Haunted Holidays, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Russell Davis (DAW, 2004)

Ah, October. It’s that time of year, time for the traditional anthology of Halloween stories. Wait, what’s that? Halloween’s not in here! That’s right, Haunted Holidays offers up thirteen stories about every kind of special day imaginable, except the spookiest night of the year, which, to be honest, gets more than its fair share of attention already. That’s why you’ll find everything from Columbus Day to Thanksgiving, from Christmas to birthdays, from Labor Day to Groundhog Day.
As with any theme anthology, the stories vary in tone, style, and approach to the topic. However, some do stand out. For sheer memorability, try Esther Friesner’s “The Dead Don’t Waddle.” It’s a charming little story about a big-time jerk who gets some karmic payback one winter, ultimately learning that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. The really scary part, though, is that we all know someone like the protagonist: self-absorbed, selfish, and callous to the point of cruel, all because they’re convinced the world owes them. The ending, horrible in a disturbingly funny way, is all too fitting.
Julie Czernada manages to hit a subject close to home in “Birthday Jitters.” In one community, the multi-generational Fargus family has dominated for decades. It’s said among the family that if you can survive the tricky thirties, you’ll live just about forever. But there’s a secret behind this strange dichotomy, and it might just mean the end of Bobby Fargus, who’s about to hit his 30th birthday. Having just reached that milestone myself, I know just how he feels.
David Niall Wilson succeeded in making me twitch with his story, “For These Things I Am Truly Thankful.” I don’t think anything he observes in his story is too far off the mark, but at the same time, it’s presented in such graphic, three-dimensional fashion, it can’t be ignored. And for one man, it could mean the difference between sanity and madness. Not only is it one of the most horrifying stories I read all month, it made me afraid to go to the supermarket.
David Levine’s “Brotherhood” is a ghost story of a more traditional nature, looking back at a time when labor was cheap, lives were cheaper, and the unions were fighting a vicious battle for recognition. David Bischoff’s deconstructionist picture of the Yule season, “Die, Christmas, Die!” manages to combine a postmodern fantasy feel with some very basic noir aspects to produce a startlingly interesting story that explores Santa like never before. There’s plenty of potential for expansion here, and I hope Bischoff considers returning to this setting.
Daniel Hoyt’s “New World’s Brave” examines Columbus Day with a new relevance, as the ghosts of the past break down the barriers between the past and present, threatening to rewrite history. Bradley Sinor’s “Season Finale” is a story I genuinely wish I’d written first, about a chance encounter at a convenience store, and a Twelfth Night party with some highly unexpected and uninvited guests. Richard Parks takes us into the future for a look at July 4th as it might mean decades from now, in “Voices In An Empty Room.” Another story with a setting that deserves more exploration, it’s all too relevant in today’s terrorist-plagued world.
Stories by Peter Crowther, Ruth Stuart, Kerrie Hughes, Nancy Holder and Brian Hopkins finish off this collection, which is sure to entertain as much as it unnerves and disturbs. You may never look at the calendar the same way again after reading Haunted Holidays.

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