Have Yuleself a Merry Little FDA*

“No. Other. Family. Has it as messy as we do!!!“

I remember my mother yelling this when she reached a desperate point of no return; the best one could do was to stay calm, and quiet. In her eyes, the entire house was in shambles as she imagined the shaming judgment from extended family, due to arrive any minute. Sound familiar?

Catharsis. Even the ancient Greeks knew what to do in this case: cognitive exposure therapy. Witnessing other people’s messes can bring a sense of calm and insight for your ragged soul. Here are some irreverent tips that will make you feel better, or at least lend a new perspective on your own family’s chaos. It’s not as bad as you think when you compare to the worst alternatives.

David Sedaris is a master of wry observation, and his classic short story collection Holidays on Ice offers some refreshing takes on the demands of the holidays: “It makes one’s mouth hurt to speak with such forced merriment.”

Or you might find joyful comfort in movies, such as the Griswolds’ disastrous holiday, led by Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. If your family requires you to use a pure, child-appropriate tone during the holidays, you can get your bad language “vaccination” out of the way with Billy Bob Thornton’s extremely Bad Santa. Warning: the library carries the unrated “naughty” versions of both the original and its sequel, Badder Santa.

Jen Mann’s book title is quite self-explanatory: Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat. If you don’t get your hands on it in time for Christmas, you can spread out your therapy to other holidays handled in this volume, such as an ill-fated Chinese New Year party, or why not Mother’s Day.

Augusten Burroughs has been called “high priest of mortifying disaster” and his take on the holiday hysteria may help release some holiday knots; maybe you will be crying from laughter: You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas. And now over to something completely… similar, but British. An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stebbe is an ode to the joy and insanity of the “most wonderful time of the year.” This collection of essays does have some useful advice too, such as this one about gift giving: “Don’t be overgenerous, or mean, or give precedent-setting gifts.”

Lastly, this list would not be complete without A Bad Moms Christmas—the most (un)motherly romp you can imagine. Even my mother would have laughed.

*Family Dysfunction Antidote

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