If you’re feeling a little ho-hum this year, suffering from a bout of the bah-humbugs, maybe it’s time to make Christmas weird again—to rediscover the strangeness (and beauty) of the season.
Because let’s be honest. Christmas is pretty freakin’ weird. If you take a step back from the traditions, the memories, and the warm fuzzies, you’re left with either:
Visits from otherworldly messengers, a scandalous 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, whispers of ancient prophecies, and the idea that this baby, being washed in the water from a cow’s trough, is the very son of God.
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, killing a tree and holding its wake in your living room, a terrifying ballet about a war between rats and toys, and Queen Mariah on repeat.
Some motley combination of them both.
Perhaps weirdest of all , you probably know someone who actually believes one of those histories to be factually true.
Maybe I’m drawn to the oddness of the year-end holiday because I’m one of those people—I believe the world fundamentally changed when Jesus came to Earth. But no matter where you fall on the Nativity or the jolly fat man in the red suit, you’ve probably lost touch with how weird it all is.
Familiarity might breed contempt for some, but it breeds complacency for all the rest of us. We have a history with Christmas that makes all this seem normal. The stories, the songs, and the traditions have been there for us, year after year, for as long as we can remember. So we don’t bat an eye at a reindeer with an LED nose, a snowman that leads kids to the North Pole, or a star in the sky marking the birth of the Messiah.
Remember Christmas as a child, and how you felt surprise, amazement, and even belief in things that seemed unlikely or even impossible? I think that wonder is still supposed to be part of Christmas. I believe the God who created the entire universe came to earth as a baby, born from a teenage mom who’d never had sex before, in the backwater town of Bethlehem. Angels announced the birth, stars shone in the sky, and nothing about life on this planet has ever been the same again. It’s weird… and wonderful.
So if your Christmas feels like it’s stuck in the same old rut, here are five jumping-off points you’ll never find on the Hallmark Channel, specifically chosen to help you reclaim that magical (cough, weird, cough) time of the year:
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
“What’s this? What’s this?” It’s been 30 years, and honestly, I still don’t know. What I have learned, however, is that popularity and normalcy don’t always walk hand-in-hand. Case in point: Tim Burton’s 1993 stop-motion masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas. Is it a Halloween movie? A Christmas movie? No idea, but it’s 100% 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 into Christmas. And like all good drama, there’s unrequited love, multiple kidnappings, and a gambling-addicted boogeyman. Did I mention it’s a musical? Nightmare turned 30 this year, proving you don’t age out of weirdness. It’s found a home on the House of Mouse and even has a singalong version. And because of Jack, you don’t have to take down your Halloween yard decorations till January now—slap a Santa Hat on that skeleton, and you’re good to go. Thanks, Nightmare.
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 Goes Straight to the Ghetto. It really is a gem. It 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? Nostalgia never dies. And neither does Snoop.
THE PLOT TO OVERTHROW CHRISTMAS
Who can forget the heartwarming Christmas tale of Satan’s plot to murder Santa Claus, with help from fiends like Ivan the Terrible, brutal Roman Emperors Caligula and Nero, and femme fatale Lucrezia Borgia? That’s the actual storyline from the radio special The Plot to Overthrow Christmas. Realizing that Christmas is the one time of year that 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. First performed in 1938, The Plot became a staple of Christmas radio in the years before television. Speaking of: Jordan Peele, please make this into a film. Love, me.
By far, the weirdest thing you can do as this Christmas season comes to its sharpest point is to say “no” to something. Seriously. The pressure to attend every party, every function, and 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, take that time slot as a gift, and use it in a way that gives you life and energy. Say no to the office party and spend that two hours at your favorite coffee shop with a good book; skip the annual Christmas musical and get some Vitamin D on a hike through the woods; or forgo the Christmas photo, itchy sweaters and all, and do a family game night instead. Time is a present everyone robs from themselves. Be weird this Christmas, and take it back. If/when someone complains, tell them you’re practicing Biblical wisdom. Hard to argue with that.
Okay, so that last one might have been a little bait-and-switchy. Here’s one more. I saved my favorite for last:
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 on cryptozoology and holiday cheer, Christmas Unicorn, you’ll realize it’s pretty hard to out-weird Sufjan. This year, embrace your inner weirdness with Sufjan’s Yule Log, a complete listen-through of his holiday music set to the crackle of a fireplace. It’ll only take you about five hours to get through it all. God bless us, everyone.
This year, may your Christmas be merry, bright, and a little more weird.
Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.