Holidays in the South
With Christmas right around the corner, it’s hard not to think of the winter season. Well, it’s the winter season to some of you. In Texas, December is light–to-heavy jacket weather. Maybe a hat, if there’s wind. Nevertheless, I love me some Christmas, and as you might imagine we have plenty of fun traditions all our own. This year, I wanted to give you a little insight into what Christmas is like in the sorts of Texas towns where I grew up.
The Annual Christmas Tree Hunt
Now, I know in the north you all like to take your trees helpless, but down here we appreciate a little sport to our holidays. Starting on December first, various tree farms will uproot a section per night, allow the pines to steady themselves, then fire a shot to send them running. Since trees, even when uprooted, are pretty damn slow, we give them a ten-minute head-start, sipping hot chocolate and rum while we wait.
Once the ten minutes have passed, it’s all hands-on deck as we run after them. You might think you hunt Christmas trees with guns, but the bark is too hard, and also they don’t have any vital organs, because duh, they’re trees. The real trick is ropes. You need to trip it down to the ground, then get it bound before the branches do too much damage to anyone. Don’t worry, once you’ve got your tree home and re-planted in a pot, it will calm down and accept ornaments.
True, the other way is more convenient, yet I prefer our tree hunts. It’s a real bonding experience, and a rite of passage. Then again, you lot probably don’t have to fight your trees after New Year’s, when it’s time to set them on the curb.
Traditional eggnog uses alcohol by necessity, using a small amount of bourbon to cook the egg yolks and make them safe for consumption. Whiskey-nog is a little more complicated. It uses bourbon to cook the eggs, them rum to cook the bourbon, then whiskey to cook the rum, then shine to cook it all. How it’s made is a great secret possessed only by a few of the maddest hillfolk.
Getting some whiskey-nog isn’t especially hard, just time consuming. You drive out to the field where the high school kids light shit on fire and drink (every town had one) just before dusk. Set down a duffel bag full of cash, cigarettes, ping-pong balls, and at least ten pulled pork sandwiches (don’t you dare forget the coleslaw on top) down in the middle of the field. Let out a long whistle code, or just yell “Booze!” and then close your eyes for ten seconds. When you open them, the bag will be filled with whiskey-nog.
Aside from a great seasonal beverage, whiskey-nog is practical to keep around the house. You can strip grease off any surface, give a cat temporary human speech capabilities, or add it to a soup and watch what happens when diced vegetables get drunk as hell. One note of warning if you come visit and are offered any whiskey-nog: you want to drink it sitting down. At the first taste, most people either pass out, shit their pants, or both. Sitting down will keep you covered on multiple fronts.
Shells for Santa
Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking, and we are not so far gone as a culture that we wait out trying to shoot Santa Claus. No, the reason we all wait up on Christmas Eve is to help Santa as he makes his deliveries. Between the harpies, dark wizards, and general nare-do-wells harassing the poor old man, it’s a miracle he gets the route done at all. When he comes through our regions, we make sure to take some of the heat off his tail. The silver bullets and anti-curse magic enchantments aren’t cheap, but it helps that we always get a resupply in our Christmas gifts from an appreciative Santa.
A nice consequence of this is that once we’ve collected everything that got shot down, the whole town comes together for a nice midnight meal of magical stew. It’s usually 90% harpy, they do not like Santa, with a bit of wizard, gargoyle, and even the rogue demon mixed in. Eating that simmered pile of mystical meat ensures everyone has the most magical Christmas dreams possible. Plus, every now and then someone will get horns or powers as a side-effect. An unexpected present, and sometimes a useful tool for next year’s battle.
Most folks will put a small present in a big box and call that a day in terms of gift subterfuge. Not down here, we take our misdirection wrapping very seriously. Wizard blood will make a present that seems to shift in size every time a person looks at it, so save some if you kill any evil wizards giving Santa hell. A more accessible option is to build complex mechanical traps that activate the moment the wrapping paper is pierced, turning each present’s unwrapping into a test of wits and dexterity.
Those are all for the smaller gifts, mind you. The Big Gift, the major present of the year, is its own obstacle. Each child is given a set of safety scissors, a shield, and a prayer for strength. No one knows why the Big Gift always comes to life and fights being unwrapped, although our most ignored scholars keep yelling it’s because we’re annually soaking the region in the blood and viscera of magical creatures. The point is, when the Big Gift starts to move, only the one it is destined for may tear away its paper covering.
Granted, the practice can be worrying at times, and I do wish my younger brother had survived the Matchbox Car Set of 89, however there’s something to be said for the thrill of sitting there on Christmas Day, cuts on your hands and face, wrapping paper strewn about the room, holding a prize you’ve fought tooth and nail to claim. Is it worth the pain and lost lives? Probably not, but honestly the whole ordeal is still safer than walking through a Texas parking lot on a sunny summer day, so we make peace with it.