Cities without landmarks
Niagara Falls, U.S./Canada
If you’re like me, you’ve done the “holiday season” thing every winter for some 30-odd years now. And every year, you heave a big sigh of relief when it’s all over.
Sure the parties are great, the decorations are nice, the Christmas trees are pretty and smell really good. But the sentiment is lost under all the glossy red and green advertising hype, the prefab gift sets and the insipid songs. Admit it: You only buy presents for the people you know will be buying you something.
Isn’t it time to try something new? Loretta Lynn wants us to “put the Christ back in Christmas.” I say let’s give Jesus a break.
December 25 offers plenty of other reasons to celebrate. Book a flight, get out of town and forget about the presents. This year, have a happy alternative Christmas by celebrating some of the other famous people who share the same birthday as Christ.
Brood and chain-smoke all day in your matching trench coat and fedora. Grimace as you mutter machine-gun-fire bons mots. And don’t say, “Play it again, Sam,” because he never did.
Sir Isaac Newtonmas
Prove and reprove the theory that gravity does exist by dropping things on people all day. This is especially fun to do while wearing a big powdered wig and pantaloons.
A Patriotic Christmas
It was on December 25, 1896, that John Philip Sousa finally committed to paper a melody that had been haunting him for several days. That catchy little ditty was none other than the patriodelic “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” In order to celebrate Sousa’s Stars and Stripesmas properly, search bargain bins and garage sales for months or even years in advance to make one single tape of every version of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” that’s ever been recorded. We’re talking Zamfir’s Pan Flute version, the Moog Synthesizer version, the U.S. Navy Marching Band, Nirvana, the Hollywood Strings. Every version. Ideally, Sousa’s Stars and Stripesmas should be celebrated in a patriotic setting: Philadelphia, Arlington Cemetery or in front of the Alamo. One should wear turn-of-the-century garments and ride around on one of those bicycles with the really big front wheel. (Cycling was America’s predominant pastime in 1896.) But if you can’t pull that off, just wear red, white and blue, drink lots of hearty ale and make up your own words to the song you would love to forget.
Sports enthusiasts already know that December 25 is Larry Csonkamas. Miami, Fla., is the place to celebrate his birthday by playing football the whole day. And it’s Csonkamas, so everyone gets to be No. 39. At the end of the day, throw a big banquet where everyone takes turns giving short Hall of Fame acceptance speeches and recounting fond memories from Super Bowls VI, VII and VIII.
The birth of Jimmy Buffett can be properly celebrated in any suburb that has a Margaritaville restaurant. Declare yourself a “parrothead” (akin to the Grateful Dead’s “deadheads”), don a Hawaiian shirt, imbibe hundreds of margaritas and run around screaming for your “lost shaker of salt.” Warning: After too many margaritas it becomes easy to confuse Jimmy Buffett and Eddie Money. So whatever you do, under no circumstances sing “Two Tickets to Paradise” (that’s Eddie Money).
On December 25, 1907, Mr. Minnie the Moocher, the original crossover artist (one of the first black band leaders to become popular with white audiences) was born. Celebrate by donning a white tuxedo with tails and taking the A train into Harlem. Tap-dance a lot and wish everyone a hearty “Hi di, hi di, hi di, ho, ho, ho.” Plop the kiddies in front of the TV and pop that old Betty Boop cartoon into the VCR. (Cab provided the music, vocals and inspiration for the dancing skeletons in the haunted “St. James Infirmary” sequence.) Shake your head and remember the good ol’ days.
On this day in 1924, “Twilight Zone’s” deadpan host and creator, Rod Serling, was born. This holiday allows for some free-form adaptation. Choose your favorite “Twilight Zone” episode and spend the day reenacting pivotal moments from it in the public setting of your choice. Some personal favorites include:
Talking Tinamas: Carry around a baby doll that says “Mommy. Daddy. I’m going to kill you.”
Eye of the Beholdermas: You and your friends wear pig-face masks and walk around shrieking in horror when you encounter “conventionally attractive” people.
Queen of the Nilemas: Adopting the doomed glamour of a fading movie star, try to place a magic scarab on a youthful victim’s chests (so you can suck out the life that’s left in them in order to retain your ageless beauty).
‘Tis the season to act out all your nurse fantasies.
This Nashville darling deserves some celebrating. A marathon of her 1980s family variety show would be a lovely way to spend some quality time with someone dear, don’t you think?
Dean Martin Death Day
This is the High Holy Day for the swing set. It also falls conveniently close to Frank Sinatramas (December 12). To celebrate properly, don a sharkskin suit or a beaded satin cocktail dress for your “gay apparel” and head to the holy land for high rollers: Las Vegas. (It’s a travesty that the Sands no longer exists, making it impossible to visit the sacred spot in front of the marquee where the Rat Pack was photographed and immortalized into a top-selling postcard.) Dean Martin Death Day celebrants should, upon waking, immediately commence the obligatory 21-martini salute. Around martini No. 10, begin spontaneously bursting into strains of “That’s Amore.” By martini No. 21 everyone will be singing “Volare.” End the night with some drunken off-color slurs, alleged spousal abuse and a retreat into obscurity.
As you can see, the possibilities for a truly enjoyable December 25 are virtually limitless. It’s just not fair that Jesus gets all the glory. Martha Stewart may tell you to deep-fry your turkey this year for something different. I say trash the whole Christmas concept and start from scratch. Celebrate some of the others who have been lost in the shadow of His glory.
After all, it’s Christmas!
Gentry Lane is an American writer living in Paris.More Gentry Lane.
Niagara Falls, U.S./Canada
Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, U.S.
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Colosseum, Rome, Italy
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Siena Cathedral, Siena, Italy
Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France
Lost City of Petra, Jordan