Make Christmas weird again

SELF | Caleb Mathis | 6 mins

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Let’s be honest. Christmas is pretty freakin’ weird. If you take a step back from the traditions, the memories, the warm fuzzies, the fireplaces and hot chocolate, you’re left with:

Visits from other worldly messengers, a preteen pregnancy, a burdensome road-trip, the worst hotel luck of all time (one star Yelp reviews for every chain in Bethlehem), barn animals as doulas and shepherds as attending nurses, whispers of ancient prophecies, and the idea that this little baby, being washed in the water from a cow’s trough, is the very son of God.

OR

Midnight home invasions by a fat man in a red suit; chimney travel; the enslavement of an entire race of elves (who seem totally okay with living in the arctic and making toys all year), flying caribou, houses made of cookies, a bald little boy’s inability to direct a Christmas play, planting a tree squarely in your living room, a terrifying ballet commemorating the war between rats and toys, and what’s a sugar plum fairy anyway?

OR

A motley combination of them both.

AND

Perhaps weirdest of all — you probably know someone who actually believes one of those histories to be factually true.

Maybe it’s because I’m one of those people (the world fundamentally changed when Jesus came to Earth and I’m truly grateful that God loves us that deeply) that I’m drawn to the oddness of the year-end holiday. But no matter where you fall on factuality of the Nativity, or even Santa Claus for that matter, you’ve probably lost touch with how weird it all is. Why is that? Because of our history with them. The stories, songs, and traditions have been there for us, year after year, for as long as we can remember. They’re as familiar as a warm blanket and our favorite pillow. And they’ve become “normal” in the process.

But the power of magic is in its ability to surprise, to amaze, to bend our minds in a direction they’ve never ventured before — to embrace the weird. If you’re feeling a little ho-hum, a twinge of bah-humbug this year, maybe it’s time to make Christmas weird again.

And, as it just so happens, here are five weird jumping off points for you this Christmas:

Sufjan Stevens Christmas music

Sufjan Stevens is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who once wrote a seven-movement symphony based on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. So there’s that. When it comes to Christmas, Sufjan’s an overachiever — 100 songs, collected over 11 years, and released on two albums: Songs for Christmas and Silver and Gold. There are new takes on old favorites like the 9-minute electronica of Do You Hear What I Hear? and original compositions like a much-needed hymn to holiday relationship woe, Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!). Once you stumble onto his 12-minute opus to cryptozoology and holiday cheer, Christmas Unicorn, you’ll know it’s pretty hard to out-weird Sufjan.

The plot to overthrow Christmas

Who can forget the heartwarming Christmas tale of Satan’s plot to murder Santa Claus, with help from such fiends as conqueror Ivan the Terrible, brutal Roman Emperors Caligula and Nero, and femme fatale Lucrezia Borgia? That’s the actual storyline from the 1930’s radio special The Plot to Overthrow Christmas. Realizing that Christmas is the one time of year people begin to slip from his grasp, Satan gathers his minions to a conference on how to overthrow the season of good cheer. The lot falls to Nero to travel to the North Pole and murder jolly old Saint Nick and…. well… I won’t ruin the end for you. Check it out for yourself, here.

Christmas on death row

Lest you think west coast gangsta rap lacked holiday cheer, the 1996 roster of Death Row Records proudly presents an entire album of yuletide hip-hop joy — the aptly named, Christmas on Death Row. Among old favorites like Frosty the Snowman, White Christmas and Party 4 Da Homies, is the standout track featuring Nate Dogg and Snoop Dogg: Santa Claus Is Going Straight to the Ghetto. It really is a gem. And takes me back to middle school in the mid-90s, when gangsta rap ruled everything. And you thought “Christmas in Hollis” was all we had to work with?

Say no

By far, the weirdest thing you can do as this Christmas season comes to a close is to say “no” to something. Seriously. The pressure to attend every party, every function, every family dinner can be exhausting. And it leaves us with short fuses, tired bodies and jumbled up minds. So give yourself a present. Say “no” to an invitation, and then give yourself that time slot as a gift, to use in a way that gives you life and energy. Say no to the office party, take that two hours, and sit at your favorite coffeeshop with a book. Or skip the annual Christmas musical and sit on your couch with a hot drink and a Christmas movie. Time is a present that everyone robs from themselves. Be weird this Christmas, and take it back.

Okay, that last one was a bait and switch. You’re right. So here’s one more for you:

The nightmare before Christmas

Popularity doesn’t necessarily equate to normalcy. Case in point: Tim Burton’s 1993 stop-motion masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas. Is it a Halloween movie? A Christmas movie? I don’t know, but it’s definitely weird. The story follows Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, his growing disillusionment with the holiday fate assigned to him, and the unexpected consequences of his attempt to push himself into Christmas. And like all good drama, there’s unrequited love, multiple kidnappings, and a gambling-addicted boogeyman. And did I mention it’s a musical? Best of all: it’s streaming on Netflix.

May your Christmas be merry, bright, and a little more weird.

Written by Caleb Mathis on Dec 21, 2017