The ugly Christmas sweater was once given as a sincere gift by well-meaning but sartorially challenged grandparents everywhere.

Then the ugly sweater as cringe-worthy present gave way to the ugly sweater as intentionally worn statement of irony.

But we're not entirely sure what was going on in Council on Thursday, when Bobby Henon showed up in a tragically unhip snowflake-and-reindeer ensemble. (Or were those moose dancing across the fabric?)

"As you can tell, I'm in a festive spirit," Henon announced to his colleagues before the final meeting of the year. "So I wore my mother's sweater."

Henon then said he had lost a bet, and later clarified that the sweater was the result of some intra-office frivolity.

As for Councilman Mark Squilla, who then pulled on a red monstrosity decorated with candy canes and Christmas trees - Good Lord, the thing even had a hood - we have even fewer clues as to his motivation.

One thing's for sure: If the two freshman legislators were engaged in a contest, the winner was clear.

"You've outdone Henon," declared Councilman James F. Kenney. "That's uglier."

- Troy Graham

Can you tell me how to get to . . . tax reform?

The first clue that yet more hijinks were afoot Thursday came from the Twitter messages Henon and Councilman Bill Green were trading at the beginning of the meeting.

Green: " 'Sunny day, sweepin' the clouds away . . .' Hmmm, I wonder why I have that song stuck in my head?"

Henon: " 'Rubber Duckie, you're the one . . .' "

Green: "Today is brought to you by the letter 'L' for legislation."

The two either had gotten into the spiked egg nog a little early or they had cooked up some Sesame Street-related surprise.

Turns out Mayor Nutter previously proposed renaming the Business Privilege Tax the "Business Income and Receipts Tax" - (BIRT).

Green and Henon, in turn, introduced legislation Thursday to rename the hated wage tax as the Employed Residents and Non-Residents Income and Earnings tax - (ERNIE).

Green, who advocates fundamentally changing the way the city levies taxes to make Philadelphia more competitive, said BIRT and ERNIE need to be put back "on Sesame Street where they belong."

"We understand it will take years to reform our broken tax system," he said. "In the meantime, mockery feels appropriate."
- Troy Graham