Tuesday, December 16, 2008
'Tis the season to be jolly! 'Tis also the season to eat your body weight in poultry and puddings and spend excessive amounts of money on gifts for people (that you may or may not like) out of a sense of obligation and in an attempt to not look like the only cheap-ass Scrooge at the family get together or office party. No matter what your financial situation in these trying times, 'Can we not do presents this year?' just never seems to be a viable option.
Part of the reason this maybe never works for me is that I tend to go along quite blinkered until about December 15th over the fact that it is Christmas at all, by which point other more organised acquaintances have shopped for, wrapped and presented me with a gift. I'm not sure quite how I manage to be so unaware of the festivities unfolding around me; Noddy Holder on the radio, trolley rage, shop staff wearing stupid Santa hats - or if they're really cutesy, a bit of tinsel instead of a scrunchie! It's not that I don't hear or see any of this, it's more like I'm coasting along in neutral, let's make that cruise-control since I'm in the States, and I don't actually seem to get into gear and drive until Mid-December. Being overseas this year has caused a few problems with gifting the folks back home. Who knew there were International Shipping Deadlines?! What do you mean the postman won't collect my parcel and get on a plane and take it to my Mum's house?! It could get there in 9 hours if the stupid postman wasn't so lazy! So I've had to be creative: Mum, Dad, sorry but this year you're just going to have to accept an email from me in festive red and green font as a present. It's the gift that keeps on giving - unless you're colourblind, because then it would just look like any other email.
So what do they do in Minneapolis to celebrate 'The Holidays'? Well, it all kicks off at 12.01am on 1st November when I imagine they use some kind of crane/wrecking ball/street-hoover contraption to clear the aisles of Halloween merchandise, possibly aided by a gaggle of tinsel-scrunchie clad shop assistants heaving it all into bin liners. Out come the candy canes, front door wreaths and bad American chocolates (the leading brand of which smells like feet!) and away we go! But Minneapolis has an extra special something to give at this time of year.....
Holidazzle!!!!!! A Minneapolis tradition, people drive all the way from Iowa to come and see it (in fairness, people from Iowa will drive across state lines to see pretty much anything if it gets them out of Iowa for the day). It's the non-denominational November/December parade consisting of lots of jubilant Minnesotans dressed in LED-powered costumes on the theme of fairytales. They march enthusiastically up and down Nicolette Mall every night Thursday through Sunday between Thanksgiving and Christmas in what I can only really describe as an inverse of Las Vegas Blvd....stick with me on this....In Vegas, you move up and down the strip while the flashing neon remains stationary. At holidazzle, it's, well, the opposite of that. Ok, so that was a rubbish comparison, but it's fun! I love the way all the participants remain jolly despite temperatures below-freezing and not getting paid. Can you really imagine that happening in London? It's like the Notting Hill Carnival, only in a marginally colder climate and with less stabbings. I'd imagine they have whatever the US equivalent of St. John's ambulance on hand to treat cases of frost bite and hypothermia. I can see the headlines now: 'And in local news, little Johnny Pizowski's nose fell off this year as a result of being strapped to a float every Thursday through Sunday for two months - "but he looked SO ADORABLE in his gingerbread man costume!" said his mother Lynette.' Perhaps next year he'll have a prosthetic one and be cast as Pinocchio?
In all seriousness, I do mock my fellow countrymen for their excessive enthusiasm for absolutely everything, but I think there are lessons to be learnt for us Brits who do tend to be somewhat, well, cynical. Try this out: Next time someone asks you a question, instead of your usual response of a sharp intake of breath, a shaking of the head and the phrase 'Oh I don't know if I can do that, it's more than my job's worth', try just saying: 'Awesome! Uh-huh!'. Admittedly this may get you into a few awkward conversations*, but generally I find it to be a pretty good response to most things.
So, we are now gearing up to Christmas proper. I am preparing to co-cook my second turkey dinner in a month and cope with the ensuing 'meat sweats'. I found after Thanksgiving that the only way to deal with having eaten more food than I had eaten in the previous week was to adopt what I like to call 'The Starfish' pose on a flat surface (the floor works best), be covered with a blanket and simply remain in that state for the next 36 hours or until you are able to see your own toes again, whichever is sooner. I believe I am now ready; my festive emails will be sent this week in place of presents, the tree is up, I have a tray of mixed nuts and a bottle of Bailey's on the sideboard and I have discarded all of my usual hair accessories and replaced them with scraps of tinsel. Bring it!
*Not to be used in conversations about death, disease, redundancies at work or natural disasters**
** By natural disasters, I of course only mean those occurring in English-speaking countries, all others are natural predicaments.