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December 21, 2016

Ask Hickey: Yule need advice for the Christmas holiday

Got something you want to ask? Send me your questions through FacebookTwitter or email (with "Ask Hickey" in the subject line). Your anonymity is guaranteed — if that’s how you want it — so feel free to send them via private/direct message.


And now, this week’s questions...

Surveillance State Santa!

My 6-year-old said he was going to ask Santa for a RC helicopter (which Santa had bought) but instead asked for a RC police car. So, do I tell him the TRUTH or continue to lie to him about the upcoming police state? (Winky_Dinky_Dog, via Twitter)

He believes.

He believes that.

He believes that Santa’s real.

He believes that Santa’s real.

It takes a real dirtbag to tell a child that that may not be the case, let alone many children.

Don’t become that parent over purchasing that extra toy. The joy on his face will make it all worthwhile on Christmas morning!

Your police state fears are understandable, though. From what I’ve heard about police’s phone-pinging capabilities, we already live in one.

It’s not an RC police car that’s prepping our children for that, though. It’s Elf on the Shelf. Realest talk.

To wit:

EotS does normalize – in both conscious and subconscious ways – constant surveillance in developing minds that will inhabit a world where their every public step lands in a security camera’s line of vision and their every keystroke falls under the mercy of personal profile-building and ad-targeting cookies and, in some cases, hackers.

In next-gen America, the need for “See Something, Say Something” PSA campaigns will be nil since they’ll be preconditioned to accept the role of surveillance even in family holiday contexts.

Times, they keep a’changing, so maybe it’s not necessarily a bad thing for our children to learn without even knowing it. It's easier to adapt to a future with which you're already familiar. 

Anyway, sorry to end this response on such a downer. 

I hope your son loves all of his Christmas gifts!

Bring the noise! (And then apologize with gifts.)

My kid wants a trumpet. While I'm not thrilled, I still think it's a good idea to start her on an instrument early (she's 4). What kind of gifts should I get for my neighbors to ease the hell that may soon be entering their lives? (M.M., via Facebook)

Considering that your daughter is friends with my son, I know that she’ll love that present, and it will invigorate her creative side like few toys can.

At his pre-K, our son took violin lessons. He dug it. Alas, he never expressed interest in having one at home. He’d rather showcase his creativity with his feet on the soccer field. Which is fine by me. He’s getting better with each passing season!

Maybe she’ll stick with the trumpet for years to come, though, so it’s good to think ahead.

Now, onto your point. Yes, trumpets can be loud (see below):

Obviously, the first-level gift you give them must provide solace from the noise storm that’s approaching like The Langoliers.

Noise-canceling headphones are the obvious choice. If they’re musically inclined, and you have expendable cash, Beats By Dre are pretty hype.

There are expensive options and economical choices as well.

I’d lean toward the latter as her trumpet interest may not extend all that long, y’know?

Also, it’s not a bad idea to throw in a couple bottles of wine or booze, too. Maybe a case of Daisy Cutter Pale Ale, as it is the best beer ever created.

That way, you can head over to their place during the lessons to numb the aural pain.

What's up with telling scary stories on Christmas?

In the Christmas carol "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," there's a lyric that says: "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of the Christmases long, long ago." What scary ghost stories is Andy Williams talking about? (FMN, via Facebook)

Let's give it a listen right quick!

Fun fact: ‘Twas a Victorian Christmas tradition to tell scary ghost stories amid the Yuletide festivities. Blame pagan winter festivals for that. To wit:

“Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” wrote British humorist Jerome K. Jerome as part of his introduction to an anthology of Christmas ghost stories titled “Told After Supper“ in 1891. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about specters.”

The practice of gathering around the fire on Christmas Eve to tell ghost stories was as much a part of Christmas for the Victorian English as Santa Claus is for us.

Traces of this now-forgotten tradition occasionally appear in noticeable places at Christmastime, although their significance is generally overlooked.

That is a shame. Our culture’s commercialization of the holiday has let an odd, but uniting, tradition essentially fall into disuse. Perhaps you can be the one who revives it!

Two years past, "The Paris Review" provided a list of five such stories from that great English tradition. You can read them here! I perused that collection. My recommendation? “The Kit-Bag” by Algernon Blackwood.

And with that, I'd like to extend a Happy Holidays greet to all! (I'd have said Merry Christmas, but this might be the last year that's not required by law, so happy holidays it is.)