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It’s officially crunch time…and not the kind overachiever-exercisers do.  Christmas is upon us.  Normally, I shout my holiday proclamation from the rooftops (and believe me, it still applies), but as much as I love Christmas, some people can’t say the same.  Although I’m not usually one to discuss the negative side of the holidays, I know they happen.  In fact, I’ve sat through those Christmases – the ones where the words to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas have to be talking to you.  There have been sad ones, awkward ones, and bastards sitting across the table eating my share of the mashed potatoes and gravy.  But it’s Christmas and nobody wants to mention that or even think about it, but this is one thing I’m an expert at.  So whether you are counting the seconds (like I am this year) or dreading it like the plague, I have a few tips to make your holiday merrier (or at least less painful than a dental appointment) so you can deck the halls and not a family member.

Tip #1:  Show up with something new for everyone to try.  Now, I’m referring to a new spicy beef jerky, peppermint bark fudge, or pumpkin pie pudding shots, but probably not new whips ala 50 Shades of Gray.  Just sayin’.  The fact of the matter is that by passing out something for everyone to try you have instantly given them a common, neutral-ground topic and a discussion piece.  No awkward silence.  No disaster commentary on politics, just the simple wonders of your culinary skills or even your lack thereof.  (Hey, it’s amazing how making fun of your flat, burnt bread brings a smile to everyone else’s face.  Sometimes, you just have to be the sacrificial lamb for the sake of the cause.  It is Jesus’ birthday, after all.)

Tip #2:  Be the master of gag gifts.  No, you don’t have to buy a gag gift for everyone, but if Grandma Sally had to borrow 7-year-old Jeffery’s sunglasses at the Cubs game and you have a selfie of it, I do believe it’s your duty to share a copy with the whole family or if Cousin Jerry hit Bambi 5 times this year, I do believe he deserves some deer whistles for his truck for Christmas.  A couple of well-selected gag gifts loosen everybody up.  My poor niece who’s 16 with a long-time boyfriend still gets cootie spray, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

Tip #3:  As my hubs would say, don’t be afraid to throw a little money at it.  Twenty bucks can go a long way to buying dorky ties or stocking caps or scarves for everyone to wear in the family Christmas photo.  There’s something about the “when we’re all in this together” mood that makes the holidays more fun.  Nothing says Joyous Noel like rockin’ blue sequined, reindeer antler hats.

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Tip #4:  Go to church.  Nothing brings out the good will and good nature of people more than listening to the true Christmas story.  If 3 wise men can cross a desert to see a newborn child, your family can probably suck it up and play nice for a couple of hours.  Christmas lights, candles, and Hark, the Herald Angels Sing put everyone on their best behavior.

Tip #5:  Get some sleep.  For the love of God (literally), get some rest.  Everyone’s a lot less likely to get offended or be offensive with the proper amount of shut-eye.  8 hours makes for a non-cranky in-law or child.  I should know.  I’ve been accused of both. Lol.  So whether the cake is burnt or the bread half-baked, it’s better it than you.

Tip #6:  Should all else fail, break out the brown bottles or the pouches of pink, fuzzy drinks.  At our house, we’re the Southern Comfort and 7-up crowd, or as we prefer to think of it:  it’s just a light orange juice spritzer.  Bottom line:  you can always cut the tension with a couple of alcoholic beverages (maybe not too many, we don’t want their “real” opinions, just enough to put on a happy face or at least make the night a little blurry).  Hand out drinks to everybody.  Don’t you dare skip Grandma or Aunt Edna – 90 or 21, you still deserve a koozie in hand.  (I recommend the brown bottles of cream soda or root beer for the kids, too – one and all.)  Something to hold in your hands and something to kick the inhibitions makes for a pain-free party.    Should the toasting get started, hold onto your sequined hats.  You never know when Aunt Edna will start that round of strip poker.  But hey, at least you’ll have a good story for the New Year’s party!

Honestly, I hope you don’t need these tips.  Naturally, I hope there are smiles, hugs, and jolly, Santa laughs wherever you go when you get there, but if not, here’s your chance to bestow some Christmas cheer (or at the very minimum, a drunken Christmas haze)!

That said, Merry Christmas and pass the eggnog!

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Got some ideas to add to the list?  Have a great Christmas story to add?  Think these might be helpful?  I’m awaiting your comments.

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