I guess it’s a combination of things that makes me dig decorating for Christmas so much. But I’m no psychologist and I’m half nuts, so it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly what they are.
Nostalgia for childhood? I’m almost sure that’s one.
A love of routine and tradition? Probably.
I’m a guy who likes bright, shiny crap? Guilty.
Whatever the reasons may be, the fact of the matter is this: I am a single dad of three little kids (7, 5, and 2). I’m 45 in a week. I have my own house. And I make the thing look like the Vegas Strip when the holidays roll around. Unabashedly. Without remorse or reservation. I do it for my kids. But also, I have to admit, I do it for myself too.
Through the years I’ve accumulated a lot of … ummm … decorations? I don’t know if you’d necessarily call them that. Lots of people, including my own ex-wife, have hated my taste in Yuletide decorating for a long time. Most won’t say it, of course, (except your wife/ex-wife … she’ll tell you to your face!). But after the first decade of 5,000 lights and 200 garlands jammed into my small downstairs living space, I’ve gradually picked up on people’s subtlest WTFs when they walk through my front door in December.
Maybe the thing that freaks them out the most though is that I really, REALLY love bizarre and freaky Christmas decor. The weirder the better in my eyes. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t maintain my scruples and a sense of decency, mind you. You’ll never find me hanging adult humor Santas or anything like that. But oh, how I love super strange decorations that aren’t permanently damaging to little kids’ eyes.
Like what, you ask?
Well, for starters, I’m a mega fan of all those vintage semi-creepy Santa Clauses hanging out in deep, mildewy boxes at summertime yard sales. I’m not alone either; they’ve become a pretty hot collector’s item the past few years. But I’ve been loving them ever since my Mom-Mom was putting out her own Christmas decorations when I was 5 or 6. Back then they weren’t considered weird, I guess. They were simply what my family was buying in the store … or had bought in the store like 20 years before, breaking them out every December, putting them all over the house, and then stowing them away back in the attic to freeze and bake up there for another 11 months.
My Mom-Mom had some seriously odd decorations. And I fell in love with them right away. A fat Santa with a whiskey drunk face dancing on a giant plastic mushroom, anyone? Oh, hell yes. How about a deeply blue-eyed Santa playing a banjo in the snowy yard right outside some unsuspecting villager’s house? Imagine waking up on Christmas Eve to the theme song of Deliverance and looking out in your yard only to see Santa’s piercing baby blues beaming a hole through your face!
As a kid, these whack-job decorations made me both simultaneously scared and thrilled. They added spice to my eggnog, so to speak. They helped to take my young and wild imagination and feed it edgy scenarios that made Santa and Christmas and endless possibility seem even MORE real to me.
I’m so thankful for that.
I’m so glad that I was exposed to such eccentric decorations back then. I think even at that young age that I recognized the surrealism of it all. And in a lot of ways, that’s a huge part of Christmas, don’t you think? There is magic in the Santa tales, obviously. But there’s also a real sense of heightened awareness and feeling in the perpetual legendary themes of the holiday, too.
Candles in the window. (You’ll burn the curtains, kill us all.)
Mulled wine by the hearth. (What the hell does “mulled” even mean anyways?!)
Family joy. (More like: traveling 1,000 miles to bite your tongue until you explode in rage at your mother-in-law’s insanity.)
Waking up to a snowy Christmas morning. (Maybe once in your life, right? I mean, for real.)
Flying reindeer. (Whaaaa?)
Snowmen talking to cops. (You get where I’m going here?)
All of it, Christmas as a whole, is this massive tall tale born of religion that has been slammed by so many commercial trains over the last 100 years or so that if you don’t stop to smile at the madness now and then, you end up super stressed and missing the true beauty of it all.
And for me, a big part of that beauty is dragging out all the boxes of holiday madness that have been sleeping in my garage for the past year. It makes me feel good. It’s just that simple, I guess.
My tiny Santa standing in a Christmas-themed crab shell? He brings a smile to my face every year when I see him again and remember that I own such a bonkers one-of-a-kind thing.
That wooden Santa Claus holding a 10-pound largemouth bass in his arms? My heart races, a tiny tear comes to my eye. How could anyone NOT love the idea that Santa is a bass fisherman?!
My big paper mache Santa doing a full split? C’mon. Seriously? Do I even have to explain how something like that would make a person grin and feel great empathy for all mankind every morning in December when I walk into my cold kitchen and spot him staring down at me from his drunken yoga position high atop the cabinets?
My favorite bizarre Christmas decoration?
Ha. Well, I’m glad you asked me that.
I found it at a church sale about five years ago.
A giant decorated styrofoam cupcake with the head of Claus attached to it like some demented Christmas beast created simply to terrorize your mind. Or just to make you look at it and wonder, “Who the *!$# ever even thought of making that?! And WHY?!”
Those are questions I will never be able to answer, and I know it.
But whatever. I’m really glad that decoration exists. And I’m glad I own it. There can’t be others. There can’t be. But sometimes I sip my morning coffee and imagine that there’s another person out there in the world sipping their morning coffee and staring at the same exact freakazoid cupcake Santa that I have at the exact same moment.
And it makes me thrilled.
You never know.
Christmas decorations, especially the weirdest ones, are very powerful things indeed.