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  Texas : Features : Humor : Column - "A Balloon In Cactus"

A Blue Christmas

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand

In the vast fellowship of Christendom, December 25th is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ by attending church, singing carols, and watching "It's A Wonderful Life." The Christmas season is an occasion for tree-trimming and the giving of gifts to loved ones -- gifts once symbolic, now spendaholic.

Three Wise Men brought gifts to infant Jesus one starry night 2,007 years ago, but they could not have predicted the outcome of their generosity. They inadvertently began the tradition that one day would be ruled by rich corporations advertising on television and the internet. These corporations excel in persuading celebrants what to buy for one another and what to ask for themselves.

Even if we tried to reverse the commercialization of Christmas and get back to basics, we can't afford what the Wise Men gave. I don't know about you, but I can't find frankincense in any store at the mall and nobody even knows what myrrh is. Walmart may have carried it when the Wise Men were out shopping, but they don't carry it today, unless they sell it in CostCo's Shanghai store.

Just think about what Christmas used to be. There was something called childhood innocence, but those days are now replaced by kid commercialization where kids are seduced by ads into demanding big ticket items like iPhones, laptops or vidcams.

Reflections on how things used to be can frequently create a serious case of the Blues. Not the kind wailed by Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, or Robert Brown, but the kind where you can feel yourself sinking into an abyss of melancholia.

This year, the Blues could easily be caused by our inability to find anything that is not made in China. This is no longer the China of the Great Wall, the Yangtze River and three-foot-long fingernails. It's the China that covers the earth like Sherwin Williams but instead of paint, it's everything else.

However, American parents prefer to give our children toys without lead, which could cause sickness or death. We prefer to give our pets food that does not cause sickness or death. We prefer to buy pants for our spouses that do not have 12 inch waists and a 55 inch ankle span. What do the Chinese think we look like anyway? Oh that's right, it's not illegal in China to use child labor, so little Chinese children might imagine we're actually built with no waists and fat ankles.

In an effort to avoid the made-in-China problem this year, I decided to make useful Christmas gifts that would cost little other than time. "How about filling a case of glass Ball jars with home made soup or preserves," I naively thought. I always held the Ball jar (not to be confused with Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar) in high esteem. Each beautiful jar is embossed with those great long-lost words, "MADE IN U.S.A." That was to have been my Act of Defiance to The China Syndrome.

Couldn't find any Ball Jars. Turns out Ball no longer makes glass canning jars -- they've expanded operations and joined the global market. Ball now manufactures aluminum and plastic containers in India, Argentina, Europe ...... and China.

If the market is truly global, how come we can't find things made in Africa, Mexico, India, France, Germany? Where are Swiss clocks made now, Beijing? Even American cars aren't made in America. That brings up the latest method by which some advertisers hope to fool American buyers. They're advertising items as Assembled in the U.S.A.

So far China hasn't claimed to be the origin of Santa Claus, and that's a surprise, considering the color of his suit.


Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
December 13, 2007 column
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