Is it that I’m always coming back to the movies that we often think there’s nothing like Christmas in the US? Of course Europe is where Christmas started and has the Christmas markets down but when it comes to packaging it in a nice white box (think Apple Marketing) then the US has it all wrapped up—with a perfect red bow on top.
Christmas in the US of A
Last weekend we got our Christmas on and went down to the local Christmas tree “farm” to pick out a tree. The local Christmas tree farm, by the way, was formerly known as the Pumpkin farm (ie last month). This year we were a lot more organised so got to pick from a vast number of superly (I know it’s not really a word) perfect trees.
On our way home my daughter said, “Remember last year we were on the freeway and someone’s tree fell off their car?”
“No,” I said, which didn’t surprise me because unless I’ve got a photo of it (& posted to Instagram) then I struggle to remember.
“Oh wait,” she laughs, “that was on Modern Family.”
(Is it just us or does that happen to you? Here it helps that everything looks so familiar and “like it does on TV or the movies” but it’s funny when a show you watch feels so familiar it’s as if it’s happened to you first hand.)
Not unlike every other “holiday” here the Christmas theme gets a workout. There are the usual Gingerbread men and Gingerbread houses, advent calendars (although I haven’t really seen as many as we have back home in Australia), holiday-scented wood (not joking) and lollies—lots and lots of special-edition lollies.
Elf on the Shelf
But to me by far the most American thing I’ve seen is the Elf on the Shelf. Seriously cute this company puts American Girl to shame. Not only is everyone Instagramming and Facebooking the creative things they’ve done with their elves, there are websites and Pinterest boards guaranteed a lot of hits this month. Not only that they have apps, adoption certificates, outfits, books, games and even a birthday edition. Yep, I’m with you: why didn’t I think of that?
A quick look through its website and I couldn’t really see how the phenomenon started and grew into the hugeness (another made-up word) it is today but it is huge. I’m so jealous of the creativity that goes into the elf’s daily (nightly) adventures but for us it’s all a little late so we’re just going for the least creative options in our house and just happy there’s an elf in our house. Who knows though as we become more Ausmerican we might just surprise you! Oh, and I have seen the elves popping up in Australia proving that the most successful marketing concepts can’t help but catch on in the rest of the world.
There are lots of well-decorated houses around but I want to say not as many as I thought. But when they do it, there’s no in-between. The easiest thing about going all out with your Christmas lights here is the thriving labour market (if I was to be un-PC then I’d just say there are lots of Mexicans happy to do the job and create work opportunities but just as well I’m not). Like everything here it’s so much cheaper and more convenient to get someone in to do it rather than worrying about it yourself. God Bless ‘Merica.
I nearly forgot to mention the Holiday cards. I love receiving cards from my American friends with pics of their family on the front–especially as you see the kids growing up (and maybe even graying hair!). This year I thought I’d do an abridged version with a pic of us (preferably a selfie) during the year. That was quickly poo-pooed by mini me because we hadn’t had the photo shoot specifically for the card. (Lucky I didn’t mention the selfie). Here’s the photo I would have picked (still might truth be told!):
Quintessentially Cliché NYC Christmas #QCNYCC
It’s too long to hashtag so we’ll have to abbreviate it. We’re so excited here in 90210 because the kids are getting to live the dream and head to New York in the hopes of celebrating a white Christmas.
In fact it’s so exciting that it’s hard to write about without going back into Safari and checking out tickets to this, booking restaurants so we secure a coveted table and work out who’s open and who’s closed for Christmas.
Our #QCNYCC bucket list/ must-do list includes:
- Ice-skating at the Rockefeller &/or Central Park on Christmas Day
- Seeing the Rockettes Christmas Show
- See a Broadway Show
- Strolling the Upper East Side and staring in amazement over the wonder that is the Christmas windows.
- Looking for Eloise at The Plaza
- A bit of Seinfeld & Sex & the City spotting
- Visit Dean & Deluca perhaps even trying to spot Felicity
- Obligatory tourist stuff: see the Chrysler Building, climb the Empire State Building & visit the 9/11 Memorial
- Eat at a couple of iconic restaurants
- Play in the snow on Christmas Day!
There’s so much to fit in I’ll obviously let you know how it all goes in real life. My cousin lives there and she’s giving us the ultimate “NYC-by-night-as-seen-by-a-local” tour which I’m most looking forward to.
What I’m least looking forward to is trying to look glamorous and very NYC while staying toasty warm. This is in fact the ultimate challenge and I’m not sure I’ve put enough thought into this yet. Lucky for me Princess Kate (well actually Duchess Kate isn’t it but everyone here is calling her Princess Kate) is in NYC as we speak so I can get a few style tips from her.
My Pinterest board, however, is looking quite healthy with lots of ideas on what to do and every blog and his dog’s top 10 things to do in New York so be sure to visit if it’s ideas you’re after.
You know you’re living in America when you have to declare to your worldwide income. Last week we were finally all able to lodge our tax returns at the IRS. We all had to go because, being our first time, we had to get tax file numbers. And I guess to prove who we are had to bring our passports with us. For MR H to lodge it on his own he would have had to bring our passports with him and leave them with the IRS for around 6-8 weeks so that meant one in all in.
Last time Mr H went on his own he got turned away. It turns out that they already had enough customers waiting and they couldn’t accept any more for the day as there would be nobody to process their requests. Wow. That there is the public service for the most advanced country in the free world.
So, to avoid a repeat of that situation Mr H decided we need to queue outside an hour before. We seriously thought he was exaggerating until we saw there were already four people waiting in front of us and many more queued up behind. I heard one guy behind us if you don’t queue up here at this time you could be here all day. What choice do you have?
Going into the building was interesting. We had to go inside one by one while we went through security. I have to admit I did think at one stage this looked like one of those scenes where some psycho comes in and open fires at everyone so the security checks didn’t phase me one little bit.
Fortunately the plan worked and we weren’t there long after all. Now we have to wait eight weeks for processing to get a tax file number and have the privilege of lodging our Californian tax.
We’ve all heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday but one thing that caught me by surprise was the Family & Friends sales post Black Friday and Cyber Monday offering 25% off. I bought a new doona and sheet set for us during the Black Friday sales and was very chuffed with myself only to find the 25% Friends and Family sale trumped the Black Friday deals by another 15%. I ummed and ahhed for a while and decided it was worth the grief at taking it all back and rebuying it again. But, I was still a bit embarrassed that I was doing it so I sat on the thought for a couple of days.
With our tax lodged I decided to bite the bullet and do it. It was over a $100 in savings (which could buy me a case of wine so nothing to be sneezed at).
“No problems mam I’ll simply do a price adjustment.” Oh my god there’s a thing for it. Of course it’s America, while I’ve been mulling it over for a few days for fear of embarrassment people do this here all the time. There’s even a process for it; a button on the register.
I shopped the kids coats, jeans and thermals for New York in the various 25% off sales and got me a new pots and pans set so I’ve not only done my bit for the American economy but I’ve saved myself a bucket load of money to boot.
God Bless ‘Merica.
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: How does Christmas look where you are? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it (especially now that commenting works again on my site).