The Twelve Rules of Christmas

The holiday season can be overwhelming and stressful. Nothing — not church or the TV specials or the holiday episodes of our favorite sitcoms — can solve everything that pops up and threatens our jolliness. But follow these rules and you might actually survive Christmas and make the season that much merrier.

12. Swear Off Lists
Want lists, that is. Unless you’re under the age of thirteen, Christmas lists lead to hoarding and support materialism, which we learned from the Whos down in Whoville just isn’t the way to go. Yes, it’s sort of nice to know which specific scent of lotion from Bath and Body Works your mom prefers. But seriously, in the end, you're just filling an order (and where's the Christmas spirit in that?).

11. Sing
December is the only month of the year when singing in front of your neighbor’s house without being invited is okay. (They might actually invite you in for egg nog.) But if you have the good sense not to go caroling — this isn't the eighteenth century, after all — there’s music everywhere, so sing in your car, whistle in public, hum as you shop. It’s almost impossible to be stressed while you’re humming “Up on the Rooftop.” Give it a shot, Ebeneezer.

10. Ham
I know most of the traditional Christmas dinners include goose, but we also used to put vegetables in jello, so "classic" does not necessarily mean "delicious." And leave the turkey for Thanksgiving: Not only is it tricky to get right (as National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation so successfully taught us), but great pumpkin, Charlie Brown, leave something for Thanksgiving that isn't overshadowed by the seasonal juggernaut that is Yule.

What should you eat? Ham, and cook it yourself (I prefer mine with a double-brown-sugar glaze, as do all rational people) or get it from one of the many holiday ham sources around town. Either way, it’s good the day of and for sandwiches the week after. After all, yumminess is why we invented pigs.

9. Send Cards
We’re in a weird era right now in America (and I’m not making a Trump comment here). We all love getting Christmas cards, and we’re a little bummed that no one seems to do it anymore. But most of us don’t bother sending any ourselves. Be the change you want to see in the world and start sending some Christmas cards. It doesn’t matter if they’re religious, secular, Santa- or Snoopy-themed — they make people happy, and that’s the reason for the season. Bonus: Getting back into this habit might help save the floundering U.S. Post Office. The Cliff Clavins of America will thank you.

8. Bill Murray Got It Right
Scrooged is a modern classic played both for laughs and for the tugged heartstrings. And the epiphany that Frank Cross has at the end of the movie — you know, the one that ends up breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience as the credits roll — is actually pretty right-on in terms of what this holiday season means, no matter your religious or philosophical persuasion. Christmas is the one time of year when “we are the people we always hoped we would be.” Put a little love in your heart.

7. Candles, Candles, Candles…Just Not on the Tree
There’s something soft and festive about actual fire. Not all of us have fireplaces, or firepits or the ability and/or recklessness to build a bonfire in our back forty. But we can light a candle, or a bunch of candles. They literally and figuratively can stave off the darkness, and they're beautiful. Just don’t put them on the tree like they did back in the early days of Christmas, when things were slightly more charming and 675 percent more dangerous.

Keep reading for six more Christmas rules.

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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen