Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Do They Know it's Christmas?

As part of my Christmas obsession, I am now listening fully to the Christmas stations on the local radio and XM. Three weeks into it, and I already have a proposal for any major recording artist from Europe in the 80's (because you know they all read this). If I promise to commit to do my part to "feed the world" will you talk to the radio stations about toning down the airplay of that song? Please?
It's a good message really, but how many artists signing on that record have since served hard time, should have served hard time, or fallen off the face of the earth entirely? It's depressing, and not just for the downer subject matter. Maybe some of them should have spent more money on feeding the world, and less up their noses (if you catch my drift) so they wouldn't need to keep playing the song 20 years later. I think Bono is the only contributor to that song that seemed to really embrace the meaning and run with it. Because Bono rocks, and even though I'm a republican, I'm down with Bono and his efforts to feed the world. You go, Bono.

At the very least, we should wait until a little closer to Christmas to play it. It drives me nuts to hear a song saying "Do they know it's Christmas?" when the answer is "Geez, not yet, crazy Anglos, it's not even December." I'm just waiting for an angry Ethiopian to respond by yelling "Do you know it's not?" Seriously, I'll give a dollar to the first Ethiopian to yell that in my earshot.
Which brings up my stumper of the week...
Thanksgiving is an American holiday, which is no secret, but I hadn't really thought about it much. Since Thanksgiving is the official kick-off of Santa and Christmas, when do other countries consider it "the beginning" of Christmas season? How "do they know it's Christmas?" If you know, leave me a comment, because I'm dying to know what the rest of the world does...

All these little peeves are not really what bothers me about this song. Like I said, I can appreciate the message, and who doesn't need a good dousing of guilt dumped on their Christmas cheer, every hour on the hour? All my angst with this song comes down to one line, really, and it must be sung in a mournful tone and with enough impassioned pity to make one sound like one is constipated (I'm looking at you, George Michael).

"And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime"

No way, really, tell me you're joshing me? No snow at Christmas? Why even have it? The way the song is written, it sounds like they're saying, not only do these poor people not have food, they don't even have snow.
Call me unenlightened, but I really don't see the problem with that. The no-food thing I get, but no-snow? Snow what!
Do you know where else there won't be snow this Christmastime? My house for one. Or Bethlehem, or Nazareth, or Galilee, or any of the other places that figure into the story of Christ and his birth. It's summer in Australia, New Zeland, and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere in December, for crying out loud! For a huge portion of the globe (yes, even the Christian portion of the globe), Christmas celebrations have nothing to do with sleigh rides and snowball fights.
Some of us like it that way. If there were snow in Africa this Christmas, I imagine several of the African people would be thinking what I was thinking my first "white Christmas" visiting my parents, which was "Holy Schiekies! I think I'm gonna die! I'm literally freezing to DEATH!" Luckily, I was wrong on that last point.
The image of a winter wonderland is one that fits the celebrations those living in snowy climates have created for the holiday to accommodate their local weather. It's become the norm for most of the country, and it is great, but in reality it's not an image of a "real" Christmas that others are missing out on and should be pitied for. It's just an image of their Christmas. I have my own images of Christmas. An Arizona Christmas consists of "Yeah, Santa brought me a bike, I'm going around the block!" as opposed to say, a Wisconsin Christmas that consists of "Yeah, Santa brought me a bike! In three months, I'm so going around the block!" We can have luminarias, we do put Christmas lights on cacti, and we never miss out on Grandma's Christmas cookies because the plows haven't come through. We don't get snowed in with a crazy relative. Some Arizonans go on hikes together for Christmas. Not me, but athletic people. Daniel and I have been known to eat Christmas turkey on his Mom's back porch, watching the gorgeous Arizona sunset while the kids swing in the yard and work off their sugar highs actually using their new scooters, bikes, and footballs. "Traditional" Christmas, no, but we love it. While a Currier and Ives Christmas is nice to visit sometimes, we don't miss the snow. You can't miss what you never had and don't need.
So, while there are many reasons to feel compassion for the less fortunate in Africa this Christmas, their lack of snow and cold-weather holiday tradition isn't one of them. I'm sure they have some wicked-cool holiday traditions of their own, too. I'd love to learn about what they are. The fact that a song that claims its entire reason for existence is to promote awareness of "the world outside your window," yet can't recognize that differences in culture aren't for pitying is too much irony for me. Feed the world, yes. Pity them for their lack of snowmen, no.
So I would really appreciate it if I didn't have to hear it every hour, unless they can do a 20-years-later directors cut with a little less condescension.

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