Hellish Holidays Share the PAIN
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Hellish Song and Dance at the Holiday Office Party (Videos)

Karaoke at the Office Christmas Party


How much do you have to drink for this to sound good?

Office Christmas Party Dance


You should loosen up at your office party. Just not this loose.

Christmas Office Party Gone Karaoke Krazy


He can't help himself, but we can. Stop now, please!

Silly Dancing at the Office Christmas Party


It's amazing how alien the concept of videotaping is to many people.

Old Fashioned Piano Party


At this Christmas "party" she's "playing the piano" while her friends "sing."


Pets in Christmas Sweaters (Videos)

Sweater Dog


Man, this dog really resents his Christmas sweater.

Kitty Christmas Sweater


No one likes Christmas sweaters. Especially cats. Oh, the humiliation!

Christmas Sweater Pug Tricks


You just know what this dog is thinking.

Leftovers: The Best Part of the Turkey (Videos)

What to Do with the After-Thanksgiving Turkey


Tired of leftover-turkey sandwiches? Not quite ready for turkey soup? Here are some ideas for non-traditional leftovers.

Black Friday Sagas

Do you have any hellish Black Friday stories? If so, we'd love to hear them. This year, though, we recommend staying home and using Amazon.com. Carey Hart of BLASTmedia in Indianapolis tells a hellish – yet typical – Black Friday tale.

A couple years ago, I made the mistake of being a Black Friday shopper, and dragging my boyfriend along with me. Poor guy, it was our first major holiday together and I nearly ruined it!

We live in Indianapolis, and there is a big outlet mall about 40 minutes south of the city. I normally NEVER go shopping on Black Friday, and have no idea what was going through my head that year. Regardless, I had heard that the outlet stores were having amazing sales that day, and they opened at the ungodly hour of 3 am. So we made the trip down the interstate.

We ended up getting stuck in the absolute worst traffic of all-time, in the middle of a winter night. We were stuck on the interstate, with no opportunity to turn around and no exits for at least 3 hours. It was absolutely awful.

When we finally made it to the mall, the parking lot was equally insane and we had to walk really far. I didn't want all our suffering to be for nothing, so I still shopped – and waited in even more lines! The line for the Coach store was out the door and down the sidewalk, but I persisted. The bargains were OK, but not that great. What was I thinking? I still have no idea, and three years later, the thought still makes my boyfriend and me both cringe. It was, by far, the worst shopping trip of our lives!

Turkey Disasters from Wisconsin

Karen Herzog of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently wrote about Thanksgiving turkey disasters in a piece worthy of Hellish Holidays. She'd asked readers to write in about Thanksgiving disasters, and received 50 responses. More than half involved turkey: dropping it on the floor, setting it on fire, even turning it blue.

Blue? Well, when it comes to turkey, people are always finding new ways that things can go wrong. Typically these involve first-time turkey-cookers, but I know from personal experience that even veterans can be undone by the big bird.

In the article, Karin Steffen of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin explained how she was excited to be making her first Thanksgiving turkey. She thought she was all prepared, but had forgotten about trussing. She tore the house apart looking for string but finally had to settle on shoelaces. At least they were new. But unfortunately they were also navy blue, a fact which didn't register at the time.

You can see where this one's going: the dye from the laces seeped into the entire body of the turkey. Thirty years later, Steffen says,"I can sort of laugh about this." I'll bet her family doesn't have any trouble laughing, and brings it up every single year. Some Thanksgiving traditions are just too good to let die.

-----

Here's another way things can go wrong:


Good luck in the kitchen!

Examples of Christmas Letters

It's never too early to start groaning at the Christmas letters we receive during the holiday season. Starting around Thanksgiving the pitches and retrospectives start pouring in. I'm not talking about the reminders from charitable organizations about end-of-year tax deductible giving opportunities. I'm referring to the personal letters from friends acquaintances and those of whom we ask, "How did he get my address again?"

Here's a sample. Note the last line, in which the writer ensures that he will receive the full weight of any tax deduction your donation might bring.

Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas!

I am writing to ask for your help. I have been asked to go on a mission trip to Rwanda, Africa by my church. I was scheduled to go earlier, but due to conditions in the mortgage industry we had to postpone our trip. The help I need is two fold:

1. Pray for us as we prepare for and go on our trip

I have been "trying" to go on this trip for over 3 years now. You must go through a 6 month preparation and training course once a week to prepare yourself and your heart for this trip. Once again, it was postponed. Please pray that we go on the trip, that we are safe and that we help the many Rwandans we will meet.

2. Help us financially

We need to raise over $6,000 per person which is a total of over $50,000 for the team. I am asking for you to give a donation to help sponsor the trip in the envelope provided. Even $50 or $100 will be extremely helpful to get us there. I think you in advance for your generous donation. (On your check, please do NOT put anything on the memo line or the check will be returned.)

May you be filled with joy and peace this Christmas.

Thanksgiving Meal Preparations (Videos)

BBQ Bob Gives You the (Thanksgiving) Bird!


Bob's Thanksgiving Day masterpiece. He smoked it ... to perfection! And this time he wasn't drunk when he did it! His family is so proud.

Annoying the Wife in the Thanksgiving Kitchen


Mary prepares the stuffing for a Thanksgiving feast for 20+ people. That's eight loaves of bread for those keeping track at home.

Cornbread Dressing


You know that old expression about too many cooks in the kitchen? Somehow I just have a feeling that dressing came out too salty. And who is that guy expecting to call him on Thanksgiving?

The Traditional Thanksgiving Squid


Thanksgiving Japanese style involves gutting a squid, in great detail.

Washing the Bird

Kim Michele Richardson of theunbreakablechild.com in Louisville, Kentucky started out the way we all did: cowed by a turkey. She learned the hard way how to prepare the "big bird."

It was Thanksgiving 1980, I was 20 years old and I decided to impress my boyfriend and cook Thanksgiving dinner for him and a few friends. There was only one problem. I hadn't quite developed my cooking skills and my only no-fail dishes at the time were a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and grilled cheese.

I called my mother the week before Thanksgiving, the woman who always had the perfect Thanksgiving meal and to-kill-for oyster-sage stuffing. She quickly agreed to lend me her recipes and talk me through all the steps of cooking a delicious meal via the telephone on Thanksgiving morning.

I awoke at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving and placed the phone call to her.

My mother talked me through preparing her famous stuffing. When I’d finished, she congratulated me, then told me to chill the stuffing in the fridge and get "big bird" out.

Felling very confident, smug even, I took the turkey out of the fridge and yes, yes I did remove all the packaging inside. Yippee, I was on a roll! Man-oh-man was my boyfriend going to be impressed!!

"What’s that, you say Mom? Of course, YES, of course, I took out all the inner packages, liver, gizzard etc. Now what?"

"Wash the big bird inside and out," she’d said. "Wash it good!" Then she patiently hung on the phone line and waited.

After a few minutes she asked what was taking me so long.

And I asked her: "How long is it going to take to rinse the turkey clean? It still has bubbles flowing out the cavity!"

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"I did exactly what you said: I’m cleaning it good! I poured Dawn dishwashing detergent in the cavity and on the body. Do you think I used too much Dawn?”

I can promise you I’m a much better cook today. And no, it doesn’t make me crazy to think about it — it just makes me crazy my family won’t forget about it.

Liquid Thanksgiving

Drinking the Dinner


The new Thanksgiving tradition: chuggin' the Jones Soda. The flavors are turkey and gravy, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, cranberry and pumpkin pie. Hope they brought enough for everyone!

Jones Soda Holiday Taste Test


This guy drinks Turkey & Gravy-flavored soda so you don't have to. The expression on his face says it all. Also on the menu: Sweet Potato Soda, Dinner Roll Soda, Pea Soda, Antacid Flavored Soda - he tried 'em all. "All sodas are completely vegetarian, certified kosher, and contain zero caffeine, calories, and carbs."

Belated Thanksgiving Soda


"Past its prime" doesn't begin to describe the taste of this stuff.


Have Some Bleedin' Turkey

Arlene Winnick of Winnick Public Relations in Los Angeles recalls the bleeding turkey story that is now party of her family's legend.

Two families with different backgrounds decided to have a joint Thanksgiving, teaching our kids about traditions and real home cooking. The day before, I realized I would need to order in and fake it since I just did not have time to cook. So I took the entire order out of the containers and put it into my own. On the big day my friend brought all her Italian family favorites and I heated up all my dishes.

The dinner was going great. We talked about the importance of cooking and holiday traditions and the evil Thanksgiving restaurant-goers. I presented the turkey all dressed and beautiful on a platter to many oohs and ahs.

Then my husband started to carve the bird, and with each slice it literally bled. Seems it was basically raw. (I had been told it was fully cooked and just needed to be reheated.) The children screamed like in a bad horror film and my friends looked at me. The moment of truth: Do I say I forgot to cook it or do I fess up and blame the restaurant?

I came clean. Everyone laughed but my children have never let me forget it.

Thanksgiving Dinner in the Parking Lot

Hellish holiday memories are a gift that keep on giving. Susan L. Milhoan of Retail Alliance in Norfolk, Virginia quotes the ever-seasonal Mary Englebreit who suggests, "Families put the 'fun' in dysfunctional."

My children (now 18 and 20) still refer to the Thanksgiving of 2003 as the high water mark among holidays.

My youngest son needed to travel from Michigan (our home at the time) to Cleveland for a hockey tournament that began on Black Friday. I needed to visit an elderly relative in Pittsburgh. Sounded like a way to combine two trips into one...but nothing ever goes that smoothly.

We arrived in Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving Eve much later than planned. The next morning we went to the nursing home to visit my aging aunt who failed to recognize any of us. After a couple hours we were all anxious to leave and grab something to eat before heading to Cleveland. Nothing was open. NOTHING. No fast food places. NOTHING.

After about an hour of driving we found a Giant Eagle grocery store and thought we would buy sandwiches, or at least sandwich fixings. But as we walked in the door, the loudspeaker announced that the store was closing in five minutes. We grabbed what we could, which turned out to be cut carrots, pepperoni, chips and water, before being hustled out the door. We ate in the parking lot.

Arriving in Cleveland, we learned we had missed the opportunity to eat in the hotel restaurant, but we could order food at the bar. All they had was popcorn, nachos and pickles.

Every year since then my kids suggest we take Thanksgiving dinner out to the car and drive to some parking lot to enjoy it.

Political Thanksgiving Blessings

I know I don't always accentuate the positive in this blog. I mean really, with a name spotlighting hellishness, I can't always latch onto the affirmative. But this year, this Thanksgiving, I'm making an exception. I just can't stop smiling, even when I'm tearing up. Thanksgiving is all about gratitude and I'm really feeling it right now.

I fell for Barack Obama early on. It started out as a respect for his eloquence. His speeches - his 2004 Democratic Convention speech, his speech on race and, more recently, his acceptance speech - will be taught in schools and quoted in other speeches for decades to come. That's because behind his well-crafted words is a depth, seriousness of purpose, a vision that have been missing from American politics for way too long. I hardly dared believe we could elect someone who doesn't dodge hard questions, play games or recommend going shopping as a solution to a crisis. I didn't think we Americans were capable any more of doing the right thing over the expedient, of embracing change over business as usual.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful that I was wrong. I am thankful that my son Greg, who is 15, has a role model who makes it cool to study hard, stay strong, aim high and do good for society, such as through some misguidedly maligned community organizing. Greg was only seven when Bill Clinton left office. Clinton was a smart guy who cared passionately about making the future better than the immediate past. It was tragic to see the improvements achieved during his eight years not just decimated but repudiated over the following eight years. But the fact is, Clinton will always live in the shadow of his lack of discipline. He did not leave office as a role model, for reasons I could only recently explain to my son (and even then it was an awkward conversation).

We all expect a lot of Obama. Around the world there is a faith in this man that brings a lump to the throat, but also fear to the heart. Who could live up to these expectations? Will Americans, and citizens of other nations with whom we are inextricably linked, be patient, supportive and self-sacrificing enough to make the steep climb Obama referred to in his acceptance speech?

I believe so, because I know things have changed. The shared experience on election night was unlike the shared experiences we have had as a country for many years: unlike the Clinton impeachment, unlike the 2000 election results, unlike 9/11, unlike Hurricane Katrina. Finally, it was a celebration we were sharing, not public shame or horror. It was an embrace of the new.

We have seen the damage that can be wrought by a provincial leader without intellectual curiosity or empathy for the poor and middle class. This Thanksgiving I am grateful that we had the collective wisdom to choose the personification of the opposite. I am grateful, as always, to be an American - just more than usual this year.

The Year Without Turkey

Nancy O'Neill of Temecula, California writes that her worst Thanksgiving memory comes from the year she thought I got botulism from the turkey.

I was about 12 or so. My mom had cooked a huge turkey as she always did. After taking it out of the oven, she set the roaster on top of the stove with the cover tilted to vent the steam. Somehow, the cover slipped down and shut tight over the roaster. It stayed like that unnoticed for quite awhile. During the time it was cooling on top of the stove, I sneaked a chunk of turkey, put the cover back on as I had found it, and was tickled that I had gotten away with something.

About 10 minutes before we were ready to eat, my mom noticed the cover on tight and decided it was too risky for any of us to eat it for dinner due to possible botulism. We all begged her to let us eat it, but she insisted that missing one turkey for Thanksgiving was not worth making anyone ill, no matter how remote the possibility. She wouldn't even feed it to the dogs because she didn't want them to get sick.

I asked her what the symptoms of botulism poisoning were. As she listed a few of them including blurred vision, dry mouth, muscle weakness and possibly paralysis, I got more worried but still didn't confess. We ate dinner, full of side dishes but without the turkey.

As the night went on, I was convinced I was experiencing a multitude of symptoms. By the time I went to bed, my legs were getting stiff and after lying awake for what seemed like hours, I couldn't stand it anymore. My only thought was that if I didn't tell Mom and I died in my sleep, they would never know what killed me. Little did I know that people generally don't die from botulism. I finally dragged myself out of bed and told Mom.

Even though she hadn't let any of us, including the dogs, eat the turkey, she was pretty sure it was safe. Once she convinced me that I wasn't going to die, I went back to sleep.

It's Not a Hellish Holiday Unless Someone Pukes

Joyce Wilden of BUZZBizPR.com in Melbourne, Florida contributes her cautionary tale involving the collision of booze and turkey.

With our parents long dead, the Thanksgiving holiday is rotated between each of the six siblings in my family. When it came my turn some years ago, I wondered how to tear the men away from the football games and get my hyper-responsible female relatives to loosen up and have fun. Each year always seemed a repeat of the last, with men watching football and all the Thanksgiving food responsibility falling to the dutiful women.

It started innocently enough with a game of Guesstures, a Charades-like parlor game, and a bottle of wine. The men lost interest and quickly returned to football, while the women (myself, two sisters and two sister-in-laws) continued to drink wine and play. The turkey was safely roasting in the oven and all was well. When we discovered the bottle of wine was empty, we decided to open a second, since everyone was having such a wonderful time.

I am not a very capable cook and I realized with dismay that the older sisters were becoming unable to help me. One sister-in-law yanked open the oven door and pulled out the rack to check the turkey, sloshing the turkey "juice" out of the pan, igniting my oven! Amid the chaos in my small kitchen, someone grabbed a large box of baking soda and threw it onto my flaming turkey. With the fire out, I cleaned up the bird as best I could and set about getting the rest of the dinner ready. Luckily, one sister-in-law was relatively sober and the two of us worked to get dinner on the table while the other ladies watched and giggled.

As we sat down to dinner in my too-small dining room, the men eyed the group with suspicion. It was all right that the males had been drinking beer during the football game, but having the women loopy would not stand. Grumpily, they sat down to eat. Bowls were passed, turkey and mashed potatoes were served up and hot rolls buttered. Outside the French doors of my dining room, the afternoon sun shone on the tall pines in the backyard.

My brother nudged my sister-in-law who had dozed off, chin on her chest. She woke up and continued eating. The other women gabbed and laughed and were uncharacteristically over loud. We all watched in amazement as the same sister-in-law nodded and drifted off again, then fell slowly forward into her mashed potatoes. My brother awakened her sharply, embarrassed and disturbed, while she wiped mashed potatoes off her carefully made-up face.

My oldest sister then suddenly stood up, knocking her chair backward, and started toward my French doors. In the space of 30 seconds, she was through the doors and into the backyard. She hastened to the nearest pine tree, extended an arm for support and threw up in full view of everyone at the dinner table. My turn at hosting Thanksgiving had turned into a full-scale disaster.

While the older sister was helped back inside, the sleepy sister-in-law had was dispatched to a bedroom to nap. Moments later, my brother-in-law called out my sister's name and announced, “We’re leaving.” The exodus began and all the siblings, spouses and assorted relatives gathered up their belongings. "I’ll drive," quipped the older sister, her equilibrium restored. Despite this attempt at levity the mood did not lighten.

When we closed the door on the last of them, my husband and I turned to each other and tried to make sense of what had just happened. To this day, I consider it an amazing social experiment. Holidays are days of tradition, of routine, of expected foods and expected behavior. We turned the holiday on its head. And when the guardians of the holiday tradition are removed from the equation, things fall apart.

Setting (And Bolting) the Thanksgiving Table

Libbe HaLevy of LibbeHaLevy.com tells a classic Thanksgiving tale from way back in 1965 and the West Rogers Park area of Chicago. It just goes to show how timeless those painful memories can be!

As part of a Jewish family, I grew up with all the holiday season anguish most people associate with Christmas squeezed into Thanksgiving. My mother insisted on hosting the dinner, even though she hated and resented it and would carp on certain relatives before and after the event. One could set the clock by her yelling at the rest of us to get ready, which would always start 90 minutes before guests arrived. We could even be showered and dressed, and she'd yell. It was the stress she'd taken on and her sense of martyrdom.

This particular year, our dining room table had a wobble. It was a solid mahogany table with two pedestal legs, each of which had three smaller legs coming out of it. One of those smaller legs was loose, which created the wobble. We'd lived with it like that for almost a year - it had shown up after the previous year's Thanksgiving - and with the judicious addition of a book or two to shore up the leg, it would have been fine.

For whatever reason, two hours to lift-off, my mother decided that the leg had to be fixed - and her way of doing it was to yank the small leg off! Just like that, the table dipped to one side and stayed there, torquing the frame that held the extension boards and jamming them in place. If one of us had done it, it would have been "off with their heads!" But she had, and we couldn't comment...or even give each other eye contact or we would break out laughing. Nothing she did could prop it up -- putting a chair under it, a pile of books, sticking the little leg back on -- nothing... and the clock was ticking. We couldn't even set the table because there was no table!

Mom had no one to blame except herself, so we stayed out of her way while she realized what a mess she'd made. Finally she called our neighbor, a real Mr. Fix-It, and asked him to glue the leg back on. He came over, examined the problem and gave her the bad news: there was no time to use glue. The only way to temporarily fix the table was by drilling through the solid mahogany leg.

She had no choice. So he drilled between the small leg and the pedestal and fit pieces of plywood around them with wing nuts to brace the whole thing. This was truly ugly and demolished the wood of this 1930's furniture. But at least it held. As we raced to set the table, Mom left to shower and dress, but not before she admonished us not to say a word about it to anyone. We didn't, but we continued to suppress smiles, especially whenever anyone said, "The table looks so lovely!"

Footnote: I don't know when she had it done, but the next time I examined the table leg it looked perfect, with not even a sign where the drilled holes had been. I suspect an entirely new mahogany replacement leg had been carved to match and attached. The incident was never discussed again in my family until my mother's funeral, during which we gathered for a meal around that very table.

Thanksgiving: Add Liquor and Stir

Mary Agnes Antonopoulos of RockawayWriter.com remembers her family traditions, which always seem to begin with everyone getting drunk...:

Age 7: Under a big covered silver chafing dish, to be funny, my uncle has hidden a LIVE baby turkey (they are massively ugly, btw). But it does not cooperate and remain quiet for the joke. It squawks and jumps, and the cover flies up and beans my grandmother, giving her a concussion. The baby turkey screams and runs over everyone's dishes on the table. My younger uncle Jerry finally catches it and in his TERROR (they're from Brooklyn, he said he thought it was a rat), he threw it OUT THE WINDOW (four stories up). I think we ate at McDonalds that year.

Age 8: The dog runs by everyone at the table with the fully cooked turkey in his mouth hanging from one side. My dad chases the dog with the carving knife yelling, "I'll kill you, you son of a bitch." (This happened long before that "Christmas Story" movie with the lamp-leg.)

Age 9: Someone had told mom that the turkey cooked better in a paper bag. So everyone's at the table...and something smells weird. The turkey is ON FIRE in the oven. They somehow get it out and VACUUM the turkey. We all eat it anyway.

Age 10: Two uncles, half drunk, have a mock duel with drumsticks and get pissed off. They start smashing each other over the heads with the drumsticks and one gets a torn cornea. As warned about in "A Christmas Story," it's all fun and games until someone puts an eye out!

Fast Forward to Age 35: By now I, myself, have been sober for ten years. My dad bumps into a wall, the John Wayne portrait (I'm not kidding) falls off the wall and somehow slices THROUGH his shoe and THROUGH his foot. It requires 27 stiches. The Duke Rules.

You Always Remember Your First Time

Jenny Thompson submits the following Hellish Thanksgiving tale, which took place in Laurel, Maryland in the 1980s. In the true Hellish Holidays tradition, it ends in tears.

My now ex-husband and I had just moved into a two-bedroom apartment together. It was the first Thanksgiving I was ever hosting and we were using it as an opportunity for our families to meet. To add to the pressure, while the apartment was a nice size for two people, it was pretty tight for a dinner for 14.

My anxiety level was off the charts. Not only was I making my first turkey ever and hosting my first "dinner party" but my ex is black, I'm Jewish and my father's wife at the time was South African…so quite a melting pot of people coming together.

The day started off badly when I dropped the turkey - twice. I called my mother in a panic. She told me to wash off the cat hair and use it anyway.

From there, things were going okay. The turkey got cooked and everyone got along fine. All was good - until I cleared the table.

I loaded the dishwasher, started to run the first load while we were having dessert, and the garbage disposal exploded all over the kitchen, spewing turkey, dressing, cranberries and everything else you can imagine all over the counters and the floor. Then water started pouring out from the dishwasher and the kitchen was officially flooded and it was heading into the dining room.

I called maintenance, again in a panic. They said it wasn't an emergency so they wouldn't come until the next day or Monday. I asked my husband to tell everyone to leave so we could figure out what to do. Then I went into the bedroom and cried.
 
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