6 Tales of Holiday Mess That Will Make You Grateful for Your Own Weird Family

Distract yourself from December doldrums with the cringefest that is... other people's families.

Holiday Catastrophes That'll Leave You Saying "At Least THAT's Not My Family"
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Oh, the glorious winter holidays: candles lighting the darkness, a crackling fire warming a cold family room, and the mess of everyday life turning up to the maximum — both in terms of how stressful it is and also on a scale of mess. In the interest of making you feel better about whatever wacky shenanigans your own family and friends may pull this holiday season, I issued a call for tales of winter holiday drama — the Christmas gifts nobody asked for; the New Year's reveler who really, really should've stayed home — and, wow, did folks deliver.

Some of the responses have been edited and condensed for clarity. Some names have been withheld or changed upon request — trust me, you'll see why.

We know how this one ends…

So a few years ago, my partner's sister was at a holiday party on her street when she and her husband got in an argument. Her husband left to go home. When my drunk sister-in-law left the party later, a friend took her home to make sure she got there safe and sound. As the friend left, she heard the husband in the garage talking to someone, and it sounded intimate. She believed she heard him say, "I love you." The next day, the friend called my sister-in-law and said, "Check your man's phone."

My sister-in-law found several texts and phone calls to the number her husband called that night, but he hadn't saved the contact name. When she typed the number into her own phone to see if she knew the person, a familiar name came up. And that's how my sister-in-law found out her husband was having an affair with their neighbor right across the street! Her husband had even put up the neighbor's Christmas lights and done some chores in her yard, as she was newly separated and he wanted to be "neighborly."

He eventually moved out. The other woman left the neighborhood after the other wives on the street harassed her (including putting honey around her garage door to attract ants, which I think was going too far.) Anyway, my former brother-in-law and his mistress got married and I guess are now headed for divorce. – Anonymous

The Traditional New Year's Menage

I was working in Antarctica as a dishwasher. I had a New Year's threesome, as one does, and in the course of the drunken revelry, somebody spilled a beer on somebody else's laptop. The threesome was a success, but the laptop was dead. I thought I might offer to help offset the cost of the new laptop, so I asked how much it would cost. My friend/threesome buddy said it was $2,500. At this point I decided it made more sense to just blame the other guy. Anyway, it turns out threesomes can cause drama no matter what continent you're on. – James

Look, it's… Santa?

My parents raised six kids in a quiet neighborhood. On Christmas Eve, even as adults, we were required to show up for the exchanging of gifts. During one of these occasions, my youngest brother sidled up to me, and in a low voice said, "Have everyone look out the front picture window in about five minutes." He then quickly slipped out the back door.

Five minutes later, I had everyone lined up looking out the window for the holiday surprise. He did not disappoint. He was going up and down the street, wearing nothing but one of our dad's rubber goose decoys. He had stuck it on his head like a beaked chapeau, and he was waving at the world.

The reaction from my siblings and father was uproarious laughter. My mom just made a high-pitched hacking sound and went back to her brandy. My brother enjoyed the experience so much that he did it on both Christmas Eve and Independence Day for the next several years. – Charles

Thanks, Dad

I hadn't seen my dad in three years and I came home for the holidays. He spent our entire family dinner arguing politics with his police abolitionist girlfriend. (I don't have the story of how they got together and I am not going to ask.) He also got drunk and informed the table that I was conceived accidentally, on Halloween, after he won the worst costume award for his Charlie Brown ghost sheet ensemble. – Anonymous

The Deafeningly Silent Night

On Christmas, my friend announced to all assembled that he just had learned he was not his adult son's true biological father. The real dad? My friend's own father. Now that was a holiday surprise no one knew how to deal with. – Anonymous

Pants on Fire

We went over to my mom and dad's house for Christmas last year, but we all stayed outside and were masked. I just couldn't risk my parents getting COVID.

It was brutally cold, and I mean brutal. I brought propane heaters over to try to minimize the stinging pain of the cold air. They are loud, and will burn you if you get too close, but they are about all that you could hope for.

While walking around in roller skates he refused to remove, my nephew knocked one of the propane tank heaters over. It caught on fire and caught my wife's pants on fire in the process. Soon the whole tank became engulfed in flames. The pants were put out easily, but the fire fountain that was now in the open garage was a different story.

I picked it up and threw it away from the house. It got caught in a tree and then the tree caught on fire. As I yelled for my wife to stop, she ran out and kicked it away from the tree. It rolled into the street, spraying fire out the side. You could see that the sides were getting hot. I thought there was going to be propane tank shrapnel in our eyes.

A fire extinguisher was brought from inside. It looked like it had time-traveled from the '80s, and it definitely did not work. My brother knew where a second one might be, found it, and then finally extinguished the broken propane tank. That pretty much broke up the party. – Reverend Peyton, 40

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