Now that Christmas over and everybody’s holiday cheer has been poisoned by bitter relatives and travel reminiscent of a bad peyote trip, I’d like to talk about all things Yule. I’ll hurry, since I ought to be editing right now.

I rate this Christmas as bizarre.  It was far stranger than the one at which every child in my extended family had the flu, and Christmas morning found them lying scattered around the couches and rugs like victims of a grenade attack. One of them would lift his head an inch and flop it sideways to look at a new toy before collapsing back onto a pillow, and another might barf on a poinsettia, but they whimpered at the suggestion they go back to bed.

This Christmas was more peculiar than that. It was the first one without my mom, and Christmas without my mom is like the circus without monkeys. She loved Christmas more than any person I’ve ever met, so without her the festivity index was low. Also, we gathered a couple of days before Christmas, which seemed odd, but as far as my father is concerned Christmas Day is now no more significant than August 7.

But I don’t want to talk about all that.

I spent much of Christmas Eve fixing my in-law’s wireless network, which was more festive than it might sound, once everyone went away and stopped talking to me. I love them all, but my brain does one thing at a time, and answering questions counts as one thing. It occasionally appeared that I might fail, and comments about the need for bigger brains were overheard, but at last, on Christmas morning, I drove a victorious stake through the son of a bitch’s heart in the spirit of the season.

But I don’t want to talk about that either.

I want to talk about coconuts.

When I was a boy, my father always bought a coconut and put it under our Christmas tree. He never explained it. I never asked. Why would I ask? You have tinsel, you have gifts, you have a coconut. It’s the way things were done. On Christmas morning, once the gifts had been opened in turn so we could all appreciate every revelation, my father smashed open the coconut with a 22-ounce framing hammer. Then he drank the milk and ate most of the meat, since the rest of us didn’t care much for coconut. I think my mom ate a little for the sake of politeness.

When I grew up and started talking to my friends about holidays, I realized that not a single one of them had a coconut burrowing under his Christmas tree. My family was unique. I asked my father, hey, what’s with the coconut? He said he had no idea. In his childhood, whenever his family could afford a coconut, they had a coconut. He guessed it was a family tradition, like cooking ham at Easter, or following young men who leave town after trifling with their daughters and then quietly murdering them.

This puzzles me a lot. Five generations ago my people were hanging around North Texas, felling timber and farming and making trouble. They’d have to ride a horse two weeks to find the closest coconut trees. Getting a coconut must have been a significant effort. Catching a bobcat and strapping it to the floor under the tree would have been a lot easier.

I turned to my friend and mentor, Google, who guided me through a lot of Christmas coconut cakes, Christmas coconut cookies, and Christmas coconut balls before I found I’m not the only child of the coconut tradition. At least two other people in the world grew up with coconuts in cozy nests under their trees—and neither of them has a shade of an idea where this behavior came from or what it means.

I could create a crackerjack story about the Christmas coconut tradition. No one seems to know a damn thing about it, so who could say I’m wrong?

The coconut represents the sacred heart of Huldah, the cow in the manger that stepped on the second wise man’s foot, causing him to spill some frankincense, and whose heart shrank in contrition, and who afterwards gave vodka instead of milk on the Sabbath. So we put a coconut under the tree to remember her. And then we smash it and hope there’s vodka in it.

It’s tradition. Don’t mess with it.

Don’t strap this little dude down under your cheery Christmas tree–adopt the coconut tradition instead.

Photo by Loadmaster (David R. Tribble)

Released under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License

I’m not sure what to call this post-Christmas communication. “Debrief” sounds like we’ve just smuggled a defector out of Beijing. “Report” makes me want to write about reindeer with a No. 2 pencil in a Big Chief notebook. “Summary” is something that you deliver once you close the quarterly books, and “After Action Report” implies that we’ve just overrun a Nazi battalion in some unfortunate Belgian village.

How about “Reckoning”?

While this holiday launched a few more challenges at my people than we generally see, we managed fine. We all came out of it alive, with our health no worse than when we started, and loving each other as much as we did on December 24. That said, I feel obliged to settle the score regarding my wife’s Christmas gift. I of course refer to replacing the squatty wooden chair that I destroyed a few weeks ago, as if I were a Grimm’s fairy tale character with three teeth and a size 96 chest.

I received a lot of comments about trying to repair her old chair, since it was so charming, and any other chair I could find must suck in comparison. I admitted that might be true. My wife accepted it too, and she hinted that she expected a plain, utilitarian chair. In fact, those exact words might have come out of her mouth. But I judged the old chair to be as thoroughly obliterated as Lot’s wife and thus beyond repair, so I went chair shopping.

I stalked a new chair, killed it, brought it home, and wrapped it. I think I did a nice job of supporting the fiction that a wrapped chair should be unidentifiable as a chair. I also think that my wrapping job managed my wife’s expectations down to the lowest common denominator, as you can see here:

Which holiday package contains a squatty wooden chair?

Festive, right?

My wife unwrapped the thing after five minutes of work with a sharp knife and some other implements that might have included a spatula. She saw that the disinterred new chair differs from her crushed squatty wooden chair in several respects. The seat is an inch and a half higher. The whole chair is two shades darker. The new chair is not held together with strategic bungee cord structural supports, and the new chair has a blue shirt hanging over the back of it:

On the left, the old squatty wooden chair. On the right, its successor.

My wife smiled, kissed me, and made other positive overtures, which leads me to think I’ve done well and needn’t fear being eaten by wolves.

By the way, my wife gave me a stellar gift. She knitted me a scarf, patterned after one she screwed up in a neat and creative way a few years ago. But she made this one in manly colors, so I can wear it without fear of testosterone depletion. Here it is modeled by Lola, our articulated artist’s mannequin that sits behind our bar, a gift from my sister some years ago:

I'm only a little threatened that Lola looks more butch than me wearing this scarf.

And speaking of my lovely sister the artist, she painted a fantastic painting for us. You can see it here both with and without cat, just to give you a sense of proportion:

Painting with cat
Painting without cat
So the Reckoning is made, and the holiday season moves into the cherished past. It’s time for New Year’s resolutions, something I’ve never been good at. I can only think of one right now. I resolve to keep my huge ass off the new squatty wooden chair.

Dear Mr. Thanksgiving Turkey,

Greetings. You don’t know me, but I’m the guy who told Santa Claus to kiss my ass in September. Sadly, when I sent him a Halloween card it came back with the address scratched out, and scrawled in crayon on the envelope was: “North Pole melted. Elves eaten by polar bears. Screw off.” It’s all terribly sad.

I have a proposition, Mr. Turkey. I’m sure you’re aware that Thanksgiving sucks. I hate to be blunt, but why pretend? Your holiday is mainly about football and food, which we’ve already got every Sunday from August to February. You also feature dinner with family members who ruined our childhoods, a parade with giant blow up animals that frankly give people nightmares, and shopping on the day after Thanksgiving to buy presents for a far superior holiday, rendering your holiday forgotten and completely pointless. I’m saying these things with love, but I hope I’ve made my point.

You have an image problem. Compare your “football and food” approach to Halloween’s “eat candy and dress like a Shanghai prostitute” theme. Or compare it to the Christmas motif of “rake in free stuff and pretend you love your fellow man when in fact you parked in the handicapped spot at the liquor store.” Your holiday doesn’t resonate with people. It bores them. Hell, you’re so boring that they eat turkey and then fall asleep. Again, said with love.

We need to repackage you and change your image, Mr. Turkey. You’ve got a hidden strength, which is the word “thanks.” People like it—who doesn’t like to be thanked? But you’re not specific enough with it. You say we’re being thankful for the good things in our lives, and that’s wonderful. But can we sell peanut butter candy in “good things in our lives” shapes? No—specificity is what we need.

So, think thankful. What specifically are we all thankful for? Not militant protestant white guys with huge belt buckles on their hats, I’ll tell you that for sure. We are all thankful for—puppies! People adore puppies, and that will be the secret of your success. No more can-shaped cranberry sauce and ugly wreaths with dead leaves. Instead we’ll have sweet, floppy, nap-taking, ball-chasing puppy dogs, and that’s what Thanksgiving will be all about.

Everything will change for you. People won’t sit around stuffing their faces and farting on the couch until halftime. Instead they’ll bring their puppies over to grandma’s house, and everyone will play with the puppies! There’ll be puppy cards, puppy lawn art, puppy-shaped cakes, gifts for your puppy, stories and songs and TV shows and podcasts about puppies. People will not be able to resist—heck, they already go crazy for stuff with puppies on it, and there’s not even a holiday for it yet!

The best part is the lack of waste. After other holidays you’re throwing out pumpkins and trees and leftovers. But nobody but a sick creep throws away a puppy. They keep that puppy, and it grows into a beloved, walking, barking, backyard-littering billboard for your holiday. Christmas cannot begin to aspire to that kind of advertising—who wants a reindeer curled up at their feet as they watch reruns of Will and Grace?

Mr. Turkey, I know that you may feel threatened, since you’ve been the face of Thanksgiving for so long. But we have a place for you. Think what a hit you’ll be in your own commercial with a collar and floppy ears, trying to bark and eat a cow hoof. People will die—it’ll go viral on YouTube the first day!

So please consider my proposition, Mr. Turkey. I think we can accomplish great things together, and the nation will be happier on many levels if we succeed. Your holiday will no longer be the beat-up Yugo of holidays. It will be the Lamborghini of holidays, and you will be racing it down the highway of American culture. With a whole lot of ears and tongues flapping out the windows.
Seriously - isn't this better than yams?
Reprinted from Bring Us The Head Of The Velveteen Rabbit, available at Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.