Four years ago I bought my mom a ninety-dollar scarf for Christmas. The scarf was oversized, turquoise, and made out of a natural fiber I couldn't pronounce. The gift was undeniably expensive but I figured it was an appropriate token of affection for the women who raised me. That year I also bought mom an animatronic dancing Santa. It was in the discount bin and cost two dollars. The Santa spun in circles and played Jingle Bell Rock. Mom thought the Santa was the greatest thing she ever saw. She laughed and played it dozens upon dozens of times. She has never worn the scarf. Not once.
I hadn't intended the dancing Santa to become a Christmas tradition. It was a throwaway gag. A festive accent to the actual present I had put time and effort into. My mistake was assuming that mom loves things in the way I love things—with a droll sense of detachment and a well practiced eye roll—but that's just not the case. She loves things with an unbridled enthusiasm usually reserved for primary school teachers. It's one of her absolute best traits and it drives me up the wall.
"It's so good of you to make a new Christmas tradition!" she said playing Jingle Bell Rock Santa for the umpteenth time. "This is something I'll look forward to every holiday season! With a new Santa each time!" Jingle Bell Rock Santa stopped. Mom smiled and hit the button. Santa started up again.
Since that time my mother has collected twenty-two animatronic dancing Santas. They were gifts from myself, other family members, and well-meaning friends. There is the sunglassed Santa that dances to Gangnam Style. There is the limited edition singing bass that wears a Santa hat and croons Bing Crosby. There is also the jumping Santa that our dog tried to eat and is missing half its face.
During the holidays mom places these festive robots around my childhood home and sets them off at random. They are her absolute favorite things and have turned the simple act of walking to the bathroom into a veritable Five Nights at Freddy's, full of jump scares and unprecedented use of the word fuck.
This year in my latest effort to hide from my extended family and avoid my childhood friends, I hauled up in my former bedroom and decided to rank Mom's top-five Dancing Santas. The uncanny monstrosities were judged based on their festive qualities and movement abilities. The videos were taken between the time my brother stopped doing drum pad covers of Christmas Carols and when my grandma phoned to ask why we don't visit more often.
5. Gangham Style Santa
I purchased this bad boy at Honest Ed's, the iconic Kubrickan maze of discount goods and terrible puns located in Toronto's Annex [soon to be closed for a condo obviously]. I hadn't tried out the Santa before bequeathing it to Ma, and I couldn't read the label because it was printed in Mandarin. Gangnam Style was a surprise for us all. On Christmas when the tune blared out of Santa's backside and Saint Nick began thrusting his hips, Mom squealed until literal tears were rolling down her face. When she caught her breath she said "Go put Macarena Santa beside the dog!"
4. Figuratively Snowing Frosty
Last year due to a fun little bout of Seasonal Affective Disorder ( S.A.D LOL) I put off Christmas shopping until December the 23rd. That meant that I had to make my way to an overcrowded mall, frantically battling it out with all the other sad sacks desperate to purchase the their family's love. After four hours of grinding my teeth and swiping my card the only thing left to buy was the Santa. The closest thing I could find was Figuratively Snowing Frosty. Later that night on the bus ride to my parent's house I made him snow until the batteries wore out. I felt oddly at ease.
3. Jumping Snowman
The Jumping Snowman made the list because the Jumping Santa no longer works after the dog attack. While Jumping Santa still exists somewhere in the abode as nightmare fuel for unsuspecting visitors, for the sake of this article he was disqualified from the rankings. The most impressive thing about Jumping Snowman is the height he gets. In my lesser moments I fear he will track me down replicant style in a hunt for meaning and vengeance.
2. Santa's Little Helper: The Walking Dog
Look at this bullshit.
1. Jingle Bell Rock Santa
The one that started it all. There he is with his face all aglow. There he is spinning in circles, ringing his bells, and playing his music in some kind of ill-fated attempt to stay with it. To turn on Jingle Bell Rock Santa you push the button on its back. Two years ago the button broke. Now unless you physically restrain Santa he will continue indefinitely, spinning ad nauseam, and bringing continual festive cheer until some Grinch comes in and ruins the party. I am usually the Grinch.
Bonus: Mom opens up Santa's Little Helper: The Walking Dog
That look on her face… probably not worth it. I'll probably get her a book next year.
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