It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas

Bankers Hill Christmas lights

All those twinkling lights cost a lot of money - good thing they're bankers

In my humble, personal experience, I’ve found that people in the UK tend to approach the holiday season differently to the average American. (See my blog about Halloween.) Sure, Christmas is a big deal in Britain, and people get into the spirit of the season, but it’s not quite on the same scale as it is across the pond, where the trees tend to be bigger, the decorations more elaborate, the cards more personal and the baking more essential. My mother, for instance, is given an obscene amount of baked goods from her various friends, relatives and neighbors – it’s probably enough to kill an elephant.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, the Christmas season picks up a gear – it’s when many Americans dig out the enormous decorations they’ve been hiding in the garage and start decorating their houses with the glee of carolers singing Frosty the Snowman. Some of the decorations are so over the top, you would have thought Liberace himself had overseen the whole process from his palatial, gold-encrusted house.

When I was growing up, my neighborhood was very much from the Liberace school of thought. Almost every house had some crazy Christmas light display – if you didn’t, you were very much in the minority. Even my dad, who embodies the antithesis of domesticity and is practically molded into his armchair, would risk breaking a limb and would precariously climb up to the second story to drape some fairy lights. (They’d also stay up there until February when we’d get a letter from the housing association threatening us with a fine if they didn’t come down.) As Christmas approached, the neighborhood would become a destination for busloads of people, in caravans, who would circle the 1970s track housing and gape in admiration.

Christmas lights

Not quite what it used to be but you still get inflatable mangers

This has waned in recent years, and there are no more caravans. I don’t know if it’s the rising cost of electricity or the fact that the neighborhood has aged considerably, but not as many people deck their homes out in festive cheer. There are still plenty of exceptions, and I took a little tour of the neighborhood to see who has already put lights up as of December 1.

Feeling a bit like a creepy Christmas freak, I crept around and took some rather underwhelming pictures under pressure. I was a little worried that someone was going to ask me what the hell I was doing trying to zoom in on Mary and Joseph in the manger from a parked car. My brother, who is a more accomplished photographer than I am, took the main picture (above) on Monday night while we were out in a neighborhood called Bankers Hill in San Diego. It’s more affluent than the suburb where we live at the moment – and, with a name like Bankers Hill, it does sound like the residents are rather rich.

Christmas lights

Ho, ho, ho

Christmas lights

Who needs snow?

Made in America

Meanwhile, ABC’s evening news program with Diane Sawyer is on a mission to try to get families in the United States to buy at least one gift that is made in America – and they have come up with some statistics to drill their message home. First, we’re told that the average American spends a whopping $700 on Christmas or gifts. Then, the dewy-eyed Sawyer – who has a touch of the emotional chatty breakfast presenter about her – reveals that, in the 1960s, nine out of every 10 products Americans bought for the holidays were made in America; but, today, easily more than half of what gets bought is foreign-made.

An anonymous group of economists have come up with this equation: If every American spent $64 on something made in America, it could create 200,000 jobs right now. They also helpfully feature products made in the USA in a recurring segment, although I can’t exactly remember what they were. I have a vague recollection of nails and Bundt cake molds. Not sure the kids would be very impressed if I gave them that in their stocking, but I’m going to try to find alternatives. I already have my brother ticked off with a one-liter bottle of American whiskey or bourbon. I figure I’m already halfway to $64, although I feel slightly uneasy about spending this money on homegrown Jack Daniel’s – he’s probably one American with profits coming out of his ears.

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3 Comments

Filed under American life, holidays

3 responses to “It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas

  1. It’s tract housing, not track housing. And I had to read “brother ticked off” twice to understand that you meant accounted for not mad. Then again, I’m made in America.

  2. I love this post. I wonder, since the US consumes 75% of the world’s resources (I forget the oft-quoted statistic), how much of this is from Christmas-time lighting. I remember in Dec. 2009 driving into the Valley to see a neighborhood lit up so well I’m sure you could see it from outer space. (Apparently lots of set and lighting designers, which made the displays particularly amazing.) As for made in America, try Etsy for gifts. I just looked at the label of the boys’ nearly outgrown Baby Gap jeans. They are made in Pakistan. I was astounded that the Richard Scarry book about Cars said “Printed in the USA.” Even most books I get them these days say “Printed in China.”

  3. Vivian

    I second Erin’s recommendation on Etsy. I appreciate the fact that you are contributing to local, small business owners. Since I always purchase from the “handmade” section, there is the added benefit of knowing that your product is unique. In the kids’ rooms alone, I have pillows, a crib bumper, framed art, and a wall decal all made by different people on Etsy! And I’m sure you are already well aware, but there are countless websites devoted to goods produced in the USA. I think even big on-line retailers like Amazon have category filters for American products.

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