ESSAY

Festive Spirits Are Low as Christmas Approaches

This is this year's White House ornament? When did that happen?
This is this year's White House ornament? When did that happen? (By Julia Ewan -- The Washington Post)
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By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's beginning to look a not like Christmas, everywhere you don't go.

Or is that just part of the illusion this time around, a dour paradiddle from the sad little drummer boys of retail analysis? Does it also seem like the neighbors didn't put up as many lights? Does it seem like you were waiting in line for the wrong Santa? Where's last year's Santa? Does the mall look under-decked in plastic boughs of holly? Isn't it strange that they aren't playing as much Christmas music? Where are the poinsettias we usually have in the lobby? (Did the condo association vote on it?) Who was supposed to bring the plastic knives and forks to the office potluck? How come there's so much parking at Bloomingdale's on the Sunday before Christmas? Hello?

The answer that comes back, of course, is that it's the economy -- and don't call us stupid, stupid.

What do you get the economy that used to have everything? (Gift cards!)

A few weeks ago, you had that awful talk with the kids, the way that family therapist explained how to do it on "Good Morning America": smaller this year, Buddy. Ask Santa for less, think more about others. (Did you try the Wise Men trick? If Baby Jesus got only three presents, then maybe you should get three presents, too, right? Right?)

You wait until your college freshman gets home to go to the lot and get the tree, figuring there won't be much left. You get there and it seems like all the trees are left. (Replant them!) You take the little kids to see "Despereaux" at Mazza Gallerie on a Saturday afternoon and expect a "compact only" nightmare several levels down in the underground garage, only to find you've got a whole row to yourself on P1. They're not even charging for parking when you exit.

Your grandmother can't find the red skirt that she always wraps under the three-foot-tall, pre-lit tree in her apartment, and she accuses everyone of moving her things while she was in the hospital getting over her broken hip.

You've gone the whole month without hearing that Amy Grant "Grown-Up Christmas List" song. You haven't heard "Christmas Wrapping" by the Waitresses; haven't heard Bing Crosby and David Bowie pa-rum-pa-pum-pumming. How did this happen?

And how come the musicians at church aren't doing that bell thing this year, you know that thing, they always do it. Did they do it this year? Could they not afford the gloves? Is that one guy still in charge? What happened to him?

Stephen Colbert did a Christmas special? (When? Was it funny?)

How is it that you have no idea what the official White House ornament is this year?

Your sister-in-law sent this e-mail the other day: We've all decided to only get presents for the kids this time, no presents for adults.


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