Across the country, the majority of businesses are closed on December 25th. It’s to be expected. It’s Christmas Day.
The 20-something December 25ths that I’ve spent in New Jersey looked a lot like a typical Birmingham Sunday. The usual landscape of drawn shutters and “closed” signs becomes downright post-apocalyptic on a Birmingham Christmas.
For those who do not celebrate Christmas, this city-wide shutdown can be inconvenient. But I am not demanding that people work on their biggest holiday of the year. I’ve seen the Muppets Christmas Carol, I know that this is a bad idea.
And as much of a homebody as I am, I still have the tendency to go a bit stir crazy after a few hours. So, what is one to do on Christmas in the middle of the Bible Belt?
Oh, there’s plenty. And this list does not include going to the movies or getting Chinese food, in case you’re looking to change up the usual non-celebratory Christmas activities.
1. Drive across a Wal-Mart parking lot.
Seriously. This has become my own Christmas Day tradition, if you will. It’s a once-a-year opportunity. You can’t do it on Thanksgiving. There’s people preparing for Black Friday parked in the lot. You can’t do it at 2 am on a weeknight. That’s when a lot of other people do their shopping. It has to be Christmas.
The Wal-Mart parking lot near you ( or any other major retailer that you frequent) will be abandoned. The catharsis of not slamming on your breaks as you sail down the parking rows should clear any road rage for at least a couple of weeks.
2. Eat Pancakes at the J.
If you keep kosher, the reliability of Waffle House and IHOP being open won’t do you much good.
3. Dollar Store Crafts.
Family Dollar is usually open on Christmas Day. If you need to do something artsy and potentially ridiculous, turn it into a contest: each contestant has a 10 dollar budget and 10 minutes to shop. At home, pick a project theme. Here’s some ideas to get started. Winner gets to buy the egg rolls for dinner.
If purposefully bad crafts aren’t your thing (or if they only took you 30 minutes), consider spreading cheer with your local Jewish community! For a years now, Temple Beth El has partnered with Community Kitchens at Grace Episcopal Church to serve meals to those who would otherwise not have a Christmas dinner. You can make a financial contribution, help prepare the food, help serve, or all three.
(Doing a mitzvah, which is sometimes translated as a good deed, makes you a mensch, which is Yiddish for someone who is praiseworthy for their integrity. The Jewish alternative to Elf on the Shelf is the Mensch on a Bench. Go be a mensch.)
5. Take a Hike.
Moss Rock Preserve doesn’t shut down on Christmas unless there’s storms so take advantage of Alabama’s unreasonably warm late-December weather and check out the waterfalls and boulders tucked away in this little patch of Wild Hoover.
6. Make Yourself a Cocktail
You can, of course, not do any of these and sleep all day. Which is honestly my favorite activity to do on holidays that I don’t celebrate.
Just remember to be very, VERY kind and polite to the people working at the drugstores and gas stations that will be open. They have spent all morning hearing, “they’ve got ya’ working on Christmas, huh?” You should probably buy them a candy bar.
If the Muppets taught me anything about Christmas, it’s that being kind to clerks is a most noble tradition, even if you aren’t that into all of the merriment and cheer.