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Deck the Halls!: Sam's Guide to Christmas Cheer

Christmas time is here! The halls are bedecked, the stockings hung by the chimney with care, the glittery tinsel providing and choking/lead-poisoning hazards to curious kitties everywhere. But maybe you’re not quite feeling the Christmas Spirit. Maybe the lines at the malls are just pissing you off. Maybe you’re feeling downright Grinch-y. Well, as a person whose entire raison d’être is Christmas, I thought it might be helpful to offer a guide to easing oneself into the joy of Christmas. With me as your swami, your Scrooge-y exterior will wash away, and soon you’ll be watching Miracle on 34th Street while cross-stitching stockings for the neighborhood poor.

My advice, first and foremost, is to avoid ABC Family’s "25 Days of Christmas". As tempting as watching an adorable, young, round-faced Daniel Radcliffe might be, do not succumb. Mostly because, even though there’s a Christmas scene in it, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is not a Christmas movie. If we held every movie to that standard, then Mean Girls, Sleepless in Seattle, and You've Got Mail would all be considered Christmas movies. And let me tell you, you’re not going to be feeling too jolly when Harry is melting Quirrell’s face off with his bare hands. Plus, airing Harry Potter is just a ruse to get you to watch their absolutely abysmal original programming. Christmas in Handcuffs? Christmas Cupid? They’re like softcore porn for the whole family. Melissa Joan Hart’s career is dead, you guys. Let’s stop trying to resurrect it.

If you’re going to watch original programming, go for Lifetime. What they lack in quality they make up for in sincerity, and there’s nothing like watching Kristen Chenoweth fall in love while snowflakes that never melt fall gracefully on her golden curls to get you in the Christmas spirit. If you’re not a fan of Lifetime Original Movies (which is probably why we’re not friends) and still want to watch something Christmas-y without diving into Christmas glee of Elf, try watching Christmas episodes of your favorite TV show. The Chrismukkah episodes of The O.C. seasons 1 and 2 never fail to get me in the Christmas spirit (I weep every time Kirsten emerges from the closet crying, finally accepting her father’s illegitimate love child as her half-sister and the girlfriend of her adopted son), and, while quite heavy, the Christmas episodes of The West Wing will certainly give you fuzzy yuletide feelings. Just get your box set, pop in what’s usually the second disc, and let the holiday cheer wash over you.

It’s also necessary to ease yourself into Christmas when it comes to music. While just turning on your local Christmas radio station may be temptingly easy, switching over without proper preparation is the height of folly. My friends, there is some terrible Christmas music out there, and radio stations don’t generally make a distinction between the joyful and the awful, playing whatever they want with no regard to the fledgling Christmas-y feelings they are destroying with "Christmas Shoes" and "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" (the feature-length cartoon version of that song is frequently aired on the "25 Days of Christmas", just so everyone gets how awful that promotion is). I guarantee you that if you turn one of those Christmas stations on, within four songs you’ll switch back to NPR. So again, it’s important to ease yourself into the Christmas spirit, much like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water. Start with a Christmas album by a band you normally enjoy. She & Him just released a Christmas album, Pink Martini has a fun omni-holiday collection, and Sufjan Stevens has a whole freaking anthology. If that’s still too much to handle, make a playlist of some high-quality, non-Christmas music and throw a few of your favorite Christmas songs in. That way, “Call Your Girlfriend” will be followed by U2 singing “Baby Please Come Home”, thus lighting the tiniest flame of Christmas spirit in your cold, busy, unfeeling heart.

And once that spark is there, it’s easy to grow it into a blazing bonfire of yuletide joy! If you can successfully avoid the annoying things about Christmas ("25 Days of Christmas", television ads featuring Christmas, malls) and immerse yourself in the wonderful aspects of the holidays, every day can become jollier and jollier! Everyone has their own path to eventual oneness with the Christmas Spirit, and it’s important that you follow your own personal way. Perhaps you watch those old Claymation Christmas films and wallow in nostalgia for Christmases past. Perhaps you listen to a million different versions of “Merry Xmas (War is Over)” on Pandora while making your millionth Christmas list. Or perhaps, like me, you watch sappy Christmas movies like Love Actually and It’s a Wonderful Life, and, yes, Elf and weep with unadulterated Christmas Joy. Do whatever works best for you.

But if all else fails, just listen to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” There’s so enough Christmas Cheer in that song to make even the grinchiest of hearts melt with love.

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