The holidays are a special time. Colorful lights twinkle where only power cords existed before. The smell of baked goods and burning Yule logs fills the air. Folks stop kicking homeless people in the face.

In the past, we here at The Stranger have been downright snotty about the holidays, encouraging parents to give their youngsters fuzzy bunnies for science experiments, and informing shoppers where to buy used Honey Buckets. But then one day, one of the paper's editors witnessed the following scene. An elderly woman was packing a bag of ribbon candy in the bulk section of a local grocery store when she spilled a big scoop of the stuff all over the shiny linoleum. A young man stopped to help her, even getting down on his knees to pick up the red and green treats. "Oh, aren't you nice!" the old woman exclaimed. "I wish I could take you home!" Like Ebenezer Scrooge, our hearts melted, and the Stranger Guide to the Holidays is what came dripping out.

This year, we're not going to spend a bunch of time shoving idiotic gift ideas down your throats, and we're not going to make you feel like an asshole for sobbing into your eggnog while watching It's a Wonderful Life for the 85th time. Instead, we'll revel in some very beautiful and tragic holiday memories, examine a few closely held traditions, and explain just how sublime candles look when you're on opium. Happy holidays to all, and to all a good night.