having lived in 3 different places in 2.5 years, i've realized that the culture of a new place shows itself in some really obvious ways, but in some really subtle ways too. sometimes, they're just little quirky things [like the boxes in the middle of the street in tucson], and other times, they're pointing to a more significant truth about the culture.
when steve and i first got to baltimore, we noticed people standing out on the curb, giving this strange hand signal, pointing to the ground, but like they really wanted you to see them pointing. it was kinda like a hailing a cab, but instead of an open hand up in the air, it was an arm straight out, with an index finger pointing. we later found out that this is how people get rides from strangers, especially in areas where public transit is not present or unreliable.
the other night, after i'd made my awesome family info-graphic, i decided that i should get some cheap christmas cards and just send them out. so i went to target, because, well, it's target.
and i'm a real jerk about cards in general. if the card is for something serious, like a wedding, or christmas, i really care about the message the card is conveying. if it's a wedding, i reject any card that says something about your love lasting into eternity, because i don't believe that marriage exists in the after life. [it's actually in the bible.] and i don't like to perpetuate myths about marriage. marriage is great. it really is, but let's not go over board here, peeps. let's not set our expectations too high, ok?
when it comes to christmas cards, i like the message to be about the birth of christ. and i like it to be theologically accurate. the reality is that the 12 people i'm close to (who are getting a holiday card) also celebrate christmas and also believe that it's about the birth of christ, so i don't need to go with the broad message, i can be true to my beliefs. and the good folks at target always put out a few "religious" cards [i hate that they're called that, but whatever], and i sort through them, rejecting the cards that just slap a bible verse in there that is ripped out of context, etc. this is my process.
but this year, i could barely find any "religious" cards, let alone ones that were theologically accurate. and this wasn't my first time at that target either--i'd also been on black friday weekend. all the cards said horribly consumerist things like "i hope your christmas is filled with everything you want." or were so cliche i might've thrown up, like the one that read "the setting was humble" on the front with a cartoon manger, and read "but the cast was divine" on the inside. [insert gag noise here.]
there was only one box of cards that had a good message and fit what i like my christmas cards to be. what was most interesting was that the three wise men and the baby jesus on the front were all black.
a big box store like target with a whole aisle of holiday cards, and the only one that's theologically accurate is marketed to black people. [and let's not kid ourselves, it's not because target is letting lots of religious white people down in the holiday card department in central baltimore.]
it was one of the more subtle ways that the culture of bmore showed itself to me, reminding me that, a) i'm a minority here, and b) the people who fall into the "religious" category aren't the middle class white folks, like it was in the other places i've lived.
so this year? my (mainly) white family and friends are getting christmas cards with a black baby jesus on it. because the message is what's important to me. and after all, we live in bmore now, and we'll reflect that in some ways, consciously or subconsciously.
(plus steve and i figure that if nothing else, it balances things out for all those scandanavian-looking baby jesuses that have been on the cards in the past.)