Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday Traditions

Thanks to the Boston Pops with the help of composer Leroy Anderson and lyricist Mitchell Parish, we all have traveled to farmer Gray's house for that party with the pumpkin pie that evoked the images of  the holidays Courier and Ives have embedded  in our collective imagination.  Those Victorian scenes of  snow covered fields with horse drawn sleighs, children merrily playing in the cold, and the house all aglow at the end the road. The city streets should be filled with twinkling lights and colorful decorations and folks scurrying around, arms full of bright packages with big bows and bags, wishing everyone they see, "Merry Christmas."

Given, I have never seen a white Christmas, our "city streets" lack the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers, and the only sleigh bells I have heard have been on shop doors, our Christmases don't quite match the scenes Big Crosby, Burl Ives, and Nat King Cole painted. (When was the last time you roasted a chestnut?) So, we have to take the season as it comes and appreciate the little things that make it merry and bright.

In my younger days, I can remember one sign that always gave me hope that perhaps, just once, we too may have a white Christmas, just like the ones Mr. Crosby crooned about in "Holiday Inn". Just before the holidays each year, a local hardware store in Columbia would place a single Flexible Flyer in their window. Just one sled, simply placed among the various pieces of hunting gear, safety equipment, tools, and other sundry hardware. But that one single item gave me hope that I may see a white Christmas after all. And, even though it never happened, the store is now gone, and a bank is in its place just seeing that sled in the window every year gave me hope, that, yes, it could happen.

So while the rest of the world is hearkened that the holidays are drawing nigh by festive city lights, dreamy snow falls, country sleigh rides, and other Hallmark card scenes, down here, well, let's just say it's a tad bit different. We know the big guy is loading the sleigh when the grocers start stocking up on oysters, collards, ham hocks, and sweat potatoes. Southerners live on food. And, just for the record, we have been eating and enjoying sweet potatoes for years, long before they became the "in" root vegetable.

The Piggly Wiggly will have a selection of fresh Christmas trees (some reminiscent of Charlie Brown's infamous one) in stands in front of the store for sale.  Most shopping centers will sport a temporary fireworks stand - complete with idiots standing nearby taking their smoking break. (For years South Carolina was one of the few states where it was legal to buy and sell fireworks.) Stores will be packed tighter than Dick's hat band with every NASCAR gee gaw one can imagine and some you would rather not. Does one really need a NASCAR sanctioned official Jimmie Johnson Lowes team toilet seat cover? I think not.

It's just different down here. Unless you're from here or have visited often, it gets lost in translation. If songs and images of the holidays were based on our experiences, it would be a different ball game. And, if I based my expectations on what the traditional holiday songs portray, I would need even more drugs and therapy.

Most of the country can go about the holidays in a respectable manner, enjoying the time with family and friends, sharing joy and good cheer. These next weeks can be as fun as "Elf", as heart warming as "It's a Wonderful Life" or as magical as "Miracle on 34th Street". However, there are some things you just have to experience. They just can't be bought or even sufficiently described - fresh cranberries for your Grandmother's relish $3.50, a pound of fresh pecans for the pralines $8.49, the ingredients for oyster pie $23, realizing that a majority of the photos in the book "The People of Wal-mart, Shop and Awe" were taken in your hometown, priceless. Some things money cannot buy, others most people wouldn't believe.

1 comment:

Linda Medrano said...

Like you, I've never experienced a "white Christmas" where I live. But unlike you, I don't long for one. Snow is cold and turns slushy and dirty so fast. Mainly, stilettos shoes just don't work in snow at all! I have roasted chestnuts in my oven once a couple of years ago. They exploded, Ann! Bah Humbug!