Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Caving to the Season

In the US people spend a large portion of December whining about how long the Christmas shopping season lasts. Thanksgiving is the last Thursday in November and on the very next day the shops, malls and streets are filled with Bing Crosby crooning, Christmas trees and the requisite non-denominational snowflakes. This continues for four weeks at a frenetic pace with no escape from tinned carols and glitter. By the week before Christmas the whining about the music, advertisements and general madness has also reached a fever pitch. All this to say, "Hey, Americans, chill out. Christmas lasts for months, here!"

Dear me, the ads started in September. Truly, it all kicks off before Halloween. Granted, Halloween here is nothing like the event it is in North America, but the English also have Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes) on November 5th, but still, they just can't wait.

The ads themselves are priceless because from the very start, they have been promising the same, amazing offer: delivery by Christmas! Really? You mean, if I order an ordinary item at the end or September or beginning of October, I can have it delivered within 12 weeks? What service in this country. My other half can't contain his laughter whenever he sees one. You could walk a sofa most places in this country with a trolly and 12 weeks.

Even the weather contributed to the humour, because we had a heat wave in October and there were full news stories on the BBC on how this was terrible because shops had to pull their Christmas themed stock. Damn, now they'll never move all those Christmas crackers. Honestly, who buys Christmas crackers two moths ahead of time?

What about the Kookaburra as an alternative to turkey?
Now, to be fair, I've always thought that US Thanksgiving is a bit too close to Christmas for comfort. I think the Canadians have a much better system with Thanksgiving in early October. That way, you have time to get rid of the turkey leftovers before you start in on another major feast. Of course the food issue can be solved by not having turkey at Christmas. I know that probably caused shock, horror and in some extreme cases, disowning of me, across Ireland. There is the rare case of the goose for Christmas dinner in Ireland, but generally, it's simply sacrilege to even consider abandoning the mighty turkey on December 25th. Interesting, as the turkey is a distinctly American bird.

Americans, however, seem to be much more flexible on the subject of Yuletide vittles. They are happy with roasts, legs of lamb and slabs of ham and they have no problem having turkey twice in a month. Perhaps Benjamin Franklin had it right when he championed the turkey as the national bird of the US, it is clearly beloved.

All of that whining just to set up the confession:

This weekend, we caved. We gave up, gave in and purchased a fake tree. Sorry, I think the politically correct term these days is "artificial," an artificial tree. A pine to be specific. We splurged on the £9.99 specimen available at Argos. And let me tell you, the directions alone are entertaining enough to justify the price.

Sadly, I can't reprint them exactly here for copyright reasons, but the general gist was "If you put up this tree and it looks a bit crap, it's not because you bought the cheapest tree in the United Kingdom, it's not because it has glue dripped all over it, causing some of the branches to be fused together and it's not because it doesn't have enough branches and has been designed in a manner that can only result in it looking pathetic and diseased. It's because you're crap at shaping trees. We can't believe you haven't mastered that talent yet. You really ought to get on that. We made the tree look brilliant, like an entire forest, if we're honest, so clearly the problem is you."

With directions as detailed as these, you might suspect that they give all the information you might want about this tree but they don't. To date, we have had two additional surprises! The first was that this particular model of genuine artificial pine actually loses its needles, just like the real things and the second is that it produces a distinct odour. Unfortunately, this odour bears much more of a resemblance to rubber and various chemicals than to a fresh pine scent, but nevertheless, you take the extras you can get for £9.99.

We also tried mulled wine. Verdict? My aunt does it far better. Mine was vile. Pretty much untouchable and this is coming from folks with slightly less than the most refined palates.

That is indeed a stocking hung above a picture on the wall
Ah well, with some carols on the computer and disgusting holiday drinks in hand we strung the artificial pine with LED lights, switched out the tea towels and hung the stockings on some pre-existing and awkwardly placed nails on the wall and officially welcomed the Christmas season to our little London flat. Sure, we might be two months behind the rest of the country, but we're there, now. It's not even December, yet, so we still have a good month of celebration in front of us while the rest of Britain moans and tries not to get violent over the displays of holiday cheer. Really is there anything more irritating?

Now you'll have to excuse me, I need to warm up. I have to be ready to annoy all the other commuters by humming carols for the next few weeks. They're already sick of them, but I'm just getting started.

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