’Tis the season of glad tidings and good cheer, unless you count crowded stores, overstuffed airports, the lingering possibility of multiple circulating sicknesses, and all of the other bummers and inconveniences of the modern world. This time of year is supposed to bring out the best in people, but it also occasionally produces stuff that is, frankly, the worst. So if it helps you stay positive by occasionally embracing your inner Grinch, here’s a list of some of the worst that Christmas has to offer.
“The Christmas Shoes”
Released by NewSong in 2000, “The Christmas Shoes” wasted no time at entering “worst of everything” lists. While one can’t deny that it was a hit at the time on radio, its awfulness comes from a combination of strained vocalizing, a painfully contrived premise, and a “wait, what?” final twist. The song positions a narrator observing a little boy trying to buy shoes for his dying mother because he wants her to look good when she meets Jesus; however, the child is paying in pennies and is running short. The narrator pays, but in a baffling ending, decides that the whole scenario occurred just to get him to appreciate Christmas. What? Emmy and Grammy-winning comedian Patton Oswalt gave the whole thing the evisceration that it deserves here. Inexplicably, it was transformed into a Rob Lowe film. Seriously.
Jingle All the Way
One of the biggest annual complaints about Christmas tends to be its over-commercialization. This 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sinbad film rejects that notion and celebrates it to a crazy degree. The story turns on a pair of fathers dueling to find a Turbo-Man toy for their respective sons, a situation based on holiday frenzies of the past like Cabbage Patch Kids and Tickle Me Elmo. Director Brian Levant (who is responsible for several other truly bad comedies like Problem Child 2, The Flintstones, and Snow Dogs) can’t find enough ways to make the whole thing overblown and ridiculous, including jet packs and letter bombs. And though the film flirts with a “true meaning of Christmas” ending, the final realization that Arnold’s character forgot to get anything for his wife underscores what a terrible husband and father he’s been the whole time.
Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa
In Plan 9 from Outer Space, frequently listed among the worst movies of all time, there’s a scene where a damaged flying saucer is clearly a plate on fire. This special is the computer-generated equivalent of that. This may be the worst long-form CG ever shown on a network. It makes some of the earliest video game cut-scenes look like 2001: A Space Odyssey by comparison. The animation is so ugly that it’s actually hard to look at for too long. Bizarrely, the special has an incredible cast of voice actors, including Mark Hamill, Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson), Paige O’Hara (Disney’s Belle), Jodi Benson (Disney’s Ariel), Grey DeLisle (Scooby-Doo’s Daphne), MadTV’s Debra Wilson, and Walter Emanuel Jones (the original Black Ranger from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers). The special appeared in syndication across WB affiliates in 2002, then disappeared with no official home video release. It’s been kept alive by YouTube uploads and stories of its production (like the story that writer/director Colin Slater barely checked on how the animation looked in progress, only seeing the final version upon delivery).
Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
You can’t fault a writer like John Grisham for taking a break from legal thrillers and trying a holiday tale. You can fault him for writing a story in which practically everyone bullies the two main characters because they want to take a break from holiday pressures and then having it end by the two leads somehow finding cheer in . . . giving in to all the bullying?! Like The Christmas Shoes, Skipping Christmas relies on an unbelievable last minute swerve to justify regaining Christmas spirit through extenuating circumstances. Wouldn’t a better example of holiday spirit be actually feeling happy that your neighbors are taking a break and getting out of town, as opposed to making their lives miserable and putting them on the news because they didn’t decorate? Suggesting that the meddling, doxing, and outright mean-spiritedness of the whole community somehow leads to a rebounding holiday spirit is what makes this the worst.
To clarify: this doesn’t apply to long-desired books, vinyl albums, or collectibles found in specialty shops. This pertains to things that frequently pop up on lists of worst presents ever received, like half-empty bottles of wine, stained shirts, puzzle books in progress, or gift cards that are less than the listed amount. If that’s the effort that you want to put into a gift, maybe skipping a present is the greater kindness.
The cursed cousin of glitter, tinsel icicles just get everywhere. And their aesthetic value is questionable, because they don’t really look like icicles. So what you have is an ancillary decoration that can play havoc with your vacuum cleaner while presenting an attractive nuisance to pets.
2018 Hallmark Keepsake Ornament of the Merle Dixon Walker from The Walking Dead
If Hallmark has proven one thing, it’s that anything can be an ornament. With that in mind, it’s not terribly shocking that a show as wildly popular as The Walking Dead would provide grist for Hallmark’s pop culture ornament mill. However, one would expect that TWD ornaments would exist for the major characters like Rick, Michonne, and Daryl. And while those do, Hallmark also made the incredibly weird choice to make Merle, Daryl’s racist and treacherous brother, in his zombie form. That’s right: Merle, after losing his hand, having a bit of a redemptive turn, and then dying, gets an ornament. It’s strange, it’s ugly, and it’s mystifying. It’s a decision akin to adding the smoldering corpses of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru to the Star Wars ornament collection.
We all know that fruitcake is terrible. In fact, it’s so terrible that we don’t even need to tell you it’s terrible. What does need extra attention for its awfulness is panettone. The Italian sweet bread is a sort of cousin of fruitcake, packed as it is with candied fruit and raisins (and sometimes nuts). But honestly, it’s just not good. It’s the bread cousin of the equally unappetizing pimento loaf.
Comedian Dave Attell defined eggnog better than anyone else ever could: “I want to get a little drunk, but I also want some pancakes.” To be fair, it’s not the worst beverage in the world, but during a season when it’s not uncommon to have everything from mulled cider to hot chocolate to any number of seasonal wines, eggnog just seems like good brandy ruined by a baking mix.
Christmas Pickle and Mistletoe at Parties
People say that the Christmas Pickle is a German tradition, but Germany refuses to accept responsibility. If you’ve never heard of this before, there’s not much to it. Someone hides a pickle ornament on the tree, and the person who finds it gets a prize. Yay? It’s essentially a low-difficulty scavenger hunt. My extended family on my mother’s side had a more challenging annual version: where the hell did Grandma hide all the presents? In absolute seriousness, my grandmother found one set of presents for her daughters’ husbands from the previous year while looking for the presents she’d hidden for THAT year. The pickle is nothing.
But equally worthy of getting the boot is any semblance of mistletoe at parties. And that means ANY party. If it’s family gatherings, it often forces little kids to get kisses that they don’t want. At office parties, it’s a harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. It’s one thing if you like having it around your house and both partners are cool with it. It’s another thing to say, “This plant that’s responsible for the death of Balder in Norse Mythology now allows me to kiss you without your consent.” Mistletoe needs to go.
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