Thursday, 17 December 2009

10 reasons you know it's Christmas on Long Island...

1. You make special driving tours around town after dark to look at people's Outdoor Decorations.

Well, I wasn't going to let you get away without another Decoration Watch update, was I? The remarkable thing about the Christmas decorations is that they started off quite low-key. A wreath on a door here, a string of fairy lights there. But, the nearer we get to Christmas, the more they seem to multiply. So, houses that started off with one wreath now have wreaths on every single window; others have added draped more and more trees in lights. One house started off discreetly but added gradually more every week until the piece de resistance - a pair of lifesize nutcracker-style soliders either side of the front door. It's as if people look at their house every few days and think 'No, that's really not enough yet...'. Elsewhere, I've seen inflatable Santas on motorbikes, and - perhaps best of all - an inflatable Santa going up and down an inflatable chimney. (I'd love to take pictures, but I'm terrified someone will see it and recognise their house...). I have to say though, with perhaps the exception of the latter, many of the decorations are really attractive and it certainly does make the place look festive. And decoration fever is catching. I went to a fellow expat's house yesterday and she had two white lit-up reindeer in the backyard; she confessed that while two years ago she never would have dreamed of such a thing, now it seems absolutely appropriate.....

2. You are inundated with syrupy Christmas music. I've found a radio station that plays the cheesiest Christmas songs 24/7. How many times a sane person can listen to Jingle Bell Rock and Sleigh Ride Together in the course of one hour I don't know, but they are trying their hardest to find out. We listen to it in the car, and the Littleboys love it.

3. PETA would be shocked....Not only is the New York Times stuffed to the gills with Macy's and Tiffany's ads, there also seem to be a surprising number of press ads for fur, which appears to be quite acceptable here, with none of the ethical qualms of the UK. My small town alone boasts two fur storage places. People can also chat away quite happily about 'buying yourself a new beaver' on a radio ad without sounding at all self-conscious, either.

4. There is nothing worth watching on TV. The decent TV shows that I can count on one hand (that's House, Grey's Anatomy, Flash Forward) have been off air since Thanksgiving for an interminable Christmas break. But unlike in the UK, where they might be replaced by a really good Christmas special, the schedules are instead filled with evenings with country music stars, repeats, or college basketball. The Doctor and I are therefore ploughing in a most British way through a boxset of Brideshead Revisited, a present last Christmas.

5. You hear little mention of actual 'Christmas'. It's all about The Holidays here, in deference to other religions, Hannukah, etc. People talk about 'Holiday cards', 'Holiday cake' and what they are doing for 'the holidays'. It was virtually impossible to find a set of cards that said 'Merry Christmas'. rather than 'Happy Holidays'.(Although judging by the number of car stickers proclaiming 'Keep Christ in Christmas', not everyone is happy.....)

6. You finally experience a sudden rapid drop in temperature. A couple of weeks ago the boys were still playing on the beach. But for the past few days the temperature has rarely risen above freezing, and everyone tells me this is just the beginning. Yet it seems sunnier than the UK at this time of year, with a brisk invigorating wind reminiscent of ski resorts. And no snow yet, although it's forecast for this weekend. Maybe we'll have a White Christmas after all.....

7. You get your Christmas tree from the local fire station, rather than an overpriced stall run by barrow-boys on the Abbeville Road. A burly firefighter delivers it to your door with a cheery smile.

8. It's not just the outside of houses that get the festive treatment. Pick-up trucks sport Christmas wreaths. Massive great one, with red bows, strung across their cow bars.

9. Everyone asks if you've been to see the massive Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. I would love to, but the idea of facing the crowds on my own with two over-excited Littleboys is slightly terrifying. Something tells me an outing en famille is called for...

10. You are very excited to find a packet of Christmas crackers in a supermarket. Filed under Unusual Foreign Stuff, of course, but nevertheless there. It means your poor sister has one less item to carry out from the UK next week......

15 comments:

Nicola said...

I have found Christmas crackers too...tomorrow it is the annual hunt for Walkers shortbread and a big tin of Cadbury's biscuits and Quality Street. Wish me luck.

It is very odd but for the first time this year I am surrounded by unadorned houses. I am not sure if this is because I currently live in an area known as the 'projects' in Chicago, where the population is 99% African American. I am not sure whether budget is an issue or whether it is because they celebrate Kwanza (which I admit to being so ignorant that I still have no idea what that entails). I miss the illuminated reindeer and houses that are using a fair proportion of the national energy grid.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Why the Americans have yet to embrace crackers I have no idea. They are missing out! Sounds as if you are going to have a great American Christmas.. can you name all the reindeer yet?

Home Office Mum said...

sounds utterly fab. But I don't get the lack of Christmas crackers either. I reckon there's a business opportunity there for you. There must be LOADS of Brits living the US. Start making Christmas crackers and you'll be quids in (or dollars in)

Dumdad said...

The French don't do crackers either but every year I make sure we have them on our table. My children, both born and bred in Paris, consider crackers as a normal part of Christmas. Ditto mince pies and Christmas pudding. The Frog Queen, malheureusement, isn't a fan of turkey.

Joyeux Noel!

Metropolitan Mum said...

Haha. Buying yourself a new beaver? Hahaha.
It's not only across the pond that fur is en vogue again, it seems. All the former supermodels that post in the pro PETA campaign... they are today parading around their dead animal skins.

Frog in the Field said...

Christmas is here and the signs here are:
1. I'm exhausted
2. Christmas school plays
3. I'm exhausted
4. Everyone is ill
5. Cards from people I don't know keep dropping in our mailbox

Potty Mummy said...

'Holiday' cake? Really?

Lorna Harris said...

How did you get your tree delivered by a fireman?! That sounds very nice!

I have my Waitrose crackers, they make me very happy. Isn't that sad!

conuly said...

(I'd love to take pictures, but I'm terrified someone will see it and recognise their house...)

Go on and do it anyway! They WANT to recognize their house. They WANT friends to call them up and squee "I SAW YOUR HOUSE ONLINE!!!!" They WANT people to like their house.

Just don't mock it unless you're doing it in a very gentle, light-hearted way.

2. I adore Hanukkah, and make a point of celebrating the first night every year, despite the handicap of not actually being Jewish. So, you know, we're not celebrating Hanukkah so much as we're celebrating and opportunity to gather together and eat latkes and jelly doughnuts. Mmm - doughnuts! (But, to be honest, I've always been jealous of the Jewish holidays. I mean, Sukkot? Purim? They sound like such fun!)

3. Over in Long Island, the firefighters are overpaid enough to deliver trees? Or they're underpaid enough that they gladly accept more cash for this service?

nappy valley girl said...

Nicola - good luck with the Cadbury's hunt. Perhaps if Kraft buy Cadbury as rumoured we'll be able to get all of that much more easily!

Brit in Bosnia - I have determinedly tuned out the names of all the other reindeer, except Rudolph, Doner and Blitzen...

Home office mum - hmmm, devote my life to making Christmas crackers? I might make a mint, but I think I'd go crackers....

Dumdad - joyeux Noel aussi. Will you be having foie gras?

Met Mum - it's as if people have given up worrying about fur because they think other environmental worries are bigger. I'd still never wear it though. And I once saw a woman being berated on the tube for wearing a fur coat!

Frog - you poor thing....don't worry, everybody is bound to be ill here too.

PM - yes, really!

Lorna - all the local fire stations here sell trees, and the bonus is that the firemen will deliver them for you. They'll even put them up for you if you want and they don't charge extra!

Conuly - 1) oh well then, I'll try - but it must be done at night, as that's when they look best. And the Santas are deflated during the day.....2) Hannnukah sounds great. Presents for eight nights running? Bring it on...3) See above - the firemen seem to have got a little business going....

conuly said...

1) oh well then, I'll try - but it must be done at night, as that's when they look best.

Naturally :)

I remember walking with my parents to look at the lights. It's not as big a deal in my neighborhood on Staten Island now as it was when I was growing up in Bensonhurst, but I still have to remember to find time to do so with my nieces soon, especially as we have no tree this year. (We have my grandmother instead. THIS is our Christmas - and bringing her home is worth not having the time or energy to do a big production.)

2) Hannnukah sounds great. Presents for eight nights running? Bring it on...

Well, you know, that's not traditional. It's creeping cultural assimilation, really. Hanukkah is a minor festival, not a major holiday, but in a Christian culture the kids like to get gifts because their friends get Christmas presents. Traditionally, you get gelt.

But it's Sukkot that I've always envied. You get to BUILD and DECORATE a little HUT and LIVE IN IT for DAYS. And, in Brooklyn, that means you live on your fire escape or on the roof :)

Now that I'm grown, I think I'd like Purim as well, a holiday where you're required to get stinkin' drunk. No - really. REALLY. And you can dress up in costumes, go make lots of noise while listening to the story of Purim (Purim is one of those holidays that runs "They wanted to kill the Jews, but didn't", so you rattle noisemakers and yell every time the villain's name comes up) and eat Hamentaschen. Not as great as doughnuts (sufganiyot?), sure, but still yummy.

3) See above - the firemen seem to have got a little business going....

Well, Lawn Guyland is weird, even by American standards :P

Dulwichmum said...

I love the sound of getting the Christmas tree from the fire station. Thats it you have me convinced. I could live there too!

Jenny Rudd said...

Just reading your mention of the Abbeville Road makes me come over all homesick. Christmas in New Zealsand is lovely and warm but having to see models of Father Christmas brandishing a surf board and wearing wellies is pretty weird (for me, clearly not for Kiwis).

Mud in the City said...

I don't have a tree (a tree for 1 person in a 1 bed flat seems a bit too Bridget Jones). But if it came with a burley fire fighter I could easily be persuaded!!

Mom/Mum said...

Oh welcome to Christmas American Style NVG, sorry I mean, welcome to the Holidays of course!
Bet next year, you wont be looking for boxed cards, you'll be doing your own 'family photo' one as is US'tradition', despite vowing not to fall for such cheese. Or is that just me?!
Oh and I've seen vehicles round here, with reindeer antlers on them. Seriously.
Happy Chrimbo! x