An extremely belated post-mortem on Clueless Immigrant’sChristmas in America
[tweetmeme source=”awindram” only_single=false] Clueless Immigrant had heard from a self-proclaimed authority on all things social media that blog posts should, without fail, be breezy, snappy and short. He believed as irritating a term as “moreish” had been used to describe the ideal post. This, in particular, exasperated Clueless as he knew that his posts had a tendency to be more “stodgy” than “moreish”; he understood that some of his readers often found themselves resorting to an antacid tablet after reading him. So naturally Clueless was at something of a loss in dealing with this new paradigm of “moreish” blog posts. The self-proclaimed authority had insisted, indeed been quite adamant, that in order to achieve “moreishness” a blog post must not be longer than four paragraphs. People, Self-Proclaimed Authority informed Clueless, couldn’t deal with anything longer than four paragraphs anymore. This seemed peculiar advice to Clueless, as just how long or short is a paragraph anyway? Certainly with Clueless’s poor editing skills, he often found his paragraphs ended up being meandering, obtuse and full of so many conversational cul-de-sacs that they could not in good conscience be described by anyone as “moreish”. Clueless was pretty certain that if he were so inclined, and with the overuse of conjunctions, he could easily make four paragraphs last 50,000 words.
Despite these concerns, Clueless knew that this very blog required of him his Christmas observations. Ever the diligent contributor, on Christmas Eve, Clueless sat himself down in his favourite armchair with a glass of mulled four loko and a mince pie to compose his “moreish” post. But thoughts of how to make his post as “moreish” as a chicken vol-au-vent consumed Clueless to such an extent that they hampered his writing and clouded his judgment. The more confused Clueless became, the more he thought, and soon he was lost in deep thought. In fact, his deliberation so consumed him that it looked to the untrained eye of his landlady, Miss Edna Gander, as if he had passed into a catatonic state when she discovered him only three days ago in his armchair, still in deep repose and with a mouldy mince pie by his side. While Clueless is now convalescing from the dangers of over-thinking (though the doctors are blaming it
on monoxide poisoning) we have gone through his papers and have discovered that, thankfully, before he was consumed by “moreish” thoughts, he had scrawled some very rough notes on his Yuletide observations in his notebook. We now publish them here even if they are a little after the fact:
FROM THE NOTEBOOK OF CLUELESS IMMIGRANT
- Saying “Merry Christmas” in America: a.k.a. the social minefield.
Despite wanting to limit social interaction with complete strangers most of the year, in the build-up to Christmas I do enjoy saying “Merry Christmas”. Despite what numbskulls such as Richard
Littlejohn will try and argue, my experience in Britain is that there isn’t a “political correctness gone mad” brigade stopping anyone from uttering this greeting. Perhaps we (the UK) have secularized Christmas so much that this little greeting doesn’t compute with others as a declaration of one’s religious background as it seems to here in the US. “Merry Christmas and a happy New Year” it’s just something you utter without giving much thought, it’s very much a reflex and I’ve never known anyone to take offence at it. The US seems to be different. There’s another competing phrase, “Happy Holidays,” which is rarely heard in the UK. Suddenly instead of being a reflex, saying “Merry Christmas” is a choice I’m making and one that might offend another person. The upshot of this is that in the hands of some (not all, of course) people, “Merry Christmas” is not a charming little greeting, but is instead spat out. I’ve heard some people say “Merry Christmas” in such a tone that they might as well have said, “I’m a Christian, if you’ve got a problem with that, then fuck you!” for all the contempt they uttered it. In a quandary now over what I should say. Head says “Happy Holidays”; heart says “Merry Christmas.
- US Customs ruining Christmas: Damn US Customs, they’re leaving me no surprises come Christmas. Their bloody declaration forms required on parcels from overseas spoil all the fun. Got a parcel from my mother. Oh, wait, she’s filled out the declaration form. She’s circled that it’s a gift, then filled out the quantity and description of content box (2 shirts) and even filled out the total value. Great! Really looking forward to opening that on Christmas morning. Whatever could it be? Why, you might ask, does my Mum not bluff and give a false description on the parcel? Well, my Mum is incapable of lying on any form of official paperwork. She’d be worried that if she lied about the contents (for example, writing that it contains a scarf rather than a shirt) she might end up getting flagged next time she visits the US and for them to ship her off to Guantánamo. Hanging around Guantánamo in an orange jump-suit is not how she envisaged retirement.
- Ugly Christmas sweaters:
When is an ugly Christmas sweater not an ugly Christmas sweater? By that I mean is everyone in on this whole ugly Christmas sweater thing? Americans seem to go in for the ugly Christmas sweater in a really big way, but it turns out not all of them wearing them ironically. While in JFK waiting for my baggage, there was an elderly lady next to me wearing one. “That’s very ugly,” I said, pointing at her sweater. “Indeed, out of all the ugly sweaters I’ve seen this year, that has to be the ugliest. Well done!” And then I tried to high-five her. She wasn’t happy though, and started crying.
- Salvation Army bell-ringers:
While wandering the frozen aisles of the supermarket with a case of suburban angst overcoming me, I suddenly started to hear a faint ringing noise in my head. Now, I often hear voices, but ringing? This was new. Must be
tinnitus, I thought. As I continued with the shopping, the ringing seemed to get louder. By the time I got to the check-out I almost couldn’t take any more of the mind-numbing, high-pitched monotony. So this is madness? I
“Can you hear it?” I said to the checkout girl. “Can you hear the bells? Neverending, constant in my head. Never ending, never beginning. THE BELLS? THE GOFDAMN BELLS!!! MAKE THEM STOP!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD,
MAKE THEM STOP!!”
“You mean the Salvation Army bell ringer, sir?” replied the checkout girl pointing to a man by the supermarket exit with a collection plate and a bell.
“Oh,” the carpet had been very much pulled from under my feet, “yes, I think that is what I mean, thank
So it turns out that the Salvation Army doesn’t actually sing Christmas carols in the US. Presumably, on the grounds that singing Christmas carols might offend somebody. Apparently, only offending some people isn’t enough for the Salvation Army, so they’ve hit upon the idea of standing outside supermarkets ringing a bell non-stop for five hours at a time to ensure that they offend everybody. My theory is that they’re taking the army part of their name a little too seriously, and having read about the noise torture that the US army employs at Guantánamo Bay decided that they should do something similar.
- Putting popcorn on Christmas trees:
Chopping down a tree to only then bring it inside and decorate it with baubles and tinsel is a little weird when you stop to think about it. However, you can always depend on Americans to make something weird even weirder by the not uncommon sight of a Christmas tree garlanded with popcorn. Yes, in the US popcorn can both be a snack and ornamental – a bit like one of those limited edition Cadbury’s Faberge eggs.
- Chex Mix:
To my dismay, I’ve discovered that not all Americans are aware of mince pies, and a number of those that I’ve tried to introduce it to have found them not to their taste. Apparently, mincemeat looks too much like I’ve grabbed a thousand blue bottle flies and mushed them all together and doused them in brandy. So, if mince pies aren’t any good what do they have in way of a holiday snack to offer? Well, there’s Chex Mix which consists of taking some Chex breakfast cereal throwing it into a bowl and adding some butter, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, some nuts and pretzels. Wow, really? Onion powder and Worcestershire sauce? There’s the smell of Christmas right there. Forget the brandy, cinnamon and orange peel of the mincemeat. Some onion powder and some breakfast cereal. “They’re great”, as the mascot of another breakfast cereal might say.