When the first day of Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving this year it was an interesting calendar curiosity. But the fact that there are only 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas—six days less than last year—might leave retailers sweating blood or, in the very least, red ink.But we fickle consumers notice only that we have fewer days to fight crowds, abuse our credit cards and find just the right gift for someone we have not heard from since last Christmas, when they sent that nice aluminum necktie that can also slice and dice vegetables and grate nutmeg to go on our holiday eggnog.
I don’t know if it was the shortened season, but this year my husband skipped our annual trip into Manhattan. He felt that he needed to get his shopping done, perhaps worried by the news that he had less time to do so. But realistically, and like many husbands, he will do his Christmas shopping on December 23, believing that he does his best work under pressure.
I was doing my own shopping and, at one store, was greeted by the clerk at the cash register with a cheerful “Happy Holidays,” which I know is a common form these days. Still, it seemed odd in this case as the store has “Christmas” in its name and I came away impressed not with the store’s magnanimity toward other cultures, but by its timorousness about its own.
Tis also the season of holiday mail. I miss the days when you could just drop a school photo of the kids into a Christmas card, and maybe write a few words at the bottom, and feel that you had fulfilled your Christmas card obligation. Then the miracle of the personal computer started the traditional “Year in Words.”
Where in the manner of Dickens, if not of Tolstoy, a family was expected to send a summary of milestones. Some part of it will be fiction, of course, but we will receive it with the charity of the season. I remember one year when we were impressed to read that a cousin had become a vice president in a very well-known firm. A few weeks later we learned that her new firm’s name only sounded like the name of a well-known firm and was, in fact, a fraud and was raided by the Federales before she could even get her business cards printed. I saved that Christmas letter for a long time.
The current expectation seems to be family pictures that look like a stylist set up the shoot. On the farm we tried our own version of these shoots. The family, horses and cat looked spectacular. I looked like I had groomed and styled them all and was pushed unexpectedly into the picture at the last minute.
Having officially given up on that, I’m considering a blanket Holiday Wish on Facebook. The U.S. Postal Service will not be happy with this new trend, but I might get a few minutes to relax this year.
So, I will wish you a Merry Christmas and if you want to have a Merry Something Else, I wish you one of those, too.