“Grinch.” “Grouch.” “Humbug.” Burt’s been called every name found in books about holiday killjoys. His wife, kids, and in-laws all chime in. His sisters stopped sending Birthday, Anniversary and Christmas cards. His own mother once said, “You know what you are? A Scrooge. You’re a Scrooge.”
Burt knew he’d earned most of those titles, but “Scrooge”? That hurt. “So, I suck at gift-giving. Sue me,” he’d say to his family, knowing the off-the-mark presents he gives always cost good money. “Call me anything, but you can’t say I’m cheap.”
Burt liked holidays when just a gimme-gimme kid. Especially birthdays. Kids get to take. Take. Take. Grownups are expected to give. Give. Give. “And for what? Ingratitude, mostly,” he’d mumble.
Burt’s biggest issue with holidays is what the stress of them does to his loved ones. He doesn’t like seeing family members go nuts trying to uphold mysteriously long-ingrained traditions. Assisting his wife, Jean, with her manic efforts to create holiday magic and force merriment upon those who don’t deserve it. Watching his children, home from college, drink themselves stupid while telling him they do it “To cope with your B.S.” Refereeing fights between his daughter, wife and mother-in-law who never go at it on non-holidays. Telling his mother to “Knock it off,” when she complains about Jean’s cooking. Hosting houseguests who stay two days too long. Singing songs that get stuck in his head and won’t leave. And feeling pressured by competitive neighbors to “up his game” with the holiday decorations.
Burt has a simple dream. A dream he believes he can turn into a movement. A new take on holidays to give everyone a pass to say “Pass.” Want to skip a Thanksgiving? Halloween? Christmas? Birthday?
Hannukah? Easter? the Fourth? Instead, take a Thanks, But No Thanks-iday. The only rule? There are no rules. No traditions. No guests. No gifts. No guilt.
“Everyone I tell about it is really into it,” Burt says to Jean, while she gets dressed for work after another exhausting holiday “break.”
“Well honey, maybe you’re on to something,” she says, so tired from entertaining she’s finally warming to the idea after hearing Burt go on about it for years. “What would we do?”
“We’d stay home. Just you and me. Drink beer instead of mulled wine and yech-nog. Eat what we want—maybe pork rinds. No tree trimming! We’ll go fishing.”
“You’ve never been fishing.”
“I know. We might like it. Or bowling. We could read books. Or—write a book!”
“So, you don’t want us to come home?” Burt’s daughter says, as Bert tries to sell her on his dream of Thanks, But No Thanks-idays and waves goodbye in the driveway.
“Sure, I want you home. Anytime but holidays. We get on each other’s nerves on holidays, sweetie. You wouldn’t have to come here. You could do what you want.”
“So, you’re saying let’s not do this again?” Burt’s son, Andy, asks while boarding a Mega Bus back to school (he’d asked Burt for a train ticket).
“Yep, that’s what I’m saying.”
“Well, okay Ebenezer.”
Andy holds a duffel bag in his left hand and his Christmas present tucked under his right arm.
“The briefcase. Hold it by the handle. You look silly,” Burt says.
“Dad, no college freshman carries a briefcase. You know I won’t use it.”
“It’s Hornback Alligator. Wasn’t cheap.”
“Happy New Year, dad.”