Santa Claus: Greatest Traveler of All Time? (and Other Thoughts on Christmastime)

It’s time to pay homage to perhaps the greatest traveler of all time.

When the sun sets Saturday, he will defy the laws and illogic of TSA and make his way around the world in a single night. How does he do it? Some say magic, I say the secret’s in the outfit. (Every so often, I will see a spread in a fashion magazine entitled “Stars’ Style at the Airport!” or something like that, and my internal monologue usually goes something like this: SERIOUSLY VICTORIA BECKHAM !?!) Former Spice Girls and the rest of all travelers take heed! Santa Claus, who’s only been doing this whole RTW thing ohhhhhh about two thousand times, has figured out that flying in red pajamas probably is the key to time travel (and quick clearance through customs).

Since my ascension to adulthood, I have found it increasingly more difficult with each passing year to really get it up for Christmas. I mean, I tried to make a list for the big man, but all I really want this year is Kate Middleton’s hair and a benefactor to cover all my bar tabs. I put up my tree extra early but then all I did this month was look at it. Also, I’ve been sugar crashing on an hourly basis because the Office Life is really great for this one thing: treats at Christmastime. Think of it this way: A vendor delivers a big box full of chocolate-covered pretzels and it’s basically like a piranha feeding frenzy to naked flesh. Fast-forward sixty minutes and I begin to hallucinate ER-era-George-Clooney: “She’s coding! She’s coding!” And then after that the only thing that saves me is a cold sip of water and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” on a loop on my iPod.

Poor little poopsies! I couldn't fit anything else today, so I had to pass up these treats.

Anyway, I digress.

What one does when one is in this lamentable position is to surround oneself with as much Christmas-y things as possible. And, let me tell you, there is no better place to do that than in a city. I went up to New York earlier in the month, but the rest of everything I’ll write about below takes place in Philadelphia.

To combat my inner Grinch, I went to Elfreth’s Alley for “Deck the Alley,” one of the two times a year the residents of this city block, the nation’s oldest, open up their houses and show off their decorations. This was a real thrill for me, because aside from my friends’ and family’s houses, the closest I get to being a real estate snoop is HGTV.

Touring these houses will give you an idea of just how miniature people of the 1700s must have been. Every room is teeny-tiny! The residents have done a remarkable job of preserving the original features of the houses, including stairways that seem to lead straight up, creaky old wooden floors and cabinets, and fireplaces. Some houses expanded by building additions onto the back, but those houses, while impressive, lacked the charm of their tinier neighbors.

One of the houses on the alley is currently for sale. When a fellow house-snoop (not me, I swear) asked one of the residents how much she paid to live there, she responded, “One rule of the Alley is that we don’t talk numbers.” But one number was repeated over and over again: 9. That’s how wide (in feet) the for-sale house is.

The interior of an Elfreth's Alley House, as it looked when it was first built

My favorite decorated house in Elfreth's Alley, 2011

Elfreth’s Alley is located between 2nd and Front and Race and Arch Street in Philadelphia. It is a great glimpse of living history and yet another reminder that modern-day people are giants.

Continuing my adventures in Chrismastime, I took a picture of this awesome tree made out of beer bottles:

Which was almost as cool as the famous light show at Macy’s (formerly known as Wanamaker’s):

But one of the best things I did was join my brother on his annual pilgrimage to see It’s a Wonderful Life at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, PA. The Colonial theater was built in the early 1900s as an Opera House, and its oldness, the wallpapers peeling with nostalgia, was perhaps the best venue I’ve ever been to view a film. I must admit, last weekend was the first time I’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life in its entirety, at least since I was a little kid, and back then I probably couldn’t have understood all sadness that is giving up all of your travel dreams to stay in your hometown and save everyone’s butts consistently. (Is it wrong to think that Pottersville looked a little bit like a more fun place than Bedford Falls?)

If your town has a cool old theater playing a cool old Christmas movie, I highly recommend the experience. Even if (or because) that experience tells you that you can have a wonderful life without backpacking through Europe.

And then, if ALL ELSE FAILS, you can always send prank calls to your friends from Santa through this game-changing website from Google: sendacallfromsanta.com

Good luck friends, oh, and Happy Holidays!

Addendum: I know there’s no such thing as too-many-times of NSYNC’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,” but just in case this time is the one time too many, NPR has put together this amazing playlist of “off-the-beaten-path” holiday songs. Because, (NPR says it best!), “Sometimes on Christmas, people get dumped or lose their jobs, or spend the night in jail.”

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2 responses to “Santa Claus: Greatest Traveler of All Time? (and Other Thoughts on Christmastime)

  1. Hi Amanda! Deck the Alley looks so cool – I’m definitely going to check it out next year.

    I completely regret not snatching one of those cupcakes – I think it would have been worth the sugar crash. 🙂

    Merry Christmas!

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