8 Dumb Holiday Traditions That Need to Be Retired
It's the most wonderful time of the year! The jam-packed social calendar, the communal acceptance of binge-drinking, the ready-made excuses for slacking off at work ... there are so many great things about the holidays and so many awesome ways to celebrate. Too many, if I'm being completely honest. As science has proven time and again, an overabundance of available options is rarely a good thing. With that in mind, it's time to thin the herd a bit and let a few traditions fall by the wayside. For example ...
The Over-the-Top Christmas Tree
O Tannenbaum, when did you get so complicated? Christmas trees used to fall into one of two categories -- real or fake -- and each had its own pros and cons. Real trees smell amazing, and there's some kind of earthy, bucolic charm to dragging the dirty outdoors through your home, scratching floors, knocking over furniture, and leaving a wake of pine needles that'll be showing up in the most random places until March. The big bummer is that, much like a hot and heavy one-night stand, when the fun is over, the once-glorious, captivating hub of the holiday experience gets unceremoniously kicked to the curb.
Fake trees are convenient, and there's none of that morning-after awkwardness, but for some people the faux tree that attempts to replicate the real deal just doesn't cut it anymore. Now they have to be rainbow striped:
No one who would want this tree is responsible enough to afford it.
Or prelit with LED lights you control from your smartphone. Or, most abhorrent of all, upside down:
This is a bush.
Before you start railing about the historical basis for an upside-down tree, let me stop you. It doesn't matter. It still looks ridiculous. This year, Target is offering the piece de resistance of over-the-top ostentatiousness: a 7-foot, prelit, upside-down, gold glitter, artificial showstopper that will set you back $900 ...
And your dignity.
... which is a bargain considering their priciest tree, the traditional oriented cashmere pine, tops out at $4,400.
For obvious reasons.
If Christmas trees can get any more convoluted than they are now, I'd be hard-pressed to say how, but I've no doubt this is a bar that will continue to be raised each year.
Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties
Just as some would argue about the Christmas holiday itself, the perennial attempt at group irony disguised as a social gathering that is the ugly Christmas sweater party has lost its true meaning. What started out as an event mocking lame, mainstream fashion has itself become lame and mainstream. It is the ultimate in unhip meta-ness.
Brooklyn's in the house!
Vancouver, Canada, lays claims to the first documented instance, back in 2002, with a party for which attendees were asked to don their tacky holiday best. Back in the day, you were expected to hit the local thrift store or raid your aunt's closet to find a suitably heinous sweater. Today, there's a thriving industry surrounding the parties, with preprinted invites, blogs dedicated to planning, and mass-produced attire created specifically for the event, including officially licensed sweaters from the curiously redundant "ugly" sports apparel collection.
Pair with a scarf to cover those trees and you've got an offensive Thanksgiving sweater as well!
It's like a Halloween party where everyone's wearing the same joke costume ... only referencing a joke that hasn't been original or funny in at least five years. The smug irony is gone now that there's barely a discernible line between those who wear them in earnest and those who wear them tongue planted not so firmly in cheek.
The Holiday Greeting Video
Pretentious, braggy holiday videos are the Christmas newsletters for the modern age. Except they're so much worse.
Merry Christmas, we're the best!
Ostensibly, they're a way to keep friends and loved ones apprised of the latest developments within your family and spread holiday cheer, but much like those horrible choreographed wedding dance videos, they're really just another way for marginally talented people to find a semi-captive audience. Last year, the gauntlet was thrown down when the Holderness family awkwardly danced and rapped about their superiority and dad's vasectomy in a holiday video that eventually garnered more than 15.5 million views on YouTube.
Watching this actually made me grateful that I had the type of neglectful parents who could never remember what grade I was and didn't care how my siblings and I spent our free time, as long as it was out of their hair.
The problem is, if you're the type to put together a holiday video, it's pretty much a guarantee everyone is already up to speed, having been inundated with achievements, precocious witticisms, and the minutiae of your family life in your interminable posts on Facebook and Instagram. Also, we get it, your life is great. You wouldn't be filming a big-budget music video about it otherwise. Not everyone has this much to be happy about during the holidays, though, and you know that. At some point, firing off parody rap songs about your family's good fortune to all of your email contacts just turns into running up the score on all the people you think you're better than.
Jewelry as a Substitute for Sentiment
Thanks to the diabolical geniuses behind the jewelry cabal, the masses have been brainwashed into thinking that no holiday is complete unless a gaudy trinket is dangled in front of a loved one like some kind of hypnotic talisman, ready to wipe away any lingering doubts about the relationship.
This is so much easier than being nice to you!
Would you expect anything less from the gutsy marketers with the cajones to rebrand virtually worthless brown stones as "chocolate diamonds" and foist them on the public as precious gems?
This might as well be made of the glass from beer bottles.
This time of year we're bombarded by commercials that equate giving a mass-produced gewgaw as a shortcut to intimacy, and none are worse than the ones trotted out by Kay Jewelers.
Whether you're in a clearly co-dependent relationship ...
... or you're just getting acquainted with your soon-to-be creeptastic stepdad ...
... everything should be celebrated with a tacky, cornball-themed bauble.
A better bet to get closer to a loved one this holiday season? Rent Blood Diamond and bond over your mutual mockery of Leo DiCaprio's attempt at a South African accent.
The Company Holiday Party
The company holiday party is an anachronism that harks back to the Mad Men era, when drinking, sexual harassment, and general debauchery were part of every office job. Today, it's just an HR disaster waiting to happen.
Can you still smoke at your desk? If not, you probably shouldn't do this, either.
In addition to being laden with potential career-damaging landmines, it's also forced fun with people who aren't actually friends. Sure, you probably count some of your co-workers as buddies, so why not hang with them on the corporate dime? The problem is, beyond those select few, your workplace is filled with all types of people, the majority of whom you'd never willingly socialize with, and the rest of whom actively make your skin crawl.
Inevitably, you'll be cornered by someone you spend work days steering clear of and will be forced to experience a drunken version of everything you've skillfully avoided for an entire year. The bottom line: we'd all be better off if the company just divvied up the money wasted on a party and handed it out as a bonus to be spent as we please.
The Christmas Puppy
Dogs are awesome. People who give them as Christmas gifts, not so much. A pet isn't a gadget or plaything and shouldn't be grouped in with presents that can be exchanged or discarded.
I thought I was getting an iPad.
Owning a dog is a huge commitment, and springing one on someone as a surprise is a really terrible idea. In addition, the chaos of the holidays makes it a very bad time to introduce a dog to a new home. Much like the misguided souls who think real rabbits make ideal Easter gifts, many people who go this route find that the recipient is not ready for the responsibility, and the poor animals suffer for it.
Do you have the receipt?
Pet adoptions are more successful when there's an opportunity to get somewhat acquainted before deciding to spend the next several years together. Instead of a canine version of an arranged marriage disguised as a Christmas gift, a much more thoughtful idea for all involved is to wait a few weeks and plan on finding one together that's actually the right fit for the giftee. The shelter will be crowded with abandoned "gifts" that will need to find homes with those actually ready and willing to adopt a dog.
White Elephant Gift Exchange
On the plus side, White Elephant gift exchanges can bring out the very worst in friends and co-workers. This is especially true if someone pulls a Michael Scott and drops in a great gift to be fought over among all the crappy ones.
The Snuggie is mine!
But beside the potential promise of a melee among friends, there's really nothing great about trading garbage for garbage.
"This will look great in the dumpster behind my apartment!"
The gifts usually fall into a few broad categories: holiday-themed gifts, joke gifts, or something purchased in a drunken late-night stupor "As Seen on TV." Like the white elephant it's named after, these gifts have maintenance costs (eventual landfill fodder) that exceed their usefulness. Let's do the planet a favor this holiday season and stop filling it with trash.
Giving Gift Cards
Gift cards are a great way to let someone know you care as much about them as the Snickers bar you also grabbed while waiting in line at the grocery store. The theory is that they allow the giftee to get what they really want. The reality? They're just a great big gift to corporate America. Over the past six years, unredeemed gift cards have resulted in nearly $45 billion in unspent cash, and people don't even want to receive them anymore.
"Hot Topic! Thanks! I'm 36 years old!"
Thanks to fees and restrictions, gift cards are basically akin to high-maintenance cash with lots of baggage. If you don't use them, they can eventually lose their value. With some cards, after 13 months card issuers can start charging "dormancy fees" for inactivity.
Yes, they're convenient if you are too busy to shop, but if you've already given up the pretense of having the time or inclination to actually find the perfect gift, why stop there? The next time you're involved in a mandatory gift exchange, the following would make more sense. Stand in a circle, have everyone pull out two 20s (or whatever the gift dollar-limit is), and pass them to the person on your right while delivering a heart-felt message of good cheer.
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And be sure to check out 4 Popular Activities That Should Be Illegal for Kids and 15 Cards for Getting a Jump Start on (Ruining) Christmas.
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