Go ahead and wish me a “Merry Christmas.” I don’t mind. I’m not Christian but I’m OK if you want me to have a merry day on your holiday and share your joy. Of course I’ll then ask you not to mind if I wish you a “Happy Hanukkah” during the 8 days we celebrate our holiday. After all, why wouldn’t I hope everyone, of every faith, feel good about one of the best come-from-behind victories of all time as well as a miracle I doubt even David Copperfield could pull off, and transfer those good feelings to their own lives and experiences.
Of course, if you don’t want to play that game, when we’re not certain which holiday someone celebrates, or if we’re sure the other person doesn’t celebrate our holiday, why not spare each other the discomfort or embarrassment and use the greeting that best enunciates what we’re all hoping for each other, “Peace..and health.” Peace and health to you all. That should about cover everyone.
Falling House of Greeting Cards
We once had one of those green, plastic wreaths with a bunch of slots that held all the Christmas cards we received. There usually weren’t enough slots for all the cards that filled our mailbox. That actually was helpful because some of the uglier cards that didn’t make the cut for wreath display were handy coasters and bookmarks.
No use for the plastic card display wreath anymore. Hasn’t been for years. This year we received two cards and a calendar from an insurance guy. One card was a family photo, the other was from someone we hadn’t seen since the 1970’s. We were happy to hear she’s still alive and able to lick a stamp. We sent a few cards, but not enough to warrant investing in an entire box. In fact, we kind of cherry picked extras from past years in hopes the few folks still on our list won’t remember they had previously received the same card in some past decade.
Since we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah in our house, it would seem the odds would be greater in favor of receiving a card for one holiday or the other, but that’s not the case. I’ve read one of the reasons people and businesses don’t send many cards anymore is because we’re greeting each other more often through social media–Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Face Time and others. Well..you can’t hang a Facebook message over your fireplace, unless you print it out, which is frankly, less homey than receiving a card in the snail mail with handwritten signatures or personalized greetings. I want to know the person wishing me a merry or a happy actually touched the card, wrote on it, thought of me and my family and trudged down to the post office to send off a stack of Hallmarks to those near and dear to them.
I think I know the real reason people don’t send cards much anymore. Every time I go to the store to look for a card there’s usually someone with a butt roughly the size of Saginaw standing in the exact spot in front of the rack holding the greetings for the occasion I’m seeking. They not only park their avoirdupois in such as way as to block me from examining the cards, they slowly open and read every freakin’ one of them before languidly replacing them in the rack. At first I patiently waiting for the person to move, but Mt. Protoplasm refused to budge. That lesson quickly learned, I became more aggressive. I started with the “American Greetings thrust.” This is where I stood sideways and thrust my arm in the small space between their body and the card that had some promise. Sometimes the human barge would take the hint, but often I received a personal greeting in the form of a scowl or grunt. If not successful, I would escalate to the “Hallmark Heave.” This is where I silently say “screw it” and “excuuuuuse me” aloud, and lunge, full body, in front of the two-legged blockade and start grabbing cards. This will generally result in a major push back accompanied by verbal abuse. I always thank the person for the sincere greeting but hold my ground. One of my more subtle approaches is reading over the shoulder of my nemesis and mumble “that’s pretty stupid.” They become frustrated and move on…after telling me to screw off.
Yes, I still buy cards for occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, but the truth is, they’ve become pretty expensive and good ones are hard to find. Who wants to send a birthday card with the witty greeting, “You’re not getting older, you’re just beechwood aged.”
I think it may just be time to take a permanent Hallmark holiday.
Holiday Turf War
It happens every few years. Christmas and Hanukkah occur at the same time leaving families like mine with the vexing issue of how much surface space to grant each holiday’s symbols.
At first blush, the Christmas tree has a built-in advantage being taller and broader than a menorah, unless, of course, one installs a traditional candelabra that’s roughly the size of street lamp. Such a flaming behemoth is possible, but if it’s anything like the street lamps in our community, there’s no chance they’d stay lit for 8 crazy night, or even a long weekend.
Christmas seems to require a lot of hanging stuff. There are ornaments and tinsel on the tree, wreaths on the front door and smaller ones on the walls. I’m guess one of the Three Wisemen worked for the power company, because who else would gin up a scheme to bump up their Christian customers‘ bills by finding a reason for them to burn up megawatts by hanging a billion little lights on one’s dwelling and tree.
At one time, as a Member of the Tribe, I took umbrage that Hanukkah was totally overshadowed by Christmas. As my Protestant wife constantly reminds me, “you keep telling me Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday, so stick a latke in it and relax.” Well, that’s totally true, but my riposte reminds her how the world goes bananas with over the top decorations, songs, sales, commercials and fruitcakes over a holiday celebrating the birth of a person in December that actually occurred in the summer. Apparently, this is done because who ever dreamed of a sunny Christmas? Indeed, celebrating Christmas when its triggering event really happened, would screw up a songbook full of odes to winter and snow and sleigh bells. Besides, Santa would have to change his mode of transportation to a Ski-doo, putting innocent reindeer out of work, in favor of a pod of grinning porpoises.
Hanukkah? It happens the same time every year on the Hebrew calendar on the days the defeat of the Maccabees and the miracle of one night’s worth of oil lasting 8 really happened. But since that calendar is based on the orbit of the moon around the Earth, the months are only 29 days and you add an entire month during leap years, so that’s why it seems to jump around our Gregorian calendars.
Getting back to the original premise, the holiday that’s celebrated months after the event it marks gets lots of stuff and is a major contributor to the bottom line of millions of businesses. Hanukkah, is celebrated when it really happened, but gets a candle holder and maybe those cardboard letters that spell out “Happy Hanukkah” you string across a window. Merchants selling said cardboard letters and boxes of candles make a few shekels on the day, as well as delis hawking potato pancakes
We do our best to give each holiday its proper due in our house. There’s no disputing Christmas, regardless of spiritual and commercial timeshift, is more demonstrative. Hanukkah, with its eight flaming sticks of wax, has a potential to be more destructive. Nevertheless, it make perfect sense for our menorah to live peacefully next to a Christmas symbol that, in another language, could very well be a landsman…you know..Tannenbaum. Nooooo?
The Frittered-away Fortnight Dilemma
When I left my desk Friday, it was the last time I’d do so in 2015. I made sure the wastebasket was emptied, coffee pot unplugged, piles of junk on my desk thinned to a few spare Post-it notes and the last crumbs from all the holiday cookies, cakes, brownies and peanut brittle deftly swept to the nether reaches of my 12×12 cell/office/workspace.
Now comes the hard part. What the hell do I do until I return in two weeks? Normal people relax. I could go on an actual vacation in a warm location where you spend your time broasting your epidermis under the sun and tip anyone who so much as looks at you. Who knows? Maybe they’ll bring you a Jack on the rocks. I understand you don’t have to tip a lifeguard who saves you from drowning, although I value that service more than the bellhop who expects a gratuity for grabbing you a cab that’s already just sitting around awaiting its next fare. Actually, that kind of vacation wouldn’t do me any good since I’d never sit still long enough to cook evenly.
I could spend the next two weeks binge watching old episodes of a TV show I missed, but then again why would I do that since I apparently didn’t think enough of the show to watch it when it originally aired. Oh, wait, I’m already doing that. Paste the big L on my forehead.
I’m not a member of Costco, otherwise I would graze there all day snarfing down free food samples and snarkily asking people who buy 150 rolls of toilet paper if they have control issues or are they aspiring to become town criers. I’m not sure an unfurled roll of Charmin would make an apt substitute for parchment..but if you have 150 rolls who the hell cares? They were a great deal.
One person suggested I volunteer for something. Well..that would defeat the purpose of the break if I exchanged doing paid work for un-compensated labor. Don’t get snippy. I support several charities from the comfort of my debit card.
My wife has a reasonable list of tasks for me to do which I will complete by turning this into a drinking game. Vacuum the house, drink a beer. Clean the bathrooms, sip a Jack. You see where I’m going with this.
I’m sure by the time I return to the office I’ll wish I had even more time to fritter away by doing things like contemplating which game shows offered the best parting gifts. I always liked the lifetime supply of Spam, which you could use as lunch, or to patch bicycle tires.
When someone asks what I did during the year-end holiday break I’ll puff my lips, shake my head, roll my eyes and complain that I was SO busy I wish I had two MORE weeks. I heard Costco was giving out free cocktail franks.
Are you suffering from a syndrome I call “Simulated Holiday Amiability Malady,” or SHAM? It manifests itself in several ways, most notably in the workplace.
Here’s SHAM’s progression.For most of the year a person, let’s call him Schmeckel, will avoid you as one would a victim of Swine Flu, or abuse of Old Spice. Schmeckel is pretty sure you’re after his job, his office and premium parking space. It’s not true, but Schmeckel is a schmuck and sits alone in the cafeteria with an extra tray and an empty soup bowl so people will think he actually has a lunch companion who just got up to go to the washroom.
Snap! It’s Thanksgiving and SHAM carriers infect everyone they see with an obnoxious and insidious strain of false sincerity and feigned friendliness. “How you doin’!” Schmeckel may suddenly ask you. “Have a great Thanksgiving? Plans for the holidays?” Your soul tells you to invite him to enjoy a solo honeymoon, but you see, SHAM is terribly contagious. You are now obligated, against your will, to reciprocate the bogus buddy-buddy and reply you had a wonderful turkey with family and have big plans for Chanukah, Christmas, New Years, Groundhog Day and every day on a calendar that Hallmark cashes in on.
The most dangerous venue for contracting SHAM is the office holiday party. You have to attend because the boss will take 25 points off your annual evaluation if you don’t show up reducing your bonus to a Twix bar. For three or four hours you’re stuck in a small space with a large number of people who wish you dead but are all forced to put on happy, insincere faces, toasting, boasting, hugging, mugging, mentally barfing, for the benefit of convincing the boss he/she is lording over a homogeneous workplace, which enhances their chances of scoring a promotion to a position for which they are not qualified.
SHAM’s gestation period expires when the ball drops in Times Square marking the new year and, finally, the end of the holiday season. When you return to work on January 2nd, all of SHAM’s effects are instantly forgotten, its scars completely healed, and until that fourth Thursday the following November, you can return to a relaxing normalcy of honest loathing.
Another Columbus Day is upon us and damned, if we didn’t forget to decorate the house again. The big day just creeps up on us just as the scummy Italian explorer skulked onto the island of Hispaniola and promptly pillaged all the Dominican infielders in the name of King Ferdinand, who, up until that moment had a laughably losing fantasy baseball team.
When we were kids in New York City we had the day off school. They told us it was because Christopher Columbus discovered America, but we later found out it was because teachers received twofer coupons at the Olive Garden, even though the food isn’t remotely Italian.
Still, we learned about Columbus’s three ships, the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, which ostensibly brought him and his crew to North America on their voyage of discovery. Much later, historians made a startling discovery of their own, revealing many of the crew members took ill, some fatally, since those three vessels were actually early Carnival cruises.
Personally, I don’t see why Columbus got a holiday or cities in Ohio and Georgia since does anyone in their right minds truly believe a land mass as large as America wouldn’t have been found in short order? Truthfully, it was never lost since the native peoples living here were perfectly satisfied they had discovered the land on which they already lived. The fact that some white guy from Italy stumbled on it merely meant he discovered new foods on which to sprinkle garlic.
Truth is, what Columbus really discovered, was that he was terribly lost. Indeed, he was such a blithering idiot he probably couldn’t find his way around his namesake circle in Manhattan. After three fruitless circuits, I could hear him exclaim to his crew, “I’ve discovered Central Park and claim it for Italy!”
Yes, Columbus Day is certainly a worthwhile celebration if only because it’s an easier name to say than Vespucci.