Nothing says Christmas like rules and regulations. Forget the sugar plums. Forget the reindeer prancing on rooftops. It is all about a tightly woven set of terms and conditions which may get you a trifling treat sent in the mail from a brewer, beer writer or another supplier of beer related swag. While we have a few prizes have been pledged I have to send out emails. For you. Because I care. Somewhat. Maybe things are different this year. Maybe you should send me gifts? Seeing this is the seventh edition, haven't I earned it? Haven't I been good?
OK, fine. Nothing. Not a word out of the old man in red. All for you. Another crappy Yule for me. That being the case, here are the rules - and bastardly rules they are. Because as we all know, we can't have a good contest that celebrates the joy of life and love without harshly imposed and strictly enforced arbitrary rules. Recall, too, that I am the sole arbitrator of victory and the prizes get delivered directly from the giver... unless you have to go get the prize. And this year, you will eat all the mashed turnip you are given before anyone gets pudding. Is that clear?
Rule the First: Once upon a time, children, we had unlimited photos per entrant. In 2008, we had over 500 entries. That was nuts. Children cried again from the lack of a parent's attention. In 2009, with the five photo max rule, we got it down to down to a sensible 185. Then we raised it to eight and things stayed sane. So nine it is. No more! Or
hoards big smelly gangs of orcs shall rain down upon your fields and pastures!!!
⇒ Secondish rule: no photos of dishes of food with a beer next to it. In the past I have said that they never win and they kinda make other people feel queasy. Your food is still no better looking than your dog. Sorry to break the news. Unless it is really good. This year I am going to let you prove it. One per entrant. If they all suck? No prizes. My rules is brutal but at least final in these matters.
⇒ Nextly rule: More photos of beer and snow as well as beer and babies. Photos of beer and snow look great. Beer in nature generally looks good. But beer and snow is a winner. Snow in Italy? Even better. Beer and babies can either look good or look weird. Stay away from weird, please. Orcs also know when you've been bad. Were you aware that Old Saint Nick had pull with the orc-ish hoards, too? I wouldn't make it up.
⇒ Almost middlemost rule: Again, pictures of beer and your pals all liquored up? More like the platter of gak than snowy hillside. Not usually good. But you never know. Place your friends in a beam of honey light coming from a stairwell on a perfect evening in a far off city. With babies and snow? It might work.
⇒ Crappiest of final rules ever: There is a prize for the crappiest photo. It is a crappy prize. There have been some amazingly crap photos submitted. Some have been so crappy that I have been certain that you either injured your eye or broke the camera just before taking the shot. Don't dwell on the crap photo. But the odd one - if it be truly wonderfully horrible - it may well earn a prize.
Unlike a hairy stocky man with a back tattoo, a photo of which was submitted by Virginia's Thomas Cizauskas in 2010, the Christmas photo contest is intended to give joy to all. Though the image above has been known to be seen inside the occassional young orc's locker. The contest opens this Friday, 16 November at noon eastern standard time, North America and goes to... what... Friday December 7 at noon. A tidy three weeks of art and prizes. But no more hairy backs, please. Unless you want a category dedicated to hairy backs with beer label tattoos. Me, I will once again beg and grovel for that selection of prizes that will surprise and delight you, the little girls and boys staring up at the loaded stocking hoping it is not filled with underwear. Sounds like a deal. Go!