Everyone has their own holiday traditions--I'm no different. Every Christmas Eve, I dump my leftover cocaine down the toilet, lock up the gun and liquor cabinet, and watch the most depressing, most potentially suicidal holiday special ever produced, A Charlie Brown Christmas. And while there have been scads of mood-ruining holiday shows, no other Christmas special even comes close to plummeting the viewer into a bottomless abyss of complete and utter despair.

Don't believe me? Then heed this true tale of holiday woe. The time: Christmas Eve, 1985. The scene: The Humphrey family's cabin in rural Tennessee. Snow blanketed the ground, the trees were covered in ice, and genial holiday warmth hung in the air. The charming cabin was decorated to the hilt, smelling of pine needles, gingerbread cookies, and rum-filled nog. In true holiday form, joyous cries of happy children and tipsy adults rang out into the night.

Then, my Aunt Wanda uttered the words that would change our lives forever.

"Hey! What do you say we gather up the kids and watch that Charlie Brown special on the TV?"

And with those 19 words, our perfect holiday went to SHIT.

Now, I will admit my family drinks far too much, and has a penchant for un-prescribed pharmaceuticals--but you know what? I didn't see ONE GODDAMN WARNING before the Charlie Brown special telling us to lay off the booze and coke, or risk spiraling into an irretrievable state of manic-depression. From the opening moments of A Charlie Brown Christmas--as the Peanuts gang ice skated on that perfectly blue pond, and the strains of that sad jazz score (set in a decidedly minor key) issued forth--a palpable pall settled across the room. And then, they began to sing...

"Christmas tiiiiiiiime is heeeeere... haaaaaappiness and cheeeeer..."

I swear to Christ it was like every molecule of "happiness and cheer" was forever sucked from the earth. Then Charlie Brown enters, claiming to be terribly unhappy--unable to determine the source of his deep depression. He makes a startling realization:

"I know nobody likes me," he moans. "So why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"

That's when my Uncle Woody feebly asked us, "Who needs some booze?" A chorus of hands, young and old alike, shot into the air.

Chugging Jack Daniels straight from the bottle, we sullenly watched Charlie Brown direct the ill-fated Christmas play--a production so doomed, even his own cast realizes, "This is the worst Christmas play EVER." Nevertheless, like a damned soul wandering in a snow-blanketed hell, Charlie continues to desperately search for the "true meaning of Christmas." Lucy provides him his answer: "Christmas is a big commercial racket, run by a big eastern syndicate."

My family numbly nodded in knowing agreement, and Aunt Wanda began passing out some pretty blue pills.

Now perhaps if the show had ended there, things wouldn't have taken such an unfortunate turn. But... it didn't. To fight the intruding commercialism of the holiday, Charlie Brown then buys a ridiculously pathetic tree that's hovering at death's door. After once again being ridiculed by the gang--"Boy, are you STUPID, Charlie Brown!"--he very nearly kills the tree in an unsuccessful attempt at decoration. Unable to bear a new onslaught of insults, Charlie Brown leaves, returning to find the kids have decorated the tree with the very same commercial accoutrements he had been fighting against. The gang sings a heartlessly moaning version of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," and... that's it. The cartoon's over.

The Humphrey kids were in tears. My mother's head was buried in her hands as my father impotently tried to console her. A single spittle of drool hung from my unconscious grandfather's lip.

"Tha...Thass's IT?!?" my Uncle Woody screamed in drunken frustration. "What kind of fuckin' cartoony was that? Thas was the mos' fuckin' depressin' piece of shit I've ever seen!"

"Calm down, asshole!" cried my Aunt Wanda. "You're scaring the kids!"

"Ish that Charlie Brown fucker whosh scarin' the kidsh," Woody slurred. And then came the words one never wants to hear at Christmas.

"Where'sh my GUN?"

Woody charged out of the room, and quickly returned with squirrel rifle in hand.

"I'm gonna blow that Charlie Brown'sh big round head off," he screamed. (It should be noted at this point that Uncle Woody had a fairly severe addiction to a number of illegal substances, and because of substantive anger management issues, was expressly forbidden by his parole officer from handling any firearm.)

Needless to say, a certain degree of panic swept the room. Screams pierced the air, as relative trampled relative in a futile attempt to escape the business end of Woody's wildly swinging squirrel rifle.

"Wanna know what Chrishmas ish all about, Charlie Brown?" Woody yelled as he leveled the gun toward the TV. "I'm sending you to Jeshus so's you can ask him!"

And with that, both gun and TV exploded in a cacophony of very un-Christmas-like cheer. What followed is hardly worth noting--other than the fire from the television leapt to the Christmas tree, which then made its way to the draperies. By the time the fire department arrived, a third of the cabin had been reduced to ashes.

Hours later, my family and I stood quietly in the snow together; bodies wrapped in blankets, faces covered with soot. I turned my gaze from the smoking ruins of our family's heirloom cabin to a single, sparkling star in the northern sky.

I don't know... maybe it was the booze, maybe it was the fact that we'd all escaped the house without getting burned or shot... but maybe for the first Christmas ever, standing out there in the crisp night air huddled with my family, I felt the true meaning of the word "togetherness." So in the cold silent night, I began to sing...

"Christmas tiiiiiiiime is heeeeere... haaaaaappiness and cheeeeer..."

See, that's why I watch A Charlie Brown Christmas alone, and have stopped spending holidays with my family. They can't take a fucking joke.