Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Jack Knox: 25 years later, I'm ready to forgive Martha for ruining Christmas

After almost three years, the pandemic has frayed our nerves. Layering the pressure to have a perfect holiday on top of that doesn’t help.

For the record, I no longer want Martha Stewart to die.

Sure, I might have daydreamed about her catching a mild case of COVID, one that would – and here’s irony! – cause her to lose her sense of taste.

But drown her in a bucket, like I wrote 25 years ago? No, the kinder, older, more cancel-cultured me would never advocate such a thing — even though, as I’m sure you will agree, Martha was almost single-handedly responsible for ruining Christmas.

This was, to repeat, what I argued in my very first column in the Times Colonist a quarter century ago this week. I had come to that conclusion after following my wife into the Martha-inspired frou-frou hell of one of Vancouver Island’s 6,723 Christmas craft fairs.

You know, the kind of fairs that tell you, implicitly, that the Christmas you’ve been having — the one with the tree that appears to have come second in an axe fight, and with the mismatched manger scene where one of the sheep is missing its head and baby Jesus has been replaced by baby Yoda — isn’t good enough.

The kind of fairs that imply it is not only possible, but mandatory, to chase a holiday with a higher level of refinement. The kind where husbands and boyfriends, embracing the tweeness with the same level of enthusiasm they bring to a prostate exam, shuffle and moan like zombies in The Walking Dead, or at least what The Walking Dead would be like if Michael Buble crooned the theme music and the set smelled like handmade soap.

The solution I proposed — a compromise, really — involved hosting a beer garden on a flatbed truck parked outside. The zombies would lounge comfortably on chesterfields and La-Z-Boy recliners clustered around a big screen TV featuring hockey fights and traditional holiday classics: Die Hard, Saving Private Ryan, The Longest Yard (the original, of course). A burn barrel would double as a heat source/barbecue for red meat.

I mention this now because I was recently dragged to a Christmas fair — the Yuletide Condiment Festival, I believe it was called — where I was devastated to discover that, more than 4,000 columns later, little has changed. The bazaars are more popular than ever, drawing the kind of crowds that must make Dr. Bonnie just want to give up and hit the bottle. They still smell like handmade soap. No beer gardens in sight.

Christmas fairs can, in fact, be sorted into two types. First, there are the ones you find in church halls and school gymnasiums where kindly grandmothers knit oven mitts from flammable material, and where 11-year-olds flog baked goods that their hand-lettered signs assure you are “made with love” but fail to add “plus snot and Tabasco sauce.” Then there are the up-market markets where they charge you to shop, just like Costco, and what’s being sold are mostly $700 blown-glass garden rakes (OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration but still you could buy two heads of lettuce for that) and jewelry fashioned by some guy who looks disconcertingly like Ryan Gosling’s hotter brother.

It’s this latter category of fair that really puts a fellow in the Christmas spirit, if by “in the Christmas spirit” you mean “losing your mind at the aromatherapy booth and throwing elbows like Gordie Howe.”

Alas, we have been doing a fair bit of mind-losing lately. After almost three years of isolating, fretting and day-drinking under the bed, the pandemic has frayed our nerves. Layering the pressure to have a perfect holiday on top of that doesn’t help.

The thing is, it’s a pressure that we, not Martha, put on ourselves. Can’t blame her anymore. Besides, she already did time for her Christmas crimes (OK, technically it was for something to do with stock trading, but we all know why they really put her away).

As for COVID, it was reported this summer that Stewart was “heartbroken” after a positive test forced the octogenarian to miss a “skincare launch party she was to host for Mario Badescu.” I don’t know who Mario Badescu is, but suspect I really don’t want to know, either. I’m also pretty sure I would rather jam a meat thermometer in my ear than go to a skincare launch party.

I hope Martha is alright now, though. We’ve all been through enough. It’s time to cut each other some slack.