In Israel, from approximately the week before Rosh Hashana through the week in which the Jewish holiday of Succot ends, you hear the phrase, "After the holidays..." As in "After the holidays, I will:
- Start my diet
- Call my literary agent
- Deal with my taxes
- Apply for jobs
- Clean out my closets
- Take the car to the garage to fix that dent
- Sit all morning in the random government office and take care of those parking tickets
- Schedule my annual medical exam
Because all citizens know that there is no point in trying to achieve closure on any procedure that demands government bureaucracy and cooperation, or any body issue that demands not eating continuously for three days in celebration of the various events at the beginning of the Jewish calendar.
This week provided a considerable challenge, that of waking up in the morning and knowing that there would be no two-day work weeks, that life resumes its "normal" pace and that the only vacation is one which you schedule yourself, one that is not mandated by religion. And yet, in the United States, consumerism rose to the challenge, by beginning its pre-Holiday (Halloween? Thanksgiving? Christmas?) sales. Wal Mart, Toys R Us and LL Bean stand out in the crowd; Toys R Us, particularly hit by the defective Chinese toy recall, stated that "Everyone can use a little Christmas right now."
Good for them, taking advantage of an economy collapsing because of George Bush's inept policies and once again I find myself saddened that the spirit of the holiday season has been lost for another year. I myself am a huge fan of Christmas carols, and challenge everyone in the holiday marketing business to listen carefully to the words of "The Little Drummer Boy," a song which encapsulates for me the true meaning of giving and receiving: it tells a story of child - the demographic targeted by the hype of the sales - who cannot afford to bring an expensive gift, and instead plays his drums, giving straight from the heart. In other words, it's not about how many presents sit under the tree, little baby Jesus isn't tallying the amount each person spent on his gift, he values love and intention.
The Jewish holiday of Chanukah, which in principle should stress the defense of core values and the receiving of miracles, has adopted the American Western value of the more presents the better, and whoever dies with the most stuff wins. Instead of one giant bonanza under the tree, we spread the spending over eight days. In my house, my parents tried to teach the importance of family and intention over commercial gain; most nights they presented us with an individual small gift, one which they thought about and tailored for each of us children. One night out of the eight, the family as a whole shared one giant expensive addition to the household, I can most vividly recall the Atari game player; who doesn't like Pong?! And for one of the nights our whole extended family got together for a party at my aunt and uncle's house in Westchester, where my grandmother talked about her childhood without family and how much we should cherish the time we spend together.
So get out those credit cards and start applying for your payment plan now, with only 75 shopping days until Christmas, items are going fast!