Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Enormous Blow Up Lawn Santas: Work of the Devil, or Instrument of Grace?

You know what's weird? My dad.

Yep, that's him, with my mom and all their grandkids in this year's Christmas photo. He seems normal enough, doesn't he?

When we were growing up, I guess maybe he would put up outdoor Christmas decorations, but if he did I don't really remember them being all that elaborate. My Aunt Eileen and Uncle Paul, they were the ones that had the lawn pieces that looked like they moved (or did move), the bright candy colors, the whole 9 yards.

But then, I don't know, a couple years ago -- probably as the enormous blow up pieces came into vogue in suburbia -- my dad suddenly lost it.  I'd come home and the lawn was covered in gigantic blow up figures.  For real.  Here's this year's display, from two weeks ago:

I understand it has gotten more elaborate since. And that Santa is 12 feet tall.  Really. That is not an exaggeration.

My sister and I have made a full contact sport of making fun of decorations like this.   When she lived in Illinois we used to drive around the neighborhoods laughing at people's front lawns. (Yeah, suburbs of Chicago, circa 2000, that was us.)  And I guess we always wondered, what in God's name motivates people to do things like this to their lawn?

This house, it looks like you have to do the limbo to even get the door.

But then lately I've been thinking, that's really not a bad question.  What is it that we're doing when we decorate like that?  I suppose for some of us it's just another form of stimulation -- as if smart phones, the internet, demanding bosses and crying children aren't enough.

But I wonder if sometimes what we're doing is trying to create our own little sacred space -- that is, a little place which draws us in and focuses us.  The Nativity creche is our own version of this -- whether on our lawn or under our tree, it creates a little world of its own that we can enter into, a place removed from the ordinary hubbub.

Am I crazy to think that more secular decorations might emerge out of the same impulse?

Ok, maybe not this.  (Seriously, this could give people with pacemakers a stroke.) 

But maybe this?

It's still busy, but there's something, isn't there?

The horrible thing about the Christmas season is so much of it is stressful and hurried through.  If we would just slow down a bit, maybe take a night to drive through the lights of our city, even amidst the Santas and the Frostys and the Rudolphs we might very well find that quiet space that we so desperately seek.

Ok again, maybe not here -- which looks like a photo from the end of the entire delegation at the end of  an animated G20 summit.  But you know what I mean.


Michelle said...

I walk my neighborhood most nights, in the cold and the dark, and wonder at what prompts people to string up all these lights (and inflatable Santas). Sometimes I thing they're all about courage and beacons. "There is light, and I believe in it enough to set a beacon for it."

That said, I'm having a hard time with the display that sings to me when I walk by. Motion sensors are the devils work.

kmbrco said...

...ha-ha..."motion sensors are the devils work" may be right, Michelle.

My mother wasn't one for the gigantic blown-up lawn figures, but, boy, did she love to string up those lights. Every tree, every branch. She just liked the sparkle. The way it made the darkness bright, and the nights special. She loved just about anything that twinkled. It made her happy. And, it's a memory I will carry with me always.

I'm not one for big decorations, though I do love a lit up Christmas tree. That symbol of the beauty of this time of year.

And, when it comes to a giant Santa Claus, never say never. Age does funny things to a person. I say NO to it now, but next year could be a completely different story.

Merry Christmas!

Jen Pontow said...

This is a great post. Oh how I love going to look at the lights like we used to do. And thanks to Chad for those ridiculous giant Santas!

fitterjim said...

You are just jealous of us out in the burbs. The kids in the neighborhood love the blow up's and Mom doesn't and that's why I do it.


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