Christmas Cutbacks

While the 4-year-old snored next to me, my wife fussed with her hair in the bathroom, and a 10-year-old stood brushing her teeth 10 yards away from the sink, I posed an important question: How can we make Christmas different this year?

“We don’t have it?” suggested the person, who was foaming at the mouth.

“Yeah, that would work,” muttered her mother.

No, it wouldn’t work, not even for the person who suggested it. I remembered one year when that same girl had so many gifts, she ripped open the last two, glanced at what was inside, and tossed them over her shoulder.

Maybe that was the year we should have cancelled Christmas. It was the year I instituted the rule that any item tossed over a child’s shoulder goes back to the store the next week, because $39.99 goes a lot farther then these children understand.

The scene illustrated a good point. Most parents lose their minds making sure they – I mean, er, Santa – provides enough breakable consumer goods to keep the kiddies happy until New Year’s Day. It gets tedious. I’m practically National Lampoon’s Clark Griswold when it comes to holiday tradition. One year I had so many lights in my front yard, a neighbor three blocks away called the fire department.

But as the years go on, more and more I could do with less and less.

Which brings me back to the original question: “How can we make Christmas different this year?” Translated into adult-speak, that means “How can we get away with piling half as much worthless junk into our garage by April?”

I asked again, and the 10-year-old took her toothbrush out of her mouth and with blue froth running down each side of her mouth, she said – in all seriousness – “Why don’t you pretend you like the Christmas poop this year?”

I looked at her like she was out of her mind. It’s the same look I give my wife every year when the giggling little girls put the ornament from the “South Park” collection on the tree. Yes, it’s Mr. Hankey (if you don’t know what it is, refer back to the previous paragraph).

It’s not just the material stuff. We have traditions that I won’t mess with, such as the annual snowball fight for which, since it doesn’t snow here, we substitute mud. Last year’s mudman was epic.

But I’d really like to slice away some of the more taxing holiday routines. Like shopping. Though, come to think of it, I’ve seriously cut down on my shopping since I got married. Somehow I’ve stopped buying presents, yet they still receive them from me.

I’d also like to cut down on the traveling with children. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to see all the loved ones, but I don’t love carrying 400 pounds of boxes to seven houses over two days. By the time we do the rounds, the kids are too tired to walk to the car. Since society frowns on pushing kids around in a wheelbarrow at night,  that means I’m carrying kids to and from the car.

I’m just looking to freshen things up. For example, instead of having the traditional meal, why can’t we have pizza on Christmas? It contains all the traditional Christmas colors: The sauce is red, the cheese is white and no one ever said green M&Ms wouldn’t work on pizza.

And we can definitely do without Mr. Hankey.


Tony Hicks is a columnist with Bay Area News Group. He can be found at 

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