‘Tis (Not) The Season: Top Five Anti-Holiday Reads

Madeline Poage ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Christmas is that special time of year in the United States, where, like it or not, every available space is adorned with strings of lights or has a Christmas tree shoved into it. From the moment Thanksgiving ends, the race towards the merry day hurtles along, leaving most winded after a week. Around this time, it’s hard to find anything that isn’t stamped with Santa’s smiling face, so it’s easy to grow sick of all the holiday cheer. These books might be the cure!

1. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

In the fantastically absurd world of Terry Pratchett, an assassination plot circling the Hogfather, a Father Christmas-like figure, emerges when the insane Mr. Teatime is hired to kill him. Who comes in to save the day? Death, who assumes the role of the Hogfather in order to re-inspire the belief in the wild boar who guides his four flying piggies every Hogswatchnight. Does he help? Well. . . kind of? Things really kick off when Death’s granddaughter, Susan, gets involved, and is determined to find out what has really happened to the Hogfather. Madcap, unexplained, and gently philosophical, this hilarious take on the childlike belief in a gift-giving, flying figure is the perfect antithesis to the tired classic Christmas tales.

2. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

A collection of stories and semi-autobiographical essays, including the infamous SantaLand Diaries, which details one of Sedaris’ experiences with the oh-so-happy holiday season—when he worked as one of Santa’s elves in Macy’s and was a.) humiliated, and b.) living in constant fear of being trampled by the frenzied Christmas shoppers. Painful memory by painful memory, each moment of mortification is immortalized for the benefit of the reader. All of the entries of the book dig in dirty and really have a go at Christmas, erasing the idea of the idealized holiday to reveal what is actually there—in this case, a long, terrifying line at the cash register and uncomfortable elf garb.

3. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Perhaps one of the most famous short stories, The Gift of the Magi relies on the age-old plot of giving gifts at Christmas, with an infamous twist of cruel, comic irony. Jim and his wife, Della, are on hard times and each have one precious possession they are able to sell between them—Jim’s gold watch and Della’s long, beautiful hair. Each covertly decides to sell their prized possessions in order to purchase a Christmas present for the other. No spoilers, but it doesn’t go exactly as planned. The story of two foolish young people, in love and struck with the Christmas spirit, end up both worse and better than they began, but it’s impossible not to laugh at the kinks that erupt in the middle of their Christmas plans and the holes O. Henry pokes in the materialism of the holiday season.

2. The Twelve Terrors of Christmas by John Updike & Edward Gorey

An old one, but a good one, Updike’s wry voice and natural sense of humor flows organically through this compact work. A deconstruction of every facet of Christmas, the book unpacks every ritual and tradition down to the bare bones. Mercilessly witty and disturbingly accurate, every aspect of Christmas if put to the test against logic—what are Santa’s true motives? How do reindeer landing of roofs not destroy them by accident? Do the elves need a union? And of this wouldn’t be complete without Edward Gorey’s illustrations, haunting and stark on every page. For anyone tired of the Christmas hype, this is an absolute must.

1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

A children’s classic, most know the story of the angry green Grinch who lives above Whoville, hating the holiday-loving, jingle bell-jangling, Christmas-caroling Whos. The Whos are determined to enjoy their Christmas with their incredibly noisy Christmas presents, just as the Grinch is equally determined to put a stop to their Christmas nonsense, once and for all. How will he do this? Steal it, of course. With a traditionally Seussian condemnation of materialism, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is brimming with hilarity, the defiance of physics, and easy-to-read rhyme within its few, illustrated pages. One of Seuss’s cheekiest works, its definitely worth a trip down memory lane to revisit.

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