6 Holiday Traditions We Should Stop Pretending to Enjoy
The holidays are here again, which means that in addition to lots of opportunities to finally get that first DUI under your belt, you can expect to smile your way through a bunch of dreadful activities your family insists on partaking of, on account of "tradition." We talk about a few examples on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Jeff May and podcast impresario Brett Rader. I'm also talking about it right here today! Here are six "beloved" holiday traditions people only pretend to enjoy.
Thanksgiving Dinner Leftovers
Hey, if seeing Thanksgiving dinner leftovers on this list makes you angry, just know that I almost made this entry about the dinner itself. And no, I don't mean the part where you sit around a table with people you haven't seen since at least last year (and for good reason) until someone gets drunk and a fight breaks out. I mean the actual food. Turkey is just chicken that thinks it's special. You know what I have for Thanksgiving dinner each year? Indian food.
Masala, not maize.
That said, who am I to decide what food people should enjoy? If you like turkey, eat it. I don't care. However, I refuse to believe that anyone enjoys turkey enough to eat it for five straight days without at least once wishing they had a burger to break the monotony. Because that's all Thanksgiving leftovers usually amount to -- a bunch of turkey and nothing else. Sure, for that first day or two, there might be a few side dishes left, but those always get gobbled up right away, leaving nothing but pounds of dry (and getting drier by the day!), bland turkey meat. It's at this point that any remaining bird should be fed to the pets or the homeless or whatever But that rarely happens, because that's not how the tradition works. Instead, you start getting subjected to shit like this:
Look at that thing! That is not how a turkey sandwich is supposed to work. I don't care if it's white or dark meat -- either way, that sandwich is going to be dry and terrible. You could probably go through a gallon of water trying to choke that thing down. Given the presentation and attention to detail, I'm guessing the person planning to consume this is still basking in that next-day afterglow, when the leftovers still resemble the meal you so fondly remember, as opposed to the pile of turkey carcass scraps it will eventually become.
"You know, we should just chuck it down the garbage disposal and see what happens."
Give it another day or two, when that sweetly presented sandwich delight has devolved into varying-size chunks of dry turkey between two pieces of Wonder Bread, and the suggestion of another turkey-based meal starts to sound more like a threat than anything else. We power through, though, because tradition dictates that in the days following Thanksgiving, "turkey" is what's on the menu until every bit of holiday food is gone.
If only Halloween worked that way.
Do you work in an office? If so, you're about one week away from that time of year when the office activities committee starts trying to cajole you into participating in this year's Secret Santa program. If you're unfamiliar with the term, it basically means a group of people are each assigned the name of a person they must buy a gift for, and then present it to them anonymously. Sometimes, it's a series of small gifts, culminating in one final large gift, with "large" generally meaning "costing no more than $10."
"This used copy of Lilo & Stitch has that chick in accounting's name all over it."
It's an innocent enough idea, but if you deny the fact that it also turns any office into a melting pot of paranoia, resentment, and frustration, then you probably invented the concept and aren't willing to acknowledge the hell you've unleashed upon the rest of the world.
The problem is that your workplace is filled with a wide range of personalities, a lot of them of the awful variety. Inevitably, those personalities start to shine through in the gifts people give.
"Guess who's giving out designer Post-it notes this year."
For example, there's at least one person in every Secret Santa program who clearly just gives out random shit they have laying around the house. For this person, Secret Santa is all about receiving. They receive thoughtful gifts from you, and in turn, you receive three bottles of hotel shampoo (DoubleTree!) and a baseball cap with your employer's logo on it (the same one you all received at a company outing two months prior).
That shampoo will look great in your disgusting bathroom, though!
Another regular in the starting lineup of any Secret Santa program is the lottery ticket guy, which could actually be a man or a woman, but history has yet to produce a fuckable woman with a lottery addiction, so referring to this person as a guy is always acceptable. And make no mistake, addiction is exactly what you're a party to when your Secret Santa partner gives you lottery tickets. They aren't saying "Hey, I hope my gift earns you enough cash to quit your day job." No, the real message here is "I have a problem, and I've decided to make it your problem as well this Christmas by using the money I would've spent on your gift to further my addiction instead."
"And then if you win, I'll just kill you in the parking lot!"
Then again, what kind of gift were you going to get with the traditional $10 limit in place anyway? Probably nothing too memorable. Except that's not necessarily true, because there's always one person who's great at buying cheap gifts, and who ultimately makes everyone else look like a thoughtless bastard. Whether they are good at personalizing the gift to match the interests of the person they're shopping for or just really know how to get the most out of a dollar, their expertise makes everyone else not even want to participate.
Except you can't do that either, because if you do, then you're the asshole who doesn't like your co-workers. It's that pressure to take part combined with every problem listed before it that makes Secret Santa one of the biggest plagues currently infecting the holiday season.
The Elf On The Shelf
"The Elf on the Shelf" became a Christmas tradition when a book of the same name said it should back in 2005. Basically, it involves placing an elf doll somewhere in your home and telling your children that he's there to watch them and report the findings directly to Santa Claus, which he does by going all the way back to the North Pole every single night. He then "returns" the next day, positioned in a new spot, where he can once again rule over your child's behavior using nothing more than his dead-eyed stare.
Before it leaves for the North Pole each night ... it watches you sleep.
This apparently goes on night after night until Christmas finally rolls around, and everyone realizes the elves must have said good things because, sure enough, there are a bunch of presents from Santa underneath the tree. First of all, this is a total perversion of what Santa's controlling power over children is supposed to be. Much like God or the Devil, Santa is to be known about and feared, but never seen. Keeping your children in check by simply suggesting that some unknown but all-knowing entity is watching them is a powerful parenting tool. Working a doll into the mix does nothing short of destroying the legend surrounding Santa's powers of surveillance. He's never needed an elf to tell him who's naughty or nice.
Even without all that taken into account, this is a trend that needs to die for no other reason than its seemingly limitless ability to turn Christmas into one long month of creepiness. See, several websites have popped up that encourage parents to send pictures of their "wacky" ideas for where to stash their elf each day. As seen in this series of nightmares ...
... the results ...
... are often ...
This, clearly, is not a tradition for children. This is a tradition for bored soccer moms who've run out of stamping and scrapbooking ideas. Cut it out.
The NHL Winter Classic
In a desperate last grab at garnering some much needed attention for their borderline useless league, the National Hockey League started a yearly tradition in 2008 where, on New Year's Day, they host an outdoor game, usually at a football or baseball stadium. The 2009 game between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks took place at Wrigley Field, for example.
If you think I'm going to say this tradition needs to stop because it's way too cold for outdoor sports in January, you're wrong. I adore the NFL, and half their season is played under the ever-present threat of inclement weather. You can play all hockey outdoors, for all I care. You can play all hockey on fields of grass with high school chicks. It's all the same to me.
"Never let anyone say you can't play the same boring sports the boys do."
No, my problem here is no different from when I mentioned seeing hockey in person as one of the points in my "5 Supposedly Fun Activities Nobody Actually Enjoys (Part 2)" article last year. My argument then was that, despite being a vastly superior game to soccer in terms of action and scoring and such (and by "vastly" I mean "barely"), the fact that the puck is nearly impossible to see when watching in person makes the entire hockey experience a lot less enjoyable. And, as you can see in this shot from a recent NHL Winter Classic, the problem is made infinitely worse in a stadium environment.
Not a good seat in the house!
Even the sole enjoyable aspect of watching hockey in person, which is, of course, having an upfront view of a man getting smashed into a pane of glass by another man, is practically nonexistent in that seating arrangement.
How many runs is this worth?
So at the end of the day, you're still just showing up for the fights, except this time you'll freeze to death while watching. Fun!
Christmas albums are a roller coaster of emotions. On the one hand, when the news first breaks that a musician you enjoy is releasing a new album, you're elated. Moments later, when you hear that it's actually a Christmas album, your excitement gives way to full-blown apathy. Because no matter how much you love a band or musician, nobody loves a Christmas album.
Don't get me wrong, there are a few good modern Christmas songs, like this beauty, for example:
That's just one song, though. I have no desire to hear Run-D.M.C. "yes, yes, y'all" their way through an entire album of Christmas standards. And besides, what they're doing in that song is more the exception than the rule when it comes to Christmas albums. Usually, what you get is something more like this:
That's John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John throwing down on a vanity Christmas project, because what the hell else are they going to do this holiday season? Scientologists don't celebrate Christmas, and Australians don't celebrate anything beyond surviving another day without being devoured whole by one of the countless Walmart-size insects that inhabit their nightmare of a landscape. That doesn't mean we have to enjoy it, though.
Of all the worthless possibilities in a musician's catalog, nothing stands out as such more than a Christmas album. It's like one of those contract-fulfilling greatest hits or covers albums, except in this case, listening to it anytime outside of a three- or four-week window at the end of the year makes you look like a total weirdo. Oh, and speaking of things only a crazy person would enjoy ...
Shopping on Black Friday
Holy mother of fuck, what is wrong with people? There is no amount of savings on a 32-inch Westinghouse LCD TV that justifies sleeping in front of a Best Buy. I don't care if you're homeless and someone is going to give you that television for free so you can pawn it and put yourself up in a meth motel for a week, it's still not worth the effort.
I guess I was a little more able to understand the appeal back when "Black Friday" was an appropriate term for the event. You know, the days when it actually involved waking up (or camping out) early enough to be one of the first people through the door when the store opened. Eventually, though, the cutthroat competition among retailers to attract more shoppers led them to start opening earlier and earlier. It used to be that stores would open at six in the morning the day after Thanksgiving, and even then, people marveled at the dedication required to shake off a turkey (and booze) hangover at such an ungodly hour just to score a sweet deal on a Teddy Ruxpin or whatever the fuck. Nowadays, stores don't even wait for Thanksgiving to end. Walmart opens at goddamn 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving night this year. This is the only time of year when a store opening too early actually counts as an inconvenience.
The concept of Black Friday is made all the more ridiculous by the fact that, if you just wait a few more days, you can get most of those same deals online without seeing so much as a single stampeding horde of shopping hooligans.
It's called Cyber Monday, and it's how grown-ups shop for stuff they don't need. Not only do you get to skip the inclement weather and long lines, you also get to shop while you should be working. It's all upside.
Nevertheless, at the exact same time this column hits the front page of Cracked, people all across the country will be Bloodsport-ing each other to get their hands on deals that will probably be available at any time for the rest of the year, because tradition says that's what they're supposed to do.
Another tradition you might hate is spending time with your family. Break the cycle and read 4 (Bad) Reasons You Spend Holidays With Family. And learn how to shake off that Thanksgiving funk (Chris-Bucholz-style) with 9 Ways To Get Back Into Work Mode After A Holiday.
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