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Outdoors Outpost
Christmas Traditions
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 • Posted December 19, 2012

As Americans, we have some wonderful holiday traditions, such as hiding eggs at Easter, which commemorates the fact that no one can agree whether the chicken or the egg came first. We also have the Ground Hog Day tradition, where a rodent named Unpronouncable Phil, on February 2, predicts whether kids will start pulling their pants all the way up during the next six weeks.

These are wonderful traditions, but my favorite is probably Black Friday, in which Americans, many of whom are able to sign their own names, go to Wal-Mart stores in the middle of the night to brawl over cheap Chinese merchandise. I usually spend that one in bed asleep, which is why it’s my favorite.

But America is not the only country with holiday traditions. Canada, for example, has the Christmas Beaver tradition, where they bring an actual, authentic beaver into their home and decorate it. Living in Canada, I understand, is extremely boring. Also cold.

Australians, or maybe it’s Aleutians, have a tradition where children have to go out on Christmas Eve and bring back a live koala bear, or maybe it’s a live polar bear. It’s some kind of bear, I’m pretty sure.

Families develop more personal traditions, such as the one my brother started when we were kids, where he would peek and find out what was in all the packages, and then switch the tags so all I ever got were socks and underwear, and he got all the good stuff. At least, that’s what I think he did.

My Christmas tradition, since I started writing this column, is the annual Christmas Gift Guide. Every year, except for those years when I forget or don’t feel like it, I offer my picks for outstanding outdoors-related Christmas Gifts. I usually steal these from someone like Dave Barry, but sometimes I come up with them on my own. Especially if Dave’s picks are really lousy.

Sometimes Dave comes up with some great gift ideas, though. Last year he featured some impressive items such as the Candwich, which is a sandwich in a can. Really. I can attest to the fact that the Candwich actually exists, since I, personally, almost bought one once. I would have, too, if my wife hadn’t caught me in the checkout line.

Dave also promoted the Martha Stewart Animated Snake Wreath last year, which is a wreath with snakes on it that start wriggling festively when someone approaches. Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ like a wreath covered with holiday rubber snakes.

Another favorite last year was the Christmas stocking full of knives, from Smokey Mountain Knife Works, but my top choice was the toad purse. This is a purse made from an actual deceased toad, with a shoulder strap attached to its front legs, and a zipper on the other end of the toad. Let’s face it, nothing says ‘I love you’ like a dead toad. Well, that and psychiatric treatment.

But enough about Dave’s gift suggestions. People often ask me what’s on my own, personal Christmas wish list, besides chili stains. Not that I will ever receive a gift to beat the duck backsides my wife gave me a few years ago. If you come to my office you can see these duck bottoms, which are attached to my ceiling, as if you’re watching them from below while they swim serenely on the surface of a pond with a submerged office in it.

My list, this year, has a pair of Keen hiking boots on it. I got a pair of Keens about 18 months ago, and have worn them just about every day since, in all weather, and have finally worn them out, according to my wife. I’d keep wearing them, despite the holes and the foul odor, but my wife hid them a while back, and she must have wrapped them in plastic, because I can’t find them, even by smell. Those boots lasted longer, and were more comfortable, than any other hiking boots I’ve ever had. RIP.

A new pair of Alpen binoculars is always on my list, as is a set of Crimson Trace lasergrips for whatever pistol I happen to have that doesn’t already have them on it. They now come with either a red or green laser, and I recommend at least one of each, so you’ll have the two major name brand Christmas colors to protect your home with.

My list also includes any long box marked Remington, Winchester, Savage, CZ, or Henry, and any short box marked Ruger, Colt, Kimber, or Smith & Wesson. Note to my family – Do not exchange the contents of boxes with anything in Dave Barry’s Gift Guide.

I would ask for hair, since mine is getting pretty thin on top, but I’m afraid that if I did get hair it would come either in my ears or nose, where I already have far more than I need. If I’ve learned anything about Christmas, it’s that specificity is paramount . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who once briefly decorated a cow for Christmas. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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