Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tis the Season

The first hurdle of the end of the year holiday season is passed. The guests have returned home. A sizable portion of the leftovers has been eaten and we didn't have to resort to turkey pancakes. Black Friday has come and gone. I have managed to steer clear of the hordes that have descended on Michigan Avenue. The lights are lit on the Magnificent Mile. The big tree that looks like something out an impressionist painting with its blurred lights is in its place at the Hancock Center.

Larry the Doorman finally called one wrong when he assured me that we'd get a few flakes of snow before Thanksgiving. He still has a better average than the television weather geeks and Phil the Groundhog, however. The temperature is trending downward, though. Extended weather outlooks predict highs in the 30's and some wet snow later this week. Looking out the windows on the 14th floor, the green and red lights are signifying the Christmas season at Navy Pier and silently proclaiming, "Come! Celebrate the season! Spend money!" The skies have been an end of the year gray quite a lot recently. November ends and December begins this week.

I went to the grocery store to pick up cat food and cat litter and various assorted necessities of life today and the Christmas Carol Muzak was in full bloom. What this means is that now, not only do we have to worry about dropping those pounds we picked up while gorging ourselves at Thanksgiving, but we have to worry about what to buy for those nearest and dearest to us as Christmas presents. The pressure is on.

In between Christmas parties and planning for those trips to be with families over the holidays, we have to agonize over what to buy so we don't look like people who don't really love their loved ones. How many times have I heard, "Oh you don't have to buy me anything, really." or "Let's just agree not to buy anything this year." Still, there are disappointed crestfallen faces on Christmas morning if some people get cool stuff and others do not. So not buying is out of the question.

Then there is the unspoken, "Is this present good enough?" This accompanies the agreement not to spend too much on presents. Did you get something that is equally as cool as what someone bought you? Is your present so far over the top that the other person will be embarrassed that they didn't get you anything nice? How do we reach an equilibrium where each person receives a gift that is neither too lame nor too nice, and everyone feels okay about what they got and what they gave?

These are the real traditions of Christmas in America. This is a country where the economy revolves around selling so much stuff during the last quarter of the year that most of the rest of the year sales can go flat and the economy still keeps chugging along. This is the real tradition that keeps us going back year after year buying stuff that we shouldn't have, stuff that we really don't need, but stuff that keeps the economy chugging along. Somehow it has wormed its way into our psyches and made itself a part of our collective neuroses.

For now I can divert my attention by the fact that the Bears are down to the Vikings 24-7 after the first half. Then, I must invevitably turn my attention the fact that Babs bought me an expensive and really cool leather coat for my birthday. Can't afford to give a really lame Christmas present this year. Wouldn't want it to look like I don't love her as much as she loves me. After all, I'm an American. Love=Money spent. It's a Christmas tradition.

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