Give Me Coffee or Give Me Death

There are plenty of things I find offensive. Coffee cups are not on that list.

If there is a “War on Christmas” (which I doubt), we can attribute it to the crass commercialization that has absconded with a religious holiday and created an economic machine that drives a great deal of our gross national product. Sadly, we have come to expect a “Merry Christmas” on everything from soup bowls to bath towels. If you truly want to keep Jesus as the reason for the season, you might want to reconsider whether there should be a Merry Christmas label on everything under the sun. You’ll find it if you look. How do you feel about boxer shorts or scanty little thong underwear that say “Merry Christmas?” Not only are those items in poor taste, they sincerely denigrate a religious holiday.

I have written before about the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays.” I absolutely do say “Happy Holidays” and I mean it, because it is a catch-all greeting appropriate to use when Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s all roll into a single event that lasts for weeks on end. I also say “Merry Christmas” when I mean to say it, at Christmas time. Not at Thanksgiving and not at New Year’s.

Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to shorten the Christmas season so that we can really appreciate it for what it is? Can’t we celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and keep that feeling in our hearts year-round as it is intended? Or do we need retailers to tell us that we have to give up our completely non-secular national day of Thanksgiving to head to shopping malls and big box stores because four weeks is not long enough to get our Christmas shopping done?

Starbucks image via PBS.org

Starbucks image via PBS.org

Starbucks got it right. They created a very simple, yet festive, coffee cup for this very long and drawn out holiday season. It is designed to offend no one. A Jew, a Muslim, or a Buddhist can enjoy a cup of coffee without feeling as though they have been beaten over the head with a secular religious holiday that is not their own.

Statistically, Christianity has grown in the United States. The US Census Bureau does not ask mandatory questions about religious affiliation, but it does collect information that is provided on a voluntary basis. According to the 2012 Statistical Abstract of the United States, the number of US residents who claim to be Christian has grown by more than 14.6-percent in the past 20 years. In fact, all religious affiliations have reported an increase, except Judaism, which is down. In this country, there is no war on Christianity and no war on Christmas.

If you’re offended over a coffee cup, I strongly encourage you to stop for a moment and consider how you would feel if you were actually oppressed. Think about the throngs of migrants pouring into Europe to escape persecution in Middle Eastern countries. Consider the cultures where women are truly second class citizens and treated as personal property. Think about children living in poverty in this country and around the world who go to bed hungry for nights on end or maybe don’t even have a bed to sleep in.

Here’s a reality check: the things that are most offensive are not inanimate objects, they are behaviors. Bigotry is offensive. Hate is offensive. War is offensive. Poverty is offensive. Purposeful damage to human beings, animals, and the environment is offensive.

There is a lot of injustice in this world. A coffee cup has nothing to do with it. If you disagree, meet me at Starbucks and we’ll discuss it over a Venti Blond Roast.

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Making a List

I could be Santa Claus. Really, I could.

I love to give presents. Getting presents is nice, but it is the giving that really moves me.

All year long I try to look for cues to figure out what my family might really want or need. Sometimes they might mention something in August, and I file that note away in my head until I come upon something that will fill their need or want. Once in a while I hit the nail right on the head. Sometimes I fall short, but I’m usually fairly close.

So I really could be Santa. Just the idea that someone could intuitively understand what someone else wants and then make that dream a reality is a fascinating concept.

Then there’s the delivery: providing presents for everyone all at the same time is a magical notion. I know that Christmas is not based on presents under the tree, but the whole idea of it is very appealing. There is nothing I like better than Christmas morning, cup of coffee in hand, and watching my kids open presents that have been lovingly selected just for them.

So perhaps I am in the wrong line of work. If you know of any other job description like this, please let me know. In the meantime, I think I’ll send up a note to the North Pole…

packagesDear Santa:

I have been very good this year. Well, pretty good. What I really want for Christmas is your job. I have a passion for giving gifts and a pretty good track record for finding just the right thing for people. When you are ready to retire, please let me know. I’ll send my resume along faster than you can say, “On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen!” I can supply references, as well.

Yes, one thing about Christmas that’s special to me is gift-giving. I love to wrap presents, too.  Presentation is important, so each gift should be wrapped carefully and beautifully.  So I could be Santa Claus.

Plus, that single deadline of one night a year is incredibly tempting.

With wishes that you find peace and joy under your tree, I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Yes to Turkey; No to Shopping

I am a shopper. I love to shop. Shopping is easy for me. Too easy. I admit that sometimes “retail therapy” really does make me feel better, and that shopping is one of my favorite pastimes. I can literally shop ‘til I drop. I can shop all day, with just a brief break for lunch or a snack. I can shop all day and fill up my car with merchandise, and I can, honestly, shop all day and hardly buy anything.  Shopping, for me, is the act of walking through stores looking at all of the beautiful things that I may or may not choose to purchase. I guess, in that regard, much of my shopping is “window shopping.”

But I will never shop on Thanksgiving Day.

Never might be a long time. So let me clarify what that really means to me. It means NEVER.

My daughter and husband, carving the turkey last year.

My daughter and husband, carving the turkey last year.

Thanksgiving is a family day. In our household my husband usually works for a few hours on Thanksgiving morning. By the time he gets home, both daughters are sitting around in their pajamas watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. (Brief pause here to cover a pet peeve: it is NOT the “Macy’s Day” Parade. There is no “Macy’s Day” holiday.)  By this time I generally have the turkey in the oven and am working on some side dishes, and may be getting ready to do the last minute tidying up or setting the table.

Just a short time later the family arrives. Some years it’s a smallish group and other years large. This year it will be very small, but some years we have had up to 20 for dinner.  Then it’s all about the food for a bit. We eat, we talk, we eat some more. We have a little wine, and maybe a little more. Then we clear the table and have coffee and pie.  After that we sit around and talk some more, or sometimes play a game. One year we had what can only be described as an epic game of Apples to Apples that involved about a dozen of us ranging in age from 8 to 80. Sometimes the kids take a walk. Once in a while someone moves to the piano to play, or to their guitar. But it is a FAMILY time.

Eventually we clean up the kitchen, load the dishwasher, hand wash the good silverware and a few other things, and then we’re exhausted. Once the extended family goes home we turn on Miracle on 34th Street, pour another glass of wine, and relax.

There is no time for shopping. Even if there was time, we simply would not. If we didn’t spend all that time sitting around and talking as a family, how would my kids ever hear stories about their parents, aunts and uncles growing up? How would we know what’s going on in our kids’ lives? How would our kids connect with their grandmother? It’s a FAMILY day. That’s what I’m most thankful for on Thanksgiving.

I’m never thankful for shopping. I enjoy it, definitely. But I am not thankful for it. I will NEVER shop on Thanksgiving Day.

Oh…and I don’t do Black Friday, either. To me Black Friday is a perfect day for sleeping in after all the turkey, pie, and wine the day before. There is no price low enough to get me out of bed at 4am to fight with ridiculous crowds of people for a gadget that I’m pretty sure we’ll be just fine without.

So maybe my ideas don’t fit today’s norm, but I’m okay with that.  Maybe if most of us stay home on Thanksgiving Day with our families, the stores will get the idea, too.  Maybe.