Why I Love Christmas
Being a traditionalist, I'm a rabid
sucker for Christmas. In July I'm already worried that there are only 146
shopping days left. "What are you getting me for Christmas?" I carp to
fellow bathers who haven't even decided what to do for Labour Day. As each
month follows, I grow more and more obsessed. Around October I startle
complete strangers by bursting into my off-key rendition of "Joy to the
World." I'm always The Little Drummer Boy for Halloween, a grouchy one at
that, since the inconsiderate stores haven't even put up their Christmas
decorations yet. November 1 kicks off the jubilee of consumerism, and I'm so
riddled with the holidays season that the mere mention of a stocking stuffer
sexually arouses me.
By John Waters
By December I'm deep in Xmas psychosis, and
only then do I allow myself the luxury of daydreaming my favourite childhood
memory: dashing through the snow, laughing all the way (ha-ha-ha) to
Grandma's house to find the fully decorated tree has fallen over and pinned
her underneath. My candy-coloured memories have run through the projector of
my mind so many times that they are almost in 3-D. That awful pause before
my parents rushed to free her, my own stunned silence as I dared not ask if
Granny's gifts to us had been damaged, and the wondrous, glories sight of
the snow semi-crooked tree, with balls broken, being begrudgingly hoisted
back to its proper position of adoration. "O Christmas tree! O Christmas
tree!" I started shrieking at the top of my lungs in an insane fit of
childhood hyperventilation before being silenced by a glare from my parents
that could have stopped a train. This tableau was never mentioned again, and
my family pretended it never happened. But I remember—boy, do I remember!
If you don't have yourself a merry little
Christmas, you might as well kill yourself. Every waking second should be
spent in Christmas compulsion: career, love affairs, marriages, and all the
other clutter of daily life must take a backseat to this holiday of
holidays. As December 25 fast approaches, the anxiety and pressure to
experience "happiness" are all part of the ritual. If you can't maintain the
spirit, you're either a rotten Communist or badly in need of a psychiatrist.
No wonder you don't have any friends.
Of course, You-know-who was supposed to
have been born on Christmas, but the real Holy Trinity is God the Father,
the Son and the Holy Santa Claus. You don't see fake Josephs and Marys in
department stores asking kids what they want, do you? Face it, mangers are
downwardly mobile. True, swiping a sheep or a wise man for your apartment
from a local church is always good for a cheap thrill and invariably gets
you in the paper the next day. And Madalyn Murray O'Hair (the
publicity-crazed atheist saint) always gets a rise by successfully demanding
in court the removal of Nativity scenes from her state capital on Christmas
Eve. But we all know who the real God is, don't we? That's right, the
Supreme One, Santa Claus.
But if you think about it, Santa Claus is
directly responsible for heroin addiction. Innocent children are brainwashed
into believing the first big lie their parents ever tell them, and when the
truth finally hits, they never believe them again. All the stern warnings on
the perils of drugs carry the same credibility as flying reindeer or fat men
in your chimney. But I love Santa Claus anyway: All legends have feet of
clay. Besides, he's a boon to the unemployed. where else can drunks and fat
people get temporary work?
Of course, to many, Santa is an erotic
figure, and fore these lucky revelers, the Christmas season is a smorgasbord
of raw sex. Some people just go for a man in a uniform. Inventive
entrepreneurs should open a leather bar called the Pole where dominant
wrinkle fetishists could dress like old St. Nick and passive gerontophiliacs
could get on all fours and take the whip like good reindeer. Inhaling
poppers and climbing down mock chimneys or opening sticks 'n' stones from
the red-felt master could complete the sex-drenched atmosphere of the first
S&M Xmas bar.
You could even get fancy about it. Why
hasn't Bloomingdale's or Tiffany's tried a fancy Santa. Deathly pale, this
never-too-thin-or-too-rich Kris Kringle, dressed in head-to-toe
unstructured, over-size Armani, could pose on a throne, bored and elegant,
and every so often deign to let a rich little brat sit near his lap before
dismissing his wishes with a condescending "Oh, darling, you don't really
want that, do you?"
Santa has always been the ultimate movie
star. Forget White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life and all the other
hackneyed trash. Go for the classics: Silent Night, Bloody Night, Black
Christmas or the best seasonal film of all time Christmas Evil ("He'll
sleigh you"). This true cinematic masterpiece only played theatrically for a
few seconds, but it's now available on videocassette and no holiday family
get-together is complete without it. I t's about a man completely consumed
by Christmas. His neurosis first rears its ugly head as he applies shaving
cream to his face, looks in the mirror, hallucinates a white beard and
begins to imagine that he is Santa Claus. He gets a job in a toy factory,
starts snooping and spying on the neighbourhood children and then rushes
home to feverishly make notes in his big red book: "Jimmy was a good boy
today," or "Peggy was a bad little girl." He starts cross-dressing as Claus
and lurks around people's roots ready to take the plunge. Finally, he
actually gets stick in a nearby chimney and awakens the family in his
struggle. Mom and Dad go insane when they find a fat lunatic in their
fireplace, but the kids are wild with glee. Santa has no choice but to kill
these Scroogelike parents with the razor-sharp star decorating the top of
their tree. As he flees a neighbourhood lynch mob, the children come to his
rescue and defy their distraught parents by forming a human ring of
protection around him. Finally, pushed to the limits of Clausmania, he leaps
into his van/sleigh and it takes off flying over the moon as he
psychotically and happily shrieks, "On Dancer! On Prancer! On Donner and
Vixen!" I wish I had kids. I'd make them watch it every year and if they
didn't like it, they'd be punished.
Preholiday activities are the foreplay of
Christmas. Naturally, Christmas cards are you first duty and you must send
one (with a personal, handwritten message) to every single person you ever
met, no matter how briefly. If this common courtesy is not reciprocated,
never speak to the person again. Keep computerized records of violators and
hold the grudge forever; don't even attend their funeral.
Of course, you must make your own cards by
hand. "I don't have time" you may whine, but since the whole purpose of life
is Christmas, you'd better make time, buster. We Christmas zealots are
rather demanding when it comes to the basic requirements of holiday
behaviour. "But I can't think of anything . . . ." is usually the next
excuse, but cut those people off in mid-sentence. It's easy to be creative
at Christmastime. One year I had a real cute idea that was easy to design. I
bought a cheap generic card of Joseph and Mary holiday the Baby Jesus and
superimposed Charles Manson's face in the place of the homeless infant's.
Inside I kept the message "He is born". Everybody told me they loved it and
some even said they saved it. (For the record, I'm against donating your
cards to nursing homes after Christmas. One would think that after all these
years on earth, senior citizens would have had a chance to make a friend or
two on their own. Don't do it!) This season, I'm dying to produce my dream
card that I've wanted for years. I'll be sitting in a Norman Rockwell-style
Christmas scene, dressed in robe and slippers, opening my gifts moments
before I notice a freak fire that has begun in the tissue paper and is
licking and spreading to the tree.
Go deeply in debt over Christmas shopping.
Always spend in exact correlation to how much you like the recipient. Aunt
Mary I love about $6.50 worth; Uncle Jim—well, at least he got his teeth
fixed—$8. If your Christmas comes and goes without declaring bankruptcy, I
feel sorry for you—you are a person with not enough love inside.
You can never buy too many presents. If you
said "Excuse me" to me on a transit bus, you're on my list. I wrap gifts for
nonexistent people in case somebody I barely know hands me a present and I'm
unprepared to return this gesture. Even though I'm the type who infuriates
others by saying "Oh, I finished my shopping months ago," as they
frantically try to make last-minute decisions. I like to go into the stores
at the height of Christmasmania. Everyone is in a horrid mood, and you can
see the overburdened, underpaid temporary help having nervous breakdowns. I
always write down their badge numbers and report them for being grumpy.
If you're a criminal, Christmas is an
extra-special time for you and your family. Shoplifting is easier and cars
in parking lots are loaded with presents for your children. Since everyone
steals the checks you must leave for the mailman and garbagemen, I like to
leave little novelty items, like letter bombs. Luckily, I live in a bad
neighbourhood, so I don't have to worry; the muggers live in my building and
go to the rich neighbourhoods to rob. If you're quick, you can even steal
the muggers' loot as they unload the car. Every child in my district seems
to get rollerskates for Christmas, and it's music to my ears to hear the
sudden roar of an approaching gang on skates, tossing back and forth like a
hot potato a purse they've just snatched.
"Santa Claus Is a Black Man" is my
favourite Christmas carol, but I also like The Chipmunks' Christmas Album,
the Barking Dogs' "Jingle Bells" and "Frosty the Snowman" by the Ronettes.
If you're so filled with holiday cheer you can't stand it, try calling your
friends and going caroling yourself. Especially if you're old, a drug
addict, an alcoholic or obviously homosexual and have a lot of effeminate
friends. Go In packs. If you are black, go to a prissy white neighbourhood.
Ring doorbells, and when the Father Knows Best-type family answers, start
screeching hostilely your favourite carol. Watch their faces. There's
nothing they can do. It's not illegal. Maybe they'll give you a present.
Always be prepared if someone asks you what
you want for Christmas. Give brand names, the store that sells the
merchandise and, if possible, exact model numbers so they can't go wrong. Be
the type who's impossible to buy for so that they have to get what you want.
Here was my 1985 list and I had checked it twice; the long-out-of-print
paperback The Indiana Torture Slaying, the one-sheet for the film I Hate
Your Guts and the subscription to Corrections Today, the trade paper for
prison wardens. If you owe someone money, now is the time to pay him back,
mentioning at the same time a perfect gift suggestion. If you expect to be
receiving a Christmas stocking as a forerunner to a present, tell the giver
right off the bat that you don't go for razor blades, deodorants or any of
the other common little sundries but anticipate stocking stuffers that are
original, esoteric and perfectly suited to you and you alone.
It helps to be a collector, so the
precedent is set on what to expect as a gift. For years friends have treated
me to the toy annually selected by the Consumer Affairs Committee of
Americans for Democratic Action as the "worst toy" to give your child at
Christmastime. "Gobbles, the Garbage-Eating Goat" started my collection.
"That crazy eating goat" reads the delightful package, and in small print,
"Contains: One realistic goat with head that goes up and down. Comes
complete with seven pieces of pretend garbage." This Kenner Discovery Time
toy's instructions are priceless. "Gobbles loves to eat garbage when he's
hungry, and he's ALWAYS hungry. (1) Hold Gobbles mouth open by the beard.
Stuff a piece of pretend garbage straight into his mouth and (2) pump the
tail until the garbage disappears." It ends with an ominous warning, "Feed
Gobbles only the garbage that comes with the toy," and in even smaller print
"If you need additional garbage, we will, as a service, send it to you
direct. For 14 pieces of garbage send $1 (check or money order; sorry, no
C.O.D.) to . . . . " I can't tell you the hours of fun I've had with
Gobbles. Sometimes when I'm very bored, Gobbles and I get naked and
Over the years my collection has grown.
There's "My Puppy Puddles" ("You can make him drink water, wet in his tray
and kiss you"). "Baby Cry and Dry" about whom the watchdog group warned:
"Take her out of the box and she smells, the odor won't go away" and "Baby
Cry for You." ("The tears don't just drop out, they whoosh out in a
three-foot stream.") Of course, I still cover the winner of the first annual
prize (before my collection began)—a guillotine for dolls. "Take that,
Barbie." "Off with your head, Betsy Wetsy!"
No matter what you think of your presents,
each must be answered with an immediate thank you note. Thinking of what to
write can be tricky, especially for distant relatives who send you a card
with two crisp $1 bills inside. Be honest in your reply—"Dear Uncle Walt.
Thank you for the $2. I bought a pack of Kools and then put the change in an
especially disgusting peep show, it was fun!" or "Dear Aunt Lulu, I was
thrilled to receive your kind gift of $5. I immediately bought some PCP with
it. Unfortunately, I had a bad reaction, stabbed my sister, set the house on
fire and got taken to the hospital for the criminally insane. Maybe you
could come visit me? Love, Your nephew."
I always have an "office party" every year
and invite my old friends, business associates and any snappy criminals who
have been recently paroled. I reinforce all my chairs, since for some reason
many of my guests are very fat, and after a few splintered antiques, I've
learned my lesson. I used to throw the party on Christmas Eve, but so many
guests complained of hideous hangovers I had to move up the date. No more
moaning and dry heaving under their parents' tree the next day as their
brothers and sisters give them dirty looks for prematurely ejaculating the
I usually invite about a hundred people and
the guest know I expect each to get everyone else a present. Ten thousand
gifts! When they're ripped open at midnight, you can see Christmas dementia
at its height. One thing that pushes me off the deep end is party crashers.
I've solved the problem by hiring a door many who pistol-whips anyone
without an invitation, but in the old days, crashers actually got inside.
How rude! At Christmas, of all times, when visions of sugarplums are dancing
orgiastically through my head. One even brought her mother—how touching.
"GET OUT!" I snarled after snatching out of her hand the bottle of liquor
that she falsely assumed would gain her (and her goddamn mother) entry.
I always show a film in one room: Wedding
Trough (about a man who falls in love with a pig and then eats it) or Kitten
with a Whip (Ann-Margret and John Forsythe) or What Sex Am I? (a clinical
documentary about a sex-change operation). When it's finally time for the
guests to leave, I blatantly get in bed and go to sleep; they know they
better get home. Santa is on his way.
Christmas day is like an orgasm that never
stops. Happiness and good cheer should be throbbing in your veins. Swilling
eggnog, scarfing turkey and wildly ripping open presents with your family,
one must pause to savor the feeling of inner peace. Once it's over, you can
Now is the time for suicide if you are so
inclined. All sorts of neuroses are permitted. Depression and feelings that
it somehow wasn't good enough would be expected. There's nothing to do! Go
to a bad movie? You can't leave the house between now and January 1 because
it's unsafe; the national highways are filled with drunks unwinding and
frantically trying to get away from their families. Returning gifts is not
only rude but psychologically dangerous—if you're not careful you might
glimpse the scum of the earth, cheap bastards who shop at after-Christmas
sales to save a few bucks. What can you look forward to? January 1, the Feat
of the Circumcision, perhaps the most unappetizing High Holiday in the
Catholic Church? Cleaning up that dirty, dead, expensive Christmas tree that
is now an instant out-of-season fire hazard? There is only one escape from
post-Christmas depression—the thought that in four short weeks it's time to
start all over again. What're ya gonna get me?
Slightly abridged from
Crackpot by John Waters