Monday, December 7, 2009

Picking the Perfect Christmas Past

Sometimes you just can't think too much about things. You've got to see the big picture. Look at the forest and see Bob Ross' "happy little trees." Recognize history as nostalgia, and not get caught up in specific time frames or accuracy.

So, what are we not thinking about this week? Oh, many, many things (has Britney finally found true love?). But specifically, the historical accuracy of the local community holiday celebration, "A Christmas Past."

The Royal Offspring and I partook of the hoo-ha over the weekend. First of all, let me say we had a great time, as always. In fact, since we didn't loose any body parts to frost bite, we probably had a better time this year than some years.

His Royal Highness the King, a.k.a. "Mr. Literal", stayed in the castle where he could work uninterrupted, enjoying such modern conveniences as computers, heat and a flat-screen TV. He suggested that if we truly wanted to celebrate "A Christmas Past," we should turn off all the power to downtown, carry buckets of water to boil for hot cocoa, and line up for the privy out back of Hoover's Birthplace Cottage. Note to self: I don't think there's a pit under the outhouse, so use the facilities early in the evening.

I would just like to point out that the festival is titled "A Christmas Past," and it does not specify which "Christmas Past" is being observed. Some of the activities may have been similar to what Herbert Hoover experienced living here in the mid 1870's. The idea for the festival was based on newspaper reports of similar celebrations taking place in the 1920s. Other parts are definitely more modern, or are modern twists on old traditions.

For example, Hoover probably did travel in a horse-drawn wagon. However, that wagon probably didn't have nice Goodyear tires, cushioned bench seats out of an old school bus, or steps that raised and lowered for boarding. While it may not be the stuff of Currier and Ives, I appreciate those little touches.

The Prince and Princess did learn a few things about horse-drawn wagons: they move slowly; they don't have heaters; and horse poo, historical or not, smells. A lot. And yes, the Queen Mother will join in (not lead, but join) when other riders start singing carols.

The Princess and I participated in another semi-historical activity: the 5K walk/run. Hoover probably did do a lot of walking to get around town. However, he didn't drive a car three-quarters of a mile to get to the starting line before starting out. My "Olde Tyme Shin Splints" feel pretty authentic, though.

The Boy Scouts' donuts, fried in a pot of oil over an open fire, call to mind the "fry bread" of the Native Americans -- residents prior to 1870. However, I don't think (politically incorrect alert!) the Indians had access to "whomp biscuits." If they had, the Indians could have easily subdued the white settlers by setting up a donut stand. The settlers would have been sitting ducks while they all stood in line patiently waiting for the next batch, like the crowd at ACP.

Of course the real purpose of ACP is not to impart great historical knowledge and insight. It is a chance to impart great knowledge and insight of local businesses. A chance to make cash register bells ring after the ring of the sleigh bells has past. Less cynically, it is a chance to foster community spirit and good will, a chance for businesses to thank their customers.

Whew. Glad I got that out of my system. We will now resume our regularly scheduled snarkiness, already in progress.

Of course, I have thought of a couple of ideas to improve A Christmas Past. Since this could, theoretically, be "any" Christmas past, why not celebrate a 1960s Fall Out Shelter Christmas? They could even replace the horse-drawn rides with a hot rod, ala the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick." Or how about a "Disco Christmas?" Just keep those polyester suits away from the bonfires.

On a more serious (perhaps?) note, the downtown businesses could all recreate the lavish Christmas window displays I recall from my youth. I remember going to Cedar Rapids at least one year to see the display at Armstrong's Department Store. Wouldn't it be cool if all those mechanical elves and reindeer and woodland creatures were in storage somewhere just waiting to be reused? At the very least, let's dust off the "Talking Christmas Tree" that was at Sycamore Mall.

What if all celebrations were like "A Christmas Past?" What if we could just pick and choose the best parts and get rid of the parts we don't like or find inconvenient? Like birthdays. Keep the presents, party and cake. Loose the "another year older" part. Ooops, I already do that.

I've always been a big picture kind of person.


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  2. Why does it NOT surprise me that the KING opted out of the fun festivities to remain home in the castle so as to enjoy such modern convienences such as the flat-screen TV. I was confused about the part of his wanting to work uninterupted though. How does that mesh with the blaring sounds emitting from the flat-screen TV? Isn't that counter-productive? I personally think he should have joined the family and breathed in some fresh, brisk, pine-scented air. It would have done his grey cells some good; reinvigorating them, thus making him more productive. But then he's never listened to me before . . .