Christmas music usually has themes of spreading holiday spirit, merrymaking, and peace on Earth. While that’s good and all, sometimes you just want to feel an emotion besides sweet saccharine joy during the holiday season. Mariah Carey, Nat King Cole, and any “Carol of the Bells” rendition will always have a soft spot in my heart, but when I want to explore other feelings the Christmas season gives me, I put on these not-so-jolly and less well-known Christmas songs.
“Christmas for Cowboys” by John Denver
Growing up, my parents had a well-worn mix tape of Christmas songs that would live in our family mini-van’s tape player every Christmas season. Sandwiched between Dolly Parton and Burl Ives was this gem from John Denver that I’ve never heard played anywhere else. While most Christmas songs celebrate being together with friends and family, this ballad highlights how even when you are completely alone on the holiday (which I have been) that doesn’t mean the day has to be any less special.
“Christmas at 22” by The Wonder Years
When you’re young, Christmas is about spending (even more) time with your family. But when you grow older and move away to college, the holiday becomes a time when you get to go back to your hometown and see your best friends from high school and how much everyone has changed (or hasn’t). Some may roll their eyes at the song because it hits about every pop punk cliche imaginable (pizza, AIM away messages, hanging out with my friends), but I think it perfectly captures what that point in your life—Christmas at 22—feels like.
“The Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues
Somehow I managed to go almost 30 years of my life without ever hearing this song (despite it apparently being the UK’s most played Christmas song of the 21st century), but after discovering it last year I don’t think I’ll ever go another Christmas without it. The song has dark themes–drug abuse, gambling, domestic disputes, homophobic slurs–and yet still presents an air of hope for a better life in the way only Christmas can.
“Won’t Be Home For Christmas” by Blink 182
Let’s be honest: as an adult, Christmas can be a giant pain. Whether you are working at Toys R’ Us and getting sworn out by deal-crazed grandmothers or are spending hours cutting paper stocking decorations that are going to get thrown away in two weeks, Christmas can you make you feel like a big Scroogey-Grinch at times. There’s nothing profound in the lyrics of Blink 182’s Christmas contribution, except that yeah, you’re not alone in sometimes wanting to grab a baseball bat and send carolers running from your front door.
Every one has a guilty pleasure and mine so happens to be found on YouTube. “Snog, Marry, Avoid” was an English TV show that claims to help people embrace their natural beauty. On each episode, three flashy young men and women are brought into P.O.D. (a “make-under” robot with attitude) and forced to shed their loud makeup, fake tans, and hair extensions for a more natural, socially-accepted level of attractiveness. Make-unders may include cutting and dying hair to a more natural shade, removing facial piercings, a new wardrobe of less revealing clothing, and makeup in neutral shades. The title comes from a poll taken by strangers on the street. The strangers are shown a picture of the contestant and asked if they would rather snog (a.k.a. kiss), marry, or avoid them. The initial reaction is usually avoid for reason such as they’re wearing “too much make up” or because their “clothes are too skimpy”. Some of their comments can be quite rude actually. After their make-under, the reactions are generally much more positive with the pollers stating that they would elect to either snog or marry the contestant if they could. Once the shock of seeing themselves in this new fashion wears off, most contestants generally like their new appearance. However, occasionally the show checks up on past contestants and we see that they usually revert to their past ways of too much fake tanner and midriff bearing tops.
Here’s a little taster of what an average episode looks like:
While I believe that everyone should dress the way they want and live the lifestyle they enjoy, I always get a little teary eyed after the make-under when I see a contestant who is truly shocked at and enjoys their new look. I guess I just want everyone to have their happily-ever-after moment. What’s your favorite “junk” television show?
When I first learned that in Japan there are four different types of prefectures–ken, fu, dō, and to–I was confused as to why. A prefecture is a prefecture right? But as I have thought about it and learned more, I realized that America also has these kinds of naming exceptions for their administrative jurisdictions.
46 States?: While the U.S. is known for its famed 50 States, four of them call themselves commonwealths instead of states. Despite their unique label, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have no special political status compared to the ‘official’ states.
Counties: In most U.S. states, local government is divided up into smaller areas called counties. Even with two states (Connecticut and Rhode Island) not having them, there are still 3,142 counties in the country. In two states, however, these go by different names: boroughs in Alaska and parishes in Louisiana.
District: Then of course there’s Washington D.C., the only area in the U.S. (excluding territories like Puerto Rico) that doesn’t lie within the boundaries of a state. Here, the District of Columbia is just that: a special district where the country’s federal government lives and operates. The word ‘district’ also has other uses, such as ‘school district’ which designates where children residing in a particular areas of the city must attend (public) school.
Last week, I helped decorate Shigenobu Amic for Christmas. One of my students protested that it was far too early to start decorating, because “Halloween was less than a month ago!” However, in the United States, Christmas decorations are usually sold alongside Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations until mid-November, when they take their rightful place front and center of stores. In fact, most Americans who celebrate Christmas opt to put up their Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the last Thursday in November. However, most department stores start decorating much, much earlier. Giant Christmas trees decorated with shiny ornaments, blinking lights, and yards of tinsel displayed outside and inside nearly every establishment is usually our cue to begin celebrating Christmas. Garlands of fir and pine are intertwined on banisters and twinkling lights appear around house frames. Inflatable Santas and Rudolphs wave their arms unendingly on the lawns of the tackiest homeowners. The airwaves are bombarded with of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” blasting from speakers. ABC Family, aka Freeform, begins their 25 Days of Christmas movie marathon. But the blatant consumerism and mindless entertainment aren’t the only things that truly make Christmas, Christmas. As cheesy as it sounds, Christmas is pure feeling. Nostalgia and excitement mixed with eggnog and cinnamon spice. Yes, maybe decorating starts a bit early for Japanese tastes, but nothing compares to walking into your local mall and staring up at a beautifully outfitted 20 foot Christmas tree or standing in line for pictures with Santa. The peace and quiet of Christmas Day is a little celebration in itself. How about you; does your family celebrate Christmas?
Somewhere between the unrelenting barrage of Halloween and Christmas merchandise and promotions that’s in our faces from October to January every year lies American Thanksgiving.
Though the holiday hasn’t been monetized the same way Halloween and Christmas have (save for the food industry), and even though there’s no real iconic movies for it, and even though it has a dark and sad origin, Thanksgiving is widely celebrated and has many symbols and traditions unique in and unto itself.
The Macy’s Parade
Many cities across America host Thanksgiving Day parades, but the most famous is in New York City. Sponsored by the Macy’s Department store, the parade features marching bands, celebrity singers, and balloons shaped like popular cartoon characters.
Of course, what Thanksgiving is most associated with is a whole lot of food. Although every family has its own unique traditions, on dining tables across the country you’ll most commonly find turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, squash, and pumpkin or apple pie. Americans eat more on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year, and sometimes families will go to two or three different gatherings from Thursday through Sunday.
What to watch after Thanksgiving lunch or dinner when you are sprawled out on the floor trying to digest all the food you just ate? Football of course. American football has been played on Thanksgiving Day since the sport’s inception nearly 150 years ago. Many high schools and colleges play their signature, season-finale rivalry games on Thanksgiving weekend and on that Thursday the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions have hosted ‘Thanksgiving Classic’ games since the 1970s.
While I like all cute animals equally, cats hold a special place in my heart. I wouldn’t go so far as calling myself a crazy cat lady, more like a cat enthusiast. I love them despite their reputation of being mean-spirited (at times), independent, and scared of cucumbers. Maybe I love them in spite of all their so-called flaws. Regardless, despite my lack of cats, my appreciation for cats also extends to their owners. Cat owners are da real MVPs. With the discovery of “animal labyrinth” videos, my appreciation for crazy cat people has increased twofold. Warning: adorable cats ahead:
Yay! Red-collar kitten won! WASN’T THAT CUTE?! My favorite part was the reverse playback so I could see just how wiggly the kitten was. What about you? Are you more of a dog person or are cats your number one animal?