And Once Again, Covid Comes For Christmas


Flights were booked, connections were arranged; the split-second timing of “leaving there and getting here” was set, synchronized so everyone would be where they needed to be at the designated time and place. And, with that, holiday plans were activated and have yourself a merry little Christmas!

Then key personnel—after office parties, or bar crawls, or dinner events—started coughing and sore-throating, and before you could say, “non-refundable flight,” the dreaded “T-line” lit up and all plans were off.

positive test

Nope, it ain’t over, folks.

But we so want it to be, don’t we? So much so that it is now more normal to see people not taking precautions than taking them. Concern for oneself or even others in the orbit has given way to a more resigned, even cavalier, stance of, “What are you gonna do? We gotta get on with our lives, right?”

Do we?

Even in a crowded concert hall where you’re elbow-to-elbow with strangers roaring in sing-alongs and breathing heavily on each other? Even at a crowded home party where laughing and (loud) talking guests huddle en masse around the buffet table? Even at the grocery store, the bank, the airport, where the potential of unknown Covidian particulate finding its way into your breathing passages is not negligible? Hell, even our Spectrum technician showed up the other day without a mask, and when I asked him to put one on, he huffed and puffed in annoyance while bleating that, “It’s all a fantasy anyway”… after which I suggested he take his leave and we’d call for someone else.

It’s no longer just the trumpy, right wing, science-denying, anti-vax folks; even many perfectly logical, openminded liberals have decided it’s time to move on: masks are disruptive, testing is pointless, and “everyone’s going to get it anyway.” Yes, maybe, but still…  there went the Christmas plans, which I’m sure is a disappointing scenario playing out for many people this season, as it did for the last two.


It was actually less fraught when there were rules and mandates that asserted some control over the matter. Yes, the sides were drawn: there was caterwauling and defiance from the red-hatters; conversely, everyone else who wanted to do their part to keep the virus in check, stay healthy, and not infect Grandma or Uncle Buddy, wore masks, kept distant, washed hands, and tested as needed. They didn’t complain too much about all of it either. Yes, remote learning had unfortunate impacts, and the lifespans of many businesses were truncated, but there was a sense that we grasped the urgency of things and were willing to participate for the common good. When we learned that over one million people in just the United States died from this dreaded thing, our efforts felt all the more important and essential…. how many more might’ve died had we not implemented precautions? Even after the vaccines arrived, those who felt responsible to the collective got their shots and continued to follow good practices, while, sadly, the other side continued to die in greater numbers. It was numbing and exhausting, but the lines were clear.

Now? Three years in? Left to our own devices?

There’s a measure of mayhem. It’s the wild, wild west out there. People still masking in indoor public spaces are the minority and the dismissiveness of non-maskers seems more emboldened. Asking people to take Rapid Tests the morning of an event— which we understand doesn’t offer assurances beyond that moment but is at least a good bet-hedge—used to be a simple, understood request, yet some now act beleaguered by the imposition. So when someone who doesn’t mask, doesn’t distance, and doesn’t follow precautions calls two days after a gathering to announce they’ve “just tested positive,” which is becoming an all-too-frequent event, we recognize that we’re firmly in the days of Covid chaos.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Based on conversations I’ve had with a wide range of people, it seems the general think at the moment is, “You do you, and I’ll respect that.” OK. So I do me. I eat in restaurants, but insist on outdoor dining spaces. I go to theaters and concert halls, but wear my mask throughout. When people come to our home for an indoor event, we insist they take Rapid Tests that morning. When we’re invited to home parties or dinners to be held indoors, we ask if the host/hostess will be requiring same-day testing; if so, OK; if not, we bow out.

None of this is fun. None of it is comfortable. In fact, at this point it’s almost crazy-making, particularly when so many in my circle seem largely unconcerned while I continue to operate with caution. I’ll look at a crowd all jammed in next to each other, no masks, no distance, hooting and hollering along with a band, or screaming at a sporting event, and just shake my head thinking, “I guess they’re just not worried about it.” Which then makes me wonder if I’m nuts, if I’ve become hyper-cautious. But I’ve read too many articles about Long Covid, about potential unknown and longterm effects, about systemic issues that can impact the body, all of which bolsters my original mission statement asserted back in March 2020: “I DON’T WANT TO GET THIS DAMN THING!” And given how easy it is to take steps in support of that goal, I will continue to take them and hope fort the best.

But here we are again, third year in a row, with the Christmas plans of many stymied because of Covid. Which is disappointing, for everyone, especially during this “most wonderful time of the year.” My heart hurts for those affected. Hopefully, the cases will be short-lived and on the lower end of the symptom spectrum; hopefully, the families and friends who spent time together before tests were taken will escape unscathed, and, hopefully, some aspect of the holiday will be salvaged in spite of that dreaded “T-line.”

They say this thing isn’t likely to go away, so it’s up to us to figure out how to better accommodate its impacts with sensible compromises. The kind that allow “you to be you,” gatherings to be sensibly had, kids to be able to stay in school, and families to fulfill holiday plans that make the memories we all cherish. We’ll see how it goes this year. I’m keeping all the place-settings at the table either way as a positive affirmation.

Wishing you a very HEALTHY, merry, happy holiday and new year!

Christmas mannequin by Buzz Andersen @ Unsplash
Red Santa photo by Srikanta H. U on Unsplash
Cookie photo courtesy of Lorraine Devon Wilke

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It’s a Wrap, 2020: Holidays, Hope & ‘Gift a Book’ Ideas

Volumes will be written about the madness of this very mad year, but if you’re reading this post, the good news is you’ve survived so far and will, hopefully, continue to be safe, healthy, and ready to welcome a never more anticipated turn of the page! 

My own year has been admittedly slim on celebratory content, but we Wilkes, like so many others, remain grateful for what we can celebrate: our family’s good health (which I hope extends to each of your own), continuing creativity (albeit of the less performance kind), a more encompassing relationship with streaming TV, and a new, hope-inducing American administration (thanks to ALL who helped with that essential goal!).                    

Beyond wanting to take this timely opportunity to wish you all a holiday that’s as jolly as social distancing, masks, backyard dinners, Zoom gatherings, and limited household pods will allow, I also want to introduce you to four authors, with whom I’m friends and colleagues via our shared publisher She Writes Press, whose award-winning books will make brilliant choices for your holiday gift giving.   

You might recall, way, way back before the scourge descended, that I wrote about how I’d be appearing with these authors at the famed Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, something we were all looking forward to. But, as COVID would have it, not only was the original April date scrapped, but the subsequent October date was as well, with future options currently undetermined.

We decided to take matters into our own hands. 

Given our respect for each other’s works, and wanting to stick with the group effort (even if, sadly, without the cool booth and fun cookie and bookmark giveaways!), we decided to do a December “Gift a Book” Event, mutually presenting all five books as gift-giving suggestions, inspired by a quote of Garrison Keillor’s:“A book is a gift you can open again and again.”

To that end, let me share info & links about each author and book for your easy access:

Romalyn Tilghman’s, To the Stars Through Difficulties, tells the story of a group of contemporary women who join forces to revive a library and arts center in a small town destroyed by a tornado, inspired by found journals recounting the original building of the Carnegie Library.
Kimberly Robeson, a Greek-American professor of world lit & creative writing at Los Angeles Valley College, and co-advisor of the college’s LGBTQ+ Club, brings her native mythology to her debut novel, The Greek Persuasion, a fascinating story of a woman’s international search for love & sexual identity.
Judith Teitelman, development consultant, educator & facilitator, describes her debut novel, Guesthouse for Ganesha, as “magical realism,” a tale of love, loss & spirit reclaimed with a tagline that asks: Left at the altar, spurned—what does that do to a young woman’s heart? And why would a Hindu God care? 

Dr. Marika Lindholm, a trained sociologist who founded, a social movement of solo moms, is co-editor of We Got This, essays by 75 women sharing their resilience & setbacks, follies & triumphs, with the powerful message that no one—not even those mothering solo—is truly alone.

And, of course, my own book, my third novel, The Alchemy  of Noise, a sociopolitical love story that tackles issues of racial injustice, police profiling, and subsequent challenges faced by an interracial couple whose relationship asks the question, “Can love bridge the distance between two Americas?” 

We also got together with author/teacher, Bella Mahaya Carter, to talk a bit about each of our books; click below for that lively conversation! 

I hope you’ll explore each of these wonderful, eclectic titles, and pick up copies for your own and other’s reading pleasure… I guarantee you’ll enjoy them all!

And that’s it for this, our mutually endured “Annus Horribilis 2020,” (in a nod to Queen Elizabeth!). Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays; Smashing New Year, every and all loving, inclusive, diverse salutations with my hopes, affirmations, prayers, and wishes that 2021 brings a fresh start, positive change, renewed hope, and a return to full body hugs, visible faces, indoor dining, and joyful, unencumbered gatherings in our many squares around the world. Until then… all my best!  

Woman in Mask photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

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When You’re Trying To Do Christmas and Politics Get In the Way


I remember the good old days when I could find all sorts of fun, quirky things to write about at this time of year: cheerful vignettes about childhood holiday memories, charming seasonal facts long forgotten, the ten worst Christmas traditions ever; you know… meaningful stuff like that.

The holiday season just seems to lend itself to warmth and whimsy, the exploration of themes related to love and gratitude, our favorite recipes and the funniest Santa Claus pictures. Unless one is truly a curmudgeon, it’s almost impossible to not have least one happy memory attached to this time of year. I was—and am—no exception.

In fact, I love Christmas. I’m one of those. It makes me happy. I feel no compunction to spend money I don’t have, plans trips I don’t wish to take, or attend events I’d rather avoid. I’m very protective that way. It’s all about designing a season in which the only obligation is to create happiness for those within the circle. In fact, my husband and I began our marriage by making our first Christmas a thing of joy, and those handpicked ornaments and table decorations, cookie traditions and family gatherings, favorite meals and notable activities, sustain to this day, as precious to us as anything we hold dear.

scary-election_mikeyBut still, I’ve been more serious lately. Life got more serious. I blame the election. The damn, interminable election that sucked the air out of our nation starting a little over a year ago and ratcheting up every day since. It’s been a war of sorts, one that’s left us battered, bothered and bewildered. As one friend put it, “I hate that I’m actually in fear for our future. I’ve been disappointed in election results before, but I’ve never felt terrified about where this person might take us, or how and if we’ll survive.”

I’m not one who lives in fear, but I feel her pain. I share the concern. Despite previous political conflicts, rancorous partisanship, and caustic disparities amongst the parties, I, too, have never felt quite the level of darkness and toxicity that permeates this particular election… and this particular person. That the man entering office is doing so despite his opponent winning almost 3 MILLION MORE VOTES, and despite the fact that the wisest, more experienced, most admirable and honorable men and women in the country/world believe he’s an unmitigated disaster, means little at this point. We are here. Where we are. And at this moment there’s no changing that (later moments…we’ll see).

Dealing with the daily litany of horrible, idiotic, hateful, head-shaking, corrupt, indecent, and just plain stupid things the next presi— (I can’t say it… I won’t… #NotMyPresident… ever), occupant of the White House says or does has been exhausting and unnerving (that’s a tepid word… how about TERRIFYING?!). I have no idea where it’s all going either, how long the trainwreck will be allowed to smolder before someone gets it to the scrap yard, or if we’ll be teaching our children how to desk-dive in “nuclear drills” before the year is over. But I won’t live in fear. I prefer the sentiment of this section of the poem, Protest, that Dan Rather shared:

‘Protest,’ by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1914

To sin by silence when we should protest
makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law.
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare must speak and speak again,
To right the wrongs of many.

I will live by that. I will continue to raise my voice, as Ella suggests, to “speak and speak again,” however loud and long is required of me. I promise you that.

But still… there’s Christmas.

And Christmas is important. We human beings need the rituals and traditions of our holidays, those times when we can collectively acknowledge and experience celebration and joy. Without them we might end up spending all our time wailing on social media, and that’s not a good thing!

But to those for whom loss or grief keeps them from finding the joy… those whose loneliness and isolation occludes their ability to embrace the happier aspects of seasonal celebration, I say this: I understand. I do. I’ve been there. I know how tough it can be, when you’re in those particular places, to carry on about “jolly St. Nick” and the proper temp for Christmas roast. My beloved grandmother died the morning of Christmas 1979. I had some of the loneliest days of my life over Christmas of 1988. I went into the season of 1989 having just lost a job. I got dumped once right before Christmas. My father died in early December of 1999. I know how those seminal events, those states of being, can impact one’s ability to celebrate and be happy, Christmas or no Christmas.

I hope, though, that through friends, through social media, through whatever connections you can make, can find and feel in your world, that you’re able to glean at least a moment or two of warmth and holiday spirit this season… I wish that for you.


As for me this year: I’m fortunate. My family is healthy and doing well, my work is moving along; I’ve got a new theatrical adventure to begin this coming year (more on that soon); the house looks magical, the gifts are wrapped, the cookies are baking, every gathering has met expectations, so we’re doing it up right. But yes… at least a few times a day, as I do my work online, I check social media and various news sources to see what the hellfire is going on, and dammit if I don’t have to tweet or post or write or share or comment or yell about one damn thing or another because that little orange mother—BUT WAIT!!

It’s Christmas… I’m mellow and jolly, wrapped in reds and greens, nutmeg and cinnamon wafting through the air; Music Choice is set to “Sounds of the Season” and it’s so, so, so lovely… so NO! Donald Trump does not get my holiday! He may have shattered my belief in democracy, lowered my estimation of human decency, made me question how deep my coffer of disdain can go, and raised my level of revulsion beyond good health, but he is NOT going to ruin my damn Christmas!

So, despite politics, I will revel madly, enjoy friends and family to the utmost, occasionally hug my big Santa statue by the doorway, all with hopes that you can do some version of the same (the big Santa is pretty exclusive but, I tell ya, he’s quite something!). And please know that—if you’re reading this— you’re likely one of my circle, those chosen few with whom I vent, debate, inspire, exchange ideas, share important articles, post unimportant but utterly appreciated videos of pandas playing with snowmen, or just, in general, grant outlets and venues and canvasses upon whicchrismas-carh to commiserate. Our mutual and connected attempts to makes sense of this crazy world have literally kept me from feeling alone and insane during this “Annus horribilis,” so THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

And Merry Christmas, dear friends. Let’s make 2017 a year that “trumps” the year we’ve just had… in all the good ways in which that word can be applied. Let’s reflect on the poem Dan Rather shared and make sure we are not those who “sin by silence.” Let’s be loud, and make COURAGE the word most spoken this coming year.

Until then, have a Christmas cookie… mmm, so good! ❤

Santa photo by Caleb Wood at Unsplash
Scary Election by Mike (Mikey) @ Unsplash
Christmas Car photo @ Pinterest

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Christmas Creep… Or, I’d Like My Holidays Served Separately, Please

The anxiety’s picking up, debates are front and center, and posts on the topic have gone viral. It’s clear we’ve got a big problem and it ain’t about politicians, global warming, or radioactive sushi. What is it, you ask?

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Christmas Creep.

Yep. It’s big, it’s bad, and, frankly, it’s too late, cuz, odds are, it’s already taken over your town.

I know you’ve heard the protests; they’re loud, clear, and to the point. Pleas to hold off on the Christmas bombardment before we’ve barely retired ghosts and goblins. Entreaties to wait on carolers and candy canes until we’ve had a chance to fully experience pumpkin pie and a well-roasted gobbler. There’s even a petition going around denouncing stores that will be open all day Thanksgiving, thereby robbing employees of a chance to be with family in the retail rush to kick Black Friday off on Thursday.

Protest away, folks. There’s no stopping this snowball.

It may be inexorable, but it wasn’t always like this. No, there used to be a delicious timing to it all, a careful unfolding that drove us mad with anticipation but was all part of the fun. When I was a kid, the turning of leaves and quickening of the cold were signals that we’d left the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer to move into the next and most exciting time of the year: the much-vaunted, adrenaline-inducing, just-can’t-wait holiday season.

As it started and the various days of celebration rolled out like a cavalcade of stars, we’d ready with our well-marked boxes of decorations and the traditions for each that we knew and loved. It started with costumes and the dizzying sweetness of Halloween, rounded the corner into warm Thanksgiving gatherings, then, depending on religion and ethnicity, there was Hanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa to fill the month of December, with Christmas, clearly, the seasonal headliner. The slow, well-paced build-up allowed us to relish one flavor, so to speak, before moving on to the next.

These days?

It’s like sitting down to a six-course meal and having every single course dumped on the table at the same time. No consideration for the pleasures of each item and, sorry, palate cleansers not allowed. I saw Christmas decorations in a hardware store in September and by early October a few retail shops actually had decorated trees hip-checking the Halloween displays off center stage. Come ON, people!

I get being prepared, but isn’t there a limit? I actually have a neighbor who not only begins her Christmas shopping in June, but takes great pride in announcing to anyone who’ll listen that, “I got it all done, wrapped, and ready to go before Labor Day!” Holiday spirit as competitive sport. Thanks, but I’ll take my summers with lemonade and sunburn; you go ahead and get Santa involved.

While certainly this rush to rush things has been building over the years, somewhere along the line, like an unseen hitch in the rate of the earth’s rotation, it picked up speed, so much so that the notion of holiday differentiation is almost moot at this point. Look, I’m old enough to remember the creaky maxim about “no white after Labor Day” so this conflation of celebration does not go unnoticed. And when I see the Three Kings of Orient are at Costco before the kids have even stopped arguing about who’s going to be Buzz Lightyear, I feel a shudder in the time/space continuum.

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What’s odd about this acceleration is that most people claim they don’t like it. SOASTA, Inc., a leader in cloud and mobile testing, found last year that 75% of those polled didn’t want to see Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving, with 78% objecting to even hearing the music before then. This year?

In a survey of 2,038 Americans age 18 and older, in which data was weighted to be representative of the entire country, conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of SOASTA, discovered that 81 percent of American adults think stores should not play Christmas music before Thanksgiving—up from 78 percent of American adults when SOASTA conducted the survey last year.

In addition, 77 percent of American adults think stores shouldn’t put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving—up from 76 percent last year.

A similar poll at NPR – albeit a non-scientific one –  found numbers skewed even higher when the question was asked about “Christmas creep” before Halloween: a full 82.11% of respondents said they didn’t want to see anything “Christmasy” that early in the season. There’s actually a Facebook page called “No Christmas Before Thanksgiving” where users bemoan everything from Santa’s early arrival to the latest transgression – Black Friday actually starting on Thanksgiving Thursday – and still, still, the beat goes on.

What gives? If so many people resent the rush, why is it picking up speed?

Macy's Christmas Balls_smWe all know, don’t we? It’s retail that’s the “industry behind the curtain,” twirling dials and ratcheting up promotions to get people the in the doors as early as possible. With holiday shoppers creating almost 20% of a store’s annual income, it’s not a hard formula to fathom: more days to spend money, more money spent. And this particular year, given when Thanksgiving falls, there are actually fewer shopping days than last year between the two holidays, and, dear God, that’s causing panic in the streets!!

OK, maybe not panic, but clearly retailers have made note of the deficit and are raising the stakes in response. I swear to God, if they could have gotten away with it, 4th of July banners would have been wrapped around Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Of course, not everyone hates this holiday hash. According to some, they want to get the heavy lifting done as quickly as possible so they can spend the true 12 days of Christmas wrapped in quirky sweaters humming “Little Drummer Boy” as they assemble the gingerbread house. Others just can’t get enough of Christmas cheer, whenever it comes. Me?

It’s not so much the rushing; it’s more the conflating. I don’t want my Halloween goblins pre-empted by Christmas trees. I want to enjoy the orange and browns of Thanksgiving before I see green and red everywhere. And once we get past turkey and stuffing, I want to, very slowly and selectively, relish each separate, specific element and tradition of our Christmas.

Since there’s little we, the people, can do about what retailers put into motion, it’s up to each of us to design our own holidays, cultural pressure be damned. If you’re okay with the rush, enjoy it. But if you’re like me and want to slow things down enough to actually experience one holiday before we steamroll onto the next, you’ll just have to set your boundaries. Which means putting on blinders and exercising serious self-control (a good Christmas cookie is hard to resist no matter what time of year!).

Around here, no decorations are pulled out until the previous holiday has been joyfully exhausted and packed away. We avoid Christmas candy until the pumpkin pie is gone. And don’t talk to me about Black Friday because we’ll still be reveling in the true meaning of Thanksgiving. (I’m not kidding… get away from me with that credit card and those wild-eyed sales schedules.)

It can be done. You can ignore what’s being foisted and partake only when and where you see fit. There is no mandate to march to the madness. They can dangle the decorations and crank out the carols but the power is in your hands.

I hope you had a delightful Halloween, I wish you a beautiful, warm, and appreciative Thanksgiving, but I’m not talkin’ any more about Christmas until next month.

The Autumn Leaves copy

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The Ten Worst Christmas Traditions. Really. And I Love Christmas.

Quirky Christmas_sm

There is no holiday as steeped in tradition as Christmas. Every denomination, ethnicity, country, even individual sections of the United States, has specific traditions that infuse their celebrations with something rich and unique. Of course, there are also the more mainstream, universal traditions that often seem to transcend diversity, to the point that they become trademarks of the holiday. Some are good, some not so good. Some have even circumvented all conventional wisdom and good taste to become iconic symbols of Christmas gone wrong (if only tongue-in-cheek). We’re going to focus, for the moment, on the not-so-good ones that makes us all – well, most of us – cringe just a little.

The Ten Worst Christmas Traditions In No Particular Order

1. The Christmas sweater. Why does anyone think a bulky knit top with garish Christmas designs and neon-bright colors is ever a good sartorial statement? When Rudolph’s red nose pokes conspicuously at Grandma’s bosom and Santa’s beard stretches over Uncle Bob’s burgeoning belly in that way that makes the little kids laugh and point, it’s time to take a second look at this notorious holiday fashion. Regardless of well-meaning knitters, Christmas sweaters are simply not flattering on anyone – truly, no one.  EvenAngelina Jolie would look hideous wrapped in red elves with bells. Also, and not to be dismissed lightly, they make even the slimmest person look as if they’ve already packed on the Holiday Ten. Truly, the only way to wear one is ironically, and really, how often is that the case?

Suggestion: Since there is no way to make a Christmas sweater look good, follow the advice of wiser fashionistas and avoid them like room-temperature eggnog.

2. The Christmas family newsletter. We get it: it’s the year-end wrap-up, the summation of twelve months of familial accomplishment; the list of achievements of children and grandchildren far and wide, blah blah blah. The problem is, family newsletters are sent out generically, to the entire Christmas list, with no particular accommodation made for individual relationships. Which means we’re all regaled with “Austin’s Scout troop went to Springfield for the Lincoln fest …” or “Minerva did her very best but only placed second in the McHenry County step-class competition” when most of us have no idea who Austin and Minerva are.

Suggestion: Send them only to people who actually know all the cast members and trust that the rest in the family/friends circle either already know or will find the updates on Facebook.

3. The Christmas photo card. I don’t know why, but I’m pretty sure Christmas photo card companies are run and staffed by Satan. There can be no other explanation for the stunningly and consistently HORRIBLE photographs that emanate from their environs; hideous concoctions sent on cheap, glossy card stock accompanied by a generic message and the name of the family. I’m not talking about the cool art cards created from professional shots you send in to a design card company; I’m talking about the ones that are shot in a cheesy mini-mall studios with the worst possible lighting, backdrop rejects from the local high school theater department, and stylists who pose humans – and too often, animals – in ways that suggest nobody involved has a clue about composition or creativity. In fact, I’ve observed that even attractive people can be made significantly less so by bad photo processors who makes normal people look strange colors and all people look like deer in the headlights.

Suggestion: Don’t do it! Or make the investment to hire a professional photographer and get it done right. These will likely be on refrigerator doors for months to come; have some pride in your legacy.

4. The Christmas Video or CD. The digital revolution has brought much good to the world. It has also lowered the bar on every form of creativity and entertainment ever dreamed of by man. Due to the ease and affordability of creating almost anything – books, movies, records, photographs, videos, etc. – everyone with even a modicum of computer skill can crank out something that resembles a creative accomplishment. For people with talent who, heretofore, had no funds to get this done, this is a boon. For the rest of the much larger crowd of marginally-if-not-at-all talented folks, it has resulted in a sea of self-created, self-produced and self-published product that is akin to the photo card discussed in #3. More regularly now, families are creating Christmas videos and CDs to send out with their Christmas card (and, God help us, newsletter). While certainly a delightful bonus to the non-judgmental immediate family, the less forgiving friends and colleagues on the Christmas list are less amused or entertained by a four-minute rendition of a badly-performed version of Jingle Bells, with lyrics specific to your family and sung by grade schoolers who, though charming in their squirmy grade-school way, will not be winning any awards at “America’s Got Talent.”

Suggestion: Again, don’t do it. Don’t send it out. Or, like the suggestion for the newsletter, reserve this stocking stuffer only for a very select few in the closest possible family circle. They’re always an amenable bunch.

5. Fruitcake. You wouldn’t think at this point we’d need to have this conversation. It has been made abundantly clear that nobody on this great green Earth actually likes this stuff. The Food Channel can show as many “how do they make these?” shows about the dubious confection, and Claxton, GA can unashamedly claim the title of “Fruitcake Capital of the World,” but I’m going to go on record, here and now, and say this has got to be the biggest waste of calories in the entire food pyramid.

Suggestion: Don’t send me any. Please.

6. Carolers in Restaurants. I know, I know; they’re charming, they’re in pretty costumes (apparently all carolers are from the Victorian era), they sing well (usually … ometimes … not always.) and they bring musical merriment to any restaurant festive enough to hire them for the Christmas season. And they won’t get away from your table no matter, how reticent you were about “what song would you like?” And could they get any louder with that jingling bell and the four-part harmony on “I’ll Be Home For Christmas?” I was at a restaurant recently where we got hit up once – fine, they sang one, two songs, we all tipped, they moved on – then a second batch came by later and despite our alerting them that we’d already been serenaded, like a wolf pack of aggressive carol-harassers, they insisted on another round. Pressing as close to the table (and my head) as they could get, they sang too loud, too long and made us feel like captive audience … literally. I would’ve tipped them to go away, which they ultimately did … but not before my prime rib got cold.

Suggestion:  Bring the volume down, one song per table (unless otherwise requested), don’t hover for tips and if people don’t want the racket, move along.

7. Green Bean Casserole: What is this dish … really? Canned soup, canned fried onions and beans. In a casserole dish, piping hot and … seriously strange. This is a culinary holiday tradition? Why? A holdover from the Depression? Campbell’s Soup propaganda? Brainwashing from the ‘50’s when canned products were actually served without irony? Whatever the reason, please stop. We’ve moved on. Fresh fruit and vegetable are easily accessible. Get a little creative. Vintage is nice with old clothes and furniture, not so much with food.

Suggestion:  Anything else of a vegetable variety that doesn’t come in a can.

8. Charity solicitors.  There’s no secret to the timing; organizations that raise money for any kind of charity, religious group, foundation, etc., choose Christmas time – the “time of giving” – to hit up generous (aka: guilty) people who feel moved at the holidays to dig deep. However, in more current times, most of us do our giving via the web or mail: making donations, giving to Kickstarter campaigns, gifting charitably, etc., and door-to-door solicitors only seek to interrupt dinner, disturb the evening activities, get the dog barking like a hound and cause us to stand too long in our doorway listening to a badly memorized script about “unwed mothers,” “children looking for a way up,” or something to do with a church. I get it; they’re doing what they gotta do. But giving is done in many ways; for most, it’s safer, easier and more credible to give via the web versus giving to a teenager with a clipboard. The other night I had three episodes of doorbell ringing, dog howling, and long speeches about giving. It broke my heart to repeat my “I give via the Internet” (I do!), but it had to be done.

Suggestion: Groups that send children door-to-door need to rethink the strategy. I feel for the kids pounding the pavement, but it’s not a particularly workable paradigm. It ends up creating a sense of disruption – like calls at dinner or email spam – that works against the goal. I give online. Thank you for thinking of me but please don’t roll your eyes when I tell you I’m not going to donate to your cause, Christmas or no Christmas.

9. Animated Christmas e-cards: At first these were cute, particularly Jacquie Lawson cards, or JibJab silliness. But after you’ve received about twenty of these from well-meaning friends, they all, seriously, all, start to look the same. Cute graphics, warm messages, silly messages, you click, you watch, “oh, cute!” … you get the picture. Actually, you do get the picture, but it’s kind of lost its cachet. It’s like Krispy Kremes or Tickle-Me Elmo; after awhile, the novelty wears off.

Suggestion: If you’re so moved, send them out once to somebody, then never again. I know, that sounds Scroogian, but that’s just the way it is.

10. And lastly, Mistletoe. Seriously, while this may have descended from a delightful Norse tradition, in today’s culture this poisonous, if picturesque, little plant is an invitation to your creepy uncle leaning in the dining room doorway, the skeezy loser at the office party who slips in a little tongue if you happen to be found under said plant, or for any number of people you don’t want kissing you to feel they have permission to do so by virtue of this age-old holiday tradition. It’s like a flora gone wild.

Suggestion: Use mistletoe sparingly for colorful table displays, embellish Christmas packages with it, delight in holding it over the head of your willing loved one, but keep it off ceilings and doorways where unsuspecting recipients of unwanted kisses are too often found.

So there you go; that’s the list of the Top Ten Worst Christmas Traditions. You likely have some of your own. Feel free to share in comments. We’ll keep track and just make the list bigger next year!

Merry Christmas!

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