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John Lamb, Published December 13 2011

Lamb: The season for interesting festive pics

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – for people-watching.

Between watching some people force themselves into the Christmas spirit – or at least a holiday sweater – and others jamming a big-screen TV into a Mini Cooper, it’s a season for social observers.

And the best part is, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your couch to get a peek into people’s lives.

Nothing makes you feel as good about your own life as seeing friends’ and family members’ portraits in holiday cards. Want proof? Wait until you open that letter to realize your friend’s wife enjoys dressing the family in matching denim outfits. Or seeing a picture of your aunt beaming while desperately clutching Wayne Newton during her trip to Vegas, as her husband looks like a lost child on the other side.

And it’s not always a family affair. Sometimes your single friends take the most “interesting” festive pics.

One of mine sent out a shot of himself standing on a frozen lake, completely naked except for his glasses and a fish in front of his groin. I can’t make out what kind of fish it was, but I wish he had caught a bigger one.

Another friend had a memorable Christmas portrait taken with a deer. Which seems charming enough, until you see that the shot is taken inside a house.

My friend has done a pretty good job of suppressing that incident but agreed to share the story if I changed names to protect those involved from further embarrassment.

So my friend Adolph, then in his early 20s, was visiting his uncle in rural Minnesota one year for Christmas. This happened to be the year his uncle decided to adopt a baby deer, believing the mother had been killed by hunters or, well, who really knows.

(This was also the year Adolph and his sister got matching shotguns from their odd uncle, despite the fact neither hunts.)

After they were surprised by the gifts, the uncle suggested a photo of his relatives and the pet deer in front of the Christmas tree.

Adolph questioned the intelligence of taking a picture with a wild animal, but his uncle persisted.

“Hurry up. Take this picture already,” Adolph thought. “This thing is going to kick me in the face. It’s going to totally kick me in the face.”

The deer was equally anxiety-ridden as Adolph and his sister tried to hold it still for the snapshot.

As the uncle fiddled with the camera – back before there were digitals – tensions mounted. Finally the shot was taken, the deer bolted from the arms of Adolph and his sister – presumably to storm up to its room and slam its door shut like any adolescent – and the family could go back to enjoying a nice, normal Christmas.

Or not.

“I was so mad for a long time,” Adolph says. “It’s just one of the many things that ruined Christmas for me ultimately. It was just another nail in the Christmas coffin. I hate this holiday; my family is crazy.”

But if you look at the photo, it doesn’t look too crazy. His teenage sister looks pleasantly calm as if she’s holding a pet. The deer doesn’t look too jumpy, and only Adolph shows flashes of what he refers to as his “angriest smile ever.”

Kind of like how I might look if someone forced me to have my picture taken with Wayne Newton.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533