Three farting uncles, Two puking dogs, Anaphylaxis in a pear tree.
December 11, 2015 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Carolyn Hax's Hootenanny of Holiday Horrors 2015 was today. Advice Columnist Carolyn Hax hosts a (nearly) weekly chat in which people share their problems and she offers (nearly) instant advice. But sometimes you don't really need advice. Sometimes you just need to tell someone about the things your relatives did to you (or gave to you) at Christmas.

For some of the best of past Hoots, check out:
Holiday Hootenanny Guide to Family
Holiday Hootenanny Guide to Gift-Giving
Holiday Hootenanny Guide to Cooking

Past years: 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008

If your relatives don't limit themselves to seasonally appropriate festive abuse, she also does a summer Hoot about weddings.

(A couple of notes: most years she does some regular advice-column stuff before the Holiday Hoot, so you may have to scroll to get to the festivities. Also, the Washington Post may eventually cut you off from accessing more articles. You probably know how to get around that.)
posted by jacquilynne (38 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
"Several years ago, my son and his family were driving around admiring the Christmas sparkly lights. As they drove past a Nativity scene, in a voice of awe, my just-turned-four year old grandson said "Mama - look at baby bad word!" After a moment of silence, my daughter-in-law remembered that the previous week she had stubbed her toe and used some inappropriate language with the lords name in response. She told the kids not to use those words as they were bad. Ever since then, our family has used the expression "sweet baby bad word (SBBT) when frustrated. It's easy to forget how literal kids are."


Q: Clap on, Clap off
My mother gave "The Clapper" to her sister-in-law's father... who, as a result of a stroke 2 years earlier, had no use of his left hand (and, therefore, could not clap!).

A: Carolyn Hax:
Sweet bad word, I can't breathe

posted by zarq at 3:52 PM on December 11, 2015 [9 favorites]

When I was small, we had Thanksgiving dinner at my Grandmother's. Her dining room table was large enough to host her, my grandfather, their three children, and those children's spouses. Grandchildren went to the kitchen table (called the "kiddie" table, even though almost everyone there was old enough to drink), and great grandchildren went to the sub-kiddie table in the living room. When my grandfather died, there was no open discussion about what would happen to his seat. A sensible family might have left it empty in remembrance, or reorganized the tables a bit. But I do not belong to a sensible family. The eldest grandchild moved up to the main table. He was oblivious to the beams of hate being drilled into the back of his head by the 'not-so-kiddie' table, where everyone talked about how THEY deserved that seat more. Finally, the tension got too high, and my cousin handed me a dinner roll. "I bet you can't hit L's bald spot from here." I let it loose, and even though I can't hit the broad side of a barn, I beaned him. He turned, looked at me, decided it COULDN'T have been me, and threw his roll at his brother-in-law. He missed, hitting his sister instead, who threw her roll, missing him and hitting her mother. Suddenly, rolls were flying everywhere. We didn't even care who we hit, as long as it was at the OTHER table. My grandmother started hitting people with a ladle to get them to stop, but to little effect.

posted by sciatrix at 3:55 PM on December 11, 2015 [18 favorites]

For Gen X or younger, flocking was taking a spray can of probably toxic sticky white stuff and spraying it, ideally lightly, on the tree to achieve the fresh-fallen snow look.

Are there places where flocking isn't a thing?

Around here, we have separate pick-ups for flocked and regular trees, since the flocked trees can't be composted.
posted by madajb at 4:04 PM on December 11, 2015

We used to see flocking spray when I was a kid, but I haven't seen it in years and years.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:12 PM on December 11, 2015

"...ladle whackings are up a staggering 200% this holiday season, but to little effect. Rolls and flocking spray everywhere, hurt feelings abound. There is a storm brewing in this city. And now, weather."
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 4:13 PM on December 11, 2015 [11 favorites]

oh god I'm dying too at some of these. I think I've complained about it here before but every year my mother-in-law, who is a strong Midwestern Lutheran, gives me, an atheist, a Jesus themed present for Xmas. It's usually a giant piece of art but I've received wooden crosses and tapestries. I always throw the gifts away and she knows it and still keeps doing it. I'd almost think after 10 years it's become a joke if it weren't for the neat, well thought out gifts she gives everyone else.

Last year she outdid herself - just truly magnificent gift giving. She gave my brother-in-law and his girlfriend a trip to Paris. My husband got this beautiful desk he'd wanted for a long time. My FIL received this wonderful service to help him with his disability.

And I.


I got a baby Jesus cake.

It was dark chocolate with this wonderful, decadent mascarpone and nut frosting. When sliced there were these perfect candied pear slices with a ganache filling between them. I would not have been surprised to see this cake on the cover of best cakes from Saveur or something, it was gorgeous.

Scattered around it were amazing sugared violas and sugared rose petals and sugar crosses. SUGAR CROSSES.
And on top of the cake it had this little fondant platform with chocolate curls and on top of that floating over the cake in heavenly fondant glory was a 3D BABY JESUS. He looked like some kind of Renaissance painting come to life. The freakin' baby even had rosy cheeks. Then below all this in some kind of gold baroque frosting writing: The Reason for the Season.

I sat staring open-mouthed at this baby Jesus cake masterpiece I had just unwrapped until my mother in law cleared her throat. When I looked up, she looked me dead in the eye and triumphantly said, "I knew you would not be able to throw this away."
posted by barchan at 4:29 PM on December 11, 2015 [122 favorites]

barchan, please get your MIL to sign up for secret quonsar next year!
posted by terooot at 4:56 PM on December 11, 2015 [10 favorites]

How delicious was Jesus?
posted by sciatrix at 4:59 PM on December 11, 2015 [14 favorites]

We didn't get to eat him - my MIL plucked him off and "set him aside for now" because I'd bet she was afraid of some kind of symbolic eating gesture from me. Then she took him to some kind of church function, I think. Actually I wouldn't be surprised if she saved him in the freezer or something and reused him several times.

But I imagine he was gross, he was made out of fondant.
posted by barchan at 5:08 PM on December 11, 2015 [13 favorites]

How delicious was Jesus?

I grew up Catholic, I can attest that he's usually pretty stale. Fondant was probably an improvement.

We didn't get to eat him - my MIL plucked him off and "set him aside for now" because I'd bet she was afraid of some kind of symbolic eating gesture from me.

Now, how could she complain? Even the Lutherans have a symbolic eating Jesus moment.
posted by stevis23 at 5:12 PM on December 11, 2015 [11 favorites]

noooooo, the symbolic eating gesture would have been the only good part! Foiled! I was kind of hoping he might have been packed with something red and oozy.

Man, though, I never get passive aggressive Catholic presents like that. I only ever get rosaries and tiny little statues of saints and Christian-themed bookmarks and shit. Not even repeatedly "forgetting" to pack them to take home has helped.
posted by sciatrix at 5:13 PM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

barchan, I really wish that you had a picture to share.

What an amazingly fucked up story! wowsers.

Is your husband an atheist too?
posted by futz at 5:26 PM on December 11, 2015

I was kind of hoping he might have been packed with something red and oozy.

wine ganache, surely
posted by en forme de poire at 5:29 PM on December 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

Futz, I think I do have a picture somewhere, let me see if I can find it. (And no, my husband isn't an atheist, he's what I'd call unsure).

hahaha, sciatrix, I actually envisioned eating that thing like in the fish scene from A Fish Called Wanda. My MIL knows me pretty well though and I totally was foiled.
posted by barchan at 5:38 PM on December 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately, I only have photographic evidence of our one slightly awkward familial holiday interaction (I was approximately five months old at the time). So, we're Jews, albeit of the more secular variety. My father's parents were observant, though--Orthodox turned Conservative. For my very first Chanukah, my grandmother gave me... inflatable Santa toy.

I was pretty fond of it, apparently.

My mother was not such a fan.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:57 PM on December 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh my GOD, I was reading the chat this morning and so wanted to discuss it on metafilter, thank you for this. The fucking howler monkey ornament with the dangling balls that grandma bought for the eight year old? Silently sobbing with laughter at my desk. I especially love that the person provided a link. PLEASE someone talk me out of buying it for myself, or for my brother, or even both I NEED TWO.

I almost stopped reading after that because what could even be better? But Hax was in top form today (ballistic rocket scientist - lol). I am on the bus now and looking forward to getting home so I can finally listen to the goat carols.
posted by sunset in snow country at 6:01 PM on December 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Shit, no, I need three howler monkey testicle ornaments. Wouldn't want Mom to feel left out!
posted by sunset in snow country at 6:18 PM on December 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

One story made my eyes cross in rage. The woman who:

A. Has small children
B. Had a houseful of Thanksgiving guests
C. Had to pull off Thanksgiving hosting all by herself because her husband did not lift a finger.
D. Was "thanked" by her sister-in-law blasting her (accidentally) via group gossip text.
E. Discovered that rather than defend her efforts, her husband was trying to protect his mean-spirited sister from any fallout by pretending the text was about something else, and ...
F. Is now supposed to host Christmas for these same people.

My sincerest hope is that she tells her MIL (who apparently bashes her on the regular with the SIL) and her SIL and her husband that they're welcome to have a separate celebration, then she and the kids peace out in a hotel with lots of room service.

That poor woman. I hope she asserts herself. And I hope that SIL can't even look at her for years without a tiny twist of humiliation furrowing through her bowels.
posted by sobell at 6:23 PM on December 11, 2015 [20 favorites]

The fucking howler monkey ornament with the dangling balls

There are at least one or two members here who are monkeyologists, and if anyone needs howler monkey ball ornaments it is them.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:34 PM on December 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

sobell, me too. If I were her I'd write the whole family saying "Since I am an absolutely horrible hostess, I will not be hosting any more holidays ever again." Then let THEM put up with stress, especially if it's so inconvenient to go to someone else's house farther away.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:44 PM on December 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Frankly a lot of the stories made me rageful from an emotional labor standpoint ("I wanted turkey," "Can't she just make another one," "Food fit for humans," "Get your ass up and do the dishes" off the top of my head) but I couldn't even be mad after the monkey balls thing. But like, my mom is a perfect crone who would laugh her ass off at the monkey ornament, and as infuriating as she can be in other ways, I feel so lucky that I'm not part of one of those families that wages silent war over this holiday shit. Yikes.
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:03 PM on December 11, 2015 [11 favorites]

"Food fit for humans"

I do enjoy that after Grandma dropped that insult and expected a ride home, the hostess/daughter-in-law whom Grandma had just insulted merely dropped a phone book in her lap and said, "You're welcome to call either a taxi service or a restaurant."

But the pouty baby man-child who was all worked up that his deathly-ill-in-the-hospital sister had still pulled off a prime rib dinner instead of pork? I hope he suffers a year of unpredictable and explosive bowel movements. The uncle who thought he was being a big man by harassing the exhausted mother of a baby by telling her to get off her ass and do the dishes? Here's hoping a new strain of drug-resistant yeast breed in his groin and make the rest of his days an itchy nuisance.

And so on. Thinking up creative , Greek myth-style consequences for terrible relatives who have wronged people is how I work out my rage-by-proxy at these shitty, shitty people who think that the definition of "family" means you have a license to treat relatives worse than you do anyone else with no consequences whatsoever.
posted by sobell at 7:20 PM on December 11, 2015 [8 favorites]

A couple years ago I gave my brother such a thoughtful, heartfelt present that he cried when he opened it, which led to the whole family (including his wife) shrieking with glee and shouting, "He's crying!" while I fist-pumped in triumph around the family room because THAT'S WHAT YOU DO WHEN YOU WIN CHRISTMAS, and you win Christmas by making people cry tears of joy.

In my defense a couple of years earlier one of my brothers crowed with glee when I cried upon a present opening, "I made you feel loved! YES! IN YOUR FACE!" (But he didn't win Christmas because there are basically zero points attached to getting me to cry, because low-end Hallmark commercials can manage that.)

Last year I scored big at Christmas by skipping church and, while my mom was at church, texting her, "You better not be checking your texts during Mass!" It is tough to land a burn on my mom, let alone a self-executing trap burn that she walks right into, so I was king of Christmas Eve for that one. (Although my brother who prevented the cat from dying when it trapped itself in the fridge won Christmas, which I feel like is unfair, whoever went to get a drink next was going to save the stupid cat, it took no particular skill.)

Our Christmases are ... boisterous. And also involve a game that's been going on for 20 years where we try to pelt one brother with wrapping paper. And also breakfast alcohol.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:23 PM on December 11, 2015 [44 favorites]

Nobody in my family would tell me to get off my ass and do dishes if I had a baby to mind, partly because they are not horrible and partly because I would burn off their eyebrows with my blistering cuss-storm if they did do so, and they know it.

I loved Grandma getting the phone book in her lap.

I was wanting to tell the lady whose mom whispered poisonous things in her ear while hugging her that she needs to stop, ask loudly "Mom, did you just tell me you think I'm fat/ugly? That is a horrible thing to do while hugging someone you say you love!" and then say nothing while her mother sputtered. It wouldn't end well, of course, there is no such thing as a perfect putdown that silences toxic assholes. They always come back with more poison. But it would allow her to stop pretending that her mother wasn't doing it.
posted by emjaybee at 7:36 PM on December 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

I have had pretty happy Christmases since I started going to Christmas with my husband's family (they are understanding of my introversion because my dad died at Christmas when I was in college). But my ex's family was full of passive-aggressive Christmas digs that could have been on this list. Like the cinnamon rolls that were a Big Thing and my husband and his brother-in-law had to get the ones from the center because they had the best edges, announced with ceremony as they were served--and then I was handed the one from the edge of the pan that was broken.

Yeah, getting rid of her was one of the happy parts of that divorce.

Also I feel for the girl with the toxic hugging mom because my mother used to do the exact same thing to me, just with less hugging.
posted by immlass at 7:40 PM on December 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

One story made my eyes cross in rage

Seriously if that poor woman winds up hosting Christmas after all, she'd better have All I Want for Christmas is a Goat playing in an infinite loop on Spotify.
posted by wheek wheek wheek at 7:49 PM on December 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I figure toxic hugging mom just needed to be asked to repeat herself as the hug ended. "Sorry, mom, I didn't catch that, what did you say?" Let her repeat her bullshit out loud for other people to hear, or let her think of something kinder to say on the spot.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:50 PM on December 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

So glad you posted this, I almost forgot to read!!! Truly, the best of the web.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:56 PM on December 11, 2015

If I were faced with toxic hugging mom I would laugh out loud, pull back, and say in a very amused tone, "Wow, mom, that was so mean!" as if she were a misbehaving four-year-old with no social skills. (Primarily because this would make her CRAZY, not because it would make her stop.)

If I had suffered years of this and I was feeling mean, I'd go with, "Wow, mom, that was so mean!" [concerned face] "Have you talked to your doctor lately? I know that the loss of social skills and fading of conversational inhibitions is one of the first signs of dementia in the elderly, I'm kind-of concerned now." And then every time she did it thereafter I'd bring up my concerns about dementia again. ("When you say things like that, that I know you know are mean and inappropriate, I really worry about your cognitive function, mom. Have you talked to your doctor about these socially inappropriate outbursts? I really think you need a cognitive inventory. You do qualify as elderly now ...") And then every time she tried to be mean to me I'd just look sad and sympathetic and concerned like I was worrying about the old lady slipping off her rocker, and I understood that I couldn't take her meanness personally since it was really just cognitive decline. I realize this is fighting fire with nuclear weapons, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I would bet cash money she wouldn't keep it up more than a few days before giving up in fury ... unless she's actually got dementia, in which case she probably does need a cognitive inventory.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:09 PM on December 11, 2015 [36 favorites]

Oh dear. I just listened to the goat carols. I finally have something to counter my sister's CD of cats meowing xmas carols. Yesssssss.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:13 PM on December 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I started listening to Holy Night (Goat Edition) thinking, this is stupid.

Until that first screaming high note, and now I'm trying to figure out how to make everyone I know listen to this masterpiece.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:02 AM on December 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Wow, people are awful.

Eyebrows, my family does the pelt-everyone-with-wrapping-paper thing as well! I neglected to warn my partner about it the first time he came to Christmas with us, whoops :)
posted by quaking fajita at 8:16 AM on December 12, 2015

My favorite from this marvelous post:

And my uncle said "I'm sick of the martyr routine, I'm leaving!" Uncle then went and picked up the casserole he brought, the dessert he brought, and approached the table he brought. Where my 93 year old Grandmother was eating. He demanded he take the table with him, over the protests of his wife, kids, and everybody sitting at the table. Except my Grandmother, who calmly picked up her plate like nothing was happening, and sat at the kids table. She started coloring with them while eating and talking about their Christmas as if my Uncle hadn't just made a huge scene in the middle of dinner. Goal in life: be my grandmother.

Peace on the earth, good will to men.
posted by bearwife at 9:03 AM on December 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I usually hate Hax, but this sounds worth reading...
posted by limeonaire at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Send any unwanted howler monkey testicle ornaments my way! They can hang on the tree next to my two different malaria-themed ornaments!
posted by ChuraChura at 1:43 PM on December 12, 2015 [7 favorites]

We used to see flocking spray when I was a kid, but I haven't seen it in years and years.

The Christmas tree lot near my house (West side of San Francisco) will flock your tree while you wait -- in one of about 12 different colors.

I haven't seen the do-it-yourself cans in years, though.
posted by toxic at 3:07 PM on December 12, 2015

I cannot get this to load on the iPad, something about the live.pages on the post just blow up. Which makes me sad, cause I love the big holiday columns.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:52 PM on December 12, 2015

I have been reading choice stories from these to my wife off and on throughout the day, providing lots of giggles and laughter. Thanks for these.
posted by nubs at 5:57 PM on December 12, 2015

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