Exciting news: CHRISTMAS IS HERE!
That is, Christmas is as good as here, now that Thanksgiving’s finished. I operate on an optimistic calendar. Why consider finals when you can consider Christmas instead?
The holiday with the red and green bling is probably the largest season of festivities in the United States, with $220-some billion in Christmas-gift retail, an amount greater than the nominal GDP of Ireland. As Katherine Whitehorn once said, “from a commercial point of view, if Christmas did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.”
And, of course, Christmas is also the only time of the year when you can see an $11 million tree.
The world’s (probably) most expensive Christmas tree was set up last December in the luxurious Emirates Palace hotel of Abu Dhabi. All in all, the hotel spent $11 million putting up the extravagant display. The cost of the 43-foot plastic tree was, ironically, only $10,000. The other $10,990,000 or so came from the cost of decorating the tree with expensive jewelry.
Khalifa Khouri, the owner of the jewelry shop who provided the decorations, stated that exactly 181 diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires, and other precious stones decorated the tree, while additional gold and silver necklaces and earrings hung from the boughs.
At all times, four security guards were assigned to watch over the most important — and shiniest — tree in the world.
Imagine that convincing line on their resumés for future security jobs: “Successfully protected a very, very special Christmas tree.”
Although a holiday celebrated with multi-million-dollar trees is exciting in its own rights, other cultures certainly have their fill of enviable holiday traditions as well.
Among those is Russia’s glamorously named “Procreation Day” on Sept. 12.
The governor of the Russian district of Ulyanovsk first declared Procreation Day as an official holiday in 2005, which, incidentally, was where Vladimir Lenin was born. Procreation Day is meant to counter the quickly decreasing population size of Russia by encouraging Russian couples to have more children.
In other words, Procreation Day formally gives couples a day off from work to stay home and make a baby.
In an additional creative twist, Procreation Day takes place exactly nine months before the Russian national day, June 12, in hopes that children conceived on Procreation Day are born exactly on the patriotic and symbolic Russian national day.
As surprising as it may seem, the plan worked — sort of. Most notably, in 2007, on June 12, 78 children were born in Ulyanovsk, three times the national average of 26 babies per district on that day.
And, as the Ulyanovsk governor probably regards the situation, those extra 52 babies will save Russia from a population shortage.
As part of the extended Procreation Day festivities, Russian government officials played the Russian national anthem in Ulyanovsk hospitals as the children were born. They also awarded prizes to parents whose children were born on June 12, handing out goodies such as video cameras, TVs, washing machines and refrigerators.
On the other hand, parents of children born on June 13 did not get free refrigerators, which must have been a disappointment.
The Russian government also creates a grand prize each year to award to parents whose children are born on National Russia Day. In order to win the grand prize, couples expecting babies on June 12 have to apply before the big day.
A special government committee then deliberates for two weeks before National Russia Day to choose the couple it thinks would make the fittest parents, to whom they award the grand prize.
In 2007, the grand prize was given to Irina and Andrei Kartuzov, who were chosen to receive a UAZ Patriot, a special-release version of a popular Russian sport utility vehicle.
The government spokesperson later stated that the Kartuzovs were chosen for their “respectability” and “commendable parenting” of two older children. The official also lauded all the parents for “producing a patriot.”
Ah, Russia. The only place on earth where you get free cars for taking time off of work to engage in the process of having a kid.
Kevin Hwang is a senior at Athens High School who is taking classes at Ohio University and a columnist for The Post. Is your Christmas tree worth $11 million? Tell Kevin about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.