What to say
Forget ‘Merry Christmas’. The standard greeting is ‘Happy holidays’. It covers Kwanzaa and Hannukah too and, as is generally the case here, being inclusive matters.
The holiday season runs from late November till early January. Americans complain that stores decorate and play seasonal tunes earlier and earlier, but compared to the UK, they seem very restrained to me. Not much seems to start till after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November) but then things get going with a bang – a big bang. In Philly the day after Thanksgiving is known as ‘Black Friday’ – a day when shops have big sales and drivers spend hours in traffic jams trying to get to the malls.
If you’re in Philly, pop into Macys and check out the organ. It’s the largest organ in the world. (Well, there’s something I never expected to write about!) There’s an organist performing regular free concerts for shoppers all year round who is joined by carole singers in the holidays. People go to just listen to the show
I had trouble finding crackers in the US ten years ago, but they’ve started appearing in stores in recent years. But it’s interesting to see how they’ve been adapted for a different market. They often contain mottos with wise words about life and living, rather than corny jokes. And they contain novelties that you’d hesitate to throw in the bin. From my British frame, they are altogether too durable and functional.
So if you are planning a party and can import crackers from the UK, I would. I mean, who really needs a silver nail clipper?
But bear in mind that UK crackers need explanation. The novelties are likely to mystify so expect bemused expressions as your guests wonder ‘But why would you think I might want a tacky set of 10 mini plastic skittles, Vicki?’ Similarly, be prepared for a baffled silence when you ask your riddle.
Very charmingly, you can also expect astonishment and admiration at your own abilities to second guess the daft school boy jokes, Enjoy it while it lasts. After just a few years of your turkey and training, the ‘mericans at your table will be better at them than you.