Thursday, November 11, 2010

Holiday Cups

I went to Starbuck's this morning and noticed they were using ther red "holiday" cups. It reminded me of a similar November day in 2004 (probably even earlier in the month) when I went to a Starbuck's in New York City. Upon being served my drink, I commented - just a comment, no value judgment intended - "I see you're using your holiday cups." Apparently my comment induced in the barista something similar to what in the Roman moral traditon is sometimes warningly referred to as admiratio. Literally, admiratio is a 3rd-declension Latin noun normally translated as wonder, amazement, surprise, etc., and is accordingly used to refer to behavior which, while not precisely scandalous, may be perplexing to people, inducing wonder and amazement (but not in an admirable sense). Apparently, that's what my comment must have done for that barista, who, appropriately amazed at my apparent ignorance of the calendar, proceded to point that it was, after all, already "after Halloween."
Now, I repeat that I really meant no criticism aty all - then or now. It was just an observation on the passing of the year. As anyone who knows me should know by now, I really like Christmas, and I welcome the arrival of the Christmas season. From his response, I take it the barista interpreted my comment as suggesting that perhaps it was still a bit too early for Christmas paraphernalia. And, while again it wasn't my intention to criticize, some such sentiment certainly was reflected in my otherwise offhand comment.
Obviously, in many places, the "holiday season" has already been in full swing since at least Halloween. But there was a time - in my living memory - when the "holiday season" really did begin with Thanksgiving Day, which all things considered probably did represent a better balance. One paradoxial consequence, I think, has helped highlight Thanksgiving even more. as Thanksgiving has accordingly become a brief but welcome pause in the increasingly hectic pace of the season.
Regretably, I do know a handful of people who don't like Christmas very much - sad, depressed folks, whose reaction to the almost universal joy around them is to try to exclude themselves from sharing in it. But, to be honest, I really can't think of anyone I know who doesn't like and look forward to Thanksgiving Day. Perhaps it helps that Thanksgiving really is just a day - not a prolonged season of multiple social obligations. (In an increasingly secular society, it may also help that, although obviously religious in its origin and in its literal meaning, Thanksgiving Day is now such a universally American holiday that it unites more than it divides us along religious lines).
In any case, Thanksgiving is apparently the most travelled holiday in the American popular calendar. Almost universally, people seem eager to go "home" for the holiday - whether "over the river and through the wood to grandfather's house" or some more contemporary equivalent. In my line of work, in which going "home" for Christmas is, of course, completely out of the question, going "home" for Thanksgiving is an especially attractive alternative. The first year of my assignment to Toronto, I took a morning flight to New York on Thanksgiving Day. I remember being greeted by US Immigration and Customs with "Coming home for Turkey Day? Welcome home!" So, although it's still only Veterans' Day today, I salute the first signs of the arrival of the holiday season, starting with looking forward to my own forthcoming "over the river and throuigh the wood" family reunion on Thanksgiving.

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