The holiday season is awash in tiresome articles advising you on arranging the perfect Christmas.  “Add Christmas Charm To Your Pets’ Life”… “Fun, Edible DIY Holiday Tablecloths”…  “Positioning Your Christmas Tree To Make The Neighbors Feel Inferior”…you know the type. Articles that exist to make tedious supermoms smug, and presume that the goal of every Christmas is to achieve a kind of suburban homemaker superfection.

Thing is, unless you are one of those overachieving cyborgs, trying to pull off the “perfect” Christmas means that 1) You’re going to spend the whole of December stressed about everything, because the slightest slip will bring the judgment of all Pinterest down upon you, and 2) your ultimate holiday goal is to make all the loved ones with which you are presumably surrounded feel shabby and incompetent.  (If you are an overachieving cyborg, go iron your dust-ruffles or something. The rest of this is just going to make you all judgy.)

Let’s try something else this year.  Let’s stop trying so hard.  Let’s all take a vow to stop trying for a perfect Christmas and strive for an entertaining, memorable Christmas.  Less Martha Stewart, more Clark Griswold.  Here’re a few house rules to get you started; by all means add your own in the comments online.

Every Christmas anything — shopping, decorating, cleaning, opening presents, office holiday party, second-grade school pageant, whatever — starts with mandatory drinks. You’re probably with family, which means everyone is all tense remembering several generations’ worth of grievances. Loosen ’em up. Sure, you might earn a few extra lumps of coal, but they’ll be worth it.  Here’s my favorite holiday cocktail, and don’t say I never did anything for you: One part eggnog, one part strong cold coffee, one part spiced rum. (I like Kraken rum best for this.) Serve cold. Garnish with tomorrow’s apologies.

Sacred cows are boring. Heckle the beloved entertainment of Christmas:  

The kids’ school pageant: “NICE ROBE, JOSEPH. DID YOU FIND IT IN A MANGER?” 


White Christmas: “Hey, Aunt Joan, I know you love this movie. Is it because the romantic drama is caused by a woman eavesdropping, then misinterpreting, then overreacting?”

Throw the changeup at dinner.  Replace the turkey/ham/roast beast with Potluck Junkfood.  This was invented by a friend of mine the year she and her kids had only their very favorite foods on the holiday table. The menu: 1) Salmon 2) Pizza 3) Mashed potatoes 4) Bacon 5) Pie.

Screw thoughtful. Enough with the sweaters and books.  Get everyone something memorable.  Give all the kids kazoos, Silly String, and squirt guns. Get Grampy a Hawaiian shirt and a few passes to the racetrack. Get your siblings ghost peppers or Cheeses of the Month or Absinthe.  Get Nana a gift certificate for a tattoo. (Prediction: Twenty-five percent of you who do this will wind up with an inked Nana.) 

Stop wrapping. Instead of fretting about matching seams and getting the ribbons curled justright, have another coffee nog and put the presents in bags or pillowcases or something. The only thing that takes more work and gets less appreciation than wrapping gifts in paper is actually being Jay Cutler. Giftwrap is like lingerie: It exists to be torn off and forgotten as soon as you get at what’s inside. Put the effort into the present, instead of the packaging.

Put up your own lights. Laziness has ruined the glory of home decorating. People pay a few bucks now to have lights that look like the architect put them in the original plans. It’s painfully boring. I like Christmas displays that look like they were put up by clumsy, incompetent drunks because they were put up by clumsy incompetent drunks. Get out an old ladder and an older bottle of scotch and make a twinkly Jackson Pollack of the front porch. No one giggles, twenty years down the road, at how every year Dad wrote a check to Milo’s Lawn Service and Holiday Illuminations.

There’s your primer on taking Christmas back. Break more rules as you think of them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go help my Nana pick out her tattoo.

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