The Guys – well, Rick and Bryan, anyway – are at an impasse. We both agree that, since Thanksgiving is over, we’re in the officially acceptable period of expressing Christmas joy. But, is there a Too Soon for dialing Christmas up to 11? Are there limits, both structurally and psychologically, to how quickly we should ramp up Christmas? Can we maintain the holiday spirit for an entire month, or should we taper it off a bit to make it to December 25th? Bryan believes this is stupid and insane (Con), and Rick thinks it’s not only inevitable but makes December better (Pro).
We hash out all this and more in Pro vs. Con: Yule Be Sorry Edition.
Christmas trees and other decorations
Rick: There’s definitely a Too Soon for Christmas decorations, and that’s any time before Thanksgiving. Stores setting up Christmas displays before Halloween? That’s ridiculous, and Christmas in July is a buttf*cking blasphemy. But, once we’re past Thanksgiving? I say go for it.
Christmas decorations in my house mean rearranging furniture, heaving lifting, gardening/floristry, ladders and outdoor work. You won’t have a larger unpaid labor force any other day of the year than on the Friday immediately after Thanksgiving, which you can pay in leftovers. With that amount of work put into decorating, I’m not taking them down until my final eviction notice in mid-January. I figure there’s Advent, Christmas Eve and Day, the twelve days of Christmas, the Epiphany (if you’re Catholic), New Years, and then the two weeks of 2016’s hangover.
Bryan: If you’re able to move off the couch after Thanksgiving, you’re doing it wrong. The day after Thanksgiving is for one thing only: praying for a smooth bowel movement.
My Irish Catholic grandmother used to say two things every Christmas: that it was “a lot of work for one day,” and, “This will be my last Christmas.” Eventually, she was right about the latter, so she’s probably right about the former. Christmas trees themselves don’t suck, we just make them that way. You may not realize this, but when you cut a plant from its root system, it’s only a matter of time before it heads to that big tree farm in the sky. You can water it and add sugar or whatever you want, it’s still going to die in a few weeks. That means people who get their tree on Thanksgiving weekend are almost certainly going to have a dead or mostly dead Christmas tree when their favorite holiday finally arrives. Why people look forward to getting a real tree is beyond me. You pick it out, lash it to your car, hope it doesn’t fly off on the way home, haul it through the door, and spend an hour getting it to sit right in the tree stand. Then you can finally spend a few minutes admiring the tree while you try to get the sap off of your clothing and hands. That said, people with fake trees are pussies.
Rick: I just traded in a fake tree for a real one, so I’ll have to take Bryan’s words as a warning. But, I’ll say this for real trees: unlike the plastic abomination I just threw away, they are safely disposable. Also, they make the room smell like spruce, which is the most pleasant aroma of all dying things.
Rick: What I love most about Christmas music is that it isn’t any one genre. Every recording artist from Bach to Usher is a Kanye-level egomaniac when it comes to believing that Baby Jesus himself has pissed the true sound of Christmas into their brain. Which means there are unlimited styles of Christmas music. I can switch from classical to jazz to R&B to metal and still be listening to Christmas music all month long. However, if your idea of Christmas music is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” on loop, every day, until the tree is compost, then congratulations: you are Christianity’s ISIS.
Bryan: And now I have that song in my head. All I want for Christmas is a spoon to dig out this ear worm.
I’ve been pretty vocal about my opposition to most mainstream Christmas songs out there. It’s like we as a society decided we’re just going to listen to six songs that were recorded before 1965, and some of them are really just about winter. Every major Christmas song recorded since then is insufferable.
Not even former Beatles can write a good one. Paul McCartney and Wings’ “Wonderful Christmas Time” is an abomination of a song. “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”? John, Yoko and the Plastic Ono Band are directly responsible for making people think it’s cool to be political at Christmas. Example: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by all those 80s Band Aid singers. Yes, they know it’s Christmas in Ethiopia, they’ve been Christian for about as long as Christianity has existed. And Bono has the most dickish line of the song, which I’ll remind you is about famine, “Well, tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you.” That’s the spirit of Christmas! I once heard a station in Ohio playing Christmas music around Labor Day. Who could possibly like this crap that much?
Rick: It sounds crazy if you say you’re only listening to songs about Christmas for a month, but we already do that with songs about sex. Every song is about sex. Even most of the Christmas ones. And especially “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” which has a lot of … issues.
Bryan: It’s weird that we have a genre of movies specifically tailored for one holiday. As far as I know, there aren’t any other holiday-specific genres for films. If we do make a movie about a non-Christmas holiday, the title of that movie is the holiday. Christmas movies are inherently flawed because they’re all just variations on a theme: the true meaning of Christmas. Someone doesn’t believe, and a certain amount of circumstances line up in just a way that the main character finally figures out what Christmas is all about. They are all formulaic and dull. The reason they’re made that way is that they’re for children. The only good Christmas movies are ones that are subversive, like Bad Santa, or have Bill Murray in them. You can’t count movies that just happen to take place around Christmas because this genre is so specific. Does anyone count Batman Returns as a Christmas movie?
Rick: I concur — most Christmas movies are crap. But most of all movies of any genre are crap. It’s not like anyone’s growing in new and exciting ways into being The One in all of our fledgling film franchises. But, there are more than enough good Christmas movies, though, to ignore, say, Jingle All the Way or Tim Allen’s entire oeuvre. It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t just a great Christmas movie — it’s also a great movie about why rich elderly white men in the banking industry are the devil. Miracle on 34th Street is the last movie I can think of where a young woman successfully defends her beliefs from mansplainin’. And if you think a Santa who really loves anal in Bad Santa is subversive, then you really need to see Terry Pratchet’s complete dissection of Christmas and belief in The Hogfather. And since those movies are all about 20 hours long, they should put a decent dent into the month of December.
One question for the room, though: The Nightmare Before Christmas — Halloween movie, Christmas movie, or Tim Burton’s most overrated movie?
Christmas food and drink
Rick: Like most geniuses, Christmas steals from the best. And if you’re stealing food, Thanksgiving is the gold standard. Meat, starch, and dessert with no vegetables because nothing green and edible grows in December. It even improves on Thanksgiving because f*ck yams and pumpkin — orange is neither presidential nor a vegetable. And it could’ve been much worse — the powers that mandate holiday festivity could have easily borrowed from its sister holiday: Easter. Nobody can eat boiled eggs all month.
Bryan: I think a Christmas feast should include all of the animals that were in Jesus’ manger. You know, beef, lamb, angel, etc.
Over the past century, Christmas food has improved, but it’s only good if you’re grading on a curve. We as a society have moved away from fruitcake in my lifetime, but we’ve also decided that everything needs to taste like gingerbread or peppermint. The real weakness of Christmas food is that it’s generally just Thanksgiving part two. Sure, your coworker brings in cookies every year, but how do you know they’re not laced with something? Christmas drinks in general I am not opposed to, but they get old quickly. Whether it’s a gingerbread latte or eggnog, I can only stomach one each per year, then go back to wondering why we drink these things. That’s why I sprinkle a few spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla in my bourbon and move on.
Rick: Say what you will about peppermint, but it really covers up the smell of gin on your breath at work. Unlike pumpkin spice.
Rick: Christmas cards are vital in an online world where everything can be automated, even after death. Thanks to photographic proof of aging and handwriting that can be analyzed, these may be the only remaining proof we have that other people not only live, but exist at all. Can you prove that any of your online friends are real? Only the ones you get a card from.
Bryan: Scrolling through my feed daily I hope some of my friends aren’t real.
Last year the U.S. Postal Service lost $5.1 billion because no one uses it anymore — except for sending Christmas cards. Every year we send our friends and family cards with pictures of us, perhaps even containing some news about our year, and wish people well. Thanks to social media, sending Christmas cards is the most antiquated tradition we have. It’s also one of the most arduous. We spend time getting fancy cards or paying for fancy pictures to be taken of us, then we confirm our loved ones’ mailing addresses, because sometimes people move, and we don’t actually mail them things anymore, then we write — by hand — cards for and only for Christmas purposes. The sentiment is great, but we live in a world where posting “Happy birthday!” on someone’s Facebook wall counts as human interaction. Christmas cards can and should be handled the same way. I want to live in a world where the only thing you get in the mail from me is a summons to be a character witness at my trial.
Rick: So, what you’re saying is that Christmas is the only reason I’m getting new Star Trek stamps this year? Thanks, Christmas and aging debutantes who still mail “thank you” cards!