This is generally one of my favorite times of year, but it also gets me down. One of my co-workers has taken a part-time job working customer service at a big-box toy store. This is the first year he’s worked there and some of the stories he tells make me lose faith in humanity (not that I had much left). But anyway, it’s impractical to try to drown one’s sorrows in spiked eggnog for a month, so I present my favorite holiday media.
A Charlie Brown Christmas – Maybe this is just nostalgia, but I always enjoy this special even if Linus’s speechifying at the end seems a little much. But watching Charlie Brown struggle with that sad little tree and everyone eventually coming together warms my cold and cynical heart.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! – I mean the animated TV special, not that live-action waste of celluloid. Everything about it is just perfect and I feel my heart grow when I watch it.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol – The one starting Scrooge McDuck and Mickey Mouse. It’s a classic for a reason. It touches on all the important parts of the story and the animation and voice work makes Scrooge so wonderfully grumpy and cynical. Despite the title, this short is all about Scrooge.
Scrooged – A cynical, ’80s take on the classic A Christmas Carol starring Bill Murray as a greedy CEO. Watching the Ghost of Christmas Past hit him over the head with her wand warms my cold and cynical heart.
The Muppet Christmas Carol – I like this take on the classic as well. It’s got some good songs, and I like Gonzo and Rizzo providing the narration. And while unconventional, can anyone argue with the choice of Statler and Waldorf to play Jacob Marley?
Because not everyone wants to watch football during holiday get-togethers, here are some games that I enjoy in large groups that might help you get through dinner at Nana’s in peace and harmony.
Fluxx – An easy to teach card game once people grok the concept of no set rules. There are several versions (even a holiday version), and some play differently, so for beginners I’d recommend the basic. I think the box says it plays up to 5, but I’ve played with up to 8 with no problems.
Letter Tycoon – Kind of a cross between Scrabble and Monopoly but in a good way. You use cards instead of tiles to make words and you make words to earn money and buy up the letter “patents.” So if you buy the “A,” the next time any player uses the letter “A”, you get money from the bank. The person with the most money in patents, stacks, and coins, is the winner. Plays up to 5 max. I think it’s pretty easy to learn since a lot of people are generally familiar with Scrabble (or at least Words with Friends) and Monopoly.
Forbidden Island – If competition brings out the worst during the holidays, try this cooperative game. You’re treasure hunters looking for treasure before the island sinks. You all succeed together, or you all sink together. Plays up to 5.
Hanabi – This is an unusual card game that also requires cooperation. You’re trying to build sets of cards but the twist is you can’t see your own cards, only the other players. You’re also limited in the type and amount of information you can give out. It’s pretty easy to learn although it’s hard to remember not to look at the cards. Plays up to 5.
Sometimes the best way to defuse the season’s tension is to just get away from the chaos. Check out special events in your area. Zoos, museums, sometimes even botanical gardens, often have special holiday exhibits or events. I don’t live in your area, so I don’t know what’s around, but if the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is coming to a concert venue near you, go see the show. It’s amazing. I go as often as I can (this year is out, unfortunately) and I’ve had nose-bleed seats and floor seats and it’s always good.
And if you want assurances your holiday isn’t really all that bad, try a little schadenfreude. The Washington Post’s advice columnist Carolyn Hax holds an annual “Holiday Hootenanny of Horrors” during one of her live chat sessions. This year’s is next Friday, 12/16, from 12-3 PM. You submit now, you can read live, or read the transcript later (and dig into the archives). I think the most outrageous story so far ended with the family’s revelation that the matriarch had been secretly married once before and had quite possibly had done away with her first husband. Makes a burned turkey seem like no big thing, doesn’t it?
Stay safe, all.