Just as she had done every year, the admin who was responsible for sending out the party invitations and getting a head count placed beautiful cards in our department mailboxes. The card had all of the usual details–date, time, location and a request to RSVP. My friends and I were all slow to respond to department parties back then. We thought we were cooler than the other grad students and we weren’t sure if we wanted to spend any of our free holiday time with them. Soon enough we found out that we were not the only ones who didn’t want to attend the holiday party. As the weeks went by the poor admin in charge of party organizing got more and more frustrated because most people hadn’t RSVP’d despite her hard work. Finally she gave up and sent everyone in the department another card. This card showed a picture of Santa Claus looking extremely confused, and above his head was a bubble that read “Happy Holidays?” Inside the card was a sad note indicating that the party was canceled. This should have tugged at our heart strings, but it didn’t–the look of that confused Santa was hilarious!
From that day until the end of the year, we would say “Happy Holidays????” to each other with an exaggerated intonation, raising the pitch of our voices at the end of the question. “Merry CHRISTMAS?????” I would ask with a look of deep confusion as I passed friends on campus. “Happy HANUKKAH???” they would respond, their brows furrowed and a look of disorientation on their faces. The season-greeting-in-question-format would give us such pleasure for years to come. It became a holiday tradition for us grad students in the years following the Great Holiday Party Cancellation.
I’d forgotten all about this experience until I moved to Bed-Stuy. The memory came back to me when I was walking down the street yesterday. Where are the holiday streets in Bedford-Stuyvesant? As I looked around the neighborhood this first week of December, I find myself looking confused and thinking “Happy Holidays?” Where are the neighborhood decorations? The holly? The Christmas tree lots? This is the one time of year I’m willing to tolerate music blasting from car stereos and storefronts, so why isn’t anyone pumping out Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas?”
The irony to top all irony is that Bed-Stuy, holiday-decoration-free Bed-Stuy, is chock full of churches! The picture above is of the intersection of Bedford and Lexington. There are 3 churches at this intersection–and not even a sprig of mistletoe to be found! Merry Christmas???? The least thing a bunch of Christians can do is celebrate Christmas.
When I visit people in other neighborhoods, I see that their neighborhoods have already started rolling out the holidays in the form of lights and bows and decorations, so I’m searching for streets in our neighborhood that are showing some holiday spirit. Are any of the streets (residential or commercial) in Bed-Stuy displaying a little holiday cheer this season? Does anyone know where the best places to experience the sights and sounds of the holidays are in Bed-Stuy?