Every Inch of Christmas

’tis the season for bashing your neighbor’s decor

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Ian Kloster

The holiday yard over-decorator has gotten a pretty bad rap through the years. Their plastic-packed yards, while revered by some, are largely seen as gaudy and gratuitous. “Why turn your yard into a spectacle?” people ask? Why, can’t you be more tasteful and perhaps limit yourself to only two roof-mounted animatronic Santas? Why can’t you keep your blinking holly berries to yourself? Most criticisms boil down to aesthetics. 

Then there’s the Party in the Front, Party in the Back practitioners. These people have a back and/or side yard with good visibility from a street, so they figure why not put up twice the decorations at only double the cost?

Meanwhile, others criticize the chronic Christmas over-doer for forgetting the “reason for the season.” I can appreciate the underlying sentiment of this critique, but on the whole, it’s a little absurd. How so, you ask?

As the cousin you rarely ever see has no doubt pointed out to you on Facebook, many of our classic Christmas traditions have very non-Christian roots, and holiday lights are one of them. They’re actually pretty pagan-ish. What began as a few candles or torch lights around your abode – a ritual for the winter solstice – has evolved into the inflatable/mechanical front yard circuses we see today. Anyone complaining about how a neighbor’s holiday sprawl is not “in the spirit” of Christmas is opening up a whole can of historical and religious and philosophical worms. I guess that’s three cans.

Christmas is a ginormous amalgamation of different celebrations and remembrances, rooted in everything from pre-Christian beliefs to iPad2 sales, so I think you just gotta find your own thing and go with it. And some people’s “thing” happens to involve 800 feet of extension cord, 35 power strips, five air compressors, and enough electricity to power a small republic in Eastern Europe.

The important part is that you don’t judge other people.

That said, people are kinda nuts. Excessive lighting and Santa-stuffed yards have long been the butt of holiday jokes, but did you know the time-honored practice of overdoing Christmas decorations contains many distinct sub genres and splinter groups? Like what, you ask?

Probably the largest identifiable subgroup is the Icicle Lovers. Years after icicle-mimicking string lights were introduced, people still can’t get enough. Many leave them up year round. Then you’ve got The Inflaters. These folks put up anywhere between one and 20 giant inflatable lawn ornaments ranging from “big snowman” to “menacingly huge Yukon Cornelius.” There’s the Manger Arrangers, who set up at least one Nativity scene – always illuminated, usually plastic, with optional overhead star and one to seven wise men.