A Shitty Christmas Tradition for the Ages
· 7 min. read
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"This is so useless. This shouldn't even exist in the world. Let's burn it."
This was Eric Hill's explanation on how he and Jeff Meldrum pick objects of their annual "Shit Fireplace" video.
Originally filmed in early 2016, Hill and Meldrum had forgotten about their footage until that winter. It's hard to remember that far back, but 2016 was a challenging year for a lot of people, and because of that, they decided to release their first video of Shit Fireplace. Since then, their annual burning has become somewhat of a local phenomenon and has even received cross-Canada attention.
"It was a garbage year to begin with," Hill told me. "Had it been a normal year, we may have forgotten about the footage."
The formula is the same every year ? they find a remote location to start the fire, and record it for about an hour. Then, every two minutes, they add a new object into the fire to watch it burn. What kind of objects do they burn? Well, some of them are donations from the Shit Fireplace fanbase ? maybe a jersey, a facemask, a Tickle-Me Elmo doll ? but primarily it's whatever worthless junk the two of them can find at local thrift stores like Value Village, Salvation Army, and Log House. They have a budget of $100 for all thirty items, and the item must be in consensus between both parties before it can be purchased.
Although the items they burn are different every year, they have a few staple items they always collect: some tacky art, astuffed animal, an awful candle, something Saskatchewan Roughriders related, and a weird board game if they can find one. The 'Rider merchandise, the stuffed animals, and the board games are always a crowd favourite. This past year they also burned a globe, a metaphor for how our world is on fire due to climate change. Although not everybody got the reference, everybody enjoyed watching it burn.
Shit Fireplace started as a joke to be a juxtaposition to the traditional yule log burning on television, but Hill and Meldrum's burning has taken on a life of its own. In November of 2019 they were flown out to Vancouver to use footage from their previous Shit Fireplace videos for record company's Christmas party. They created their own fireplace-like façade on stage and showed footage of past videos throughout the night. In January of 2020, they were also invited to the Art Gallery of Ontario for a pavilion-style all-day event for people to come by and see what they were burning.
They even had their videos playing on repeat in collaboration with Neutral Ground on Scarth Street in Regina so passersby could watch chestnuts and Elmo get roasted on the open fire.
For some people, watching the Shit Fireplace has even become an annual tradition. Instead of watching an anonymous hand fiddle with a yule log for hours on end, or play some music off their television, people are opting to listen to the crackling, hissing and sometimes comedic sounding Shit Fireplace videos.
Hill told me that some people have even told him it's become a family tradition to have it burn in the background as they enjoy their Christmas supper.
This year was a little different than most. Normally the Shit Fireplace burns in something like a firepit, a television, a dishwasher, or something safe and contained. This year they decided to burn it in a toilet, with a wooden shed around it. As the fire burned, the shed caught on fire too, and the two men, and the local family who let them use the shed for the video, stood by in awe as the inferno engulfed the structure.
"There was a giant ball of fire. It felt like magic."
However, Hill and Meldrum always take precautions before they begin the burning. They clear the surrounding area, they bring fire extinguishers, and some snow shovels.
"You can do a lot with a shovel of snow."
Besides the fire, another concern with the Shit Fireplace are the fumes. While wood often burns clean, stuffed animals, board games and anything made of plastic burns into carcinogenic smoke. They take proper precautions before burning, by checking the wind direction and speed, wearing facemasks and by staying far enough away to be out of harms' way.
As much as Eric likes to watch things burn, his favourite thing about the Shit Fireplace is how it brings people together. This past year, Hill and Meldrum got to meet the family whose shed they would be burning, and they swapped stories during the whole video behind the scenes. In fact, many people message them online and tell them how much they love the videos and how they made people's holidays a little bit better. Much like the fireplaces of ol', Shit Fireplace has become a place for like-minded people to gather, laugh, tell stories and watch stuff burn.
This Christmas is a tough one for many people. For some, worse than last year, but others, maybe slightly better. Eric Hill and Jeff Meldrum are excited to announce they dropped their 2021 Shit Fireplace a few weeks back, and they would love it to be part of your Christmas tradition this year too ? regardless of how shitty it may be.
I personally love the idea of the Shit Fireplace and I could see it becoming one of my annual Christmas traditions. Could you as well? Let me know in the comments below.
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Categories: Canada, Regina, Saskatchewan