Ho, ho, ho, peoples! Time for another edition of “Allison in Madison,” and this time around it’s also “Allison’s word.” I’ll tell you the word (or phrase, actually) in a bit, but I start by noting that yesterday (Monday) was the 15th day of August. I was a pretty busy beaver on Monday, what with a full day of work, errands, and typing up my previous blog entry. So busy, in fact, that I forgot that the 15th was a very important day in Madison.
“And you still had to work, huh?”
No, it wasn’t an official holiday by any means. August 15th (or 14th depending on the landlords’ terms) is the day when new lease periods for apartments in Madison’s central core simultaneously begin. I refer to “central core” as the areas in or near the University of Wisconsin campus, including downtown. And, yeah, a lot of UW students occupy those apartments during the academic year. It’s not so much about the rent, of course (apartment rent can be pretty steep in many spots throughout this town, as I can attest) but the close proximity of these apartments to the UW campus area.
A common sight in that area on or around the 15th is a multitude of cars, vans, moving vans, or whatever else is loaded to the gills with students’ personal belongings, all set to make the journey from the apartment they’re leaving behind to a newer apartment or other student housing elsewhere. Another common sight is a ton of junk the students leave behind on the curbs or in the dumpsters outside their old apartments. Which means it’s time for…
Yep, “Hippie Christmas,” which is the affectionate term for this time of year in Madison.
“Complete with a Santa Claus? Or at least someone who looks like Jerry Garcia?”
Well, the students vacating their former premises are the Santas in this case, minus the red cap. Filling the roles of happy children on the real Christmas morning are fellow students or anyone who wants to find something good on the cheap, including the hippies or hippies-at-heart who hang on to the beliefs of simple livings and taking what you need from those who no longer need it.
“That must be a common belief here in Madison.”
Perhaps so. I think it must be a combination of two related things: The progressive ethic Madison has, along with the right-out-of-the-60s counterculture reputation of this city, not just from those who actually lived it back then but those who practice it now — including most of the students who attend UW today and may need something new for their new place.
“The students celebrate Hippie Christmas as well?”
Oh, absolutely. It’s a way for them to live within their very narrow means. So what do those who don’t need what they’re leaving behind leave behind? Anything and everything basically. Check out some of the items mentioned in this City Dictionary summary and this 2013 Isthmus article: Clothing. Furniture (couches and beanbags seem to be popular claims). Beds. Lamps. Pillowcases. Posters. Wall ornaments. Decorations for the actual Christmas in December. Sports gear. CDs. Electronics (including TVs). Money (real, cold, hard cash). Other valuables, whether it be something the former tenant no longer desires or something they’ve completely forgotten about. Even food. Yeah, actual food, unopened or otherwise.
“Ewww! Haven’t they ever heard of food pantries?”
Which reminds me about something… There’s always the risk of a certain little extra accompanying the beds, couches, etc. that the Hippie Christmas scavengers claim: Bedbugs. You know, those little things that make their homes in whatever deep crevice of furniture, bedding, or even books they can find. When someone finds something “new” on Hippie Christmas, it could contain bedbugs just waiting to hitchhike from one home to another. That’s why public health officials have recommended to anyone leaving behind something they suspect is infested with bugs to clearly mark at item as such, the better to fight the spread of the bedbugs.
“A good idea indeed. But, still… eww!”
Yeah, I agree. The last thing anyone needs is bedbugs ruining their home and health. Oh, it’s also been recommended that moving tenants avoid just leaving things out on the curb and instead take what they no longer need or desire to recycling stations, thrift stores, pantries, or other “Donate & Take” stations and events that promote sustainability. (This Wisconsin Gazette article nicely talks up this reuse/recycle movement.) This is a great idea as well: A way of assuring that things that still have a long life of usefulness ahead of it can be obtained by those who really need it, and in places other than a street curb or dumpster. And when it’s not in the dumpster, that’s good for the environment.
“Hey, Mr. Garbage Man! Don’t bogart that end table, dude!”
So, to those here in Madison claiming something new this week, in whichever manner you claimed it, congratulations on your new acquisition. May you find good uses for it. May it have many more days of usefulness. And for goodness sake, make sure it doesn’t have any bedbugs, okay? Have a very merry…