The holidays are in full gear, giving lots of learning opportunities in our crosscultural environment. Here are a few things I learned this month.
1. Around mid-November I was talking with a Romanian friend who had bought an appliance as an early Black Friday deal. Black Friday? Because it comes the day after Thanksgiving, when most Americans are on vacation and take advantage of the day to get their Christmas shopping done, I assumed Black Friday only existed in the United States. Not so much. Vendors across the globe have jumped on the bandwagon, marking this day with special deals and hoping to balance the books from the red to the black. It is a bit odd hearing radio stations advertise in the local language and throw in ‘Black Friday’ in English. Blah blah gobbledeegook Black Friday blah blah blah.
2. In the past when we have planned a trip, parents set the agenda and kids tag along. Our oldest, Lil’ P, is now six and has reasonable opinions on what to see and do. We planned a trip to the London area to visit friends for Thanksgiving. Well in advance she expressed she wanted to see Big Ben. For weeks she told people she was going to London to see Big Ben. From the outskirts of London it takes some effort and some pretty pounds to get public transport to Westminster station, but we didn’t want to refuse her one request. When we stepped out of the station into the overcast early afternoon, she was speechless with a frozen smile on her face when she spied the tall tower with a clock. We could have turned and gone back right then and she would have been satisfied. Simple pleasures. Today, when I asked her what the highlight of the trip was, she said ‘seeing friends and Big Ben.’ It looks like our global touring will begin to take on a new dynamic.
3. With #2 in mind, I also learned Big Ben is no longer Big Ben, but was renamed Elizabeth Tower in honor of England’s longest serving monarch. To be exact, the name of the bell in the tower is still Big Ben. The tower now has its own name to distinguish it from the clock. I imagine it will take several generations for the name to take hold, just as Sears Tower will always be Sears Tower.
4. With no Thanksgiving holiday to celebrate before the advent of Christmas festivities, outside the United States many people set up Christmas trees and start the Christmas market merrymaking in mid-November. It’s not considered ‘too’ early. We are grateful for such jumping the gun because we were able to go to two Christmas markets in England over the Thanksgiving holiday – the market at Winchester cathedral, which is open every day for a month, and the Victorian Christmas market in Portsmouth, which takes place over one weekend. Never once did I hear someone say ‘ack, I can’t believe their talking about Christmas already!’ Certainly not. Christmas season lasts for at least two months and includes the twelves days after Christmas Day. I like that!