By Juha Himanen
It’s Inauguration Day, and finally the holiday season is over. And I have a hangover! During a year when Christmas, the New Year, and Hanukkah all fell on weekdays, even a well-trained Finnish party animal had a job to do. I, for one, happened to have the especially daunting task of coping with not only my expat protestant friends, but also with my Jewish colleagues and the Orthodox Russians, both of which I know plenty. So, unlike years past, when I had to get used to the fact that the Holiday Season (I would love to say ‘Christmas’ but that would be way too politically incorrect) starts on Thanksgiving at the latest, this time around I had to accommodate a couple of midweek Hanukkah get-togethers, the new and the old Christmas, and the new and the old New Year. Indeed, it’s not a typo: according to the ‘new’ Russian orthodox tradition (if there can be a ‘new tradition’ to start with), the ‘old New Year’ is being celebrated 21 days after the ‘new Christmas’ but the ‘new New Year’ happens seven days before the ‘old Christmas’. It’s not really important to know the details, but the end result is that if you were hanging around with the abovementioned people this season, you will be looking for medical attention by the inauguration.
It’s not that I’m complaining. Quite the contrary: I had the time of my life. Holidays in New York overplay Christmas in Finland six to love – this season at least. For example, I have previously totally missed the chance to give presents during the days of Hanukkah. I didn’t get any myself this time, but I’m very optimistic that if I do all my deeds for Mayor Bloomberg, by December 2009 my Menorah will be covered with goodies. I also learned that trying to see the Fifth Avenue decorations at 6 pm is only for masochists. Judging from the number of people this year, one could never have guessed that the city was facing the worst recession in a millennium. I guess it’s because earlier I never had time before midnight to take off for a stroll in the midtown. The late days of the Season in New York City offer an additional advantage, namely that stores are open for 24 hours a day. Who wouldn’t appreciate a special 30% off for a jumper at Macy’s at 1 am on Christmas Eve?
I never knew, before now, that it’s possible to get a perfectly salted Christmas ham done in a day. Thanks to my Finnish colleagues, from now on I won’t waste time and money negotiating the price of a brined ham with the Hungarian butchers. In times of recession and innovation, I also learned to make a potato casserole, to salt a salmon, and to buy the ‘recession red’, wine in a box; for three dollars a liter, nothing can go wrong. During the perpetual holiday parties I even found a new talent in myself: dressing up like an elderly Indian drag queen. Yes I Can!
Like sugar on chocolate, I finally saw a White Christmas! Whether it’s because of the global warming as such or because of the gloomy prophecy of Mr. Gore, there never seems to be snow in Finland anymore. But New York had perfect winter weather for most of the holidays. If you don’t believe me, check out the photos I’m attaching here. It was beautiful, it was magical, it was unbelievably mysterious to have the metropolis being covered with this pure, shiny, happy snow!
Let me be a bit protestantically rhetoric, if not pathetic, on this great day of inauguration: ‘Don’t ask what Christmas can do for you, ask what you can do for Christmas’.