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I was in my car yesterday, heading east toward Montgomery Village and listening to some classic Christmas songs on Pandora when “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” came on.  “Yeah, right” I thought; if it’s really that great why do so many people seem unhappy?  Heck, I went all over Santa Rosa today and had at least three people either shake a fist or a finger at me (yes THAT finger).  It could be, as I’ve stated in the past, that I’m an absolutely horrible driver and had it coming or maybe people are under a lot of stress.

I did come across a few very friendly individuals today, one guy who was shopping for peppermint patties at a local discount retailer was extremely pleasant to chat with; the young man who rang up my purchases was very nice and appropriately professional considering his job in retail and the time of year. That being said, I have been encountering an increasing number of strangers and a few friends who are anxious and cranky.  This is, as I said above, not at all uncommon at Christmas.

I remember one year, my mother decided to forgo a Christmas tree; we used artificial trees from the time I was an infant because I had and have horrible allergies and would become ill as soon as a fresh cut tree entered our home.  As I was saying, my mother decided not to put up our large artificial tree but rather use a smaller one (I think she called it a feather tree) which seemed fine to my dad and me when she mentioned it; my brother who lived away from home didn’t discover this development until Christmas eve and quite frankly was not pleased.  After a short period of complaining, our mother acquiesced and the Morton men jumped into action moving furniture and then heading for our storage area; there were a few things to rearrange, and then we could reach the tree which was up on a shelf.

One of us, who shall remain nameless, grabbed the tree and started pulling; somehow he lost his grip and the large box came crashing down and hit him right in the head.  “Merry fudging Christmas!!!” he exclaimed.  Only he didn’t say fudge.  The moment was so filled with holiday frustration, irritation and angst we were all briefly horrified.

That horror turned to laughter pretty quickly and a new family saying was born.  Not one that makes my mother terribly happy, mind you, but it has become a way of naming our frustration at common annoyances while simultaneously providing comic relief.  It has been more than twenty years since these events and I am pretty certain at least one of us has exclaimed “merry fudging Christmas!!!” during each of the intervening Christmas seasons.

A funny and somewhat profane exclamation has become one of my personal coping skills for dealing with holiday frustrations.  My others, of course, involve watching television.  There are many fine holiday movies that show each year and Christmas 2013 is no different.  I’ve mentioned a few already, but I thought it would worthwhile to offer some others:

Frosty The Snowman (1968) is a fun Christmas classic by famed animators and stop motion icons Rankin and Bass and it is available as one continuous video with Frosty Returns (1992) on YouTube.  If you have over-stimulated children running around and need forty-eight minutes of quiet on Christmas day, sit the kids down in front of the computer and hit play below.

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas (1974) is another Rankin and Bass classic and is based on the famous 1823 poem.  This video offers somewhat better quality than many of the other Christmas cartoons on YouTube which is almost enough to recommend it; the fact that it was directed by the famous duo makes it a must see.  The best part is that together with the one above you’ll get over an hour of time to work, talk or do whatever adults do on Christmas.

A Christmas Story (1983) will be airing in a marathon on TBS Christmas day, so check listings or set your DVR, and prepare to do what we’ve all done for the past thirty years, laugh hysterically when Ralphie kicks the crap out of Scut Farcus, or mother drops the bowling ball somewhere she shouldn’t or when the “Sonsabitches Bumpas’ dogs!” steal the turkey, or when Ralphie finally gets the object of his desire (a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock) and, what the heck, shoots his eye out!

Scrooged (1988) is a hilarious retelling of Dickens’ famous A Christmas Carol featuring Bill Murray as a network executive who has lost his humanity and Christmas spirit and is visited by three ghosts who help him get it back.  Also starring is Robert Mitchum as the nutty network chairman who wants to create programming specifically for pets, and Bobcat Goldthwaite as an angry, fired employee who ends up helping Murray’s Frank Cross make everything right.  Rounding out the cast are John Forsythe as this story’s Marley’s Ghost and Karen Allen as the long lost love who cares enough to show up when Cross calls.  This film is available for digital rental on Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, and Sony Entertainment for $2.99 or Redbox Instant for $1.99.

If you’re having a stressful day tomorrow, go ahead and use my mantra “merry fudging Christmas!!!” Better yet, take a deep breath, grab a seat in front of the TV and have some laughs.

- John Morton

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