I would like to introduce a new Christmas tradition as an antidote to the NSA-friendly Elf on the Shelf:
The Hair on the Stair.
The Hair on the Stair (or “HotS” for short) is like the Elf in its seasonal wintry cheer, but without the ‘big brother’ punishment-and-reward vibe, without the capitalist drive for consumption and without the cleanliness.
The HotS doesn’t watch you. It doesn’t even know you’re there. It’s like the Dude or an angel: it abides. It floats silently from place to place while you’re sleeping or while you’re walking by. It can cushion your steps or hold your small change. And more HotS appear all the time — with no work!
Oh, hairy Holy Night. We just let Stella shed as she usually would and push her fur-leavings into little snowy mounds.
Kids! Who can forget the excitement of finding a gumdrop hidden beneath the dust bunnies, or a day-old red pepper slice or candy-cane crumb shining merrily from the mound of fur that pokes out from the side of the couch? Ah, the magic of Christmas!
I’ve even started on my own rejoinder to the C. Aebersold doggerel featured in her alarmingly popular book, “The Elf on the Shelf.” Here is what I have composed so far (based on a stanza found in that book):
“Here’s a critical precept to let your soul grow: / resist all the scout elves that say ‘we must know.’ / Forget bread and circus and gifts ’round your tree, / when you’re under surveillance you’re not really free.”
But maybe I’m getting carried away. I mean, there’s more to Christmas in Sevilla than just the HotS. There are lights up in the streets, there are Christmas markets and there are amusements that would be described in New York as “pop up” ice-skating rinks and fairs. And chestnut sellers everywhere, with carts featuring enameled pots on short metal chimneys, in which chestnuts (“castañas” in Spanish) are roasting. You can buy a paper cone of these for just a Euro or two, and once you crack open and peel off the blackened shells, the charred and salt-coated castaña innards are warm, crumbly and sort of tasty. Like the HotS, it’s really all about the experience.
This last week I missed some of the seasonal fun when I took a hastily-arranged trip to Riyadh to work on an investment transaction. One night the local investor took the whole team out to dinner in the Bujairy marketplace area, which I had never visited before. It was an unusual sight in Riyadh: an outdoor area — a park really — with paths winding among palm trees and restaurants on the perimeter and even a food truck and some lights strung up over a gravel patch with picnic tables. And there were lots of people — both men and women — walking around enjoying the cool night air. Part of the park is on a hillside and it looks out on another hill where there is an old fort and a mosque and some walls and houses that are being restored. That is the Ad’Diriyah heritage area, which is now a UNESCO world heritage site and supposedly where the Al Saud family is from.
The Bujairy park and the restaurants were so crowded that the traffic near the park was bumper to bumper, so after dinner we walked about a mile through old streets with trees, small shops and more people to get back to our car and driver. It was unusually atmospheric for Riyadh, and I took a few pictures.
Back in Sevilla the orange trees are full of fruit, and also we have our own modest Christmas tree up and lit. It looks very cheerful and cozy inside our house now, and smells like a fir, and everyone is excited. And of course outside it’s still sunny and in the 60s during the day, though it drops down into the 40s at night.
If you are reading this, there’s a good chance we are missing you now. I think we all feel further away during holidays. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas! May your New Year be bright and filled with joy, friends, family, music, art, adventure, peace, faith, hope and love.