Food & Drink

Make Christmas Drunk Again!

Oh Santa...

Among my fondest memories from growing up in Philly was when the whole family would pile into our beat-up station wagon on Christmas Eve and drive out to the suburbs to see the ornate light displays on rich people’s houses.

My mom always drove. She told us that was because she knew the best blocks for “driving the lights,” and because my stepdad’s specialty was spotting Santa’s sleigh in the night sky. But while it’s a fact that my stepdad spent most of those rides gazing out the window into the darkness, I knew the real reason he never drove the lights was because he had his own special tradition—guzzling beer the whole time. And he was amazing at it. Averaged about a Yuengling and a half per house, two if we lingered at one of those places that looked like something out of a Clark Griswold acid trip.

My stepdad wasn’t a bad drunk, mind you, just a very thorough one. At least when it came to Christmas. Every year, like clockwork, he started hitting the sauce with a purpose roundabout December 22, and kept going until the final college bowl game on New Year’s Day. Then he’d let everyone know he wouldn’t be touching another drop until the lead-up to St. Paddy’s Day (which started somewhere around the third week of January).

Back then it never struck me as odd to see a grown man grog his way straight through a holiday season. Probably because all the other grown men and women on our block were doing the same thing right alongside him—drinking, eating, singing and doing who knows what else. Simply having a wonderful Christmas time. We lived in a blue collar neighborhood full of roofers, nurses, firefighters and construction workers. Getting blotto for 12 days straight was our parents’ reward for busting their humps all year long just to keep roofs over our heads.


And they didn’t invent this behavior, either. Though they might have been dim on the details, it turns out they were following a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages, when peasants would go “wassailing,” which is a fancy way of saying the poorer folk would walk around their village knocking on wealthier folk’s doors and demand booze in exchange for loud, drunken song. Those poor bastards weren’t going to be denied, as evidenced by the infamous third verse of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” wherein the mob switches from good wishes and good tidings and asking for figgy pudding, to make it clear they were not kidding around and maybe you could put a little pep in your step:  “We won't go until we get some, we won’t go until we get some, we won’t go until we get some, so bring some out here.” (Next time you hear this ditty in an heartwarming Kay’s commercial, just remember, it’s the song of an angry drunken mob).

Woe betide the stingy Brahman who denied the rabble their Wassail Bowl. Miserly houses were targeted with acts of mischief or vandalism. It was basically Halloween, except on Christmas, and with adults who are not only three sheets to the wind, but infinitely better than children at stomping decorations. It truly was the most wonderful time of the year.

Which is to say, my stepdad’s biggest problem wasn’t drinking too much at the holidays, it was not getting out of the car and singing at the top of his lungs until the McWealthingtons came out and gave everyone shots of Jameson.

Santa, no!

So while I’m not convinced there’s a War on Christmas (but if there is, someone should tell the malls, because those places are Christmas AF), I am now convinced there is a War on Christmas Drinking. Take what happened to me the other day. When some friends and I got lit up and headed over to Brentwood to get our wassail on, we were arrested before we even got to the second verse of “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” I think if Mr. Travolta had just come outside with a bottle of tequila, all would have been forgiven.

See, the old-school wassailers were shameless, and if we really want to Make Christmas Drunk Again, we’re going to need to emulate them. Luckily, our President Elect knows a thing or two about shame and how to never experience it. When I think of his example, I don’t just see glimmers of hope in our new political landscape, I see 70,000-lumen spotlights of hope looking for people with the nerve to try to escape freedom. He’s promised to drain the swamp. I think the least we can do in return is drain the eggnog. And sure, during the campaign, he couldn’t stop talking about wanting to “Lock ‘Er Up.” Now that he’s singing a different tune, though, we’re hoping he switches to “Liquor Up.”

Wait, what’s that? Trump doesn’t drink? Oh well. At least we all know he’s dreaming of a White Christmas.

Regardless, make sure you do your part to Make Christmas Drunk Again this year. If we don’t take a stand for the old ways of doing things, no one else will. It’s urgent that we reestablish Christmas as a day when no one looks at you funny when you crack a bottle of bourbon at 9 a.m. Besides, shouldn’t parents have something to look forward to on Christmas morning too?