I ran into a couple from Datil the other day while admiring the extensive Christmas village display set up in the window of C-Bar-D, the auto repair shop on California Street.
It’s one of those feel-good displays that gets you into the holiday spirit, and we were talking about impressive it was. Or was it evidence of the commercialization of Christmas? It got me to wondering about how we like to recognize the season. You know, expressing the joy of the holidays versus what some see as crass commercialism.
I guess that’s been the case ever since Dickens extolled kindness and virtue over materialism when he wrote A Christmas Carol. I caught onto the commercialization of Christmas at an early age, say ... my tenth or eleventh year when I heard the comedy record Green Christmas by Stan Freberg, a humorous poke at holiday advertising.
It’s a parody of Dickens’s story with Ebenezer Scrooge as the head of an advertising agency, who declares, “Christmas has two S’s in it and they’re both dollar signs!” While Bob Cratchit tries to remind him of the true meaning of Christmas; that “people keep hoping you’ll remember” whose birthday Christmas celebrates.
The record was roundly condemned by Madison Avenue and didn’t get much airplay on the radio, but nonetheless got positive reactions from Christian clergy as well as the general public.
I think we all know where to draw the line and how to keep Christmas, but even still, while I might grumble about crass commercialism, I catch myself casting a furtive glance at that new digital air-fryer or some other new gadget I’ve heard advertised.
One thing is for certain, Black Friday is descending upon us, and I don't believe I'm too far off here, but when shopping for others, people might just pick up something for themselves.
And here’s a reminder, when you’re out there hustling and bustling with everyone else, don’t forget to pick out some great Christmas cards. I guess some of us still do that, but I wonder. With social media running roughshod over personal contact and people using emojis to express their feelings, where-oh-where does that leave Hallmark? I mean, one of the time-honored traditions in December is compiling that greeting card list and sending out your handwritten messages in personally addressed envelopes.
Oh, but wait, now you can have an online service send out those cards for you in your choice of handwriting fonts.
And so it goes.
As for this week, with the kids all grown up (with kids of their own) and living far away, we have either been invited to someone else's home for a big feast, or we invite someone over to our house. We're having company over for Thanksgiving this time, and last weekend my wife took on the unenviable task of making the house presentable – still retaining that lived-in look, of course – but there’s one minor annoyance.
I'm talking about the dreaded flapper. I've mentioned this before; that even in our modern space-age instant gratification world, the ordinary everyday bathroom falls far short when it comes to toilet science. Granted, we’ve come a long way since the outhouse days, but still, that reliable one-holer out back never required too much maintenance. In other words, you never had to “jiggle the handle.”
We all know what that little phrase means, and it’s something that every person has uttered, or heard it, at least once in their lifetime – no matter who you are, even in the halls of the mighty.
For instance, I had this fantasy of having dinner amongst the nobility at Buckingham Palace. I get up and on the way to the royal loo, the queen murmurs, "don’t forget to jiggle the handle."
It could happen.
And if I ever make up to the Pearly Gates, I wonder if St. Peter will be saying, "you have to jiggle the handle." No, I take that back. It would be in the "other" place.
But I digress. Thanksgiving is my kind of holiday. It’s the one day that is purely American.
It’s about gratitude. It exists for the sole purpose of simply giving thanks and acknowledging those around us who have helped us along the way, much like the first Thanksgiving. It’s a time for breaking bread with others.
Growing up, my mother would ask us to give thanks, not for what we don’t have, but what we do, and that has stuck with me all these years whether all I had was a frozen turkey TV dinner or a home-cooked spread with all the fixings.
She grew up during the Great Depression years and would say, "When asked if my cup is half-full or half-empty, my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup."
And I’m sure it wasn’t on sale on Black Friday.