By Matt Benoit
Ah, the holiday season. Candy canes and Christmas wreaths abound, the smell of gingerbread and egg nog lingers in the air, the soothing sounds of Christmas carols echo through the cold winter wind, and people everywhere put aside differences to wish each other well in a warm and gentle spirit.
Yeah, right. Of course you didn’t buy that—it’s too much like a Hallmark card version of the holidays. The real holidays look more like Martha Stewart on crack cocaine (“White Christmas,” anyone?)
People invade malls like Vikings with credit cards to pillage expensive gifts, neighbors put giant inflatable figures in their yards and string up enough lights to make their homes vaguely resemble Indian casinos, and family members we really don’t want to see show up (sometimes “unannounced,” because, oh boy, it’s a “surprise”!).
And last but not least, there are fruitcakes.
The Microsoft Encarta dictionary on my computer actually gives the definition of fruitcake as “cake with dried fruit in it,” containing, among other things, sultanas, which are—also according to the Encarta dictionary—the female relatives of a sultan. Either that, or they’re dried grapes. I’m not entirely sure.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, though, gives the official definition of the fruitcake as “a brick-like holiday gift which nobody ever eats that is traditionally rewrapped and sent to relatives you don’t like very much.”
It is unknown how the fruitcake got its start (heavy drinking is our guess), but the first fruitcake was thought to have been given as a “gag” gift, which is to say that the recipients of the gift started gagging after attempting to eat it. Today, not much has changed, as being given a fruitcake is about as meaningful as Tiger Woods’ wedding vows.
But that may soon change thanks to the federal government. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it would create a new batch of 50 million fruitcakes in order to help stimulate the sagging U.S. economy and replace the current fleet of aging desserts.
The last batch of 22 million fruitcakes was created in 1984 at the behest of President Ronald Reagan, and almost all of them continue to circulate the globe each year thanks to the United States Postal Service and package couriers like UPS and FedEx.
The hope is that the new project will help rejuvenate the economy and lessen unemployment by creating an estimated 25,000 jobs associated with the production and shipping of the fruit-filled cakes.
“Look, we do realize that nobody eats these pieces of crap,” said FDA spokesperson Givmea Bite, “but c’mon—these are getting a little hard even by traditional Fruitcake Hardness Standards (FHS).”
Bite demonstrated the need for replacement cakes by showing Congress a video in which one of the 1984 fruitcake models was dropped off a 27-story building and onto the roof of Tiger Woods’ Cadillac Escalade. The cake, dropped by Woods’ wife, ripped straight through the vehicle’s roof and floorboard, leaving a three-foot deep crater in the pavement where it landed beneath the vehicle. The cake was projected to be traveling at 258 mph at the moment of impact.
President Obama agreed with the plan, saying in a press conference at the White House that the current fruitcakes have become “unreasonably hard” and adding that it would be “unpleasant to think of the destruction they might cause if they were to fall into the wrong hands.”
Obama’s remark immediately brought back memories to many of the infamous “fruitcake bomber,” Eim Eaten Al Yurfood, who was tackled by passengers on a United Airlines flight in Dec. of 2001 when they noticed him trying to light the fuse on a fruitcake he had carried on-board the aircraft.
Obama ended his speech on an inspirational note, saying, “There is hope for the fruitcake, there is hope for the economy, and there is hope for America. God bless you and happy holidays.”
That type of uplifting message reminds me of that classic 1947 film, “The Fruitcake That Ruined Christmas,” starring Jimmy Stewart. It contains, of course, the famous line perhaps best capturing the essence of the fruitcake, which is: “Every time a bell rings, Tiger Woods will probably have to make a child support payment.”
Anyway, in closing, I have to admit something—I’ve never actually received a fruitcake as a gift, apparently because nobody hates me that much (although I did receive a combination personal groomer/nose hair trimmer one year).
But I have the strange feeling that, this Christmas, I just might get one. Also, Tiger Woods is definitely going to be on the naughty list.