candles

MORAL TURPITUDE

ON THE SECOND DAY OF CRANKVENT: NO TO NO PRESENTS!

Every year in the lead up to Christmas one of my siblings proposes the idea that, perhaps this year, we might not exchange gifts. My sibling cites financial constraints, which, I must say, coming from someone in a double-income-no-kids situation completely boggles the mind of me, your chronically under-employed, financially precarious correspondent. That’s not a financial constraint!

Another implicit justification for this no-present-Christmas proposal is the suggestion that we don’t need presents because it’s enough to be together and we don’t need material reassurance of our love we are the world we are the children—oh, puh-leaze! Have we met? Do you know our mother?

Here is not the place to go into my abandonment issues, but I do need such reassurance. I am one amorphous, self-destructive blob of neediness. I am a vampire, falling on the most minute manifestation of your possible regard for me with the blood-lust of Angelus on the sweet, pulsing jugular of a co-ed.

And besides, Christmas is one of the few occasions I can legitimately get my hands on decent loot (vide supra the financial precariousness of your esteemed correspondent).

Moving on from dissing my sibling (who really is very generous and lovely), I have also encountered this no-present pronouncement on those occasions when I’ve spent Christmas with other orphans, both figurative and literal. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was one year when all the other orphans readily agreed to this suggestion by one of our fellows (vide supra decent and legitimate loot).

Now I understand that, perhaps for figurative orphans in particular, Christmas is a stressful time, but surely by ditching our dysfunctional families we’re making a stand against the tyranny of unhappiness and unreasonable, self-esteem-destroying expectations? We’re spending it with people we’ve chosen. Show me your love with a lime, basil, and mandarin soy candle!

What’s that? You find my demand for a lime, basil, and mandarin soy candle as evidence of your love and friendship tyrannical and unreasonable? Shut up! This is my CRANK article.

As I was saying.

I love giving and receiving gifts at Christmas. I enjoy seeing the pleasure a carefully considered gift can bring. It’s my way of showing that someone matters to me and I’ve noticed them—what they like, who they are. And, of course, it’s nice when others reciprocate.

The thing is, we give presents at this time of year because in biblical lore the magi presented the newborn Christ child with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; the often piously delivered ‘Jesus is the Reason for the Season’ isn’t contradicted by the tradition of buying or making presents for others. The origins of gift giving at Christmas are far from exclusively materialistic and commercial—in fact, given the wise men were kings, they seem more political—and to suggest otherwise misses important kinds of exchange and value between friends and family members that are the very foundations of our kinship and community groups.

*cue The Little Drummer Boy*

KIRSTY L (@KIRSTY_L), BRISBANE

PRESENTS: THEY'RE IN THE BIBLE. 'Christmas morning—hope realised'. Wood engraving by E Evans (engraver) and N Chevalier (artist). Published in  The illustrated Australian news for home readers , December 31, 1872 by Ebenezer and David Syme, Melbourne. State Library of Victoria, IAN31/12/72/SUPP/265.

PRESENTS: THEY'RE IN THE BIBLE. 'Christmas morning—hope realised'. Wood engraving by E Evans (engraver) and N Chevalier (artist). Published in The illustrated Australian news for home readers, December 31, 1872 by Ebenezer and David Syme, Melbourne. State Library of Victoria, IAN31/12/72/SUPP/265.

Speaking of presents, you should really buy a copy of Materiality: SURFACE for all your friends and relatives. Or, back copies (of PRECIOUS, TIME and BOOK), they're cheaper. Demonstrate your love and affection and head on over to the pinknantucket press shop.

SORDID CONFESSIONS

CANDY CORN WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME

I lived in the US until I was seven, and Halloween was an occasion we celebrated with gusto. My mum once came second in a neighbourhood pumpkin carving contest (by using a pair of Minnie Mouse ears) and one year we turned our garage into a haunted house. We spent months thinking about our costumes and decorations, and I trick-or-treated with the best of them.

Trick-or-treating quickly makes you an expert on sweets, and candy corn was the good s--t. Little lumps of orange and yellow goodness, doled out into our treat buckets by the handful. I wasn’t interested in your Minties or lollypops; they took too long to get through. Candy corn is small, soft, easy to chew, and basically made for kids who want to eat their own bodyweight in Halloween-themed sweets in the shortest possible amount of time. It was my absolute favourite. Accept no substitutes.

We moved to Australia just after my seventh birthday, and that’s when my love affair with Halloween ended. Twenty years ago supermarkets did not stock special Halloween lollies and decorations, nobody went trick-or-treating (I tried one year and I got nothing but fruit, old Easter eggs, and a lot of telling off), and none of my new friends had even heard of candy corn.

Fourteen years would pass before I had the chance to taste it again, and in that time I told countless people what a tragedy it was that candy corn wasn’t available in Australia. I told them it was my favourite sweet of all time, the best thing I’d ever tasted, and made sure they knew they’d never eaten “proper” candy.

And then, at the age of 21, I was in the US again for Halloween. Finally. I bought myself an enormous bag of candy corn, a huge, enough-to-feed-the-whole-neighbourhood bag of the stuff. I didn’t even make it home—I opened it up in the front seat of my car, put a little piece into my mouth and started chewing. I was just so happy I could hardly stand it.

And then I realised it was awful.

Not just a little bit awful, but really awful. Like chewing on dried plaster or old Play-doh. I tried another piece to be sure, because maybe I’d just gotten a bad bit. But no, they were all identically horrible. It didn’t even have a flavour—it was just a solid mass of high-fructose corn syrup and wax died vaguely autumnal colours. Like eating a candle, but less delicious. I felt like my entire childhood was a lie.

Now that American candy is more readily available in Australia, people who knew me growing up will quite often buy me some candy corn. They remember me banging on about it, and so they see some and they think of me. It’s so nice and so thoughtful that I’ve been too embarrassed to admit that the thing I raved about for so long is actually completely vile. I’ve been pretending to still love candy corn for years. But now is the time to admit it, to come clean. Candy corn is disgusting.

JOSIE STEELE, MELBOURNE

Candy corn: similar in appearance to small rotten pointy teeth but even less delicious. ("Syphilitic malformations of the permanent teeth", from  A clinical memoir on certain diseases of the eye and ear, consequent on inherited syphilis : with an appended chapter of commentaries on the transmission of syphilis from parent to offspring, and its more remote consequences  by Jonathan Hutchinson.  [Plate facing page 205].  Published by John Churchill, London, 1863. Wellcome Library, image no. L0021139).


Candy corn: similar in appearance to small rotten pointy teeth but even less delicious. ("Syphilitic malformations of the permanent teeth", from A clinical memoir on certain diseases of the eye and ear, consequent on inherited syphilis : with an appended chapter of commentaries on the transmission of syphilis from parent to offspring, and its more remote consequences by Jonathan Hutchinson. [Plate facing page 205]. Published by John Churchill, London, 1863. Wellcome Library, image no. L0021139).