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The best lyric I ever heard about Christmas comes from Everything But the Girl’s “Come On Home”: “Everyday is like Christmas Day without you/It’s cold and there’s nothing to do.”

I like Christmas. (Love the music.) But I’m especially thankful any year that I don’t have to visit my wife’s family in Britain for the holidays, not because I don’t adore them but because the entire country shuts down for Christmas. There’s nothing open, not even cornershops. Newspapers don’t publish. It’s brutal, man! By 3 p.m. I’m usually climbing the walls.

This year I made it till about noon before packing the family up and heading down to the United States Botanic Garden, which was open on Christmas and features an amazing model railroad display by Paul Busse. Walking around, I was reminded of looking around Edinburgh for a cup of coffee on Christmas afternoon, smiling weakly at other foreigners, who, like me, were convinced there must be SOMEONE who wants to relieve them of their money. I saw lots of Asian families and quite a few where the women wore headscarves or the men wore skull caps. We were all refugees from being cooped up on a holiday that can get rather oppressive, no matter what people who think they’re sticking up for their religion by depositing what’s easily $60-$80 worth of plastic statuary onto city streets say.