|Beautiful varnished coal.
These are varnished lumps of eastern Kentucky anthracite coal (see above sample for a couple of bigger lumps). While I was picking these out at the coal yard in late November I thought about joking with the coal dealer that I was doing my Christmas shopping, but then I decided that he'd probably heard enough "lump of coal for Christmas" jokes in his life, so I kept my mouth shut. Personally I wouldn't mind getting such a beautiful lump of stuff as a present, and my kids greatly enjoy varnishing and/or smashing it too. The phrase of course comes from a time and place where many people heated with coal and had great bins of it in their basement: Familiarity breeds contempt and all.
Source: Coal Dealer
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 24 November, 2003
Text Updated: 20 November, 2008