Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kicking Christmas Off in the Good Ole American Way

 Weihnachtmarkt (Christmas Market) in Frankfurt
I have no idea why anyone in the right mind would go out to stores on so-called "Black Friday"* under any circumstances. It is a mystery to me. Even given the fact that I don't particularly like shopping anyway. I avoid stores if at all possible and shop online. I cannot avoid the necessity to shop sometimes, but at no time, save perhaps in book stores, do I ever like it. And the Christmas madness on the streets and stores makes the experience all the more taxing. I did like shopping overseas, but not necessarily because I was buying anything. I found almost any kind of store in Germany and Europe when we lived there interesting, but that was just from the standpoint of the novelty of the goods on the shelves. Christmas time there was wonderful. The very first trip we took in Germany was to the Christmas market in Worms, which was held right next to the cathedral. I can still remember the wonder I had at this event. So utterly strange and new at the time for a person who had been living in the country only about a month at the time. I still remember the fetching and beautiful Christmas displays in the German shops. Christmas markets were everywhere with hot Gluwein, pretzels, gingerbread, and Wurst; crowds enjoying it all in the frosty air. This time of year was magical over there.

Don't know why I went on about all this. Maybe I was unconsciously setting up the stark contrast with the observation I meant to make at the beginning of this post. I.e., a story in USA Today a few days ago informs that among the biggest sellers on Black Friday were . . . guns. How utterly American! Nationwide there were over 129,000 background check requests filed with the FBI that day, far more--32% more, in fact--than the previous high. Nobody seems to have a good explanation for this surge. I could speculate, but it's simply easier to observe that a large portion of the American people are insane and be done with it.

*Where in the hell did this nickname come from? And when in hell did it become part of the American lexicon? Of course, "Black" as in "in the black" for the merchants is a perfectly good metaphor for our money-obsessed culture.
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