Thursday, December 11, 2008

Silver Bells, Silver Bells

With only a week and a half until we leave for the East Coast for Christmas, we’d decided not to get a Christmas tree this year; on Monday, our extreme jet-lag made the idea of actually going out and selecting and decorating a tree seem impossible, even painful. But we found a small tree at the grocery store on Tuesday and decided we could handle that much. Out came my (now our) ornaments, after two years of being packed up—it was good to see them; many brought back memories. (My Icelandic sheep ornament—I remember sacrificing my meals that day to buy it!)

The box also contained a few surprises, ornaments I’d purchased during our travels that somehow managed not to get lost during our move home from Spain, the big move from Connellsville, etc. Small wooden birds from Poland; a beaded egg from Romania; St. James charms from Santiago de Compostela; pieces of glass candy from Venice—all of them are making their Christmas debut. The small tree is a bit crowded—I was determined to fit everything on—but it holds the ornaments proudly and well.

What we really need now is some Christmas music, of which we own exactly none. Our quiet, Christmas-music-less household is quite a change from Japan, where Christmas dominated every piped-in source of music in every single public place. In restaurants—silent night, holy night. In chaotic shopping arcades—I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus. In 7-Elevens—Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. When we left our hotel room at the Sutton Place Hotel, the hallways were filled with Christmas music at a low volume. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…It was never-ending and inescapable.

Most of the Christmas songs were recognizable, but they were versions we’d never heard—versions more over-the-top than almost anything playing on the radio here. I’m not going to go so far as to call them “dance remixes,” but they came very close to this. There was also some unusual instrumentation (sitars) and a lot of very, very schmaltzy renditions. Imagine the Christmas music playing at an American shopping mall and multiply it by a hundred—that was our experience of Christmas music in Japan. It was all so familiar, yet somehow made us realize just how far we were from home.

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