Twas The Christmassiest Night Before Kwanzaa

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

This is the first year since I converted. I’m Kwanzaa now. I figure: we’ve stolen everything else from black people, site why not this? My family is still on Christmas and they expect material gifts, visit web not the spiritual gifts I offer them. They say my gifts aren’t “real” and have no “value” but I think they’re “ungrateful” and acting like a “poopnami” (that’s a tsunami of poop, prostate best expressed via the emoji combination: 💩🌊).

One year I offered my family the Gift of Song. I sang, “I have no gift for you ba-rum-pa-pum-pum. I am a broke ass comic ba-rum-pa-pum-pum. Lazy ass bum.” They enjoyed that about half as much as you just did.. but I believe it’s their fault for having materialistic expectations.

That was the year we started my favorite Riden family holiday tradition: a contest to see who ruins Christmas first. There’s no official score keeping, just a lot of passive aggressive, “well, it sounds like you’re trying to ruin Christmas” remarks and guesses as to who is in the lead. This isn’t constricted to Christmas, it works for every holiday or event. It’s like a rewards program for being awful.

I don’t think anyone who isn’t young enough to still believe in Santa Claus should expect gifts. When I want something, I just buy it for myself because I’m an adult (according to the court system). The expectation of gifts just because it’s a holiday leads to nothing but disappointment and debt. It leads to people rushing around on Christmas Eve, scrambling to buy stuff for people they barely know or care about.

$20 Gifty Gift Dipping SetThat’s why when you walk in the door, WalMart has a huge pile of Gift-Gifts – generic items that are focus group tested to let people know you spent $20 even though you put zero thought and effort into your purchase. It’s just $20 worth of Gift. Usually something like four crappy chili bowls with a packet of mix and a thing of oyster crackers. Stuff nobody wants or needs.

This includes the as-seen-on-tv novelty item. Snuggies, Singing Fish Plaques, Pocket Hoses, Pedicure Eggs, the Clapper. Whatever is piled up when you walk in the door at Walgreens. The modern day Pet Rocks that you give to people who you hope will think it’s SO dumb that it’s actually come full circle back around to being great.

All of these things are nothing more than a burden upon us, only benefiting our corporate overlords. Even brand new, still in the shrink wrap they’re nothing but Future Yard Sale Items. The best way to keep this crap from cluttering up your house is to drive directly to the Goodwill drop-off. If you’re lucky enough to have multiple Consumas gatherings with different groups, you could also re-wrap and re-gift immediately. Or if you have the storage space, you could save them and re-gift them next year right back to the same people.

A few years ago, my parents gave my brothers and I all the same gift: a dipping oil set with packs of bread sticks & some green bowls and an oil flask. It came in the classic Gift-Gift flat rectangle box shrink wrapped with all the items showing on one side so you know exactly how little the gift giver thinks of you as soon as the wrapping paper is off. I loaded it up in my car along with a pile of similar items and hauled it all home so it could collect dust and make me sad. This time, I busted the package open and used the stuff immediately. It was fine. The little dishes chipped very easily and were thrown away pretty quickly. I forgot all about it until next Christmas.

My brother Kirk had a better plan: he saved his dipping oil Gift-Gift. Next Christmas, we’re opening up gifts and our youngest brother Eric was delighted to find that he was now the owner of TWO dipping oil sets. Everybody thought this was hilarious except for my dad. “Now why is that funny? That’s a good gift!” Eric took the oil set home and packed it away.

The following year I was handed a nicely wrapped package – a box measuring about two feet by one foot by four inches. The shape seemed very familiar. This was a Gifty-Gift if I’ve ever seen one. The FROM tag said Eric was to blame. Guess what it was, everybody? The fabled dipping oil set. Again, everybody laughed except for my Dad. “You should be thankful! That looks cool!”

I stored the box and bided my time. Finally it was Christmassy time again and I couldn’t wait to do the Christmassiest thing I could Christmas up: I wrapped up the dipping oil in the most Christ-y wrapping paper I could find and stuck a bow on it and placed the gift under the plastic, snap-together artificial tree (just like Jesus would do). I sat down criss cross Indian sauce while the kids passed out the gifts to everybody. My dad was excited to see one from me, “Oooooh, this is from Chaaaaaaad!” He tore the wrapping paper away as everybody’s anticipation built.. but when he uncovered Ye Olde Dipping Oil Kit, the explosion of laughter confused him and made him a little mad. “Well I don’t care what people think, *I* appreciate it. Thank you, son.”

People continued opening gifts until everybody was all gifted out. Foods were being fired up left and right but before anybody knew what was happening my dad had opened up the dipping oil package and was attempting to eat it. He was crushed to learn that the bread sticks crumbled to dust at the slightest touch. The cork in the oil flask had rotted. The oil was nowhere to be found. Was it soaked into the cardboard? Had it somehow evaporated? None of us were science-y enough to figure it out. Dad just didn’t understand why were were all so disappointed that he’d opened the box. It was one of the only traditions we had and it was over. People started speculating about who was ruining Christmas the most.

Was it dad’s fault for opening the box? Was it my fault for giving it to my dad? Were my brothers ruining Christmas by trying to make ME out as the one ruining Christmas? Was I ruining Christmas by turning their accusations back around to them? Was my daughter ruining Christmas by pointing out that we’re all ruining Christmas? All I knew was Christmas was ruined and I could never celebrate again. So now I’m Kwanzaa. I spend the holiday drumming and reciting the African Pledge and the Principles of Blackness, lighting kinara candles and doing other fun stuff with corn and whatnot.

I tell people they don’t need to get me gifts and I really mean it. To me, the best gift is the gift of no gifts. If people insist on getting me something, I tell them: I take cash, PayPal, BitCoin and pictures and leave only footprints and the faint scent of cheap swill & beef jerky. Jack Frost chillin’, the hawk is out, and that’s what Chad Riden is all about.

Kwanzaa time in Chad Riden's house

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