Dec. 26 is the biggest return-shopping day of the year. We run to the malls and department stores to return our new light-up socks, ear-hair trimmers and singing fish. But what about those holiday leftovers that don't come with a gift receipt? Sure, there is our weekly trash pickup or, for those of us purer in heart, the scheduled Purple Heart pickup. But allow me to remind you that we spend days, nay, weeks ushering in the winter holidays. So why must it all end with no more thought than a trash pickup come Jan. 1? I think we should spend the same care and creativity saying so long to the holidays as we did welcoming them in. And I'm not alone.
Here are a few ways to bring some fun to the holiday cleanup:
On Jan. 8 in Manitou Springs, Colo., the 16th annual Great Fruitcake Toss will take place. Bring your own fruitcake to toss. If you don't have one, you can rent one, according to http://www.ManitouSprings.org. The Great Fruitcake Toss is an official event, created by the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce.
"Over the years the Chamber has spiced things up by adding a variety of different events," according to Failure Magazine. "In the 'Launch' competition, competitors are permitted to use a mechanical device -- like a slingshot, golf club, or bow & fruitcake -- to send the blocks of cake airborne. And in the 'Targets' category, competitors earn points by hitting targets placed 75, 125 and 175 feet away. There's even an event in which fruitcakes are shagged like fly balls, and competitors run to and fro attempting to catch them using baseball gloves, buckets, fishing nets and the like."
"We NO LONGER have a distance limitation!" boasts the Manitou Springs website. "Distance will be measured at the final resting spot of the Fruitcake. Registration begins at 9:00 AM with a 15 Gun Salute Honor Guard."
This event is not only a load of fun but also philanthropic, demanding an entry fee of canned or nonperishable food, which is then donated to a local charity.
The best part about the Great Fruitcake Toss is that you don't have to live in Colorado to toss your fruitcake. Start your own fruitcake toss event the same way they did in Manitou Springs: Get a group of friends together, and head to a local park with fruitcakes. Next time Grandma gives you one of the colorful, dense baked goods, you can say "thank you" and really mean it.
*Christmas Tree Bonfire
Every year, the residents of Playa del Rey, Calif., collect the Christmas trees from their neighbors and light up a bonfire of 100 trees or more.
"The tradition has been passed down for generations and decades. No one really knows how it started," says longtime Playa resident and pyromaniac extraordinaire Curtis McElhinney. "Now it's just an understood thing that just happens. The rumor mill beings and the busy bees scour the neighborhood streets, pillaging stacks and stacks of trees. When we get enough, we light them up by a huge sand dune on the beach."
In Playa del Rey, the Christmas tree bonfire usually happens on the first Saturday after New Year's about 8 p.m., attracting an audience of about 50 to watch a hundred trees go up in flames and sizzle out within 15 minutes. Unlike the Great Fruitcake Toss, the Christmas tree bonfire is not official. In fact, it's illegal.
"Someone plays guard to look out for cops and make sure some jackass doesn't light the fire early," McElhinney says.
According to McElhinney, no one in the neighborhood sends out e-mails or fliers for fear of getting all the blame for the beach bonfire. "Most folks don't even realize it's happening until they look out their windows and see flames reaching up into the sky," McElhinney says. "People have been huddled up all winter, and the flames call them back outside, back to the beach."
The fire engines come every year, and if the fire has not sizzled out already, it is put out. Therefore, to avoid getting arrested for arson, look up your local fire laws before establishing a Christmas tree bonfire near you.
Less organized activities include small-group events, such as playing a game of wreaths-bee golf. Take the fancy Christmas wreath off your front door, and head to a Frisbee golf course. The game is played exactly the same way as Frisbee golf, but it's played using your wreath rather than a Frisbee. The game ends when the wreath is sufficiently destroyed. It is a great excuse to get away from the holiday hoopla and out into the snow with your friends and family.
This holiday season, let's not forget those less fortunate than we are. Most soup kitchens will not allow you to donate your leftover food for fear of food poisoning. However, you always can offer your leftovers to neighbors who are less fortunate than you. To make it less awkward, invite those neighbors over for a post-holiday meal at your house, using your leftovers, and let them take what is left home with them. Also, take any of those untouched cans of cranberry sauce or boxes of stuffing to a local food bank. To find a place to donate near you, go to http://FeedingAmerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx.
Because what is more fun than giving to others? It is the holiday season, after all!