Wednesday, December 5, 2007

All That Glitters

My neighborhood is alight with holiday decorations. This isn't unusual: the people around here decorate, Vegas-style, for everything from Christmas to Veteran's Day. There is barely a day throughout the year when facades and front yards aren't resplendent with lights, flags so large they could be used as tarps to cover the houses altogether, and, inexplicably, giant inflatable holiday-appropriate figures. Turkeys, ghosts, pumpkins, Cupids, drum and fife corps, penguins, Santas complete with reindeer and sleighs, snowmen, etc. For one three-week period that seemed to last forever and was tied, as far as I could tell, to no widely recognized holiday, an enormous inflated Scooby-Doo stood sentry in front of a house five or six away from ours. In a community where there are rules about what you can park on the street and what your driveway has to look like, this seemed untoward. Especially as Scooby-Doo's posture crumpled sadly due to partial deflation, I considered calling the property management company to complain, but the thought of dealing with them was more offensive than having to tolerate Scoob.

I don't understand the impulse to decorate the outside of one's home. I suppose it could be the outward expression of irrepressible high spirits caused by holidays, but to me it has a show-offy quality, sort of a "Look how far we went!" vibe. Even if it's about giving one's neighbors something to enjoyable to look at as they pass by versus making them green with envy (or nausea), it seems very external to me. Most people here don't even decorate their houses themselves; they hire services to do it. (It's hilarious to watch crowds of these service people swarm all over houses in the weeks leading up to major holidays, then repeat the performance again in the days after as they dismantle everything.) I'd be willing to bet these people also send those Christmas cards printed with their names and in envelopes with computer-generated labels for both the mailing and return addresses - not a shred of personal sentiment anywhere to be found, unless you consider the DNA in the saliva used to lick the envelope to be personal sentiment.

I think the holidays are about what goes on inside the house, not what's hanging from its rafters. Family and friends, good food and thoughtful gifts, cozy sweaters and college football bowl games - those are the things that spell irrepressible high holiday spirits to me. My house may be one of the few non-players in the neighborhood parade of holiday glitz, but it's glowing inside. I certainly hope the same is true of the decorated houses.

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