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Monday, December 21, 2015

Over Decorating Christmas

It's not Christmas decoration but holiday clutter; and it doesn't celebrate Christmas, but desecrates it.
We've all seen them. Driving down the road, we round a curve and suddenly behold an entire front yard lit up with every possible Christmas image imaginable, with the house decorated to the hilt, aflame with cascades of multi-colored lights intended to form an appropriate backdrop. In spite of ourselves, our first instinct is to go "OOOOhhhhhh! WOW!" Then, a moment later, those of us with any experience in the arts, or even a modicum of good taste, does an instantaneous about-face, winces, cringes, and/or laughs out loud at why anyone would go to such expense and incredible effort to display such bad taste for all the world to see.

After some point, more is not better. The hard part is recognizing that
point, then exercising the self-discipline of restraint in not going beyond it.
The answer boils down to the old adage, "There's no accounting for tastes." That's especially true for bad taste. And when it comes to Christmas decorations, that's especially true. Very often we see it's most horrendous examples right out front in the yard (above). Bad as that might be, even those who should know better, decorators and other professionals, perhaps with a higher level of taste, are still prone to over decorating, starting at the front door (below) and marching straight inside to the Christmas tree, the fireplace, the table set for the holiday feast, even going so far as to decorate that which should never be decorated, regardless of the occasion.

Try not to overwhelm your guests before they even get in the front door.
My wife glanced at the decorated portals above and asked, what's wrong with those? The answer I gave was that whoever went to all that trouble simply did not know when to stop, when to say "enough is enough." If a festoon of lighted greenery over the door looks nice, twice as much running down on both sides would look twice as nice. And if an 18-inch wreath looks good, a 24-inch would look even better. And some matching evergreen shrubbery (real or unreal) on either side of the steps will serve to frame the entry. That sort of reasoning theoretically has no end, at least until the neighbors complain about sightseers obstructing traffic or the electrical circuit breakers balk at the increased load.

Really? There's a tree inside all that glitter and glitz.
Vintage Christmas tree, ca .1930-1960
Inside, the next likely object of this over-decorating mindset is, not surprisingly, the tree. A good part of this tendency derives from our childhood when Christmas trees were often so sparse and misshapen they literally needed all the help they could get. Though probably not impossible, some fifty years ago, it would have been quite difficult to over decorate the iconic tree. Today, if you find yourself risking life and limb (left) in festooning the boughs with tinsel, or if the tree completely disappears beneath the layers of lights, ornaments, garland, bows, and baubles (above), you know you've gone too far.

Fireplace...fireplace...ahh, yes, there it is, right behind
the Poinsettia (which are not fond of direct heat).
The next place to beware, if for no other reason than a possible fire hazard, is the traditional fireplace, especially if you plan to use it, either to keep warm or for its visually comforting effects on your Christmas spirits. The best rule of thumb comes down to this: If you have to conduct a visual search for it, you've likely gone to far in decorating it. Or, as in the red room (above, left), if you start your holiday decorating by painting the walls cranberry red to match your crystal stemware, you're probably off to a bad start down the rocky road of "too much is not enough."

An over decorated office is distracting, deters productivity, and often simply gets
in the way to the point of becoming a nuisance. An over decorated cubical reminds
your boss you don't have enough work to keep you otherwise occupied.
Unfortunately, the tendency to over decorate in celebrating Christmas does not begin nor end at hearth and home. Of course, some places of business virtually demand extensive holiday decorations. Offices, do not. That's not to say a small, countertop tree, modestly adorned with a string of colored lights, is inappropriate in a business setting. However, going much beyond that (as with mistletoe hung over a doorway) risks going "over the top" very quickly. Office workers should especially beware of decorating their "cubical" for Christmas, especially if fellow workers forego the urge. Doing so singles out the occupant as having way too much time on his or her hands.

Animals are atheists, they have a right to forego Christmas holidays. Decorating cars and
trucks is an unsafe driving distraction, and probably illegal in many states (or should be).
Clothing items to be avoided at all costs.
And finally, there are any number of everyday objects with which we come in contact that should never (for any number of excellent reasons) be decorated for Christmas. That includes animals, motor vehicles, toilets, ceilings, swimming pools, and especially Sherman tanks (above, left), even if adorned with a sign urging "Peace on Earth." Also, high on the often over decorated list is people. Ugly Christmas sweaters are bad enough, but if there's involved a suit and tie, comes with a slip of paper saying "batteries not included," or makes the wearer feel like a Christmas tree, that's heading off the deep end (left). I might also add that in Christmas event planning the temptation to wildly exceed the bounds of good tastes almost goes with the territory. That's especially true of Christmas weddings. Keep in mind that churches are very often somewhat over decorated to start with. Decking the halls with boughs of holly might be acceptable, but adding a multitude of the heavenly hosts dangling from the ceiling strikes me as overkill.

Decorating the church for December nuptials is fraught with intense temptations to go too far.
Another cause to join.