H.P. Lovecraft: A horrifying crash course to prepare you for the H.P. Lovecraft Holiday Special

Tired of nativity scenes and that jolly old man in the red suit? Looking for a new way to celebrate the holidays, maybe one that's full of horrors from beyond time and space? You're in luck: The H.P. Lovecraft Holiday Special that opens tomorrow at Wesley Chapel in Boulder should be just the thing to offset the sugary entertainment overload of the season.

Still not sure about this whole eldritch horror for the holiday idea? Keep reading for our crash course in H.P. Lovecraft.

See also: - Event: H.P. Lovecraft Holiday Special - Cthulhu does Lovecraft some justice - 8 things every horror movie needs

5) Who the hell is H.P. Lovecraft? Howard Phillips Lovecraft was a turn of the century (that'd be last century, not this one) horror writer who more or less revolutionized the genre. Stephen King calls him the greatest practitioner of horror -- and King knows a thing or two about horror. Like most geniuses, he was largely unappreciated in his own time and died poor. Before that happened, he wrote some of the most original and mind-bogglingly strange fiction (we better pray it's fiction, anyway) of all time. Secret realities that existed in parallel to our own and elder gods that wait for the right alignment of the stars to unleash their fury and dark hungers on mankind are just some of the highlights. He was also a child prodigy (he read at two and published his first work at nine), so there's that.

4) So what did this guy write, anyway? He wasn't terribly prolific, but he did write a few dozen short stories and a handful of short novels (novellas, if you prefer). His most famous creation is Cthulhu, an enormous creature with a head like a squid, a scaled body and rudimentary wings whose very existence is so alien and terrifying that simply perceiving it can destroy your mind. Cthulhu is known to hang with some other freakish things, all of which predate humanity, collectively known as the elder gods. They're all pretty nasty.

His other infamous creation is the Necronomicon, which a fictional book of spells for the care and feeding of elder gods. You don't want to read that one right before bed. Anyway, you could probably make your way through his collected works in a week or two, depending on how fast you read. Here's the list to get you started.

3) I'm pretty sure I never read any of those, but I have definitely heard about this Cthulhu. What gives? Lovecraft was wildly influential, even in his own time. Some of his contemporaries jumped on the Cthulhu bandwagon and ran with it, notably August Derleth (who coined the phrase Cthulhu Mythos) and Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian. Conan is actually part of the Cthulhu Mythos, for what it's worth. His work has also been adapted into nearly every medium known to man, including video games, lots of shitty movies, one of the all-time great tabletop RPGs and at least one Metallica song.

2) Man, this Cthulu thing gets around, doesn't it? Is it always awful and evil and nasty? No. Sometimes it is adorable and plush, as this photo shows.

Every baby should have one.

1) What H.P. Lovecraft tales will be adapted for this H.P. Lovecraft party? According to this excellent writeup, you will hear adaptations of "The Call of Cthulhu," which concerns the discovery and awakening of the aforementioned elder god. You also get "From Beyond," which is about a machine that allows the perception of an alternate reality, full of nasty alien things, that overlaps our own. Finally, there's "The Dunwich Horror," about an unfortunate family secret involving Yog-Sothoth (another elder god) and an attempt to check the Necronomicon out from the library. All of those are considered classics, so you're in for a treat. Just don't be surprised if instead of dreaming of sugar plums afterward, you instead dream of alien landscapes inhabited by squirming monstrosities that exist in non-Euclidean dimensions, waiting for a chance to push their way into this world and devour and enslave us all.

Happy holidays!

The H.P Lovecraft Holiday Special opens at 8 p.m. tomorrow, with shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday through December 21. Find more information here.