Courtesy: Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette
I’m starting a new feature on the blog called Things White Middle Class People Get Overly Worked Up About. Today’s topic: saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
I’m trying to remember when ‘Happy Holidays” became popular. I even tried googling it, but nothing came up on the first few pages and I didn’t want to put that much research effort into a blog post. I feel like it’s pretty recently though. I can understand it’s intention — not everyone is Christian or celebrates Christmas, and “Happy Holidays” includes those of other faiths or cultures. You can’t tell this to some white middle class people though. You’ll get a lecture about our country’s Christian roots or “Jesus is the reason for the season.” I admit I’m not very adamant about the issue (I’ve even let phrases like “holiday party” slip into my vernacular), but here are my thoughts on the subject.
First, whether Christians like it or not, Christmas has become a commercial buy-buy-buy holiday. I know a lot of people who aren’t Christian but still celebrate the gift-giving aspect of Christmas. People tend to feel uncomfortable around extreme Christians, but “Merry Christmas” isn’t “Accept Jesus as your savior or burn in hell.” I can understand using “holiday” in things like grocery store advertisements, because you might like that giant ham for New Year’s (I almost said Hanukkah…) or another celebration. I also understand store associates want to be inclusive, but I wonder if they’re allowed to mix it up — for example, saying “Happy Hanukkah” to someone buying a menorah and “Merry Christmas” to someone buying an ugly Christmas sweater.
I generally don’t get fired up about the Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas debate, but there are aspects of it that puzzle me. For example, we were in downtown Cincinnati the other day watching Santa repel down a building. When he landed he spoke to the crowd and ended with “Happy Holidays!” He’s Santa — besides Jesus, he’s the most important Christmas person. Surely he should be able to say “Merry Christmas!” I also don’t understand “Happy Holidays” on Christmas cards and gift tags that clearly have pictures of Santa or other images you only associate with Christmas. Are they including New Years in Happy Holidays? (or perhaps my birthday, which falls between Christmas and New Years?)
I know people get really worked up about taking the “Christ” out of Christmas, but maybe we should just be happy the sales associate wishes us a happy or merry anything this time of year — if she’s working retail during Christmastime, she probably hates everyone and everything by now.
Lately it seems I can’t get away from the movie Human Centipede. It reportedly came out in 2010, but I’ve only heard of it recently. South Park’s season opener was titled Human CentiPad and Beavis and Butthead reviewed the movie in one of their recent episodes. The thought of a crazed doctor surgically attaching people butt-to-mouth absolutely disgusted me, but also fascinated me. I had to see this movie.
(I should probably add a disclaimer that I have horrible taste in movies and TV shows. A lot of my favorite shows revolve around child beauty pageants or polygamists, so you could say I’ve seen some sick things. Which reminds me, movie/TV show idea — a polygamist takes as many wives as he can so he can have as many children as possible enter pageants.)
When I saw Human Centipede was available instantly with my family’s Netflix subscription, I considered it fate and sat down to watch it yesterday. My dad watched most of it with me, equally disgusted in that but-I-can’t-look-away fashion, while my mom made me stop it whenever she entered the room, even when it was only at the “oh no, we’re just two American girls with a flat tire in Germany and oh no there’s no phone reception and look it’s starting to rain!” stereotypical horror movie beginning part.
I admit I didn’t have high expectations for the film, but I was disappointed. The ending was a cliff hanger in the not-good way, and there wasn’t really any surprises — the movie is about a crazed surgeon who attaches people butt-to-mouth, and that’s basically all you get. (I know, I know, what was I expecting?)
But out of the whole sick movie, this is what puzzled me — how badly is your acting career going that when your agent calls you and says, “Hey, I got a film for you. You’ll have to spend half of the movie screaming in fear and the other half muffled screaming because your mouth will be attached to another actor’s butt. Another actor’s mouth may also be attached to your butt. Oh, and you’ll also have to be topless for most of the film. Interested?” And you say “Yes! When does filming start?”
When I left Chicago over a year ago, I honestly didn’t know when –or if ever — I’d be back. But on Monday I found myself spending time on my old friend Megabus, instinctively pulling out my phone when we got on I-90 to call Stephen to tell him to pick me up at the stop soon. Except Stephen was in London, not Chicago, and I was going to a hotel when I arrived, not my apartment.
Were my life a movie, there probably would have been some sentimental music playing as I got off the bus and was reunited with my favorite American city. There may even have been one of those panoramic shots that show me taking everything in and smiling with great joy.
In reality I hopped off the bus, lugged my carry on bag to CVS, bought a one-day transit card, then sat at a bus stop for a half hour waiting for a bus that never came. It was not a glamorous reunion with my old home, but I was still glad to be back. I was almost surprised how not weird it was, just like coming back to the US wasn’t weird. I remembered the block system (which I miss terribly in London) and was even giving out directions to tourists like a local. I hit up State Street to go shopping like I used to do, but was surprised to see some of the stores I frequented were closed down or in the process of liquidating. It broke my heart, but I had to remind myself that I don’t live there anymore and may not be back anytime soon.
- This is the only photo I took on my trip. I used to love that store and now both Chicago locations are going out of business.
Besides seeing old friends and stores, my main reason for visiting Chicago was to drop my visa application off at the Chinese consulate. You have to apply in person to get a visitor visa and the London consulate would only issue me a six-month one (“But I’ve gotten a year-long visa before!” “Yeah, in Chicago, not London.”) so I decided to go to Chicago to apply for the year-long one (which curiously costs the same as a six-month visa). I arrived at the consulate Tuesday morning ready to collect material for “Fun Times at the Chinese Consulate Part III,” but everything went smoothly. I barely had to wait and the crabby waits-for-no-one straight-out-of-a-Seinfield-episode clerk took my passport, paperwork, cashier’s check and overpriced UPS return envelope without a question asked. So much for good blogging material.
Chicago will always hold a special place in my heart and it was nice to pop in for 25 hours. Sometimes I wonder why I like Chicago so much, considering it’s high murder and crime rates and ridiculous sales tax and high prices (which still seem low compared to London). As a college student Chicago served as an oasis and escape from the world of academia in Evanston. I went downtown to go shopping with my roommates or went to nice restaurants with Stephen. Once in a while I’d even go down by myself just to walk around or do some studying with a pomegranate ginger ale at Water Tower Place. I admit the city lost a little of its charm when I decided to live there after university and had to deal with things like finding and (affording) a parking spot, but I still enjoy Chicago. London has a very different big city vibe, for better or for worse, but sometimes I just need to see a skyscraper, whether that be in Shanghai or Chicago.