Christmas Connundrums

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There are two people in my immediate family.

Only the dog and I enjoy a cold glass of egg nog.

My wife buys it because she loves me, but it does present us with a unique problem.

There’s no way that one person can, or should, finish a whole carton of the nog within the week of its expiration date.

I just had a glass of egg nog from a carton that was 5 days past the expiration date. In doing so I realized that there is almost no way to determine if egg nog has gone bad by sniffing because it smells funky even when it’s good.

This brought to mind several other Christmas conundrums that I feel the need to address:

Christmas Gibberish

Evidently a major part of the celebration the birth of our Lord includes nonsensical words set to silly music. Nothing illustrates this like wandering through your local shopping mall and realizing that the words,

Fa- la- la- la- la,

Rooty- toot- toot,

Rum- ti- tum- tum,

Bumpity thump- thump,

and

Pa rum- pum- pum- pum,

are lyrics to some of the worst music ever created to celebrate anything. I’m beginning to realize that, in the grant tradition of “Hey Jude”, running out of words doesn’t mean people stop talking.

Newspaper As Wrapping Paper

Wrapping something in newsprint is an admission that while you love someone, you didn’t really consider spending any more than you had to on them. It is also a strong indicator that you were also running late on time and they didn’t sell gift-wrap at the store where you were doing your last second shopping.

If you are opening up a Christmas gift and reading Beetle Bailey at the same time, congratulations, chances are you’re opening something purchased at 11:59PM at Rite Aid.

Never in the history of earth has a good Christmas present ever been wrapped in the funny papers. Beyond this sometimes a family member will wrap your gift in the advertisements section, forcing you to look at pictures of all of the things that you could have gotten for Christmas.

Giving A Movie Gift Card.

I myself have given out gift cards to the movies and thought that it was a great idea. However, I was out Christmas shopping and overheard two men in conversation:

Man #1: “The present you gave me last year sucked.”
Man #2: “What do you mean, I got you a gift card to Regal Cinemas?”
Man#1: “Yes, and I used it to see Cloud Atlas.”
Man #2: “That’s your fault.”

Receiving a gift card to the movies really is a grab bag of sorts. Depending on what they go see, you could be giving your friend The best two hours of their month (Skyfall) or a headache and a nosebleed (Madea’s Christmas Party).

Receiving A Bad Gift Card.

Sometimes you get a gift card to someplace terrible like Applebees or Walgreens. While these cards do say “buy some indigestion” or “buy some Pepto” neither one is as bad as getting a gift card for a store THAT DOESN’T EXIST IN YOUR STATE.

I live in Portland and we don’t have any Marie Calendars, Bob Evans, Cracker Barrels, Perkins, or Steak and Shakes. Not only is the card worthless to me, but there’s also no way that I’ll ever be able to understand if it could have actually been good without spending $800 on a plane ticket.

If you are hoping that I’ll give the Waffle House a try, go ahead and mail me a plane ticket. When I’m out visiting, I’ll cover the meal.

As a side note, I know that you know that I love In-N-Out Burger. Getting me a gift card here in Portland is just rubbing it in people.

Peanut Brittle

If you decide to make Peanut Brittle, and pass it out as a gift to everyone in your cul-de-sac, do whatever you can to make it according to the directions called Peanut “BRITTLE”, as opposed to the directions labelled Peanut “SHARDS OF GLASS.”

If you are uncertain about which recipe you’ve just prepared, here’s how you can tell the difference: Before giving it to a little old lady, bite a piece of it. If you still have a tongue, it’s safe to distribute.

Oversized Holiday Tin Full Of Popcorn

You know what I’m talking about here, it’s the giant aluminum can with a three-way divider filled with popcorn flavored by Caramel, Cheese, and The Color Yellow. I’m telling you to stay away from it, not because it’s gross (who doesn’t love the flavor Yellow?) but because it’s addictive in a way that makes donut holes seem like medicine.

Once you dip into the corn tin you aren’t coming back out until it’s all gone.

After two or three consecutive years of “corn-tinning” a family will develop a nasty habit of purchasing multiples so that they can safely munch their way into the Easter. You can easily tell the corn-fiend families from the newbies because addicts eat the cheese corn and caramel corn at the same time; eating the corn individually no longer scratches the itch.

Gifts of Batteries

Attention Dads, it’s important to wrap all batteries with the present that they go with. Wrapping batteries up as their own unique present is uncool in the same way that giving your wife a gift certificate for a hug is. If you married her she already deserves your hugs, if you bought your kid a flashlight you owe him 4 D-cell batteries.

Batteries are a part of the gift, not an additional one.

When the individually wrapped batteries are opened before the electronic item, you have committed one of the epic Christmas blunders. The confusion about what the batteries are for doesn’t heighten expectations, it creates that awful moment that your kid realizes that they’re getting a flashlight instead of an AM/FM Cassette Ghettoblaster.

Increasing the level of difficulty is that your parents are also giving and receiving gifts at this event, and your father is probably giving your mother hearing aid batteries for Christmas. The chances are high that during the battery fallout your son is going to try to put Grandma’s batteries into his gift.

Sleeping Relatives

The late night merriment and early morning activity of Christmas can make it hard on family members who have crossed time zones to be together. It’s also hard to be older than 45 and full of cinnamon rolls when little kids are opening presents.

If they aren’t your kids, and you don’t know what an Avenger is, opening presents seems like a good time to close your eyes and let all of those empty carbs take over.

The problem is that there will eventually be an awkward moment when it’s time for you to open a gift and everyone has to discuss what to do with you while you snore away in your folding chair.

This is usually when the kids get permission to use their Nerf Guns… on your crotch.

Death Trap Gifts

Midnight is a terrible time to assemble a pink bicycle or playhouse. You might think that self-assembly will be an act love, but somewhere around 2:45AM it morphs into an act of supreme hatred and aggression towards mass production and the color pink.

While you do love your little daughters, you also want them to live through the first ride/tea party, and the best way to ensure this is to PAY THE MAN AT THE STORE.

Your little girl will never know that it wasn’t you but a sweaty man in a stock room who assembled her dream home… Because you’re already giving Santa and his elves credit for doing it anyway.

Santa Paws

I don’t know if you’ve ever been at the home of a child who has just received a puppy for Christmas, but if you haven’t, leave as soon as possible. Here’s the cliff notes version of what you’ll miss:

Jubilant, frantic screaming followed by involuntary and accidental vomiting- This can be by the dog, the children, or both.

Jubilant, frantic arguing about what the dog will be named- This becomes a battle between the oldest and the youngest child about whether the dog will have a human name like Frank or Jeanine or a name with a title/job description like Mr. Sniffers or Dr. Doodles.

This argument is immediately followed by the argument about whose bed the animal will sleep in. This is only ended by the day’s first incontinence episode, whereupon the entire party is escorted out-of-doors to begin its first potty training session/leash strangling walk.

After the puppy has worn out all of the children, and eaten any of the loafers given as presents, the kids head off to their rooms to raise digital puppies on their Christmas iPads while mom begins the first day of the rest of her dog-rearing life.

For better or for worse, these are the conundrums that celebrating with our family and friends brings to us each and every Christmas season. Without a clear picture of who we’re celebrating it can become tempting to give in to the cynicism that commerce and dysfunction bring to us each and every season.

When I find myself focusing on the insanity of the month of December I’m only given two choices: Celebrate the madness or condemn it.

In the face of this choice I have to remember that placing my focus on Jesus gives me the ability to move past both of these options and press into the magic, mystery, and beauty of that first Christmas and what it meant to our frantic, cheap, nonsensical, addicted, exhausted, expiring, and unsuspecting world.

Merry Christmas

7 Responses to “Christmas Connundrums”

  1. Darcy Hansen December 21, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Merry Christmas, Jon Furman! Thank you for the gift of laughter and keeping me in the know of all things pop culture throughout the year! I always stand amazed at how you can take “bad popcorn” and turn it into a Christ-centered post:) Again, thank you!

    • Jon December 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      Thank you!

  2. Richard December 21, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    I so look forward to whatever you might write. Merry Christmas!

    • Jon December 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

      Thanks man, I really appreciate you!

  3. Sharon O December 21, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Love this, so funny and so true and I sure miss you and your wonderful ‘humor’. Always loved to hear you up at the ‘front’ knowing we would get entertained and taught at the same time. Merry Christmas.

    • Jon December 21, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      Thanks Sharon, miss you both!

  4. Justin Lowmaster December 25, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Yeah, but has your grandma ever given you coupons before?

    Expired coupons?

    Also: Coconut milk eggnog is the bestest eggnog.

Leave a Reply to Justin Lowmaster

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