Overdecorating: How Many Flamingoes in Santa Suits Swinging from our Chandeliers Do We Really Need?
by Marjorie Dorfman
Why do so many people go overboard when it comes to decorating their homes for Christmas? What is it about all those bells, balls, birds, elves, candy canes, reindeer and snowmen that some of us cant get enough of? Read on to learn more about the Christmas "kitch" phenomenon, which has taken the world of the tasteless by storm.
When I was a child, there was a big, white Colonial style mansion around the corner from where my family lived. The traditions of its rich occupants were Jewish and Christian and their giant wall of mullioned windows (about forty) reflected these two affiliations almost to the verge of blindness. Each glass square maintained its own gaudy vitality. In one whirled a Santa, in another flew a reindeer or dove or both. Along the garish way smiled a snowman and twinkled several candles. Smack in the center of the middle row of windows, a giant menorah flickered neon purple, green and orange. Somewhere too, there was a giant wreath festooned with many candles and candy canes and a smaller menorah nestled near another pair of doves and a couple of very busy elves.
The porch was a blinding display of not one but two Christmas trees with lights so bright you couldnt decipher what color they were; nor could you see beyond them. (This may be where the expression "cant see the forest for the trees" came from.) Steps bedaubed by a row of candy canes and gingerbread people accessed the porch. Once there, a giant Santa Claus in red cap busy at his workshop looked up, winked and bellowed: "Merry Christmas." The lawn itself held a cluttered mysticism all its own: Santa with his sleigh and nine reindeer, a manger scene complete with goats, cows, chickens, geese, donkeys and even two flamingoes in every imaginable color scheme. (Could they possibly have been left over from another holiday or at least someones colorful nightmare)?
I think you get the cluttered picture, but one insipid question remains. Why do people do this? Have they lost all their sense of good taste at this special time of year or is it that they never really had any? (I opt for the latter.) There is nothing wrong with decorating ones house and environs with seasonal adornments, but one can really go too far. That big white house at night was an eye sore that wouldnt go away until mid January. Cars would stop and people would point. I myself was amazed how such a vast and intricate collection of bad taste could be found in one particular location. At other times of the year the people who lived in that house seemed like really normal people.
As I got older, I found the phenomenon did not go away. Until recently, I lived in a condominium complex whose name shall not be mentioned in order to protect the tasteful and cultured. Here everyone needed to outdo each other during the holiday season. Whoever could assemble the biggest, most garish and tasteless displays seemed to be motivated by the desire to win some coveted award that no one knew anything about. The same man used to win hands down, every single year. His house stood out because it could do nothing else. Across his roof flew a sleigh with nine reindeer equipped with multi colored packages and elves and bells and the like. Not so unusual or over the top, you say? Well, hang on there just a moment. All over the lawn in no particular design were strewn dozens of candy canes and snowmen and at its furthest point from the house Santa in his workshop buzzed with activity. Top heavy with ornaments and neon angels, the two Christmas trees leaned into each other, seemingly supported by two giant gingerbread men whose functions were questionable yet ostentatious.
Why cant we learn moderation? The lessons are tough enough for smoking and drinking, but somehow over decorating doesnt qualify as a sin. (In my book it does, although not the venal kind). Wreaths are nice on the door, but why hang four when one is pretty and certainly enough. How many trees on your porch or inside your home do you really need to show your support for the season? Unless you have a home with many levels, isnt one big one sufficient? I cant understand how the need for three or four arises, especially since its not like it cost less to do more. The sad part is that Christmas decorations are really beautiful, but too much detracts from the beauty of the few. (This law does not apply to money, with the exception of Confederate money or chocolate.)
So think about all that tinsel and those multi-colored objects the next time you take them out from their hiding place in back of your closet. Pick the decorations that are the most beautiful and meaningful to you and dont use the others for now. (If you send me a self-addressed stamped envelope I will include the addresses of the two families mentioned above. Maybe they will take them off your hands and they wont go to waste!) Resist the urge to overpower the tree with too many colors. If necessary, count the balls, stars, candy canes angels and whatever. Think of them as allotted calories for a meal. So many and no more. Nothing bad will happen if you dont use them. I cant promise however, that if you do refrain from going overboard with decorations that your neighbors will still feel the same way about your house.
Have a happy, gaudy holiday anyway.
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