I’m a bit perplexed about a current Christmas (perhaps I should say Xmas) craze. This is not a moan from a grumpy old man who didn’t find what he wanted under the tree. Rather, it’s a contemplation on a cultural phenomenon: the fad for decorating houses with increasingly large swathes of lights and props both biblical and Santa-fied.
Forty years ago we used to take our children into the city at night in the week before Christmas to marvel at the department store windows. Now the stores’ declining display budgets and the competition from houses in the nearby streets would make such a journey pointless.
A few years ago the Australia Council enunciated the dubious principle that everyone is an artist. Well, perhaps they are and this is the spontaneous artistic self-expression of a creative community. Indeed, much of the decoration is sufficiently haphazard and unburdened by design or taste to actually qualify as modern art. But it could be something more significant; a form of cultural nationalism, an assertive statement that the occupants of this house are not as some others. ‘You parade symbols of your religion, so can we, even if we are not particularly religious’. It may be one of the ways we define or differentiate ourselves.
It may be simpler. Some house down the street started it, the kids liked it, talked Dad into a trip to Bunnings, then to the Xmas warehouse and so it rolls.
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