SN&R fixes the holidays

A strapping newspaper editor dares to build a new, better season of giving. You won’t believe what happens next!

That's Maxfield Morris, America's youngest living calendar editor.

That's Maxfield Morris, America's youngest living calendar editor.

Photo by Anne Stokes

I still remember it; that cold, dark and quiet Wednesday. Before families sent their children to bed, rain pattered down in tiny kisses. A perfect night for caroling.

My friends and I wanted to spread holiday cheer in Fair Oaks. We dressed up in colorful sweaters, scarves and Santa hats and printed lyrics for the classics: “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bell Rock” and “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

Sheepish footsteps shuffled as we approached the first house, past the lawn and onto the landing. We rang the bell and huddled.

A man opened the door and dropped his jaw, confused. Before he could protest, we sang. Hesitantly at first, none eager to be the loudest. Eventually, we got into the swing of things and trusted each other’s voices.

That was one of the best Halloweens ever.

You read that right—caroling on Halloween! That’s the only time I advocate singing at someone’s door, when they’re expecting someone else. We took a yuletide tradition and cherry-picked it from the most stressful, disappointing, commercialized time of the year.

Slow down there, me—I do like a bunch about the holidays, but the next few months are guaranteed to disappoint. There’s less daylight, fewer pool parties, many expectations and high pressure, and you’ll probably end up doing whatever you did last year. Targeted advertising means Google knows what you want already, and Kris Kringle is checking to see if you’re being a good consumer.

There must be another way.

Join me, Maxfield Morris, as we take the season by the horns and wrangle out a new holiday from unwieldy traditions, as we wrench the means of joy-production from the frost-bitten hands of the Santa-industrial-complex and exercise our right to a weirder, sillier, more individual year-end.

Keep reading if you want it all.

Did you keep reading? Get out of here, you’re not serious about this.

Still here? OK, let’s get down to serious holiday business.


Before shopping malls and Black Friday sales, before Saint Nick creeped through neighborhoods, there was a purer season. I’m speaking, of course, of the Upper Cretaceous Period, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, fidget spinners were notoriously hard to come by and demand for Tickle Me Elmos was at an all-time low.

Inside a cave, there gathered a family of majestic, duck-billed creatures—hadrosaurs celebrating with a raw, vegan meal of plant matter and the usual traditions: trading presents, playing games and avoiding their deaths at the claws of voracious predators. Not to diminish the carnivores’ tradition of eating other creatures; everybody does the holidays their own way, after all!

The smallest hadrosaur was Tina, and she didn’t like the usual. She was tired of the gift exchanges—More leaves this year? Thanks, Mom—and the pressure to be so cheery.

The family gathered around and asked if she wanted to play … Parcheesi? They always played Parcheesi! With an exasperated, low-pitched toot from her skull-crest, she galloped outside, slamming the door with her tail and hopping onto her Vespa scooter.

As she puttered through the countryside on her miracle of Italian engineering, she wished they would mix it up.

But as she whizzed through town, her turbo, two-stroke engine humming pleasantly, Tina saw other families celebrating the holidays—the gift exchanges, the ferns and, of course, A Charlie Brown Christmas playing on repeat.

Her hard heart softened. Tina realized that doing these things year-after-year was important to other dinosaurs. She needed to be the one to suggest new things. Tina turned around—an easy feat, considering her Vespa’s excellent handling and sporty transmission. She went home, apologized, and invited her family to play Dinosaur Ball, a game she made up. It was silly and annoying, but the family had fun—and it was the precursor to our modern-day pastime of baseball.

Point is: New, unspoken traditions are always forming as society shifts. Take, for example, the lie of Santa Claus. Seems like a permanent trope, but when you consider how many hundreds of millions of years that there were actual lizard-bird monsters roaming the planet, it might give you the courage to challenge how you celebrate.

This season, channel Tina the Holiday Hadrosaur.

Illustration by Sarah Hansel

You should be trying to make unique memories. If you have an idea for a new tradition, do it.

Remember that year when you built a holiday yurt in the yard?

Remember that year when you rented a mannequin and decorated it, instead of a tree?

Or when you traded Santa Claus, that canned ritual to make childhood seem mystical, and created your own holiday mascot in Tina the Vespa-riding hadrosaur?

If you’ve done those things, you probably remember them fondly. My favorite traditions are the made-up ones.

Every year, my brother hides a present in my parents’ fridge for dad. It’s bacon. It’s always bacon. When we exchange presents, we write on the gift tag that it’s from a celebrity—I’ve gotten socks from Neil deGrasse Tyson and a guitar tuner from Mark Wahlberg.

OK, so Step 1: Make your traditions. Step 2? You’re probably familiar with the most common holiday custom of them all—being stressed out.


The year-end can be awfully frazzling—especially if you’re responsible for making it happen. You gotta put together knockout meals, consider what your closest people need, all while maintaining your effortless fashion sense and staying current on your Scientology dues. It can make the season a real drain.

Here are the five most stress-inducing scenarios and their solutions. Watch out: You won’t see No. 6 coming!

1. Hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic!

Pull off the road, and from here, you’ve got a few options. If you’re alone in the car, do some soul-cleansing, screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs style meditation. Ahh, isn’t that better? If you’ve got company, avoid the tonsil exercise. Instead, bring the holiday spirit to your passengers. Tell stories, laugh together and the traffic will eventually die down—at some point.

2. You don’t know what presents to get people!

If you can’t go transcendental with non-material gifts, check out SN&R’s holiday gift guide—on page 19—or channel Tina the hadrosaur and give the gift of leaves! Seriously, people are into hokey, emotional displays, so as long as you pretend the plant parts have a deeper meaning, you’re home free. Stack the leaves, glue them to a piece of paper, or just fill a box with fall foliage. It’s the thought that counts.

3. The turkey is burned on the outside and frozen in the middle!

No worries—just pull an It’s a Wonderful Life and go next door. Tell your neighbor what happened. They’ll want to make your holiday better and give you their turkey! (You might even be able to get some pumpkin pie and a scoop of ice cream out of the deal.)

4. The cat knocked over the tree!

Milo! Shattered glass and water everywhere. Not to fret, though—channel Tina and eat the foliage from the tree, thereby cleaning the mess and creating a new tradition. While you may lack powerful, herbivorous jaws, you can probably get through at least one tree’s worth of pine needles.

5. The cat cut down the sycamore tree in front of your house, and it fell into the living room!

The most common holiday plight of them all. It’s time to face it—this cat is causing way too much trouble. Sit down with Milo and discuss what’s really bothering him. He doesn’t feel included in the holidays, and it’s been acting out to get attention. That’s when you pull out the secret gift you’ve been saving for the cat—a tasteful diamond brooch—and the holidays are saved, yet again!


I’m actually not going to lecture you about how you should be more thankful; everyone has different experiences, and maybe you’ve been served a veritable shit sandwich by the maitre d’ of life. All you want is to feel a little refreshed, a little more charitable and a little more hopeful for the future.

Jokes aside, take a mental health day each holiday season. Get out in nature, spend time relaxing and letting go. Discharge your pain, and for a moment, forget about all of the boundaries society pressures on us, and we impress upon ourselves.

There are too many places in life where you’re told what to do. Shop at Sears, vote on party lines, buy a Vespa, bury your individuality. Take a stand for your existence. The holiday season isn’t set in stone; only fossils are.