Painful Truth: Ranking the best of the holidays

Christmas comes but once a year, so you have to know how to get the most out of the brief, 25-day season.

We really start celebrating on Dec. 1. (Anyone who has been singing carols and stringing lights since early November will be exiled to northern Greenland when I rule the world!)

In those 25 days we must cram food, entertainment, gift-giving, and if we have some time, some peace and love and goodwill and all that jazz. So which parts of the season are great, and which are overrated? Here’s my (100 per cent objective and not at all idiosyncratic) guide.

• Eggnog.

Rating: Very high.

Positives: Delicious. The cinnamon-dusted nectar of the winter gods. Helps pack on a few extra insulating pounds during the coldest season. Special because it’s only available for one season. Plus, some deeply mistaken people think it tastes like congealed reindeer snot, and will give you theirs!

Negatives: You can only drink about a half-gallon at a sitting.

• Christmas movies

Rating: High

Positives: Variety is the big one. Every flavour of holiday celebration can be had, from the hopeful classics like Miracle on 34th Street and White Christmas to the sour cynicism of Bad Santa. You can celebrate an action Christmas with Die Hard and Iron Man 3 or a horror Christmas with Black Christmas and Gremlins. Or you can mix and match.

Negatives: Your family will never want to watch the exact same films as you. Great-grandma Ethel insists on Die Hard every year.

• Caroling

Rating: High to medium

Positives: It’s a nice thing to do with friends (if you can sing and don’t happen to sound like a sickly goat). Plus afterwards you can drink hot cider or eggnog.

Negatives: I sound like a sickly goat.

• Presents

Rating: High

Positives: Getting gifts is great, giving them is even better. The best gifts are the ones that are perfect for the recipient, even though they didn’t know they wanted them.

Negatives: Someone will republish that Grinchy economic study allegedly showing that you’re better off giving people money. There’s a special place on Santa’s list for economists who try to undermine the concept of Christmas giving. Maybe they can trade their lumps of coal for cash.

• Christmas songs

Rating: Low

Positives: You can hum along, because you’ve heard them all about a thousand times, I guess. That’s it.

Negatives: There are some classic songs and performances that hold up, but the good ones have been repeated even MORE often. I have had Bing Crosby’s White Christmas stuck in my head for the entire length of this column. For every overplayed classic, there are a dozen overplayed songs that you hate (or will learn to hate when they are driven into your skull by the mall’s music system).

• Food

Rating: Very high.

Positives: Like Christmas movies, comes in every variety from traditional roasted-turkey to vegan. If your Christmas feast is a giant sushi platter from your favourite restaurant, that is a perfectly valid choice. Christmas is about enjoying food with your loved ones, so go for it!

Negatives: There’s an awful lot of it. I’m told it’s possible to get tired of leftover turkey, but I’m not sure I believe it.


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