On Dec. 24, 1957, a Mr. T. Grinch attempted to disrupt Christmas by stealing associated gifts and decorations. His plan failed, the occupants of Dr. Suess' narrative remained festive, and Mr. Grinch himself succumbed to cardiac hypertrophy. To help others avoid repeating his mistakes, I've written a brief guide to properly disrupting holidays. Holiday-positive readers should read this with the orthogonality thesis in mind. Fighting Christmas is tricky, because the obvious strategy - making a big demoralizing catastrophe - doesn't work. No matter what happens, the media will put the word Christmas in front of it and convert your scheme into even more free advertising for the holiday. It'll be a Christmas tragedy, a Christmas earthquake, a Christmas wave of foreclosures. That's no good; attacking Christmas takes more finesse.

The first thing to remember is that, whether you're stealing a holiday or a magical artifact of immense power, it's almost always a good idea to leave a decoy in its place. When people notice that something important is missing, they'll go looking to find or replace it. This rule can be generalized from physical objects to abstractions like sense of community. T. Grinch tried to prevent community gatherings by vandalizing the spaces where they would've taken place. A better strategy would've been to promise to organize a Christmas party, then skip the actual organizing and leave people to sit at home by themselves. Unfortunately, this solution is not scalable, but someone came up with a very clever solution: encourage people to watch Christmas-themed films instead of talking to each other, achieving almost as much erosion of community without the backlash.

I'd like to particularly applaud Raymond Arnold, for inventing a vaguely-Christmas-like holiday in December, with no gifts, and death (rather than cheer) as its central theme [1]. I really wish it didn't involve so much singing and community, though. I recommend raising the musical standards; people who can't sing at studio-recording quality should not be allowed to sing at all.

Gift-giving traditions are particularly important to stamp out, but stealing gifts is ineffective because they're usually cheap and replaceable. A better approach would've been to promote giving undesirable gifts, such as religious sculptures and fruitcake. Even better would be to convince the Mayor of Whoville to enact bad economic policies, and grind the Whos into a poverty that would make gift-giving difficult to sustain. Had Mr. Grinch pursued this strategy effectively, he could've stolen Christmas and Birthdays and gotten himself a Nobel Prize in Economics [2].

Finally, it's important to avoid rhyming. This is one of those things that should be completely obvious in hindsight, with a little bit of genre savvy; villains like us win much more often in prose and in life than we do in verse.

And with that, I'll leave you with a few closing thoughts. If you gave presents, your friends are disappointed with them. Any friends who didn't give you presents, it's because they don't care, and any fiends who did give you presents, they're cheap and lame presents for the same reason. If you have a Christmas tree, it's ugly, and if it's snowing, the universe is trying to freeze you to death.

Merry Christmas!


[1] I was initially concerned that the Solstice would pattern-match and mutate into a less materialistic version of Christmas, but running a Kickstarter campaign seems to have addressed that problem.

[2] This is approximately the reason why Alfred Nobel specifically opposed the existence of that prize.


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I don't want to steal Christmas, I just want to contain it. It's poised to overrun November. Thanksgiving has fallen to the onslaught. Halloween looks ready to put up a better fight, but I'm not sure we can count on that.

The first thing to remember is that, whether you're stealing a holiday or a magical artifact of immense power, it's almost always a good idea to leave a decoy in its place.

Another thing to remember is that, when trying to seem wise, you should present any idea as if you derived it deliberately from a general principle.

Actually, causing poverty is a poor way to stop gift-giving. Even in subsistence economies, most farm households are net purchasers of the staple food; even very poor households support poorer ones in most years. (I have citations for this but one is my own working paper, which I don't currently have access to, and the other is cited in that, so you'll have to go without.) Moreover, needless gift-giving to the point of causing financial difficulties is fairly common in China (see http://www.economist.com/news/china/21590914-gift-giving-rural-areas-has-got-out-hand-further-impoverishing-chinas-poor-two-weddings-two).

The universe is always, eternally trying to freeze everyone to (heat) death, and will eventually win.


If... any fiends [] did give you presents, they're cheap and lame...

And evil, as befits fiends.

I'd like to particularly applaud Raymond Arnold, for inventing a vaguely-Christmas-like holiday in December, with no gifts, and death (rather than cheer) as its central theme [1]

Oh man, Quirrell is going to be super-pissed in about a week.

I would think that the optimal strategy for stealing Christmas depends on whether you're trying as a grinch or an atheist. Really, all that's missing is some Sunday morning Christmas festivities, and some concern about leaving newborns out in the snow.

Wait, why would an athiest try to steal Christmas? It's become one of the most secular holidays of the year.

Wait, maybe we already stole it, and no one noticed?!

While walking through the town shopping centre shortly before Christmas, my mother overheard a conversation between two middle-aged women, in which one complained of the scandalous way in which the Church is taking over Christmas. She does not appear to have been joking.

This occured in Leatherhead, a largish town a little south of London in the UK. It is fairly wealthy, with no slummy areas and a homeless population of approximately zero. It is not a regional shopping hub; if they came specifically to shop, they almost certainly came from villages. Of the local schools, only the main high school is not officially Christian. We have at least three churches in town, one of which rings its bells every hour two streets from the shopping centre, but no mosque and no synagogue.

I think it is safe to say that someone has stolen Christmas, but I suspect they were intending to sell it, not destroy it.

Found a semi-relevant Calvin and Hobbes

related: http://lesswrong.com/lw/gp7/think_like_a_supervillain/

We have a grad student advice repository. Why not a super-villain advice repository?


I'd like to thank the LW community that the fact that you can embed images in comments comes as a surprise to me.

Me, I'm surprised that LessWrong gave me the opportunity to post Grumpy Cat and still be vaguely on topic!

I particularly like that this is now the image for the Facebook preview of this page.



Please move to discussion, I can't even discern a main point or theme to this post.

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