Of course, it's not as though New Year's is an unpredictable holiday. Lots of people are going to get exceptionally drunk. Shy, sneaky people are going to position themselves near someone they like in hopes that when midnight arrives, they get a New Year's kiss. Fear of terrorism and sadness about the 9-11 attacks will probably make this a more bittersweet New Year's than most.
Just as predictable is my coverage. For example, if I were able to cover downtown Atlanta's New Year's Eve Peach Drop event, headlined by '70s soft rockers Three Dog Night, I probably would have said something like:
"At midnight, the Big Peach dropped and the crowd celebrated with cheers, noisemakers and 'Auld Lang Syne.' Headlining band Three Dog Night then tore into their biggest hit, 'Joy to World' (aka the 'Jeremiah was a Bullfrog' song). It was a fitting, cheerful beginning to a new year. Unfortunately, that year was 1971."
It's a good thing that I couldn't write that.
Christmas -- a review: Dec. 25 marked the birthday of Jesus Christ, carpenter, Lord and savior. He's the man who put the "J" in WWJD. Known as Christmas Day, Dec. 25 is a holiday marked by celebration, gift-giving and family reunion. If you're Jewish, Christmas frequently means a night out at a Chinese restaurant. Ironically, Jesus, who himself was Jewish, never went out for Chinese. If he did, they left it out of the Bible.
Christmas is also an excuse to decorate the outside of your home and other public places with cheerful lights. Throughout the month of December, I drove around Atlanta late at night with my camera listening to music and looking at Christmas lights. Here's some of what I saw:
White icicle lights: Decorating your home with white lights in the shape of icicles is a statement. It says, "Hey, look at me. I'm expressing holiday cheer, but I'm not tacky like the guy down the street with a manger and plastic penguins." White icicle lights look particularly Martha Stewarty if they're decorating a white house. A quick look at MarthaStewart.com indicates that she only sells white Christmas lights ($10). That's only appropriate since the two words that come to mind most quickly when you think of Martha Stewart are cold and white.
Yard scenery: A lot of people decorate their homes for Christmas by turning their front yards into holiday scenes. Some are of the religious variety, most often of baby Jesus in the manger. Sometimes, the Three Wise Men are lurking nearby. According to a Catholic friend, it's appropriate to keep the manger scene Jesus-free until Christmas morning in order to symbolize his birth. Most people just put him in the manger beforehand.
Many Christmas yard scenes aren't explicitly religious. Most are winter scenes with plastic Santas, plastic snowmen, and, most puzzlingly, plastic penguins wearing hats and scarves. Penguins by themselves indicate cold weather. Putting winter clothes on them is overkill. It's like the difference between nametags that simply say your name and nametags that patronize you by prefacing the name with "Hello, my name is ..."
Some people, unable to decide on a theme, just throw Jesus, Santa, snowmen and penguins together in the same scene. If you pretend that the scenes are to scale, then you can amuse yourself at the sight of Jesus, Mary and Joseph surrounded by 20-foot penguins.
Christmas Tree in the Window: This is the only one that actually bothered me. Not because opening your shades so the people can see your decorated Christmas tree and gifts is an invitation to burglars, but because it makes me envious. I'm single and have no family in Atlanta. Peeking into people's idyllic Christmas living room scenes, particularly while driving around alone late at night, reminds me of how much I miss not having family nearby. Going home and popping American Beauty into the VCR rids me of that notion pretty quickly.
The Why Bothers: In every neighborhood, there's at least one person who's idea of Christmas decorations is dangling a single-string of Christmas lights from or near their porch. They don't even bother taping the lights to the hand-railing or shaping it into something Christmasy. How about some effort, people? You might as well just plug the lights in while they're still in their box. That's lazy, too, but with a hint of defiance.
Civic Pride: The prettiest Christmas lights in town were downtown at Centennial Olympic park. (Though it's not the best place to park your car and walk around at night.) The park's size gave the decorations some breathing room. They weren't all piled on top of each other. The best part was the Christmas tree in the center. It was simple, but backdropped by Atlanta's skyline on a cold, clear night, it was beautiful.
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