Under the tree or under your pants, it’s underwear time 4

Guys, Christmas is right around the corner. And since no Christmas is complete without new underwear, here’s a guide (a brief guide – get it?) to some chones you might have missed. They might not keep your chestnuts roasting when the cold winds blow, but they will protect ’em from electromagnetic radiation, and render farts harmless. More…

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Forget the naughty-or-nice list; this one’s about survival 2

Unless you live in a cave, you’ve probably noticed (starting about Halloween) that Christmas is coming. For lots of us, that means travel and spending time with family. And, love them as we do, getting along with people we see only once a year isn’t always easy (and believe me, it’s not any easier for them).

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Around the world – with Christmas! 6

 

Lots of countries celebrate Christmas, but not all of them mark the holiday in the same ways we do. Here are some of the more unusual Christmas customs.

santaUnited Kingdom

In England, children write their letters to Father Christmas and then throw them into the fireplace, hoping they will float up the chimney and fly to the North Pole. If the lists catch fire first, they have to rewrite them. It is no surprise that English children lead the world in writer’s cramp.

At Christmas dinner, a plum pudding is served with little treasures hidden inside. These bring their finders good luck, and their finders’ dentists vacation homes in Spain. England also originated the custom of hanging mistletoe, as well as the tradition of stealing a kiss underneath it. Given the state of English dentition, this is the only way many English men would ever get a kiss without paying for it.

In Ireland, it is tradition to leave mince pies and bottles of Guinness as a snack for Santa, which helps explain both Santa’s girth and his red nose. In Northern Ireland, a traditional surprise for Santa is a pipe bomb disguised as a cheese log.

Spain

In Spain, Papa Noel delivers presents by climbing up balconies – or at least that’s what he tells husbands who come home unexpectedly. On Jan. 6, the three wise men come and leave gifts for the children. By waiting for the post-Christmas sales they save a bundle, proving that they are not only wise men, but also smart shoppers.

Ukraine

In the Ukraine, Father Frost visits all the children in a sleigh pulled only by three very tired reindeer. He brings with him a youngster named Snowflake Girl, who wears a fur-trimmed costume and a crown shaped like a snowflake. This speaks volumes about Ukrainian child-labor laws.

Italy

In Italy, on the evening of the day after Christmas, children are visited by a good witch named Strega Buffana, who flies around on a broom leaving treats for good children and
coal for naughty children. It is tradition to give a bag of dried lentils to friends to make soup. This bean soup reminds recipients of their humble beginnings, and also helps propel the witch on her journey.

Austria

In Austria, on Dec. 6, Heiliger Nikolaus (St. Nicholas) rewards good children with sweets, nuts and apples. Bad children get a bag of dried lentils.

Lebanon

In Lebanon, families plant seeds of grain in small pots a month before Christmas. When Christmas arrives they have little pots of green to place around the traditional Christmas cave. The Christmas cave houses the Batmobile and … no, wait – that’s another cave. The Christmas cave actually houses a nativity scene.

Australia

In Australia, Santa’s sleigh is pulled by eight white kangaroos. Since it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas dinner is eaten outdoors and is often followed by a visit to the beach and many, many cans of Foster’s lager. Projectile vomiting traditionally takes the place of caroling.

 

Road to Christmas paved with stress, frustration and Rice Krispy Treats 3

Like many people, I traveled over the holidays. And while getting to see family and friends is great, getting to where they are can be a trial.

Every year, we drive to Arkansas to see my wife’s family, and to Oklahoma to see mine. We don’t fly – mainly because I’m a cheap bastard. And the three worst things about driving are owning a tiny car, contending with other motorists who drive worse than I, and road food.

Driving would be OK if we had a grown-up car and not what is basically a go-kart with an mp3 player. Here’s how small our car is: for a couple of weeks after we bought it, we’d park it on the street. And every morning I’d get in and find it was full of bills and junk mail. Turns out the postman had mistaken our new car for the mailbox.

And the traffic! Our route takes us up Interstate 35. Under the best conditions, I-35 is a parking lot. Around Christmas, it’s a parking lot full of cranky, harried, and sleep-deprived people who would rather be just about anywhere else besides stuck in traffic. In other words, people just like me.

Crowded highways are one thing, and DWS (driving while stupid) only makes things worse. For instance, I was driving through Dallas and I noticed that the woman in the lane next to me was texting. As you know, texting while driving is extremely dangerous. I rolled down my window to chastise her and in doing so I spilled my Scrabble tiles all over the floor. And I was just about to nail a triple-word score with “irresponsibility.”

Another drawback to road trips is the food issue. My wife and I are ostensibly vegetarians during the rest of the year. But since most road food joints are heavy on the processed animal products and light on the tofu, being a non-carnivore on the road is not easy. And contrary to what you might think, Red Bull and Rice Krispy Treats do not make a balanced meal. In fact, in sufficient quantities they will induce visions of sugarplums. Great if you’re going to a Phish concert; not so great when visiting the fams.

Road food is also terrible if you’re trying to keep your weight under control. For 51 weeks of the year I try to eat well, plus I work out like a fiend. But I come home after a week away and I’m a lot less Daniel Craig and a lot more Jenny Craig.

The next time I go home for the holidays, instead of driving maybe I should jog.