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Andy Prest: What are the best Christmas traditions to annoy your kids with?

Nothing brings parents more joy than getting their kids to stop playing video games and come do something super embarrassing like carolling
Singing carols to your good neighbours is a delightful Christmas tradition that is sure to enrage and embarrass your children.

For parents at Christmastime, there are few things more thrilling than recapturing the wonder of the season by experiencing it all through the eyes of a very young child.

And then, as those kids grow into surly tweens and teens, there are few things more thrilling than making them carry on all those Christmas traditions, including the ones that they hate, as you force the holiday spirit upon them.

I’ve seen both sides of this. I’ve been that teen, wanting only to open presents and then play video games every waking second of the holidays. And now I’m that parent, wanting to find anything to pry those eyes away from the screen for a few minutes. The more annoying for the kid, the better, I say. It can’t be all Fortnite and chocolate for the entire holiday. So here are some Christmas traditions, presented from both sides of the parental divide, that land squarely on the list of things that will annoy your kids the most. Enjoy!

Decorating the house: In many families, the holiday season starts on a special day in late November or early December when mom hauls out the decoration boxes and starts bringing that Christmas magic to life. Who gets to put the star on top of the tree?!

Kids reaction: You, mom. You put the star on. And all the other decorations, because I did one and you told me I did it wrong. In fact, you’ve got your own tree right there in the living room, all fancy and white, and you made us decorate the ‘loser tree’ in the basement with all the ornaments we made at school. What’s the matter – is the walnut shell Christmas turtle angel ornament I made for you in Grade 2 not good enough for your tree?

Putting up lights: It’s a sunny Sunday in late November, the perfect day for dad to grab the ladder and get the Christmas lights up on the house. Sparkle sparkle!

Kids: Sure dad, I’ll untangle these light string rat nests with my tiny fingers. Nothing would bring me more pleasure than that, except perhaps holding a freezing ladder for you while you spend 35 minutes trying to figure out how to Zip Tie Santa’s head to the roof. At least I’m learning a bunch of new swears from you.

Looking at lights: Dad has finished stringing the lights and mostly recovered from the concussion he suffered falling off the ladder. Now it’s time to bundle the whole family into the car and go and find the best and brightest displays the city has to offer. What a treat! 

Kids: You want to … drive around and look at other people’s Christmas lights? And I have to sit here, while my brother tries to stab me with a sharpened candy cane and you blast Christmas music the whole time? OK, but while we’re looking at lights can we also look for a cliff to drive off of?

Wrapping presents: It really is the thought that counts, and nothing says more about the thought you put in than taking the time to wrap the gift up and out those personal touches on it – the drawings, the ribbons, the bows, the heartfelt note. Let Grandma know how much you love her.

Kids: Gift bag. One piece of tissue paper. Gift wrapping done.

You know what Grandma really loves? She loves it when I’m happy, which I will be as soon as I can play video games again.

Carolling: Bundle up kids! It’s time to go door-to-door, sharing our Christmas cheer with all our lovely neighbours. So giddy up, jingle horse. Pick up your feet!

Kids: Wut. Seriously? Don’t you hate the neighbours? Didn’t the guy across the street make you cry over a parking space? And look at Uncle Charlie. What’s in his coffee mug? No one made coffee! And he’s just mumbling and yelling. The neighbours look scared. Oh look, here comes a festive police car! 

Did I miss any obvious additions to this list? The family trip to the ballet? Family movie night? Gingerbread house making? Pretty much anything that doesn’t involve YouTube or Snapchat?

So Turn off the phones. Get outside. Sing/yell at the neighbours.

It’s the holidays. We can all share a cup of whatever Uncle Charlie has got in his mug.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, however you wish to spend then, and that no one gets stabbed with a candy cane. 

Andy Prest is the editor of the North Shore News. His humour/lifestyle column runs biweekly. [email protected]