I've been traveling a lot this last week and noticed that Sea-Tac airport had the display of fake snow and birch trees that replaced the Christmas tree after the menorah controversy of 2006. It's oddly like an image you might find in one of those vodka ads touting ice and cold (no one wants warm vodka, apparently). But it resembles nothing you'd find in the Northwest, looking more like a forest in Finland. Inoffensive to competing religionists or atheists perhaps, but also irrelevant here in Cascadia.
New York was filled with lights and holiday cheer, including wretchedly elaborate and consumerist windows at places like Macy's and Lord & Taylor. The Macy's display was very multimedia, all about getting kids' Christmas messages to Santa. What kind of messages? Emails? Facebook postings? Tweets? No, letters with stamps addressed to the North Pole. Do kids even know what letters and stamps are anymore? That didn't stop throngs of tourists crowding in to get shots of the displays on their cellphones. Maybe just call Santa with your whenever minutes.
In Vancouver, B.C., I watched them putting up Christmas trees in the train station, but I overheard the security people giving the decorators a firm warning: No fake gifts under the trees this year. Why? Wrapped fake gifts were going to be treated like unaccompanied baggage, in other words, regarded as potential bombs.
Yes, Virginia, call the bomb squad if you see a suspicious package! Imagine the trauma to kids watching wrapped gifts being blown up by remote control. Perhaps it's pre-Olympics security sensitivity, but somehow, Christmas trees without gifts, even fake gifts, under them seems so barren. But maybe also a fitting symbol of the Great Recession.