What is Wal-Mart?

I was 8 when National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was released.  I didn’t see it in theaters but I saw it when it came out on VHS a bit later.

There are many iconic scenes in the movie, of course, but I remember being little and asking my Mom what Wal-Mart was.  Clark Griswold ended up in a Wal-Mart parking lot after sledding down the hill (shattering all land-speed records, as I recall) and he and Cousin Eddie also have a great scene inside a Wal-Mart buying gifts (which ended up mostly being dog food).

I had no idea what Wal-Mart was at the time. We didn’t have any in Southern California (that I’m aware of). It wasn’t until the 1992 presidential election when Ross Perot kept talking about Wal-Mart that I learned what a huge chain they are.

Now Wal-Mart is everywhere.  Even China has Wal-Mart, and it’s stocked full of stuff made, conveniently enough, in China.  Babies have been born in Wal-Mart, stray kids and adults have camped in Wal-Mart, and people die in Wal-Mart on an almost yearly basis on Black Friday.

It’s crazy to think that more than half the country at the time was immersed in the Wal-Mart craze while the rest of us had no idea what it was. And now that I know about it, I can’t “un-know” it.  Darn evil empire and all…though I did buy a shiny new television there….

War on Christmas

I love Christmas.

I’m not religious. Like at all. 

I love the season, I love the lights, I love the trees, I love the smells, I love the traditions, I love the music.

Lately I’ve noticed a trend. More and more people are saying “Merry Christmas” than in recent years.  It was once shunned; it was bad form to use the “C” word in mixed company. Now people are freely flying the Christmas flag.  The families celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah are rocking their trees and Menorahs together in holiday bliss.

Conversely, there also seems to be a Christmas/holiday backlash. Those people who don’t celebrate holidays are more vocal about having to deal with the myriad holiday celebrations, be it Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.  These people don’t want there to be celebrations at all because they will invariably offend their non-celebratory sentiments.

So the question becomes this: Do we have to cancel celebrations so no one is offended or left out? With tales of schools nixing Santa pictures and Christmas performances, it seems like there is a precedent being set. Is there a middle ground? Or is it all or nothing?

Holiday Blues

I love the holiday season.  It just seems like the holidays bring forth a wave of stress that makes staying positive a tricky thing.

I don’t have a big family–there are four of us, and then some friends–and everyone lives in the same city.  We don’t have to travel or deal with airports.  We live in sunny Southern California, so the weather is not a huge deal.

For me, the holidays are a time when people are nicer to each other than usual, and the “days are merry and bright.”

But sometimes life gets in the way.  Sometimes you feel like you’re falling short of expectations, or that you’re a “day late and a dollar short.”

I was listening to the radio last night on my way home.  Delilah, the love song guru, is playing all holiday music from now until Christmas, so I tuned in because I happen to like holiday music.  She was talking about how it doesn’t pay to worry.  No gains are made from worrying.  You must continue to move forward.

So while that may be a lot harder to do in practice, it really is the only way to go.  Chin up, keep calm and carry on…and all that.