I don’t know about you, but for me, Christmas is anxiety. Christmas is all-hands on deck. Christmas is juggling 10 different things for 10 different people all at once. And worst of all, there’s so much that can go wrong: The gifts can fall flat. The family might fight. And the food will definitely make fitting into your clothes that much harder.
But in the end, when the dust has settled, you realize what it was all for. Why you put up with the three weeks of pure terror beforehand. Still, the absolute best way to get through these next few treacherous hours is to be prepared. And that’s where I/we come in…
1. Here in America, the traditional Christmas Eve dinner is a lot like Thanksgiving — just, you know, sub ham for Turkey.
2. Instead of pie, however, Christmas is all about cookies. And boy, are there a lot of varieties. Unfortunately, not all Christmas cookies are created equal. Some, like shortbread, are really not good for you. So stick to the relatively healthier macaroons — they taste better anyways.
3. Speaking of healthy, avoid eggnog. It’s gross, and it’s about as good for you as a Big Mac put through a blender.
4. No one needs to tell you how rough the holidays are on your body — your growing waistline is telling you plenty. Which makes next month the busiest season for getting in shape. And if you want to know what exactly “getting in shape” entails, consult this guide to the calories (from low to high) consumed during every type of holiday binge, and what exercises you’ll need to do to burn them off.
5. Much like Thanksgiving, Christmas is a holiday synonymous with relatives. We hug the ones we haven’t seen all year, and evidently, we help out our elders with their phones and computers as if we serve as their own personal Geek Squad.
6. Or, we get in family squabbles. Lots of them. But it doesn’t have to be all-out war — there are ways to mitigate the damage, and it begins and ends with getting the big arguments out of the way as soon as possible.
7. With our kids, it’s a lot easier — sit them in front of the TV, put on The Grinch or A Christmas Story and let the electronic nanny take over. Knowing how far to take the whole “Santa” thing is where it gets tricky, though. We asked a psychologist, a children’s book author, a mall Santa and others about when’s the right time to tell them that the bearded man from the North Pole with all the elves is actually you.
8. Yes, you’re correct: It’s a bit too late to be doling out gifting advice this year. Shit, you’re probably reading this in the closet while someone else cleans up the wrapping-paper armageddon in the other room. Smart move. The next few days are the biggest of the year in terms of returns, however. So do yourself a favor and consult our gentleman’s guide to returning a present you hate.
9. That said, birthdays are year-round, and next Christmas is only 364 days away, so it’s never too early to begin thinking about the right way to give a gift for next time. Like the fact that you should never, not ever, give a gift card. Go straight cash.
10. If you’re feeling a little lighter in your wallet this Christmas season, it’s not because of the Christmas-carol singing vibrator you got for the missus — let’s face it, that puppy pays for itself.
11. No, it’s probably because you didn’t get a holiday bonus this year, much like a lot of Americans. Which is strange, because didn’t our fathers get them when we were kids? Hell, dumbass Clark Griswold got one:
If that makes you as angry as it makes me, you’ll likely want to know what happened yours. So we spoke to an HR executive to find out whether our lack of Christmas cash is a filing snafu down in accounting, or if the holiday bonus is really gone forever.
12. Alternatively, maybe you just spent too much on the kids. We asked a financial adviser, a child psychologist, a personal shopper and a mall Santa what the right amount to spend on those little rugrats should be.
13. Although if they’ve been bad this year, just get them real, ethically-sourced Kentucky coal.
14. If you’re a professional Santa, you work your big, bearded ass off from the day after Thanksgiving all the way up to Christmas morning. So what do you do when the hard work of bringing Christmas cheer is over? You get knackered on a cruise vacation with all the other professional Santas, that’s what.
15. No, seriously. They get drunk on the boat and do karaoke:
16. And then, if they get rowdy enough, they turn into bad Santas — like all of these guys.
17. Santas haven’t cornered the market on the need for letting off a little steam, however. Mall-Santa elves might have an even rougher holiday season. After all, impatient parents, kids freaking out, non-stop Christmas music — it’s enough to ruin anyone’s elf-esteem.
18. Did you know Santas haven’t always been jolly ol’ fat guys? It’s true that it’s rare to see a female Santa, but it hasn’t been from a lack of trying. Here’s the concise 80-year history of women taking their best shot at wearing the shiny black boots in the Claus family.
For Your “Me” Time
19. Look, sometimes you need to selfishly kick back and take a little bit of holiday time for yourself. Maybe that’s tucking into a good Christmas book. And if you’re looking for some elevated prose that’ll make you the envy of your book club, perhaps start with the comic book version of the greatest Christmas movie ever made, Die Hard. Tim Grierson spoke to the author last year about the what makes the movie so good but his book even better.
20. But hey, maybe books aren’t your thing, or they take too long to read, and you don’t have that kind of time. Hell, perhaps even finding two hours to sit through a classic Christmas movie is an impossibility. Don’t worry — all you really need are the best parts anyways, right? Thankfully, we’ve collected them all for you.
21. Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles is no classic, however. It’s actually quite terrible. But isn’t that what we kinda want from our Christmas movie marathons? After all, the Hallmark Channel has made a fortune banking on that exact idea.
22. Personally, I don’t go for the warm and fuzzy stuff. I like my Christmas movies to be sinister. The most sinister of all, of course, is Silent Night, Deadly Night. And when it hit theaters in 1984, it broke people’s brains.
23. Ahh, fuck it: Just watch some Christmas porn.