Sunday, October 30, 2011

Holiday Crazy

Note to Hallmark:
You guys are truly missing out on a HUGE market here in Colombia!

If one were to graph the situation here, the X axis would be the (surprising) lack of greeting cards, and the Y axis would be the love of holidays (and particularly of stretching them out for entire months), with the two lines intersecting at an apex of incredible commercial potential.

Let me explain:
In the US we have Valentine's Day, February 14, right? Sure, the hype starts a few weeks before with the red and pink candies and chocolates prominently displayed in store windows and grocery store shelves.

In Colombia: The entire month of September is for Amor y Amistad which is celebrated as a clever combination of Valentine's Day (the "amor" part) and Secret Santa (the "amistad" or friendship part) wherein co-workers draw names and shower their lucky recipient with gifts all month. The weekends are for date nights, hopefully with one's significant other or spouse, but I've heard that this is also a time for the "amante" (mistress) to be proudly dispalyed in restaurants around town. My current Spanish teacher clealy told us that this can be a time of great happiness or the opposite when the latter occurs.

Example two:

Halloween in Colombia is a BIG DEAL. Again, not just October 31st, but the whole month. This past Friday my work was utter mayhem as over 800 kids, accompanied by their parents of course, descended upon the embassy for trick-or-treating. Naturally, this swarm did not come as a surprise, apprently it happens every year, and so a tradition of serious decorating and celebrating has grown over the years. I watched as co-workers dedicated days and countless thousands of their own dollars to creating life-sized haunted forests with "trees" that grabbed unsuspecting, and therefore shrieking children; ancient Egypt (fortunately the pyraminds were NOT life-sized); the Pirates of the Caribbean; the Smurfs; the Adams Family; soccer stadiums full of fans; NYC (replete with cardboard recreations of landmark buildings); Carnival Colombia, and graveyards full of personalized tombstones with funny epitaphs. I emerged from my tiny office to find a river of costumed little ones and their parents swarming our corridors. The sections were all judged, and the winners will be announced sometime this week. A prize will be awarded for the most "green" display, which I hope will go to my Economic section as we did.. well, nothing. Hey, and in doing nothing - we consumed no resources, right? Okay, we contributed cash and candy to our zealous neighbors, but other than that, we were disgracefully schlumpy. 

"Do you see what I see?"

So - back to the holidays and how Hallmark is missing out:

Halloween has been going all month and now that it's nearly November, the stores (as of last weekend) have started to look to the horizon. And what do they see?

Certainly not Thanksgiving, the traditional demarkation between fall and the of the start of the Christmas shopping season. Because that's an American holiday, right?
No - here they have an inunterrupted view towards the Big One: Christmas.

Yes, that's right. It's not yet November but apparently 'tis the Season. Last weekend we discovered a great mall nearby (capital "g" Great, lemme' tell you- the Santa Barbara Mall) that was already decked out in garlands, red velvet bows and clusters of giant gilded balls. But the coup de grace was tonight when Tim and I walked home from the grocery store, and noticed that our neighbors were already proudly displaying a fully lit and decorated Christmas tree in their front window.


To summarize: These people know how to party. Whether it's three days of live Mariachi bands on one's birthday or a month of Valentine's Day and Halloween or two months of Christmas - this is a festive country. Perhaps because they don't have real seasons to mark the march of time they use holidays instead?

"Oh yes, I remember that, it was during Halloween..."

I don't know, but I must admit that if the weather is not going to change for our next two years (it will only be drier or wetter, but not warmer or colder), perhaps I can learn to look forward to a month of chocolate eggs in April; of roses and dinners out in September and witches and pumpkins October. Oh, and apparently Christmas is celebrated with fireworks - hey, why not?!

Let me be the first to say to everyone: Ho ho ho!

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