Holidays from Hell: The best of our worst holiday stories

Dozing in the living room after an exhausting day, I was awakened by the faint smell of smoke. The Hungry Man in the oven was half an hour overdone. It had burst into flames and smoke was filling the kitchen. Earlier that day, the extended family had been over for Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone had enough after-dinner drinks to put them in for the night and had decided to leave cleanup until the morning. The dining room table was still cluttered with dirty dishes, several empty wine bottles, and a half-eaten turkey that the cat had been picking at all evening. This all looked rather pathetic in the haze of the smoke that was filling the room. Soon, giant flames began leaping out of the kitchen door, and I was pinned down in fear, unable to move or to make a sound. I stood motionless as the dining room table caught ablaze and waves of fire began crashing at my feet. A column of fire, burning brighter than the rest of the conflagration rose in front of my eyes, hissing loudly. For a minute, it pulsated and churned before me until it seemed that the features of a human face were appearing from within the flame. It was the face of an old man with a long, knotted beard. He spoke and his voice was booming, causing the whole house to shake with its vibrations: “Beware! Something veeerry bad is going to happen.” I blacked out. I awoke, scratched and bruised in a strange forest, my skin caked with dirt. This must have been the worst Thanksgiving ever. (J. “Diggs” Manning)

My family has always enjoyed honoring the religious sanctity of the Christmas season in fine Catholic tradition: getting piss-drunk. One standout year, my uncle had Christmas at his house and invited our family (circa 20 people) and his wife’s family as well. To preface, my family’s standards for propriety are, well, nonexistent; favorite mealtime stories include recounting how much so-and-so pooped when they were born, insisting that X female family member has gained weight, or how bad Uncle’s farts smell (a fact recounted with some measure of pride). My aunt’s family comes from the upper echelons of society–not bound to mix well with us crust-of-the-earth. As the night wore on, cups were emptied and presents were unwrapped. My uncle received a Big Mouth Billy Bass, which is, for those of you who are blissfully unaware, an animatronic fish that sings a happy song and dances. My uncle turned it on to test it out, and everyone crowded around. Thrilled with their new discovery, my family felt the itch and slowly began to dance. The circle soon forgot all social mores and degenerated into a cycling, worshipful frenzy, all raising their arms in unison with the talking fish. Screaming with joy, we had all become Kurtz with the natives, sucked into a primeval pit of occultism on the day of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Baby Jesus watched helplessly from his manger under the tree as his birthday party was ruined by ecstatic paganism. Dodging flying beads of sweat, my aunt’s family, hands primly in their laps, granted themselves the freedom to let their jaws drop in horror, perhaps contemplating blackmailing my aunt into a divorce or reporting my family’s heresy to the local Inquisitor. Of my kin, I alone escaped the crown’s stocks by fortune of being fourteen at the time. This means that instead of participating in the ritual, I sat sullenly in a corner and listened to Rage Against the Machine. Let this be a lesson: always, always rely on an inflated sense of self-importance to deliver you from the herd mentality sins of the holiday season. (Ellen Sue Mazelthorpe)