“Oh no. Fruit Cake.”
~You, on Christmas
This week, we’re anxiously counting down the days for Christmas, a holiday you either love unconditionally or complain about at every opportunity while getting more and more pissed off each time someone calls you a “Grinch.” “Shut up, I’m not a Grinch, I just don’t see why we’re making such a big deal about…” you start to say to your coworkers before being interrupted by the spontaneous Christmas caroling that just started because, God people, we know Christmas is almost here, that doesn’t mean you need to sing “Jingle Bells” all fucking day, this is a place of work for fuck’s sake.
However, despite its detractors, most of us love Christmas, a time for family, friends, togetherness, and general Christmas cheer. Everyone has their traditions, and while some of those traditions are stupid and racist, most are wholesome and do wonders to take your mind off the harsh winter, no seriously this winter’s going to be really bad goddamn it what did we do to deserve this. And many of these traditions involve delicious sugary treats.
Where Thanksgiving is a holiday centered around savory goodness and no shut up we’re not going to be healthy about it, Christmas is by and large sweets-focused. It’s assumed that you’ll eat and drink too much during Christmas, but unlike Thanksgiving, there’s a little more leeway for dinner. Ham? Fine! Turkey? Sounds good! A roast beef covered in cigarette butts? Goddamn it, Uncle Bert, we told you no smoking in the house, why the fuck did you think that putting your spent cigs in the oven was the best way to cover your tracks? But a Christmas without sweet candy treats is hardly a Christmas at all, unless you’re someone who happens to not be Christian, in which case you still celebrate Christmas because let’s be real this shit is pretty damn secular by this point, and you’re getting the day off of work for it, so quit your bellyaching.
While some of these treats are delightful and delicious (stay tuned for our Christmas Eve article) some are…well. You know. Bad.
The Worst Holiday Treats of Christmas
For most of us (*glares angrily at California*) Christmastime requires sweets because late December brings with it a particular weather pattern known as, “Fuck this shit.” When your day-to-day interaction devolves into a series of skirmishes for the most blankets/sweaters/the-best-spot-by-the-electrical-heater, there’s a comforting sweetness to candy, cookies, and pretty much anything that requires a lot of butter and sugar to will itself into existence during the cold dark nights that most of us are forced to endure (*glares angrily at California*).
Sometimes this yields delicious, seasonally appropriate treats. Sometimes this results in weird, raisin-y blocks that you have to pretend to like because Aunt Martha has always been so nice to you, and she’s been taking it pretty hard ever since Uncle Frank passed on. If it helps, you can think of Christmas treats like Santa’s List—there’s naughty, and there’s nice. The following are naughty. And not in the fun “that sounds sexual and/or kinky” way. No, these are naughty in the “I tried to put it down the garbage disposal and now my garbage disposal has an eating problem I didn’t even know that was possible, it’s literally a non-sentient bundle of blades that churns organic material at the flip of a switch, but now it just keeps throwing the food back up at us, this is truly awful, we’re worried for it” kind of way.
Happy Birthday, Jesus, we’re sorry for this.
We’ll start with the Christmas dessert item that everyone loves to hate—the humble fruitcake. The sight of this almost invariably rock hard bread loaded with candied and dried fruits, nuts, and spices inevitably results in sighs and forced niceties, almost as if by design, as if your grandmother keeps on mailing you fruitcake every year hoping that someday you eventually snap, hurling the fruitcake out into the street and causing a multi-car pile-up when the stale loaf crashes through the windshield of an unsuspecting driver. You know that something is really bad when the Wikipedia article about it has to actively say, “In the United States, the fruit cake has been a ridiculed dessert.” Just, ripping the Band-Aid off, telling you point blank that this is not something that people choose to eat.
Johnny Carson used to joke that there was only one fruitcake in the world, passed from family to family, and ever since 1995 the residents of Manitou Springs, Colorado have held a “Great Fruitcake Toss” on the first Saturday of every January in an event that’s opening description simply states, “At last, the answer to that age-old question: How do I get rid of this *$&*A#! fruitcake?”
Perhaps the most absurd part of the fruitcake’s stubborn insistence in remaining a Christmas staple is the fact that it’s objectively a pain in the ass to make. This one variation, for example, takes almost 11 hours to finish. The last time we spent 11 hours to disappoint someone we loved, we watched all of the Lord of the Rings trilogy with our significant other before trying to have sex with them for the first time. We’re about ten years away from fruitcakes only being purchased as gag gifts to piss people off, and we want to expedite that process by making it illegal to purchase fruitcakes unironically. Christmas needs this to happen.
It’s pretty pointless to try to improve upon the Christmas films and songs that we’ve already got, especially considering that we made the perfect Christmas movie back in the 1980’s. While a Christmas movie might pop into the conversation every now and then, giving us a Love Actually or Santa’s Slay to renew our love of the holiday season, the majority of our lore, be it songs or Christmas characters, are timeless and old enough that at least some references don’t make sense anymore. We don’t need new songs or stories because T’was the Night Before Christmas is the only Christmas Eve story we’ll ever need, and White Christmas will warm even the iciest of hearts. Also because when we try to make new Christmas songs it invariably turns into pop stars trying to bang Santa.
And while the general themes of Christmas never change (family! Sitting by a warm fire! Cooking nuts for some reason!) some of the specifics seem outdated to those of us used to living in a global society where we’re no longer forced to eat whatever counted as “family-friendly” dinner dishes back in the 1950’s. Children born before 1940 had to grow up in a world were having an orange in the winter counted as a luxury, so we can’t fault them for clamoring for certain holiday treats for no other reason than the high sugar content. That said, if there’s one thing we can say we’ve learned from all the Christmas songs we’ve heard growing up, it’s that apparently people loved them some sugar plums, which is just the saddest thing.
Kids back in the day would wake up on Christmas with “visions of sugar plums” dancing in their heads, which probably were hallucinations caused by a combination of malnutrition and polio as best as we can tell. Every kid thinks they want sugar plums because they hear it mentioned in roughly 400 Christmas songs, and it contains a word they really like (“sugar!”) and a word that they moderately tolerate but really are just sort of ‘meh’ about (“eh, plums are alright?”). That said, most of you likely haven’t encountered sugar plums in real life, and some of you probably have no idea what a sugar plum actually is.
It’s mashed up prunes squished into plum shapes. That’s it. That’s so sad. They’re generally bite sized, and have a hard, sugary-shell, but it’s just made by mashing up prunes and then doing unspeakable things to the goop. This dessert item came into existence in the 1600s, when they had to go through a process known as sugar panning to get their hard shell. Nowadays, we can add hard candy shells via an easy mechanized process but back then this had to be done manually, which took goddamn days to finish. And sure, in the 1600s when the only form of entertainment was “cooking sugar plums” and “trying not to die of dysentery before the sugar plums finish cooking” sugar plums were probably something worth getting excited about. But we live in the 21st century, goddamn it. We have, like, dozens of varieties of Skittles. Get that sugar plum shit out of our face.
Here’s another thing that only exists in modern polite society because we fucking sing about it in Christmas carols, but make no mistake, no one wants your damn figgy pudding. Look at that fucking picture. That’s the picture Wikipedia decided to present to us as the most accurate representation of this dish. That is either a fig based, English pudding dish (so think “Yorkshire pudding” and not “Jello pudding” in this instance) with a flaming brandy or someone set fire to a bag of dog shit and left it on your Christmas table as a prank.
This is gross. The only reason you should bring anyone figgy pudding is if you want to punish Christmas carolers for making you sit through all three verses of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” “Oh, you won’t go until you get some? Here, enjoy sadness disguising itself as a holiday treat.” That’ll teach the bastards.
If you’re an American who has tried to live a good and wholesome life, you’ve probably been lucky enough to avoid mince pies, which have a long and storied Christmas tradition in England, the country where culinary practices historically go to fester and die. England tends to get mad whenever people say they don’t know how to cook, since London is a world-class restaurant city, and Gordon Ramsey exists as both an established chef and caricature of a television personality, but considering the last three items on this list have British roots, we’re not sure how much we can trust them. Hundreds of years ago, when life was basically about trying to fight off death and stave boredom, countries like France decided to make revolutionary and rich sauces and cooking techniques to pass the time, while England turned to their list of potential ingredients, shrugged, and said, “let’s boil it all together and see what happens” like a college frat house without a meal plan.
And so we have the mince pie. Combining minced meat, suet (raw beef or mutton fat), fruits, spices, and a screaming sound that never leaves your ears no matter how quiet the endless night may seem, it’s traditionally viewed as a traditional Christmas treat for those out there who have committed sins far to grave to ever forgive. One British bakery chain claims that they sell 7.5 million of these pies each year, and at this point we’re not even mad, we just feel sorry for the poor Brits and the food they have to put up with. This is just terrifying. God bless you, America, for not making us eat this each year.
Warm Milk and Stale Cookies for Santa
Santa is completely real so long as you believe hard enough, but come to think of it, when you were a kid Tinkerbell actually died in your Elementary School’s performance of Peter Pan because no one was willing to clap her back to life. The rest of the show just consisted of the actors stifling sobs throughout the singing of “We Will Never Grow Up.” So, for you, no, Santa’s not real. But that won’t stop you from telling your children about his existence until they reach an age where they’ll be made fun of for shouting, “He does too exist” to his high school classmates, because Santa Claus is a very important part of an American childhood. Believing in Santa Claus during your formative years imparts a sense of wonderment while also teaching your children the important lesson that your parents, the people who care for you and claim to love you more than anyone else on the planet, will straight up lie to your face with very little prompting. See also: the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the importance of the PSAT.
In keeping up this duplicitous façade, you have your child put out milk and cookies for Santa to eat and drink, “because giving gifts to every girl and boy sure makes him hungry.” It’s a kind gesture on behalf of the child, thanking Santa for bestowing him with presents. It’s also a damn lie, and honestly not that different than finding out that your donation to the Salvation Army went towards laundry costs.
Listen. Milk and cookies are delicious. But milk that was left out at 6:30 at night by your eager son or daughter and stale store-bought cookies sitting just as long on a plate that won’t be eaten until you’re finished putting the last of the presents under the tree, which was probably at around 11:30 because you couldn’t for the life of you get your excitable kid to just go to fucking bed, sounds like a way to test yourself against foodborne illnesses. You’re scarfing down warm milk and stale cookies to more effectively lie to your kid, and roughly 5% of parents who take part in this actually are excited for the excuse to stuff more cookies than they really wanted in one sitting down their damn throats immediately before going to sleep (because you know your kid is going to wake you up no later than 6 in the morning).
It’s tradition, but it doesn’t mean you have to like it.
This is the stupidest idea for a Christmas treat. There are different variations of it, and most are homemade, but the general gist is, “look, it’s little nuggets of chocolate covered nuts, lol, it’s sort of like little pebbles of reindeer poop.” The sad part is, chocolate covered nuts are delicious. It’s just, if you’re really pushing so hard for something to be Christmasy that you’re line thought goes from “Santa flies reindeer” to “reindeer poop” to “poop is the same color as chocolate” then you just need to shut the hell up and go home. Just shut it down. Eat a chocolate Santa or something. Just, don’t call your food poop, people.
Don’t eat poop for Christmas. Jesus Christ, we can’t believe we even have to tell you that.
Anyway, it wouldn’t be Christmas with a little optimism. So come on back in a few days on Christmas Eve, and we’ll let you know about the best holiday treats we can think of. Because most of the sweets of Christmas are delicious, and we’re not letting British entries worm their way into that one.