'Home Alone,' Gak, and Beanie Babies: This Is How You Celebrated Christmas in the '90s

I am an older Millennial. I like being a Millennial. Sure, other generations like to criticize us, but whatever. I don't think we're any more garbage-y than other generations. Millennials are fine, okay? But this isn't a Millennial defense piece. This is a nostalgia piece. Millennials love nostalgia, I am a Millennial, therefore, I love nostalgia. And I, like my fellow Millennials, have a fondness for the 1990s. Yes, it's probably because a lot of our earliest memories were created during the '90s. But I think there's a simpler reason why we are sentimental about the decade: The '90s gave us Gak. No decade can compete with that.

So now I will tell an old Xmas story. No, it is not my Xmas story. It is the decade's Xmas story. It is called A Tale of a 1990s Christmas. You're not familiar? Well, gather 'round, because Kristie has her storyteller hat on and she's about to hit you with some fiction:

A Tale of a 1990s Christmas by Santa Claus (and by "Santa Claus" I mean "Kristie Rohwedder")

The scene: It's Christmastime! It's the '90s! Everything is 2L2Q!

You're excited it's Christmastime, because it means you get to wear the sweatshirt you made last year. It's a plain white sweatshirt covered in green, red, and gold puffy paint and yuletide-themed appliqués. And, oh right! It's been BeDazzled to the moon and back. There's nothing ironic about this sweatshirt. You're proud of your sweatshirt.

On that note: Any and all Christmas sweaters worn by you, your family members, or your friends are not worn with humorous intent. There is an understanding that those beaded, sparkly, embroidered, bulky sweaters are a crucial part of the holiday. Everyone respects a Christmas sweater.

On Christmas Eve, your family decides they want to watch Home Alone, so you and your mom head over to Blockbuster. You can't "Redbox it" or "Netflix it" or "OnDemand it." Blockbuster is your only hope. The Holiday Favorites section of Blockbuster is picked over. And, of course, the one copy of Home Alone is long gone. In its place is nothing more than the empty display VHS cover.

You and your mom game plan in the horror movie aisle. "Okay. This is okay. There are other Christmas movies. We can't give up now, team. BREAK!" You take deep breaths and go back to the Holiday Favorites section. You will not be defeated. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: Out. The Muppet Christmas Carol: Out. A Christmas Story: In. But only because it's always on TNT/TBS. It's a Wonderful Life: Out, and there's a month-long waiting list.

What are you going to do? Well, Ernest Saves Christmas is still on the shelf. You and your mom silently agree upon the movie. You take Ernest Saves Christmas to the counter. "I wondered if anyone would rent this," the Blockbuster employee laughs. "Please return it before Tuesday."

The night before Christmas, you set out cookies for Santa. Homemade shortbread cookies. Sprinkles galore. Your parents politely suggest you also set some SnackWell's cookies on the tray because "Santa might want a low-cal option." You bust out the eggnog. It's fat-free. You look at it and say, "ew." "Honey, regular egg nog is so fattening," your mom says. "This stuff tastes just as good." You don't try it. You'll take your mom's word for it. You leave a glass of eggnog for Santa.

Christmas morning, you wake up and you're glad you're wearing your poly/flannel Beauty and the Beast pajamas. It's so cold out, but the PJs are so warm! You run downstairs, and your family is already situated around the Xmas tree. Your parents have fired up their new, ginormous cappuccino machine. They've had it for weeks ("Santa sent it to us early"), but they're still trying to figure out the frothing wand. You think, I'll never drink that stuff. Why? Because you read in YM (or was it Seventeen? Or are you just quoting Cher Horowitz?) that coffee will stunt your growth.

You run back to your room and grab three CDs: Merry Christmas by Mariah Carey, Home for Christmas by 'NSYNC, and A Very Special Christmas 3 . You hand them to your mom. She looks them over and says, "Well, why not?" YES!

The opening of the presents is put on hold until your dad finds a blank VHS for the camcorder. "I know I just bought some at Circuit City," he mumbles while he looks in the hall closet. After five minutes, he finds a blank tape ("I told you!"), pops it in the camera, and records the morning's events.

He asks you to hold the camcorder while he opens his presents. "Ugh, this is so heavy and giant," you complain. "I think I dislocated my shoulder."

You don't actually dislocate your shoulder.

Gifts are exchanged. You go nuts over a Price Club pack of 10 Goosebumps books. Santa knows what's up. Your brother receives three Power Rangers action figures. Your parents glare at the Power Rangers toys. (You later find out that your parents searched all over town for the insanely popular action figures. It wasn't quite a Jingle All the Way situation, but your parents did find themselves cursing under their breaths in toy stores all over the state. The advent of online shopping will change their lives forever.)

Santa gives the family a Nintendo 64. The game comes with Diddy Kong Racing, Goldeneye, and four controllers. Santa rules.

Your stocking is filled with pogs, mood rings, Wonder Balls, and two Beanie Babies. YES! Cool stocking stuffers, Santa!

Your parents tell you that Santa said you and your brother have to unwrap your last gifts at the same time. You are not one to disobey Santa Claus, so you and your brother oblige. You open the giant boxes simultaneously, and you find… ROLLERBLADES. SO GNARLY.

Your brother separates the used gift wrap in two piles: "Recyclable" and "not recyclable." He's watched a lot of The Big Help, so he's really into recycling. Hey, recycling is a good thing, so you lend him a hand.

Extended family joins your immediate family for Christmas dinner. Your aunt brings over an Atkins-friendly mashed potato casserole (no one asks how it is Atkins-friendly) and everyone is really polite about it.

The meal is delicious, laughs are had, and everyone retires to the living room to watch football. It's been a great day. One for the books. You're feeling especially sentimental. You look at the calendar. The 1990s are the best, you think. What an awesome decade. You curl up with Wrinkles and Quackers (your new Beanie Babies), and fall asleep on the couch.

You wake up and it's 2013. What? Where am I? You look around for Wrinkles and Quackers. They're still next to you. Whew! I hope I can get the late fees waived for Ernest Saves Christmas, you think. Those can really pile up. Oh well. Bring on the new year!


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