The best and worst days for the holidays

Which day of the week is best for Christmas and New Year’s and which is worst? You might be surprised. Read on!

This year, Christmas and New Year’s Day both fell on Saturday, which is really the second worst day they can happen, the worst being Sunday.

At least a Saturday puts the Eves on Friday, so most places will give people half a day off, and then there’s the Sunday after the holiday to get ready to come back to work.

But if the holiday is on Sunday, then the Eves are on Saturday, so any extra time off before or after is solely at the discretion of employers. Some will still give a half day off on Friday. Others will give both Mondays off, but most of them will give neither, although in the case of a Sunday Christmas, the public holiday is on Monday, the 26th, and the New Year Holiday is on Monday, the 2nd.

This year, Christmas and New Year’s both fell on Saturday. Whee! 2021’s last little middle finger to us, I suppose.

As for the best day for the holidays to fall? I suppose that would be on Thursday, with Wednesday’s second. The reasoning? With Christmas and New Year’s on a Thursday, the inclination is to just take Friday off. And while some bosses might want to drag their staff in for the three work-days in the net week, that really doesn’t make any sense, either. Nothing gets done in a two-day workweek, and Wednesday is probably going to be a half-day anyway.

This also kills the other Friday, so in effect, people get a little vacation that runs from Christmas eve on Wednesday afternoon and doesn’t end until the Monday after New Year’s day, in this case, January 5th.

Wednesday may or may not work out in a similar fashion, but there’s no harm in trying to argue similar logic.

Of course, things are very different for one of the few floating holidays in the U.S. By floating, I mean that they always happen on the same date, rather than the same day of the week.

For example, most Federal holidays have been fixed to Mondays, with the exception being if they happen on a Saturday, in which case Federal employees get the Friday off. If the holiday falls on Sunday, then Monday is the official holiday.

The main floater is Independence Day, aka the 4th of July, which tells you right there why it’s always on the same date every year with the Saturday/Sunday exception noted above. But sometimes it can fall on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, and of these, Wednesday is the absolute worst.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky and it’s on Tuesday or Thursday, then your company may take the Monday before or Friday after off as well. But if it’s on Wednesday, you’re SOL. You’ll be working on Monday and Tuesday, have a single day off, then be back at it on Thursday and Friday, making for the most awkward workweeks ever.

While Halloween might fall on any day of the week that happens to be October 31, it’s not an official holiday (yet), so it really doesn’t matter what day it is — although West Hollywood and other gay communities, where it is a high holy day, will often schedule Halloween as a celebration that takes place the entire weekend closest to before or after the actual day.

So the timing of Christmas and New Year’s this year could have been better, but they also could have been worse. Just be glad that you got at least one Sunday in before having to go back to work!

Closing Day

When you come from a 24/7 city. Christmas Day can be very weird as almost everything shuts down.

One thing that I understand is kind of unique about most big cities in the United States is that things don’t close. Or, rather, companies will close in the evening at various hours and open in the morning, but most of them that serve the public are also open seven days a week, including Sundays.

Some, like grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, and gas stations, are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Smaller businesses, particularly family-owned ones, will often close one or two days a week, but more often than not they will choose to close on Monday and stay open on Sundays.

Traditionally in theatre — although I don’t think this is strictly limited to the U.S. — Monday is “dark night” when the regular show does not go up. Large theatres play six days a week. Most small theatres only have shows up on Thursdays through Sundays.

Unless you live in a “dry” county in a state that set it up that way, you can also buy alcohol any day of the week, provided that you do it during the hours it can be sold. In Los Angeles, “last call” at bars is at 2 a.m. Beer, wine, and liquor are all available at bars, liquor stores and grocery stores. Sales hours are from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., except in areas with special restrictions, i.e., a store is within a certain distance of a school, in which case the cut-off is 10 p.m.

This does contrast with other places, like New York State, where you can only get beer at grocery stores but have to buy wine and liquor at designated liquor stores, with bars being the exception, of course, where you can get all three. Oddly enough, beer can be sold 24 hours a day any day of the week, while wine and liquor can only be sold 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday in stores, and noon to 9 p.m. on Sundays. There’s also no alcohol service in New York City before noon on Sunday, although that law may have changed.

But here’s the point. If I have the sudden urge to go out and get comfort food at a diner at 3 a.m., then I can probably find one open within a few miles of home. If I need emergency medication or run out of TP at midnight, same thing. If I suddenly wake up in a panic and realize I need gas at 4 a.m., I can drive out and get it

Not everything is open at those hours, of course, but not all of them need to be. I’m unlikely to need to get a suit cleaned in the middle of the night; it can wait until morning.

The real life-saver, though, is most places being open on Sundays as well. I’ve been in towns where everything shuts down on that day, and it’s a royal pain in the ass because there’s nothing to do. These are places where they expect people to spend all day in church, so no distractions, dammit! But I couldn’t think of a bigger waste of time if I tried.

There are a few larger cities in the U.S., many of them which originally had a very strong Catholic influence in local government, that do have local “blue laws,” which do say that most businesses cannot open on Sunday. Fortunately, L.A. isn’t one of them.

And this is why Christmas is always so surreal to me, because it’s the one day of the year that almost everything does shut down. The roads are deserted, and even most of the 24/7 places are shuttered. You can still get to an open E.R. (that’s A&E in the UK) and both Chinese restaurants and 7-Elevens are still open.

You may not have heard of 7-Eleven if you’re not in the right region, but it’s basically a convenience store that got its name when its hours were 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Those hours eventually expanded to 24, but the original name stuck. It was the major inspiration for the Kwik-E-Mart in the Simpsons, and in 2007, eleven 7-Elevens in the U.S. and Canada were turned into real-life Kwik-E-Marts for a brief time as a tie-in to the Simpsons movie.

I was lucky enough to visit the one near me in Burbank, and it was a trip. Since then, Universal Studios in both Hollywood and Florida have permanent Kwik-E-Marts within their parks, and there’s a stand-alone faux (but licensed) Kwik-E-Mart in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

As for the Chinese restaurants, since they’re the only places serving on Christmas, they have become very popular places over the years with Jewish residents of the city, who take their families out to dinner every Christmas, or order take-out.

This one isn’t limited to just L.A. — it’s pretty common in any large city with a substantial Jewish population.

One other thing you can always do on Christmas Day? Go see a movie! Theatres are open because they’ve grown savvy to the idea that once all the gifts are open and the family has hung out together for too long, the big treat they can share is getting the hell out of the house and enjoying the latest film together.

I have a friend who, pre-COVID, used to host an annual Christmas event in which a group of us would gather at the local multiplex, and then spend the entire day watching as many of the newer releases as possible.

People could come to see all of the films, which was usually about six or seven, unless there were a couple of shorter family flicks in the mix, or they could pick the films they wanted to see and join up with the group then. I think the whole group would meet for breakfast before the first show, which would literally be the first show, and then everything was timed out to go from theater to theater with minimal time in between except for a quick dinner beak.

Lunch would be handled via theatre nachos, hot dogs, and the like some time during the first early-afternoon movie. Although I never did the full experience — mainly because there were a lot of films I didn’t want to see — I made it to a couple, and it really was a great way to spend Christmas.

Note: Studios do not actually release Christmas movies on Christmas because it’s too late. Those come out in November and usually get yanked right after Christmas. A lot of new releases actually tend to be horror, action, or Oscar bait, especially because one of the qualifying rules for nomination used to be at least one week’s theatrical run in Los Angeles County (or one of six other qualifying metro areas).

Technically, a film has to show in a theater in Los Angeles before it shows on any streaming, video on demand, or other broadcast service in order to be eligible, and while it seems like that rule may have gone out the window, the non-theatrical exhibition is limited to “on or after” the first day it plays in L.A.

So schedule the first showing as a midnight screening, release it on digital as that screening ends, and you’re safe.

The important qualifier is that the film has to air during the calendar year ending on December 31st, so by premiering on Christmas, they get the exact number of screening days that they need. And a lot of prestige releases get pushed into December anyway, before Christmas or on it. This year saw films like West Side Story, The Matrix Resurrections, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Being the Ricardos all pop out in December, with American Underdog, The Tragedy of MacBeth, and Licorice Pizza coming out on Christmas.

But this is all the long way around of me saying how weird I find Christmas Day in Los Angeles to be — more so if it’s a weekday and not a Saturday or Sunday — but I can pretty much only go to a couple of stores for urgent necessities, get fresh Chinese food, or see lots of movies.

I think I’ll just stay in, instead, and stream lots of movies at home. Or write stuff. Or both.

Merry Christmas Day — or whatever you do or don’t celebrate! And, as always, greetings to all of my international followers. Don’t be shy. Say “hello” in the comments!

Image source: Artaxerxes, (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Christmas Countdown, Christmas Is Here!

Merry Christmas with greetings from OK GO.

Christmas Day

OK Go right to it. One of my favorite bands for oh so many reasons — start your education here — but they combine math and science and music and create amazing videos as well as give back to the community and they are (mostly) L.A. locals and I couldn’t admire them more if I tried. So, with no further ado, here is their way pre-fame Christmas wish for you all on this Christmas Day.

Check out the previous post, or start the countdown to 2022!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Here’s one more Out of the Blue Oxford video for you. Enjoy and go donate to them if you can.

The day is here, but whatever you do or don’t celebrate, I hope that your end of 2021 will help wash away the bad times of the last two and lead to better things in 2022.

Meanwhile, here’s another charity single from Out of the Blue Oxford from 2017 that’s a lively medley of things. Support the group and the charitable work they do to help keep a children’s hospice going, and happy holidays!

Christmas Countdown, Friday #5

As we hit Christmas Eve, what more appropriate way to end it with Mariah Carey Friday and her original version of that famous Christmas song?

Day 29

This is the last Friday before Christmas as well as Christmas Eve, and the fourth and last video on this theme — All I Want for Christmas Is You. It’s only fitting, after all the covers, that we bring it into the station with the diva herself, Mariah Carey. She released it over 25 years ago, right before Halloween 1994, and it was the lead single from her fourth studio album and first holiday album, Merry Christmas.

She’s also covered her own song several times, including for her second holiday album in 2010, Merry Christmas II You, and again in 2011 as a duet with Justin Bieber for his holiday album Under the Mistletoe. And countless other people have recorded it in the ensuing two and a half decades as well.

Like I originally described it, you can think of the song as “Mariah Carey’s Retirement Plan.” I’ll have another famous artist’s retirement plan song coming up soon although, sadly, they never made it to retirement. And there may be one more surprise in the works when it comes to All I Want for Christmas Is You.

Check out the my favorite cover of this song, the previous post, the next post, or the first post on this theme and in this series.

Christmas Countdown, Thursday #4

Christmas Countdown Thursday: Christmas is Funny, with a little SNL commercial parody bringing an assortment of imagined celebrity songs.

Day 28

Thursday’s theme is Funny Christmas, and while this one isn’t a Christmas carol per se, it’s kind of a meta take on the whole theme, as SNL imagines a whole series of celebrity Christmas songs that, honestly, aren’t all that far-fetched. This dates back to December of 2013, but it’s still relevant today, and seemed most appropriate for Christmas Eve.

It also might be where the inspiration for DMX actually doing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer actually came from.

Of course, SNL has had a long history of doing Christmas episodes and sketches, and this season marks their 44th, which is pretty remarkable if you think about it. Yes, it’s had its ups and downs over the years, but when it nails it with an amazing cast, it really nails it — and this is something that the show seems to manage to do at least around every Presidential election year.

We certainly saw it in the 2019 lead-up to 2020, and then it just exploded in 2020 — no mean feat considering that a lot of the season was performed remotely, with the cast in their own homes, but it still worked.

But… when they’re not doing politics, they’re nailing human foibles and pop culture, which the video below does. Their aforementioned Christmas sketches do, too, and if you’re interested, Refinery 29 has a list of the best of them.

Check out the previous post or see the next.

Christmas Countdown, Tuesday #4

Christmas Countdown Tuesday is traditional carols performed in unconventional ways. Here, 2Cellos has at Silent Night.

Day 26

Tuesdays theme is traditional Christmas Carols performed in non-conventional ways, and for this one I bring you the masters of non-conventional, 2Cellos, Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser, a Slovenian and Croatian cellist duo who met as teens in a master music class. Like so many before them, they learned to do things that their instruments weren’t supposed to do, and they came to prominence with their music video for Thunderstruck, which sets their performance style in a setting more appropriate to the Baroque era before blowing it apart.

The only way I can describe the performance in the video in the previous paragraph, and everything else they’ve ever done, is as super-charged. Sure, I think the staged video may have involved some faking it to pre-recorded tracks, but at the same time, the emotional connection between these two guys when they play together is a constant. It’s almost like they’re having sex in the most non-sexual way. And anyone who has ever played music in a group with other people will understand that.

The connection of music is primal, immediate, in the moment, all-powerful, and it transcends all weaker forms of communication that require words or symbols. Musical communication is pure thought, pure emotion, pure NOW. If you’re not a musician and don’t believe me, go find a drum circle and give it a try, then get back to me.

And, in case you’re wondering — yes, that dynamic between these two guys and their audience is still apparent in a live show, even if they have upgraded to electric cellos.

Note that it seems to be a rule that they play most of their shows with half the horse-hairs on their bows broken from the first moments.

See the previous post, or dive right into Christmas and one of my favorite bands.

Holiday Countdown Bonus: Zach Timson

In this bonus post, the multi-talented Zach Timson gives you 40 celebrity impressions in just one song.

It’s that Christmas song again, but have you ever heard it performed by 40 celebrities at once? Okay, “performed,” by one very talented young man impersonating 40 different celebrities and nailing them all. I give you Zach Timson and All I Want for Christmas Is You.

Christmas Countdown, Monday #4

Christmas Countdown Monday is Spanish Christmas carols. Today, Natalia Jiménez brings us the Spanish version of White Christmas, Blanca Navidad.

Day 25

Feliz lunes, y otra navidad española, esta vez con Natalia Jiménez. She is one of the first singers whose songs I started to learn to sing, both as a solo artist and with her group La Quinta Estación (or La 5ª estación, if we’re doing it properly), and she’s pretty amazing.

In case you’re wondering, my favorites of hers are Creo en mi and El sol no regresa, which also is one of those amazing one-shot videos. Here, she performs the old classic Blanca Navidad, or White Christmas, and this is a pretty amazing example of how to translate the idea of lyrics while keeping the rhythm and not relying on being absolutely literal.

Watch the previous video or see the next.

Christmas Countdown, Saturday #4

Christmas Countdown Saturday is Famous Duets. For this one, we have the original performances of Baby It’s Cold Outside in a double duet.

Day 23

For this weeks “Famous Duets” theme, we have a return of the song Baby It’s Cold Outside, this time as it originally appeared in the 1949 film Neptune’s Daughter, and if the date-rapey aspects aren’t obvious in the lyrics, they sure are in the choreography and performances.

It’s also interesting to see the entirely different tone taken depending on whether the Wolf is a man or a woman. The man feels that the woman owes it to him. Meanwhile, the implication the other way around is that the man is a fool for refusing the woman’s advances. (Indeed, the male Mouse is the only one to actually walk out the door, but then walk right back in, and is also the only one who winds up on the bottom at the end.)

Regarding the “Famous Duets” involved, some names people may know now and some maybe not, but this clip features Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams, and then Betty Garrett and Red Skelton. You might know one of them as the not-Benedict Cumberbatch Khan. Esther and Red were A-listers in their days, while Betty wound up comfortably in character actor territory.

At this point, Skelton had a well-established career as a radio star — consider him the equivalent of a YouTube influencer of the era. Everybody knew who he was, even if they weren’t used to seeing him in the medium of film.

Meanwhile, Williams had been recruited from a career as an Olympic swimmer, and then was groomed and trained to be an actress while making a name for herself as a pin-up model — a career path that is still common today.

This was one of Montalbán’s earlier films after establishing himself as a star in Mexican cinema, and it was his second with Williams. Think Gael Garcia Bernal or, to go a bit further back, Antonio Banderas, although he was Spanish, not Mexican.

Finally, Garret had managed to get noticed on Broadway while an understudy gig for Ethel Merman put her on stage for a whole week, and she wound up in Hollywood as a contract player for MGM, which put her in this musical not long after she arrived in town. Eventually, she wound up in television, where she’s probably better known from numerous series, including 70s and 80s biggies like All in the Family, Laverne & Shirley, Murder She Wrote, and The Golden Girls.

But you can’t dismiss the awful undertones of this song. After all, it ultimately led us to 9/11 happening. No, really.

Check out the previous post or the next one.

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