The Christmas season brings with it many joys, but it also turns our area into a Yuletide version of the Las Vegas strip. It all began innocently enough with a few outdoor lights, but somewhere along the way, we wound up with entire houses that blink in unison, singing elves in windows and scratchy recordings of Bobby Vinton serenading us with Jingle Bell Rock until the wee hours. It’s as if for three or four weeks we’re all on acid and having a bad trip.
Since when did bad taste and Christmas go hand in hand? The ACLU runs around trying to get rid of public displays of the manger scene, but we have bigger problems here, and none of it has anything to do with the separation of church and state. When somebody risks life and limb to climb on his roof to put up a 6-foot reindeer that blinks the words "Merry Xmas," we’ve gone beyond the spirit of the season into a peculiar form of insanity that permeates us at this time of year. We have so many lights sparkling and blinking and whatever else it is that lights do that you need a 30 SPF sunblock just to prevent neon burn when you walk down the street.
At the heart of this miasma of color and sound is the competitive nature most of us have. If your neighbor puts a 6-foot reindeer on his roof, it is imperative that you go one better by putting up the entire fleet of reindeer, including Rudolph. And the outdoor music — it’s not that I don’t like Christmas carols, but when one end of the street is playing Jingle Bell Rock and the other Winter Wonderland at the same time, it can make you develop a grudge against the Three Wise Men.
One of the reasons for the Christmas "competition" is that the local TV stations have gotten involved. Everybody wants his or her 15 minutes of fame. People actually e-mail Channel 10’s Renee Chenault-Fattah photos of their decorated homes and wait breathlessly in the hope that they will be shown on the 11 o’clock news. Some hope and pray that Michele McCormack will wander by their little neon palaces with a camera crew that will feature them on Action News. If you only place a humble wreath on the door and a couple of lit candles in the windows, you’re practically viewed as the embodiment of Ebeneezer Scrooge.
The Church counsels us to keep Christ in Christmas, but it seems to me that he got out just in the nick of time. Silent Night has become as out of place as a gourmet chef at Wing Bowl. I remember when my parents used to argue over whether there was too much tinsel on the tree. Does the tree look too trashy, my Mom would ask in the innocent ’50s. It is impossible nowadays for anything to look too trashy. Girls go to midnight Mass dressed like Christina Aguilera. Trash is a staple of our lives. Trash and glitz are part of Christmas.
Some of us used to think war toys were in bad taste, especially when given as gifts on Christmas. It took the Daily News to really educate me about how far we have come with Christmas toys. You can now leave a replica of your loved one’s favorite porn star under the tree. In return, you can give her a toy that will pass gas for her fun and pleasure. Hey, it’s not even an argument over bad taste anymore — the real question is, is there any such thing as taste at all?
Maybe this could all be forgiven if we just needed this one chance to let our hair down. But it’s not just this one time, it’s any time we celebrate. After all, Christmas is followed by that granddaddy of all bad-taste holidays — New Year’s Eve.
Heck, if you liked Christmas, you’ll love New Year’s Eve, which is really just the office Christmas party, but where we get to kiss the wife instead of the secretary.
But hey, that’s another column for another day.
Gotta go plug in the lights.
Tom Cardella can be heard before and after the Eagles-Cowboys game Saturday night on 94-FM WYSP.