HoliDAZE (The Relay Race Of Gift Giving)

(No rushing the holidays in Czech Republic- this photo shows Christmas stands bustling with business a week after the big day) Prague, Czech Republic

 

(Am I getting the lineup of the holidays confused? Always with a touch of humor)

I’m cutting straight to the point. Mothers day blog posts. In February. February (in New York at least) is known for being the most miserable, darkest, coldest months of the year (usually). Blizzards that bring snow that doesn’t melt and sits in heaps taller then an NBA player. Wait, isn’t the next commercial holiday up Easter? I am so confused.

No where wading through this mess of snow, sappy V-Day cards and shoe-destroying salt am I thinking of warm weather, flowers (well, in my commuting fantasies, but not concrete) and …mother’s day. Worse, my heartbeat starts racing (and not from the two coffees I already consumed), but from the prices…are people really falling for it, and buying mom a $200 candle? That;s my health insurance for a month- and I don’t know if I want to tempt fate just so mom can smell gardenias for the 50 hour “burn time”.

Doesn’t mothers day fall somewhere (I just had to look this up, proving I’m a dreadful daughter) around May 8th? Yes, May. You know the ditty “April showers bring May flowers”? I’m still bundled up in my long super warm shearling coat here. And I’m already fielding my way through posts about personalised gift bags and handmade cards made by nuns and other things about what to get the woman who always says she wants nothing, raises her voice like an opera singer the thought of having to give a gift?

The word holiday is used in Britain the same way we use the word vacation. A vacation implies(ha ha ha) a time of peace, relaxation, celebration, enjoyment, happiness. So why does the word holiday in America bring so much stress? Impatience.

As Americans, we are an impatient people. We get our coffee on the go, eat lunch standing in the pizza shop, buy have drive through weddings with an Elvis priest. Why does our impatience have to spill over to holidays?  Whatever happened to the E.B White quote “never hurry, never worry?” As soon as one holiday is over, stores rip down the displays as if some secret holiday police were going around handing out fines for keeping the marshmallow peeps out an extra day (I personally would eat them all year). As a child I used to get melancholy in mid January, begging one more week for our Tannenbaum to stay put (foot was put down on that dream, with the threat that my toys go up in flames, dry needles and all).

As soon as one is over, we have to be assaulted- visually (tacky bright displays) , aurally (Christmas songs by some horrible pop singer instead of Sinatra), even orally ( I can even taste the Halloween candy when I walk near it, the mass of sugary treats wafting through the plastic like some radioactive toxin). Can’t we have a few moments rest to see what we really need in Duane Reade like breath mints and Tide (who goes in there to buy heart chocolates and stuffed bears anyways?)?

We need to learn to relax. Life is too short for this constant rushing. Take each holiday as they come- maybe a month before the actual date. Search for a gift, but not with the rabid aggression of a childs maiden version to DisneyWorld. Buy what you can afford, not something you’ll spend three months paying off, for the friend you see only once a year (begrudgingly).  Enjoy what we are celebrating, as it comes, not raise our blood pressure levels fretting over the Frette bathrobe or the discount one at Bed Bath & Beyond months before it will be given.

Being in the marketing/selling world, I am not advocating to stop gift giving. I have a degree in merchandising; I hope I understand the monetary value that holidays bring. What I am advocating is, enjoy the day. Get mom that gift, but enjoy the day with her. Lavishing her with some “curated all natural local farm produced handpicked hand mashed gluten free face wash” bag is nice and all, but it doesn’t make up for being a terrible daughter who doesn’t see her 8 months out of the year and groans and at the thought of listening to her anecdotes about her dogs.

When the end of April rolls around, maybe I’ll take a journey out east and see my mom that weekend, IF the weather is warm and sunny. Or, I’l just send her flowers. Or buy her some porcelain at http://www.etsy.com/shops/japonicanyc.  Either way, at the end of the day, she knows I love her.

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Tchochke Nation

Forget about Fast Food Nation. As Americans, we are a consumer nation. A hoarding nation, in less delicate terms. What’s with all the teacups? Yes, perhaps due to our (well, once) growing economy, we have over the years amassed a staggering amount of tchotchkes. I recently opened an Etsy shop, (closeted avid porcelain tableware collector) and realized just how far down the rabbit hole we have gone in terms of acquiring “stuff”. Is it called hoarding if each piece is not take-out containers and old balls of string? Hey, that….mug from MSG has a story I swear! I’ll go ahead and call it organized hoarding, to take some pressure off of myself and my treasure trove.

The term tchotchke is derived from a Yiddish word, which means a pretty, useless woman; in blunt terms: a trophy wife. Which is vaguely disturbing, but we Americans obviously shanghaied it and used it pretty much for the same purpose (useless decorative trinket), only in softer, less offensive terms, as we refer to inanimate, porcelain cats as tchotchkes, not living breathing humans. So have you. I’ve always been fond of the term, not sure what that means about me.

Maybe we should start with the history of human life and possessions. As nomads, cave people, for years, we moved from place to place. If you couldn’t carry it, it was not coming with you. Point blank. Also, being a primitive ‘society’, very few items were made. It was only when humans transitioned, staying put to plant and harvest crops, that we could begin to acquire more then we needed. However, during those times, humans did create the cave art that has been found, the little carved statues.

Tchotchkes are perhaps popular because originally they were a sign of wealth. As a person, you had the items you needed- pots, knives, dresses, hammers. Not even that. Immigrant families often shared silverware and such, just like in Bread Givers, a novel about Jewish immigrants in 1920’s New York. People on the Oregon Trail eventually abandoned their mementos, their heirloom grandfather clocks, as the oxen gave way, leaving behind an American Pickers wildest dreams, a trail of stuff. They survived with the bare minimum, because they had to.

If you had a porcelain doll, such as the popular Dresden dolls (from Dresden Germany- I couldn’t resist the lure and bought one when I visited), it meant that could afford items that were unnecessary, it was a sign of stability, a sign of at least minimum wealth (wealth being used as money, not as we use it generally). Then factories and technology to mass produce came along, and, at least in Europe and the United States, economies grew and people had more discretionary income to spend on whatever suited their fancy. That Virgin Mary statue? Sure go right ahead- add it to your collection of 50 others. Guinness!

Tchochkes often hold memories. A trip to Bosnia, I purchased a brass cat, which I eyeball on a daily basis, looking into those green eyes and thinking about how I was sweating in the 100-degree dry summer, touring mosques. Other tchotchkes are family heirlooms from a beloved grandmother, or perhaps a gift from a close friend. They can be useful- such as elaborate photo frames, clocks or pencil holders, salt and pepper shakers, even awards. But mostly, a true tchotchke has no purpose; it is just “a thing“ that we place high importance of.

They say that “home doo-dads” and Etsy stuff, are the things that women buy when they no longer care about impressing a beer belly husband, or their appearance. When they’ve given up on little dresses, either for themselves or for their children. Or when they’re single, and have nothing else in their lives to hold onto, lest that Tinder date, they fill up their homes with little porcelain angels, crosstitsch pillows and enough “Live Laugh Love” handcrafted signs,o army a gang of teenage girls (who also, interestingly, seem drawn to those inspirational signs). Quotes that they don’t even live by, but stare at wistfully.

Why not men? Men don’t seek out home décor, at least not in the same way that females do. Sure, I’ve met men who love antiques and vintage items, maybe an old tin firetruck, but they’re not out there purchasing potpourri containers and Sea World Memory Plates.

They decorate our homes, add a bit of colour to our office cubicles. They are the solution to what to give Aunt Birdie as a Christmas Gift. They make us smile, they are there if we need to throw something, and there when it’s moving day and you’re suffering a broken ankle. They’re art, they can even make us think. Just because things don’t have a crucial purpose, maybe that’s why we like them. We need something that just relaxes, that reminds us that the world is not so go-go-go all of the time. Maybe we hoard them because we don’t have to, that’s the beauty of something you don’t need. A frivolous want we can indulge in for 99 cents on eBay.

On that note, I’ll keep collecting my vintage plateware, I’ll not ship my heirloom antique makeup containers to Staten Island (dump), and I’ll keep smiling nostalgically at my paintings from Spain. Vive le tchotchke! Visit JaponicaNYC shop on Etsy to see my obsession.