Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I've awakened as late as 8:15 a.m on Christmas Day before, but not after having gone to bed around 11:15 p.m. Yesterday we didn't get to bed until after 3 a.m. due to presents being wrapped and presents needing laid out. We were up at just before 8 when Logan woke up. I don't function on 4 hours sleep. I just don't. So I slept in the car down to Alexandria/Pineville, and slept a little yesterday afternoon. We didn't get home until about 9 p.m. (it's a two hour trip, but we had to take Logan to his father's place and Daniel home, and then we got something to eat at Waffle House). As Alana put it, "Louisiana is a very bumpy, wet state at the moment and we drove all over it."

Alana didn't get to bed until later on, so it's me and Sabine up right now... and I think Sabine has gone back to sleep! I have Mythbusters on the television, busting Western movie myths. It's an odd Christmas morning...

Logan loved his presents. He got a lot of football stuff. Aside from a toy kicking football player and a new Nerf football, everything he got football wise has the New Orleans Saints on it. Alana's dad is a big Saints fan, so the game was on when we got there. Logan had been wearing his Saints helmet all morning, and continued to wear it while watching the game. He only took it off to eat, and to go out to play later. The Saints did their part and dominated the New York Giants 30 to 7.

Daniel also loved his stuff. Alana and I got him a bunch of stuff for his apartment. He didn't have anything, and he was very appreciative for what he got.

I mentioned a month back how the U.S. does Thanksgiving better than Canada. This is true, but Canada beats the U.S. when it comes to Christmas. In spite of the U.S. being more religious (less secular) than Canada, Christmas consists of only one day off. Right after Christmas, folks are back to work unless they take a vacation day. This is a pain, given that generally Americans work more hours than Canadians and have fewer vacation days.

(Example: I began my professional career at Kodak, Canada. Kodak Canada tended to take its cues from its U.S. counterpart. The work week was 40 hours and you had to work for seven years before you went from two weeks vacation to three. They did change that on my fifth year so that you only had to be their five years for three weeks, but when I went to Scotland for three weeks in 1992 I had to save up a week's vacation from 1991 to do it. My next place of work was the Toronto Star newspaper. Due to my experience, I was able to negotiate three weeks vacation at the outset, and it was a 35 hour work week. A 35 hour work week (9 to 5 with an hour off for lunch) is pretty common in Canadian white collar jobs. Here in Monroe, I work a 40 hour work week again, and I have to be here 10 years before I get three weeks vacation...)

In Canada, the day after Christmas is a national holiday called Boxing Day. This comes from the British holiday of the same name. The origin of the story is shrouded in obscurity. I had heard that it came from the lords of the manor giving a box of leftovers to their servants the day after Christmas. There are several variations on this, and not official answer. Here's Wikipedia's entry on Boxing Day and an explanation of the origin of the name:

Boxing Day in Canada is a sort of a strange holiday, due to controversy over what stores can and can not open.

Before Sunday shopping was allowed (in the early 1990s in Ontario), a statutory holiday law prevented stores from opening on Sundays or holidays unless they were in designated tourist areas, or if they were certain special stores. Book stores were exempt, for instance, because Ontario has always encouraged reading; in fact, books in Ontario are exempt from provincial sales tax. Convenience stores were exempt, because people need to get staples. In Toronto, this meant the waterfront area and a couple of other locations were allowed to open. Through political wrangling, the huge mall downtown (used to be called the Eaton's Centre, after the big department store that anchored it; not sure what it's called now, since the Eaton's chain folded a few years ago) was also designated a tourist spot.

In the 80s and 90s there was a push to allow Sunday shopping in Ontario. Toronto has a large Jewish population, who were not fond of the fact that they had to close on Sundays (their religious day of Sabbath is Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown) while they had to be open on their Sabbath just to be financially viable. A furrier on Spadina Avenue regularly ignored this law, racking up thousands of dollars in fines. Eventually the law was determined to be unconstitutional, but by then the Ontario government (a government formed by the socialist New Democratic Party, ironically) made Sunday shopping legal.

Even with Sunday shopping legal, stores have to close on statutory holidays. Boxing Day is a statutory holiday. It's also the day after Christmas, when people have Christmas money, gift certificates and — in a modern phenomenon — gift cards burning holes in their pockets. Canada doesn't have the big Black Friday sales day, so the better buys are found the days following Christmas. For this reason, a number of stores started flaunting the law, opening December 26.

It's against the law to do so in Ontario. Stores can be fined for opening. These stores shrug it off, as they make so much more money than the fine. There's a rule in retail that the longer you're open, the more you will make. This was at the heart of the Sunday shopping law (that people don't spend a finite amount of money in a week; impulse purchases are a big part of retail marketing). By getting a jump on the competition, and by getting those people with nothing to do with a day off (and I admit I have shopped in downtown Toronto on December 26 before, the scofflaw that I am), these stores found it was worth the fine.

I understand that the controversy still exists. Some have called for larger fines, so that these stores won't make any money. Others have called for an elimination of the law that requires stores to close.

At any rate, having a day off after Christmas — to recuperate if nothing else — is a tradition the U.S. would have done well to maintain. It's for this reason that I say Canada does Christmas better than the U.S.

I noticed that there seemed to be fewer "war on Christmas" stories this year. Apparently people are seeing this argument as the nonsense that it is. As I found on a number of web sites last year, yes there are some overly zealous people who have tried to temper Christmas celebrations, but there is no organized "war" on Christmas, and there are quite a few secularists who actually enjoy the holiday. Most people around here wish folks a Merry Christmas. Alana and I would heartily wish them the same. Christmas is, of course, a big religious holiday, but it's a religious holiday based on giving, peace and love. It's not surprising that it's become a secular holiday, too.

So, Merry Christmas, or a Happy Religious or Secular Holiday of Your Choice!

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