EXPAT LIFE: About now, anyone with a school-aged child in the USA has begun their annual preparations. For what you ask? Not another hurricane but for this whirlwind time of year when one after the other, there is Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas: the Perfect Storm of Celebrations. That’s sure what it feels like.
Between October and December, these national celebrations, and lots of activities are crammed into a short period. With this hubbub of activity comes a general craziness that descends on all involved. It’s something that grows in momentum, starting slowly in October and moving to a crescendo as we hit December.
In Australia it’s a similar experience in the preceding period before Christmas. People there call it the ‘silly season’. In the US, it just seems to be a whole lot bigger and starts a lot earlier, when fall gets into gear.
Fall Festivals (Sept-November)
Fall is a wonderful season to transition you into winter. With beautiful foliage and harvest decorations, fall’s harmonious colours paint a scene as tranquil as Monet’s garden scenes. Life can almost feel relaxed, peaceful … at least for a little while.
As the month draws to an end, it’s about then, that the pace of life starts to wind up a bit. It’s about then too, that families start to give their houses the first of many exterior decoration makeovers. These are done to mark the changing seasons and big celebratory days.
Pumpkins, corn sheaves, scarecrows and a wonderful variety of colourful flowers, start appearing in front yards, around schools, businesses and local government buildings. Pumpkins and mums decorations are particularly popular for adding colour outside New Jersey homes. These are traditional decorations to reflect Fall’s onset and the harvest season.
There are lots of Fall Festivals and seasonal activities held around this time. Popular choices for families include craft festivals, fruit and pumpkin picking, corn mazes and hay rides. If you get tired of this, you can attend one of many Italian food festivals that surround Columbus Day on October 12th each year.
Now things start to heat up a bit more. The big events are coming…
Big Event No.1: Halloween (31st October)
This is a very big occasion here, so there are lots of local events planned around this time. There will be Halloween parties, fancy dress school parades and of course the big ‘Trick or Treat’ night itself.
In between getting costumes ready for Halloween, other mission-critical tasks need to be done. Things like buying candy supplies to give to all the trick’n’treaters, putting up Halloween decorations, baking; and the endless seasonal craft projects. Schools start their class party schedule around now, so you’ll be bakin’ & makin’ for the classroom and for home.
By now Fall is half way through and the leaves are probably dropping big time in your yard. You can’t really ignore them much longer.
So in between your busy social agenda and domestic chores, you’ll be filling up dozens of garden recycle bags and working on getting some callouses from the garden rake.
Big Event No. 2: Thanksgiving (24th November)
Before you’ve even had time to walk off that Halloween candy, it seems like Thanksgiving is almost here. This celebration is a very special for Americans as it’s the key date that families get together for a special meal. In Australia, this would be the same as Christmas is for us.
So another class party arrives, there are more home decoration changes, planning for the big meal, shopping for the food and yes, more baking.
About now, the worst place you can visit is the baking aisle in the supermarket. Traffic snarls and trolley rage occur frequently as people jostle through narrow spaces to get to Thanksgiving essential foods. If you can’t avoid risking your life this way, wear good padding on your legs and feet so you won’t feel the trolley bumps and run over toes.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday
At home, Boxing Day was always a great day to lie around and recover from Christmas bloat. In the US, there is a similar holiday after Thanksgiving. Normal sane people would take this opportunity to kick back and relax.
Well we would, except we’d miss those only once-a-year sales because it’s Black Friday, the biggest sale day of the year! If you are unlucky enough to miss this big shopping day, then don’t worry there’s still Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving). This is a recently developed promotional day where you can max out on your credit card in an online version of sales mania, just in time for Christmas.
Big Event No. 3: Hanukkah & Christmas (called the Holidays)
Well, I don’t need to tell you that Christmas is crazy. Anyone in the Western world, who celebrates this event, would know. It’s also still a big event for many Americans, particularly Christians. It’s also a special time for those who are of Jewish faith. They have their own special celebration called Hanukkah around the end of November or early December. As part of Hanukkah, it is traditional for children to receive a gift every night for eight nights, while the celebration lasts.
So it seems no matter what religious denomination you are, when you’re not getting ready for cooking, decorating or baking in December, it’s your parental duty to spend your spare time hunting down suitable gifts for your kids.
Oh yeah… don’t forget the teacher presents, the Holiday cards, and the kids concerts. Phew!
The time between 26th December to January 1st is set aside to celebrate the contribution of African heritage to African-American culture. Operating since 1966, this celebration is known as Kwanzaa. Fortunately, it’s a laid back celebration which is good, considering most of us are now well and truly over the whole celebrating and baking thing.
New Years Eve
New Years Eve is still a big event as shown by New York’s Time Square crowds and the even bigger audience watching the dropping ball live on American TV. By now I’m looking forward to a bit of nothingness for a while. No national holidays or celebrations.
Bring on the boredom! Yeah…
Thank goodness the Perfect Storm is over for one more year – well at least another nine months….