EDITOR'S LETTER: Rethinking the holidays
I’m having a really hard time getting into the holiday spirit this year. I think part of my ennui stems from the fact that Christmas commercials and store displays started popping up in early October this year, well before Halloween, which is alarming to say the least. Soon Xmas will be like the political process, a never-ending cycle that rarely rests, as evidenced by pundits who were already handicapping to 2016 election less than an hour after President Obama won this year’s race to the White House. Really, it wouldn’t shock me if stores rolled out the Christmas swag during Labor Day weekend next year. If this happens, you better believe Walmart will call in its workers after the Fourth of July fireworks for its first “Black Friday” evening Xmas sale.
Honestly, I’m giving serious consideration to chucking the whole holiday experience and celebrating Festivus instead. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Wikipedia defines Festivus as, “a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 as a way to commemorate the holiday season without participating in its pressures and commercialism.” The origin of the holiday stems from an episode of the 1990s comedy series Seinfeld, which delved into the Costanza family’s offbeat holiday celebration that substituted the airing of grievances, feats of strength and a bare aluminum pole for the more traditional holiday trappings of carols, presents and a decorated tree.
From such humble origins a phenomenon has grown. Festivus is now celebrated across the United States and around the world. There are books on the holiday and a lot in Wisconsin that specializes in selling Festivus poles. Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream also got in on the act, offering a seasonal Festivus blend (brown sugar ice cream with gingerbread cookies and a ginger caramel swirl) in 2000 and 2001. There’s even a slogan of sorts, “a Festivus for the rest of us.” Not as catchy as “Happy Holidays,” but give it time and I’m sure it will grow on you.
Festivus can even work within the confines of the casino industry. I’m sure we all have gaming grievances from the past year we would like to air; legislative, legal, political or business issues we wish would have turned out differently. Tops on my list would be the failure of integrated casino resort legislation in Florida. On paper, casino resort expansion in the Sunshine State seemed a win-win situation for all involved-tax revenue for the state, jobs for its citizens, a tourism-oriented marketplace with developable land for gaming operators. Here’s hoping the issue is explored again in the upcoming years. A close second would be Mother Nature and the unexpected harsh blow it dealt to New Jersey and the surrounding region with Hurricane Sandy. It’s no secret that the Atlantic City gaming market has been down for years now; and Superstorm Sandy was a blow it could ill afford just as it was starting to gain some momentum.
The second Festivus tradition, the so-called feats of strength, usually involves wrestling the head of the family until he is pinned. In lieu of that, I’d prefer to contemplate the positive gaming developments from the past year. There have been quite a few, but tops for me was last December’s decision by the Department of Justice that the Wire Act-the law that had been used to suppress all forms of online wagering in the United States- only applied to sports betting, clearing the way for Web gaming liberalization. Indeed, 2012 was a good year for gaming expansion, with new commercial casinos opening in Ohio and Maryland, the resort selection process being played out in Massachusetts, and online gaming legislation introduced in a number of states.
Well, that’s my gaming-oriented Festivus celebration for 2012. Now to bring the idea home and run it up the aluminum pole to see if it flies. I’m thinking it won’t be as popular as the star we normally put atop the Christmas tree.