How the Recession Stole Christmas...

Much as I may feel ambivalent about Halloween, for me, Christmas is a different story entirely. I LOVE Christmas. As soon as Thanksgiving passes, I break out the "Holiday Mix" on my iPod. I decorate my apartment even when there's nobody there to see it, and I leave up the decorations for months, not just because I'm lazy (which is partially true), but because having Christmas decorations around makes me happy. I have an excuse to experiment with new recipes, and bake copious amounts of cookies and gift them to people. I salivate over wired ribbon, and get a high from the methodical wrapping of presents. Unlike many people I know, I don't mind the fact that holiday merchandise starts showing up after Halloween now. I say, bring it on. There's no such thing as too much Christmas in my book.

So it was with no small amount of dismay that I read the recent news out of the Mayor's Office of Special Events that the City of Chicago is being forced to reduce the size of the municipal Christmas tree due to recessionary budget restraints. In previous years, the mammoth tree (which stands in Daley Plaza) has actually been a structure built out more than a hundred smaller trees tied together. This adds not only size, but the structural stability for the display's many ornaments. Instead, this year's display will consist of one large tree donated to the cause by a suburban family. Since the branches will no longer be able to support heavy ornaments, the tree will have festive lights only. The city seems to be of the mind that we should be grateful to have any tree at all -- apparently many municipalities are forgoing trees all together to save money.

Still, I'm not sure that I can be content with the rationalization that "half of the normal tree is better than no tree at all," especially when the Daley Plaza tree figures so prominently in one of my favorite holiday traditions. In recent years, Lisa and I have made it our new tradition to take a trip over to the city's German-themed holiday market, the Christkindlmarkt, take in the sights, smells, and flavors, and pose for a photo in front of the Christmas tree. It doesn't matter that Lisa is Jewish and doesn't celebrate Christmas - shared traditions are as important to friendships as they are to families. There is comfort to found and bonds to be forged in engaging in a special ritual, whether you have been doing it forever or just a few years.

Lisa and I will still go have our picture taken in front of the Daley Plaza tree this year. It won't quite be the same, but I am determined that even if the Great Recession has taken away half of our tree, I will not let it dampen my Christmas spirit.

2006: The inaugural year for our annual photo in front of the Daley Plaza tree. This was actually after Christmas, because the Christkindlmarkt had been dismantled, and we could actually stand far enough away to get most of the tree in the shot.

2007: The year that the photo became a tradition. This time, we made it before Christmas, and got to check out all the vendors at the Christkindlmarkt. We skipped the popular mulled wine, but the wafting scent of roasted nuts was enough to put me in the holiday spirit.

2008: The first year we've made it to the Plaza during the daytime. The weather was terrible, but we braved the elements to keep up our yuletide tradition. Note that the city recycled the ornaments from 2007 to cut costs in the first year of the Great Recession.


  1. Christmas is not about Christmas trees, baking cookies, and exchanging gifts. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. I am certain the recession will have no affect on your local churches cutting anything from the traditional Christmas masses.

  2. That may be true, but for those of us who are not religious, Christmas still provides an opportunity to connect with loved ones and bond over shared traditions. If I were serious about religion, I would probably be annoyed by the commercialization of Christmas. The reality of modern American life is that it has become a secular holiday as much as a religious one.

  3. Either you believe in tradition, or you believe in the progressive movement. You can't have it both ways, unless of course, you are part of the "me" generation.

  4. Last time I checked, the world was not a black and white place. I believe it was the Boomers who were called the "Me Generation" and I'm about a quarter century too young for that. Every generation is critical of the beliefs and habits of the next, but the world keeps chugging along anyway.

  5. I am no scholar, but the last I checked, the "Me Generation" covers people between the age of 7 to 36. If my memory serves me right, that is you. You might want to check with mom and dad on that one.