The Magazine

Yule Be Sorry

Jan 2, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 16 • By MATT LABASH
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The so--called Christmas wars have raged for two months without my help, and I won't be adding to the din. I will admit, however, to being a Christmas fascist. Frequently lampooned, Christians are expected to silently turn the other cheek. But Christmas, it turns out, is a great time for paybacks. Don't flatter yourselves, baby--Jesus haters. We don't care whether you share our celebration. We just want you to be inconvenienced by it.

That's why, despite their histrionics, I secretly root for the beat cops at Fox News who take the nightstick to Baal--worshippers, ACLU lawyers, and Target clerks who have the gall to wish us "Happy Holidays" as we're trying to observe the birth of our Lord and Savior by buying big sacks of junk we don't need. But the sad thing about this battle is that it distracts us from what the season is really about: bad Christmas ornaments.

We've all bought them-or worse, made them. My own entry came when, as a schoolchild, I brought home a Santa--on--plywood number that I'd painted in runny watercolors. It looked as though it'd been done by a stoned Picasso during a train derailment. It was all a blur, except for the eyes. They were beat and bleary, as if Santa had just put down a fifth of muscatel in the parking lot of whatever mall he was working. My mom smiled wanly, taking my gift and placing it behind the tree, where proud moms the world over hide similar atrocities, from the "Angel Hair" doll made of cat shavings to the King Herod figurine constructed from uncooked elbow macaroni.

But bad Christmas ornaments get much worse than that. The other day, I spotted an ad for the "Merry Christmas From Heaven From Deceased in Pewter" ornament. Supposedly "heaven sent" by your recently departed loved one, it's engraved: I love you dearly / Now don't shed a tear / I'm spending my Christmas / With Jesus this year. Now, I hope to go to heaven as much as the next guy. But if it entails sitting down at a craft table and making treacly baubles to send back home, I'd rather get flame--broiled with the ACLU lawyers and Target clerks.

The dead--relative--in--pewter offering put me on a quest. Combing magazines, catalogs, and a little--known research tool I like to call "the information superhighway," I set out to find the world's worst Christmas ornament. Putting the "no" in "Noël" are porn ornaments, or "pornaments." I won't go into great detail, but suffice it to say Horny the Snowman sports the traditional carrot, though not for his nose.

If the scatological is more to your liking, you might go with the Yule Doo ornament, which looks like something Prancer would leave behind if Santa fed him too much table food. Alcohol is also a big tasteless favorite. Now that the Christmas season officially kicks off after St. Patrick's Day, why not go with the Mug of Green Beer ornament? Sticking with the alcoholism theme, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. And nothing says "Daddy needs to check into Hazelden" like hanging the Yuengling Black & Tan beer--can ornament from your bough.

Political ornaments are also great fun, from Christopher Radko's George W. Bush head, to Dick Cheney's "F- Off" ornament, to the Stop Hate campaign's Matthew Shepard ornament, a plum colored bulb with "Matt" embossed in festive red lettering. The campaign's website recommends explaining it to "very young children" by gathering them around the tree and telling them, "When Matt was in college, he was robbed and beaten to death because he was different than most men." Now who wants wassail!

Being fat Americans, we not only like to look at our Christmas decorations, we like to eat them. That's why you'll find people hanging on the tree everything from chocolate--covered you--name--it to coconut--rolled Rice Krispie treats. In my own house, our nativity--scene manger is guarded by a ruck of strategically placed shepherds who keep our dog from eating the baby Jesus. But he's a dog. He doesn't know any better. Some people eat the Christ child on purpose. Online, I found edible nativity recipes that recommend making Jesus out of everything from a pretzel torso with a marshmallow head, to cocktail smokies wrapped in crescent rolls that suggest swaddling clothes.

Thanks to my wife, my own ornaments are tasteful, perfectly appointed constellations of vibrant blown--glass and Black Forest craftsmanship. Our Christmas music-I'm not so sure about. If she plays Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmas Time" one more time, I'm going to throw a rope around the top of our Scotch pine and hang myself from it, making for the worst Christmas ornament ever. Or maybe the second worst, behind Horny the Snowman.