Black Friday: a pale, shallow and thoroughly corrupted imitation

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

“The holidays bring people together,” echoed Amanda Kindler, a 17-year-old from Dix Hills, who made two new friends while on line for two hours. “We’re bonding.”

Oh, yeah, that’s BONDING! What a sense of COMMUNITY! Tell me, if you freeze your ass off next to someone for two hours, is it going to slow your elbow down as it rushes toward their solar plexus in an effort to make sure you get the last iPod on the shelf?

You rabid, easily programmed American consumers, faring forth at the crack of dawn like glassy-eyed lambs for Madison Avenue’s slaughter. I ALMOST pity you. ALMOST.

OK, not really. As a matter of fact, I’m going to put a hurt on your sorry asses. I’m going to show you what you’re really missing as you wait on line outside of concrete and steel Wal-Marts to smash your way through a contrived festival of greed and grab your very own plastic goods made in China.

Holiday traditions in Europe have endured long past the people’s remembrance of their original heathen foundations. One of the things that brought this home to me while I was stationed in Germany was the Cristkindlemarkt. Most of the larger towns have these, but the most famous is the one in Nuremberg.

The Cristkindlemarkt goes on for several weeks and magically brings any ancient German city that chooses to hold one back into a version of itself that existed in the Middle Ages. Indeed, there is much here that hearkens back to a time when the holiday was not Christmas but Yule, and the Lord being celebrated was not Jesus but Ingve-Freyr, Vanic God of the Harvest, whose earthly gifts would get REAL communities through the harsh European winter.

Wooden booths are set up in the town square, just as they were hundreds of years ago, all around the church. Hey, remember the church? Your Christian holiday is kinda supposed to be just a little bit about that, you know? 🙂

Local artisans offer hand made goods…

…and traditional holiday food of the finest quality.

For all that many of the goods are handcrafted and often cannot be obtained anywhere else, nobody is going at it assholes-to-elbows to find the best sales or grab the last plastic widget and pretending to themselves that it somehow “builds a community” to stand on a line shivering for hours at O’dark thirty.

No, not here. People are relaxed, sipping their gluhwein and noshing on a bratwurst or a cookie. The atmosphere is truly festive.

Shops compete as much out of a love of art and a celebration of the season as they do for the consumer’s eye. Venal greed and spiritual poverty are not part of this equation.

It’s not all about the greed to these people. No, not anymore.

The Germans have learned lessons about greed, and about what is truly holy, that I hope we never have to.

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  1. For many years now, Chicago has had, each year, a Christkindlmarket, in front of the Richard J. Daley Plaza.  And for many years, I have gone to enjoy the little individual vendors and their wonderful wares, glassware, ornaments, embroidery, all kinds of cakes and yummies, regional arts and so much more.  There is also a shop where you can buy real German goods, such as Mon Cheri, (chocolate covered cherries with a surprise inside, as I’m sure you know),  marzipan cookies, sausages, and you name it. It is usually so cold in Chicago, at this time of the year, that no one can resist the Bratwurst (homemade), potato pancakes, apple cider, gluhwein, das bier, etc.  It’s such a delight each year and something to look forward to — I used to drag my friends there all the time, and we’d always have a brat and buy something, maybe, a wonderful little wood carving, some hand-blown glass, a wonderful cake, candy, or something.  Often, this is where I bought gifts for friends.  It is, indeed, a wonderful experience for me, spiritually!

    I have so often thought that one of the things missing from this culture period, is the respect for artisanship. Those people in Europe, who apprenticed and became expert carpenters, glass-blowers, tile makers, etc., etc.  They took PRIDE in what they did.  And, this sense of pride in what we do has continually been driven out of the American spirit — even when individuals exert their best, there is no real appreciation, just as there is no appreciation for the artisans — although there are people who do, in fact, seek out these artisans to do work in their homes.  From my first visits in Europe, way back, people cherished their down comforters, their one or two suits or dresses (custom-made) and worn for a long time, their wines, their foods (war-torn countries learn an appreciation of that which is the most important in this life, family, friends, good friends, art, etc.)  Maybe, today, in Europe, there exists, also, this on-going lack of appreciation for art, artisans, etc. (although, I hope I’m wrong, given their educational standards being superior to our own) — TG, they still guard their architectural wonders.  

    It’s been a while since I’ve been to Europe (1994) to be exact, so there might be more changes than I know.

    Greed will be the FINAL undoing of this country and its people!

    Thanks for this, randgrithr, once again!  

     

    • dkmich on November 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    I’d rather eat nails.  I can’t imagine wanting anything bad enough to stand in one of those lines or even go to the stores this weekend. Come to think of it, ever.  I’m not queen of the online catalog for nothing.  

    Thanks for the pleasant images of Christmas.  Maybe if ours resembled that I wouldn’t hate it so much.  

    • publicv on November 28, 2009 at 10:35 pm
  2. Reading your essay I realized that is exactly why I hate Christmas now. The total lack of spirit! We used to have this whole month of preparations going on when I was a child. The woman and us girls would be busy baking Stollen and a million cookies. Weeks ahead we started collecting the beef grease to make treats for the birds, decorate the rabbit cages and chicken house. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve we decorated the tree and when it was dark we go out in the woods and hang the bird treats and put out the food for the deer. By the time we got back presents had appeared under the tree. Magic!

    It’s the only time I loved snow.

  3. It started when I was a teenager and I just never grew out of it. When I was poor I thought it was because I couldn’t afford to buy stuff. At this moment in time I am not poor and I still don’t get in the spirit. A colleague who has known me for years urged me to take Christmas off this year because I always work it.

    I just cannot see the piont. One day of the year we are supposed to be into brotherhood and hope and then go back to hurting and killing one another? Thanks I will take a pass.

    • Inky99 on November 29, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    When I was a kid and my Dad was stationed in Germany, we’d go there.  It was very cool.   I could have sworn it was the Kris Kringle market, though.   At least I’m pretty sure it’s spelled with a K and not a C.   I could be wrong, I was only about 11 years old back then!

    Glad they’re still doing it.  

    America bites ass in so many ways.

    I spent a lot of time in Germany as a kid, and when I came back to America I was astounded at how ugly it was.   And how much garbage there was just drifting around everywhere.

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