Don’t They Know…

I am hanging out with two friends this past Saturday, riding around Long Island.  It is mid to late afternoon when we are finally on our way home. Being near winter solstice, the days are short and it is already becoming dark.  Looking around, I inquire about the general demographic of the neighborhood.  When I express some surprise of the overall makeup of the area I am asked why.  I wave my hand around at the quiet peaceful pre-sunset street and ask  if either of my two companions notice anything  wrong, which of course they do not. We’re looking down a street with at least twenty homes of spacious lawns, tress hedges with in easy sight and not one house was decorated for Christmas.

Not. One. House.

Even I, who has been in a holiday funk these past couple of years, put up a tree and decorated my living room for the holidays a week ago. There we were driving through a semi-affluent neighborhood, that by my friends accounting had a decent enough Christian/Protestant influence and yet we could not see any indication that we were in the midst of the “most wonderful time of the year”.    It took three blocks of riding before we saw one house decorated for the holidays. We could actually count the homes as we rode around before we hit the highway.  Considering  it was exactly on week before Christmas, it was a pathetic showing.  Sun completely set as we’re coming off the highway into Harlem was only slightly more festive as we looked up at the various tenements windows all lit and sparkling.  It hit home further when we turned on the radio and it turned out the DJ was taking calls from listeners asking if they felt Christmas was less festive now than in years past.

Being raised with Christian and Jewish neighbors all of my pre-teens life, by December 15th all buildings were ablaze with festive lights and colors. Every block was a mini Las Vegas for a couple of weeks each year in December.  You could count the homes that did not have decorations instead of the other way around. It is something that has steadily decreased over the years and I sorely miss it. Several callers to the radio DJ expressed similar sentiments.  It was part comforting and part disconcerting to know I wasn’t the only one feeling this.

In my head, I could understand if I was living in a more culturally mixed neighborhood than what existed in my youth, but I‘m not. I don’t know if it’s the depressing economy or a subtle (and disappointing) downturn in society in general that has befallen the holidays over time, but I don’t like it. As I looked out my window earlier this evening and again found myself incredibly disappointed by the near dearth of festive lighting, I found my self desperately wanting to ask …

Don’t they know it’s Christmas?

4 thoughts on “Don’t They Know…

  1. I’ve been seeing this more and more, and from my perspective there are four elements to it:

    1) Work. We are putting in longer and longer hours at jobs that suck the life out of us, because we have it in our minds that we NEED to do this, because we NEED to be able to afford everything under the sun for the people we care about – because so many of us can’t show love without it coming wrapped up and costing $49.95 (plus tax).

    2) Family. Mainly, the north american conceit that we need to be our own people, make it under our own steam. Yes, there is something to that, but that doesn’t mean we have to ignore or step away from our families. The parts about Christmas that really make it feel “right” to me are when I get together with family and go out to just look at lights and decorations, or sit in front of the fire listening to carols and insulting one another (lovingly so).

    3) The media. The more media-centric we become, the older we get, the more the world seems to simply hate itself. Everyone shits on everyone else. Respect is a thing of the past. We can change this on our own if we want, but it’s so hard to pull yourself out of that head space and really get into the spirit of things when all those around you and on TV and in print do nothing but hate on the world and everyone in it.

    4) Political-fucking-correctness. If I have to hear about one more fool giving me a hard time for saying Merry Christmas instead of the safer term, Happy Holidays, I’m gonna scream. Say what you want and respect that others can say what they want to you – it’s the intent, not the words, that matters. I would freaking love it if I said Merry Christmas to a friend and they wished me a happy Kwanza right back. How freaking amazing and free that would feel! We’ve gotten our heads so far up our asses about PCness that most people just avoid it altogether and bitch about how commercial the season has become. To those people I say “fuck you, have some gingerbread and put a smile on your face when someone wishes you a merry Christmas.”

    *end rant*

    Merry Christmas, Rai 🙂

  2. Political correctness, which I’m embarrassed to say was invented by my generation (Boomers), is undoubtedly one of the greater curses to afflict this nation today. Prof. Higgins might well have described it as “The cold-blooded murder of the English tongue”. Nowhere is this more blatant than in the current use of the word “special”.

    As to Christimas displays, it is rather sad not to see them as much as in previous times. I think the grandest display I’ve ever seen was in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn. According to the neighborhood and the sheer size of the display, I can only conclude that it was built by a mob biggie.

  3. Andrew and Bob,

    I can’t say I disagree with either of you. The combination of your various points truly has an affect on how we celebrate the holidays these past few years. Unfortunately, unless some magical holiday elves go into some serious overtime the next couple of days spreading massive doses of Christmas cheer, I do not see things getting better any time soon.

    Happy Belated Hanukkah!
    Merry Christmas!
    Joyous Kwanzaa!
    Happy New Year!

  4. The last few years, I’ve definitely played down and even avoided Christmassy stuff. For me, it’s partly because I’ve been dirt poor. I couldn’t afford gifts for my loved ones, and I love seeking something just right for each family member. This year, only my husband and I are exchanging.

    I don’t even have the money to buy the stuff to hand-make presents- I blew my entire discretionary fund on the makings for mini-gingerbread houses at a Meetup, which was my putting up a good public front, and the biggest celebration I’ll have.

    As my family is far away, and I’m often rather isolated in my apartment, it’s simply easier for me to be an ostrich. My family often celebrated Christmas in January, as I often was booked with singing gigs through the holidays. This makes it easier for me to dissociate now.

    When things get better, not just financially, but personally and emotionally, I’ll be ready to celebrate again. I can’t really focus on the peaceful joy of the season when there is such chaos around me. In the meantime, I truly do wish the true spirit of the holidays for everyone else.

So? What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s