Happy holidays!

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The corporate email arrives, making its annual plea for you to have a happy holidays (which aren’t a ‘thing’).

It’s not so difficult, even for the grumpiest of us: “Merry Christmas and a happy New Year”.

But corporate wellwishers, and so many Americans, can’t just make that simple wish: they must instead be misguidedly inclusive and wish everyone happy holidays, a term so generic and seemingly inclusive because, well, every religion and none is having a bit of a knees-up in December because the weather is so shocking.

It’s exactly this sort of pointless reworking of standard ‘things’ that briefly gave us Birmingham’s ‘Winterval’, and it’s a short step from there to the rabid, frothing, hatstand leader columns in the Daily Express denouncing an imagined political-correctness-gone-mad around a central unfounded claim that “Muslims are trying to ban Christmas” and so on.

Of course the subtle message behind ‘happy holidays’ is ‘work even harder when you get back’.

The year may be different. But your inbox will be just as full.

So. Happy holidays can go to hell. Festive-up yourself. Merry Christmas.

Fuddle

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The curious Derbyshire / Yorkshire word for pooled food makes a festive return…

Let’s have a fuddle, says, seemingly, everyone everywhere. Being from the wrong side of the Pennines, it took a while to establish what this curious tradition might be.

And it turns out that it’s a sort of ad-hoc buffet held in an office, where all the food is provided by the people who work there. It sits there all day, on a low cupboard, getting warmer and progressively less hygienic, and promotes a culture of greed to go along with that of botulism.

A fuddle is mainly made up of Pringles, tortilla chips and pastry objects, sometimes with non-ambient dips and other assorted items typically found in a service station shop. Providing sustenance for an entire office, the fuddle transforms lunchtime from being a hurried sandwich snatched between meetings into an office full of people chomping on orange carbohydrates all day long simply because they are there.

The fuddle works worst in call centres where there is a shift system in place. The lucky early shift gets to feast on sweet and sour prawns and pâté de not-quite-foie-gras, at 7 o’clock in the morning; the late shift make do with the crumbs from the bottom of a bag of value tortillas and the crisp-flecked smearings of a cheese and chive dip from the side of a well-scraped pot.

Fitting firmly into the category of ‘enforced festive fun’, the fuddle happens mainly at Christmas. If you’re really unlucky, someone will bring a Christmas hits compilation and play it on repeat.

Anyway, that’s what a fuddle is, although nobody appears to have told Urban Dictionary, which has quite a different take on things.

Does anyone fancy a Christmas fuddle?

Erm…which kind?

Borderline-racist German Christmas Markets

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Oh look, it’s a lovely German Christmas Market! How quaint! How traditional! How sodding racist!

As hackneyed as any commercially-appropriated festive tradition, “German” markets are popping up all over the place. Initiated as a festive-ish postmillennial reason to temporarily fill up one of the disused bits of Leeds, they’ve spread far and wide so that every other pretender to the ‘Britain’s Second City’ crown has one. Even Birmingham. Yes.

German markets usually happen in November rather than in the run up to Christmas itself, because they’re on their way to a much more impressive gathering in Manchester – where they really love a bit of ersatz Bavariana. Either that, or perhaps November is cheaper. Yes, come to think of it, that’s it. I bet the stalls don’t pack up five days before Christmas in Frankfurt. I bet they go all the way until midnight on Christmas Eve.

The Weihnachtsmarkt can be relied on to give the very experience and ambiance of an authentic Bavarian street market, without ever selling a single trinket, a single knitted woollen novelty or a single Chinese-made wooden Christmas nativity scene. That’s because all of these traditional stalls, along with those selling candles, lamps, wood carvings, novelty honey or traditional (boring) toys, are essentially full of tat of the kind that nobody actually wants as a gift. I’d take the XBox, personally.

Where they’re making their money is in three key areas: fried goods, glühwein and the sorts of lager brands you can find in the warmth of every independent bar across any self-respecting city. The purveyors of the Christkindlmarkt would have you freeze your nutsack off queuing to enter an outdoor shed done up to look like a Santa’s grotto of fondest imagination, only to discover upon entry that it’s the same temperature outside as in, and you’ve essentially paid a fiver to stand in a wooden theme pub. There are no actual Germans here either.

Food-wise, we can surely rely on the traditional Bavarian staples of bunless pork burgers, fried sliced potatoes which reach an ambient temperature of zero degrees within 5 minutes of having been overcharged for, unpopular-looking pretzels, bratwurst, over-iced doughnuts and of course, erm, candy floss and garlic bread? Hang on – garlic bread? Isn’t that the French Christmas Market, yet to be commercialised?

And then there’s the glühwein, the warming, healing, alcohol-free alternative to having a good time. Mulled wine is a red wine ruined, in any language. Oh look! it’s served in a novelty mug! I do hope they washed it.

The Christmas market is a great new tradition, ruined only by everything they sell and the fact that it’s all a bit fakily not really all that German, and the fact that misappropriating and generalising about other people’s cultural traditions is a teeny bit icky. But equally, they must never stop because I really need my festive crowd-dodge amongst a bunch of sheds.

Fabricated festive food

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Shall we have turkey or Beef Garland this year?

Christmas is coming, and it’s time for the supermarkets to reveal their utterly perplexing range of seasonal food. Leading the pack this year is Iceland’s Beef Garland, essentially a toroidal cross between a sausage roll and a Beef Wellington, but without any of those complicated-sounding ingredients normally associated with nice-tasting food. There’s loads of pastry though, so it’s a bit like going to Gregg’s. And kudos to Iceland for giving it such a straightforward name, descriptive in a Ronseal kind of way, yet vaguely seasonal, whilst skilfully avoiding the use of the word ‘bayonet’.

I’m not sure whether the nation’s collective culinary memories are deeply rooted in the beef garland – maybe this is simply a tradition that didn’t get as far as my house – or are likely to be sourced from there in the future. Like so many current culinary inventions, it seems to have been invented by putting a thing inside another thing. After all there has hardly been any looking back since Pizza Hut decided to put hot dog sausages in their pizza crusts. However did we get through mealtimes when there was nothing but bread at the edge of our meat feast?

Somewhere else, probably (let’s be honest) Asda or Morrison’s, is offering a twist on a classic three bird roast. They’ve actually created a ‘three fish roast’. A fish, stuffed inside a fish, stuffed inside another fish. Merry Christmas, we’re not having turkey, I’ve done us a piscine abomination. Given that a fish takes about 10 minutes to cook and is unlikely to be enhanced by proximity to other fish, the three fish roast is decidedly not a thing. For vegetarians, they are presumably offering the holy trinity of quorn sausages, quorn pieces and quorn mince stuffed and roasted inside a pair of old tights.

And which festive get together wouldn’t be complete without a fully non-ironic spread of canapes? This year’s bang-on-trend orange food is the fish, chip and mushy pea bite, or perhaps a very small burger, or an outré fish finger sandwich. Small burgers have been rebranded ‘sliders’. Next year sliders will be back in a turkey and cranberry sauce variant, stuffed inside a pizza crust or wrapped around a beef garland for that ultimate Christmas treat.

Black Friday

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Not content with having foisted trick or treating on us, the US has now exported Black Friday.

Apparently it’s the first Friday of trading after Thanksgiving, the time in the year when retailers give it that enormous festive push. Distinct from cyber Monday, which is all about panic buying. And now, even those of us who aren’t in the US get to enjoy Black Friday too.

We aren’t told why it’s called Black Friday any more than we know why everywhere has a Blue Cross Sale.

Applying a simple rule sorts out all your festive shopping: if it’s reduced, it’s either broken, outdated or not worth the original price. Perhaps all three. Avoid.