counter.
Hark! There is an antidote for the likes of this monstrosity. If required to listen to carols, make sure you dose up on performances from your preferred artists: spin The Beach Boys for some soothing harmonies, Phil Spector offers you a (non-creepy) gift in the form of an awesome Christmas album, Low or Sufjan Stevens have albums that give an alt-sombre tinge to carolling and, of course, Run DMC give us Christmas in Hollis. And there’s always this.
Eat, drink and be boozy
Over indulgence at Christmas is standard because food at Christmas is amazing and gluttony accepted. Add to this the excuse to drink practically every evening – ‘it’s the holidays’ *shrug and swill* – Christmas starts to look up. But what really warms my insides leading up to December 25th is when these two things are combined. And I’m not talking trifle.
Drown out the familial fighting while chowing down on some beer can chicken, bask in the glow of a Guinness glazed ham, or slam some sweet, sweet brandy butter. Now that’s the true spirit of Christmas.