Posts tagged ‘holiday’

April 21, 2011


Easter - nothing but an overly cute non-event here, pic:

Easter is almost upon us and here is the surprising news: it is an almost complete non-event in the US.  This country – by all standards – is very religious compared to other industrialized Western nations.  There is ample Gallup data to back this claim up, here is one set that shows that many of the poorest nations are also the most religious – with the Americans bucking the trend (to be fair, the Italians and Greek buck right along).

A second data point: Christianity is still the most prevalent religion with about 3/4 of the population saying they are Christians.

Even more surprising is it to me then, that Easter, this most central and important of all Christian holidays, isn’t much more than a footnote in the typical American calendar.  While the German kids  – little atheists that they mainly are – get 2 weeks of Easter vacation the American kids get nothing, nada, zilch.   Good Friday is off for pretty much everybody in Germany as well as Easter Monday – a concept unknown to Americans.  While the Spanish celebrate Semana Santa with amazing dedication and effort, mid-nightly processions and masses all odd hours of the day and the Germans dye insane numbers of eggs – here you get a flyer from Big Lots with a special on plastic eggs, 2 packages for $1.50.

I really don’t quite get it, Christmas gets celebrated with all the pomp and expenses imaginable and Easter barely happens.  I don’t get it until I let my cynical side out: somehow Easter can’t be commercialized so easily.  Maybe people have become rich selling chocolate eggs and special colors to paint Easter eggs but not very many and so by and large Easter is a very non-commercial holiday.  It is among other things about death, salvation, and hope – and not about new flat screen TVs.  As such, it does not seem to rank very high in the hierarchy of holidays in this very religious country.

Too bad, it was always my favorite and today I am going to dye my eggs the old fashioned way – like grandma Zita used to.

March 17, 2011

St Patty’s Day

Green beer - perfect for St. Patty's Day, pic:

Living in the US means enjoying all sorts of holidays and celebrations one doesn’t get to celebrate in other countries.  So, today, March 17, st. Patricks Day or – affectionately, St. Paddy’s Day we are all Irish – or at least pretend to be – wear green, have shamrock necklaces laced around our necks and are frantically trying to catch leprechauns and gold pots at the end of rainbows.

Oh, I forgot the beer.  Of course, on St. Patrick’s Day we drink beer, ideally Guinness in Irish pubs and listen to Irish music.  A few bold ones will try and do a Riverdance imitation – after they had way too much Guinness, that is.

St. Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday celebrating the most recognized patron Saint of Ireland, St. Patrick who brought Christianity to the island way back when (in the 4th century, if you must know).  In honor of St. Patrick one does the following: goes to church, wears green, specifically anything adorned with shamrocks and – most importantly and probably what makes the holiday so popular – the lent restrictions on food and alcoholic beverages are lifted so one feasts and drinks way too much.  The going-to-church part (especially catholic church in a predominantly protestant country) seems to be handled rather loosely here in the US, however, the drinking beer part is taken that much more seriously instead.

Don’t tell anybody but I can’t drink Guinness, tastes like motor oil to me so I am sitting at home, wear a green sweater, drink prosecco and write a blog.  How is that for embracing different cultures?

November 28, 2010

Lights up!

Time to put up the Christmas tree!, pic:

With Thanksgiving weekend almost over it is time to start the Christmas season in earnest.  Here in California (and other parts of the country as well) this is how it works:

if you haven’t bought a tree this weekend you are well advised to buy one during the week or next weekend at the latest.   Unlike in Germany, where the tree gets decorated on Christmas Eve and then remains in the house at least through January 6 (the Holy Kings Day) here the tree goes up right about now, fully decked out and decorated and gets taken down on or before New Years Eve.

In addition, the house gets decorated with colorful lights as well as the front yard, the trees, palms, and shrubs.  Lighted snowmen, Santas, reindeer are brought out and pretty soon the whole neighborhood looks very festive.  There is an element of wanting to outdo the neighbors with larger, nicer, more spectacular displays but it is a friendly competition.

First, I found the whole putting-up-the-tree so early business strange, I was used to the idea that decorating the tree was a sacred duty that could only be performed on Christmas Eve between the hours of 4 and 6 pm.  Now, I am used to it and quite like it.  Having the tree in the house for 4 weeks makes the darkness of December more bearable, adds a friendly and festive note to the house, heightens the anticipation.

And, let’s face it, once Christmas is over, it is over, you don’t want that tree in the house for another 2 weeks.  The new year starts and one moves on.  Christmas is a thing of the past, spring is coming, Valentine’s Day decorations appear in the stores, the first Easter candies show up , …

So, lights up, everybody!

November 26, 2010


Can’t let the Thanksgiving weekend slip by entirely without a Thanksgiving blog.

Thanksgiving dinner, pic: © Dan Ionut Popescu

Thanksgiving is a big deal here, the busiest travel season of the year and pretty much everybody is off work.  Even the local Safeway and the 24 hour gym close at around 2 in the afternoon.  It is a family holiday, with lots of food and tradition.  There is the turkey feast that everybody indulges in one way or the other, with way too much turkey and plenty of side dishes: the yams, potatoes, veggies, stuffing, gravy and later on have pumpkin and pecan pie, whipped cream and ice cream.  There are ample opportunities to get the calorie count up!

Then there are the little family traditions which every family has, the hike before dinner, the basketball game in the yard afterward, the movie one always watches, the special drink, the board game, etc.

It took me a while to get used to Thanksgiving because it is not part of my European tradition and I was just not used to making a big deal out of eating that large dry bird with sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows.   I have to say, though, Thanksgiving has grown on me over the years, it is a holiday devoted to friends and family and eating – nothing wrong with that – and blissfully absent – at least on the actual day of Thanksgiving – is the whole consume craziness that is such an integral part of Christmas nowadays.  If you are invited somewhere you bring a side dish or a bottle of something yummy – done.  No last minute rush to buy fancy gifts just to keep up with the Joneses.

The day after Thanksgiving, also called Black Friday or Thingsgetting is a different story.