A Dear Snarky Holiday Buffet

So many Christmas conundrums. So little time. In an attempt to help spread some holiday happiness I bring you a trio of letters. Let’s hope my answers deliver a soupçon of seasonal sanity to your family gatherings.

Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 10.12.49 AMDear Snarky,

My mother-in-law spoils my children and goes overboard with presents. I’ve told her to stop but she won’t listen to me. I don’t think I can handle another Christmas where she’s trying to one up my husband and I in the gift department.

 Signed, Present Overkill

Dear Overkill,

Calm yourself and count your blessings. It’s a grandmother’s prerogative and great joy to spoil her grandchildren. If your kids are drowning in presents, I suggest discreetly donating some of the goodies to charity after the first of the year. P.S. Quit looking so hard for something to get your nose out of joint about. There are parents out there that would be THRILLED for their kids’ grandparents to so much as send a card.

Dear Snarky,

My weirdo and single sister actually expects us to buy a gift for her dog. She says her dog is like her child and since she buys presents for my four kids all the time, we can get her dog something.

Signed, No Way

Dear No Way,

Umm, no way, I say, yes way. Drag yourself off of your high horse and go get your sister’s dog a $10 chew toy and get over yourself. Also, being a pet lover and a single doesn’t make you a weirdo. It probably makes you very happy.

Dear Snarky,

My in-laws make the whole family go to Midnight Mass and I think it ruins Christmas morning for my kids (ages 8 and 10) because they’re so tired the next day. How do I get this tradition to stop?

 Signed, Not a Fan 

Dear Not a Fan,

Grab some caffeine and accept this hard truth. Midnight Mass isn’t going anywhere, and you know where you’re going – uh huh, that’s right to Midnight Mass. So, suck it up, have your kids take a nap and deal with traditions that are older than you are.

*I hope your holidays are drama free BUT if they’re not you know where to send your letter. snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com 😉

Holiday Traditions That Need To Go

I’m an unabashed holiday freak. (Although I draw the line at putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween. That’s just showing a deep disrespect and disregard for the seasons.) I love the month of December like Santa loves the heated seat in his sled. I’m all about the ho, ho, ho and holly jolly. That said, there are some traditions and trends that I’d like to see get permanently put in cold storage at the North Pole, even, gasp, a few of the classics. So, hold on tight to your peppermint mocha because it’s about to get frosty.

Present Parity

I doubt every family does this and I accept 100 percent responsibility for the gift counting issues I’ve created within my family. For you see, I have raised children who still insist that each of them has an equal number of presents.

It started when my oldest was still in Thomas the Tank Engine pull-ups. To help him learn to count, I would stack all his presents and together we would go through them. Then, when his sister came along I did the same thing. The result is now two kids who display an obsessive-compulsive disorder in regards to gift equity. I know most of the reason they still do this is because one of their main hobbies is to annoy me. So, last year, I took to wrapping empty boxes to create an equal tableau. Alas, I was thwarted by a sarcastic child who remarked that her brother’s presents seemed to display a “higher quality gift wrap experience.”

Opening a Present on Christmas Eve

As a kid, I lived for Christmas morning. To take the edge off, my mother would let us open one present on Christmas Eve. I would get all excited, clawing through the gift wrap and ripping open the box like a rabid bear. That exuberance ended upon discovering – Ta-Da – pajamas. Freaking flannel pajamas. Talk about an epic letdown that not even a fistful of candy canes could cure.

Finally, after a couple of Christmases I wised up and told my mother I wanted to open a present that wasn’t going to be PJ’s. Surprisingly she acquiesced. I was thrilled until the gift was worse, much worse than pajamas. It was house slippers from Sears. Ugh.

This is why, as an adult, I have instilled a no-present-opening policy till Christmas morning. No one needs their holiday mojo messed with by starting out the best day of the year with the lamest gift in the pile. Also, I’m very thrifty and I’m on team holiday pajamas that make their debut November 1. That way you can ensure that you’re getting the most wear time out of your family’s elf-themed fleece.

Themed Holiday Dinner

I’m still angry, years later, over how the traditional Christmas dinner I lust after 364 days a year was ruined by a relative trying to be a mini “International Martha Stewart.” This relative, who shall remain nameless, instead of doing the whole sweet potato casserole with gingersnaps and the turkey and dressing yum of it all, decided to create an authentic Nordic menu for dinner.

Answer me this, who wants to dine on Rudolph on December 25? Yep, you guessed it. Reindeer was what’s for dinner and it was being served with a side of oat-rye-spelt clusters and dill-cured arctic char. Blech! There’s not enough hot glögg in Norway to make that palatable.

Here’s my tried and true advice for the holidays – stick with what you know. For example, a couple of days ago I saw a recipe for an updated green bean casserole. It looked very green and lush and I was seriously tempted to upgrade Christmas dinner with this more gourmet version. But then I read the recipe. It was devoid of cream of mushroom soup and those French’s curly onion thingamabobs.

Say what? How do you make a green bean casserole without the cream of mushroom soup? It’s like saying you’re going to make a chocolate cake and then not adding chocolate. That’s crazy talk. As for not having salty, greasy, crispy, onions on top, well, I just literally have no words except – sad – because that casserole would have made me sad and no one needs to feel that on Christmas.

Cheating on Your Christmas Tree

Remember the good old days when folks stayed in a monogamous relationship with their Christmas tree? You had one tree and it got all the love, attention and holiday cheer. Now, a lot of us have become polyamorous with our trees. There’s a faux-flocked Frasier fir in the family room, a white spruce holding court in the living room, Noble firs in the kids’ bedrooms and even an artificial “slim” Montana pine in the kitchen. We’ve become a society where one tree is no longer enough to satisfy us. It’s a sickness that’s impacting the holidays.

What’s wrong with sharing your love with assorted evergreens? Many things, but if I had to pick just one it would be that an abundance of trees equals a lackluster decorating ambience. Think about it. When there was just one tree it got all the ornament ardor. When you add in another couple of trees to the mix it can look, oh no, there’s that word again – sad. Each successive tree looks a little less festooned. A little less TLC’d. It’s just not right I tell you. Let’s make holiday decorating great again and embrace the one tree way of life.

Healthy Holiday

This concept just needs to raise the refined white sugar flag and surrender. A healthy holiday, of course can be a reality. And if you’re all about doing a 30-day fermented juice cleanse and training for a mud run triathlon in December, then you have my condolences. Seriously, my thoughts are with you during this difficult time. I get it. I really do. You’re a health beast, but what I don’t get is when the health beast becomes the holiday buzz kill.

Hey, just because you’re suffering from cookie dough deprivation don’t try to smother my gingerbread joy by doing an oral calorie count of what I’m consuming. Or worse, plug my food intake into the death clock app on your phone and share that my current rate of shoving spoonfuls of shortbread batter, containing loads of sugar, bleached flour, and raw eggs into my mouth is taking 3.5 years off my life.

This is not news I want to hear, pretty much ever, and much less during the holidays. It’s a total Scrooge move and it’s bad karma to harsh someone’s holiday vibe. The holidays should be a delicious, no-judgement zone. You can get all superior about your workout and kale and cauliflower smoothies on January 1.

Let’s all now grab a cookie smothered in buttercream frosting, or double fist a cookie and a hot cocoa with whipped cream, doused with red and green sprinkles and a candy cane garnish (I’m looking at you healthy holiday) and toast to the glad tidings the season brings, that far outweigh all the annoyances I just featured on this list.