Holiday Lies

December 23, 2012 | By | Comments (7)
Illustration by Jack Unruh

Illustration by Jack Unruh

I’m dreaming of a Christmas free of the harmless fibs, gentle untruths, and little white lies that pile up like (fake) snow.

The holiday season officially begins when they take down the Halloween decorations in the drugstore and start foisting off the fruitcake and the crème drops. It is what we have instead of snow. My brother Sam likes fruitcake; it is the only thing about him that troubles me. My mother told me she liked it, too, but that turned out to be a lie, a lie she told for 45 years to keep from hurting my feelings, dating back to the first fruitcake I gave her when I was a boy. I found out she foisted that one and every fruitcake that followed off on Sam, who, now that I think about it, may not truly like fruitcake either but may just be forcing it down, gob after candied, gelatinous gob, so as not to hurt her feelings. Either way, I guess, it is a lovely lie, in a season of lovely lies. How would we get through Christmas without them?

Think about it, about the lies we have to tell—or just let drift along from year to year—just so we can have peace on Earth. In my family, you had better not dare tell an ugly truth for fear of eliciting the dreaded: “You have ruint my Christmas!”

Invariably, it was because someone was caught in a truth.

But I am done. I am out of holiday lies.

We shall start with the weather folks. I am done pretending the blip on your radar on Christmas Eve is Santa. I am not saying Santy ain’t coming; I’m saying that blip over Fort Smith, Arkansas, ain’t him.

Everyone knows the real Santa has magic powers that prevent us from seeing him, and if Santa can steer Donner and Blitzen across the December sky unseen by every child on Earth, I doubt your Doppler can track him. Maybe I can pretend, just one more year, if he brings me a fly rod.

I am through being nice to carolers. I have, for years, been one of the designated shut-ins on my street the carolers come to serenade. I do not sing well with others, and besides, it involves a great deal of walking. So I am left at home where I can cheerfully open the door and smile like a Stepford wife while everyone else on the street sings to me. Last year, I opened the door to be greeted by:

“You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch…”

I’ll show them Grinch. We’ll see how jolly they are dodging rocks through Glendale Gardens. I wonder if Santa would hold it against me if I went upside their heads with a fruitcake.

I usually do not have to spin any untruths when unwrapping presents. My people are wonderful gift buyers. They get me Carhartt shirts and good, thick socks and wrenches and screwdrivers and jeans that fit and 36 pairs of white undies from Fruit of the Loom, whom we have forgiven, apparently, for shutting down the plant and laying off the entire extended family. But I will NOT pretend to like a purple velour pullover with a V-neck collar, three sizes too small. I put it on and looked like a 300-pound grape. Don’t do that to me no more.

And I am through pretending that my one, special Christmas wish will come true. I am a low-tech man, but have begged for an iPod loaded with the Allman Brothers Band, The Amazing Rhythm Aces (“Third rate romance/Low rent rendezvous”), and some Jerry Lee Lewis. The iPod did arrive under the tree, two years ago. Empty. Silent. Christmases and birthdays and Father’s Days have come and gone and it is still silent as a box of saltine crackers, because my family members who actually know how to insert music into the magical device do not love me enough to do so.

Well I am through. From now on, during Christmas, I will celebrate in the warm light of truth.

Guess I’ll go see what’s on the radio.


  1. Maria

    I just discovered Rick Bagg. My father in law found his book at a Goodwill and passed it on to me. I am deeply moved by his storytelling. God, how I’d love to write half as good as him, ok one quarter as good. And I used to think I had a difficult childhood! I really didn’t and now I know for sure.
    Thank you Rick, for your truth. And for stirring my soul.

    January 3, 2013 at 9:54 am

    My dad and I BOTH cried when we each finished “All Over But the Shouting”. He said it reminded him of his mother. I laugh out loud everytime I read Rick Bragg’s writings in Southern Living. Sometimes, I still cry…did ya read the story about the Tuscaloosa Tornadoes??! Who wouldn’t cry both tears of sorrow and of laughter in that one story? One guy with a chainsaw is definitely worth more than 10 guys with clipboards!

    December 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm
  3. Omar Nacky

    Such a talented author. Well worth the minutes to spend with Rick Bragg.

    December 25, 2012 at 5:33 am
  4. Virginia

    I love you Rick Bragg.

    December 24, 2012 at 9:56 am
  5. abryder

    One of the most enjoyable articles I have read in quite a while! Not many people outside of Bragg can make me laugh out loud while reading!

    December 24, 2012 at 5:24 am
  6. Will Cochran

    Mr. Bragg, thank you very much for mentioning that blip on the weather radar screen on Christmas Eve. I too have decided that I will no longer buy into that little lie that the blip on the radar is Santa. As a kid when radars weren’t nearly as advanced as today I would sit and watch as the U.S. Air Force would send their planes out to investigate. Well I no longer will have to worry that the Gov’t might demolish Santa. Thank you Mr. Bragg and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    December 24, 2012 at 3:48 am
  7. Mary Hazlett

    A most enjoyable Christmas story from Mr. Bragg. Thank you for the Truth about Holiday Lies !

    December 23, 2012 at 10:33 pm

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