Saturday, December 20, 2008

District of Christmas

Five Santa bobble hats; four Christmas sweaters; three model train sets; two reindeer deely boppers; one giant Menorah. Such is the holiday season Stateside, where grown women - and men - think it okay to parade around town in outfits more suited for their local pre-school's last day of term. Top spots thus far include a jaunty Christmas jumper complete with white pom-poms on a Kennedy Centre show goer last night; matching reindeer antlers on a Mom and daughter out shopping in Boston; and flashing Christmas lights on a SUV's front grille. 

Considering large swathes of the country's early settlers didn't even celebrate Christmas (the Puritans who wound up in Massachusetts set sail partly to escape such Old World customs with their Church of England ties), Americans have sure made up for lost time. Cheesy Christmas light displays are old hat over here, so Yuletide aficionados have to show their devotion in other ways. Less wearing your heart on your sleeve and more wearing your Holiday decorations out of the house. 

The trick though is not forgetting that the holiday season here is about more than just Christmas. Saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" is something of a faux pas. The city will get a reminder about how PC DC is tomorrow when a giant Menorah joins the giant Christmas tree on the White House lawn. People don't have Christmas parties here; they have holiday parties. I should know: I've been to three, including one Louis helped host for his fellow yogi-babies. (The other two were Mum's and John's work do's.)

Louis is making the most of his first ever Christmas and checking out all of DC's festive sights. His favourite so far is the Botanic Garden's Windows to Wonderland exhibition. The centrepiece of this homage to kitsch is a poinsettia-bedecked replica National Mall complete with landmarks crafted out of natural plant parts. That's the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial behind Louis above. There's also a special Christmas model train display, model trains being a quintessentially American Christmas tradition. Who knew? 

Trains have apparently been circling Christmas trees here since the early 1900s when model train sets were the gift of choice for a certain class of kid. Space at Christmas being at a premium - all those relatives, all those presents - the only place for the tracks was round the tree. Or so the popular history goes. Daddy J is already eyeing up which train set he can buy Louis. Next year.  

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