Holiday spirit can be overinflated

PHOTO: Mike Cempa, Flickr CC

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

It’s time for the holidays. Christmas, yes, and all that comes with it. It’s not really a holiday anymore so much as an economic and cultural event. Like the Roaring 20s, but for our credit card bill. Or like the Great Depression, but in reference to our actual depression.

It’s not like the good old days. That’s true of many things, and sometimes for good reason.

Take Christmas decorations. Lots of holiday decorations are better left in the past. For instance, hundreds of open flame candles tied to combustable dead trees. Each one a little mini-Hindenburg in the living room of every Christian this side of Bethlehem. Those fire bombs are probably best forgotten.

The LED lights we use now require very little electricity and produce no more heat than a bowl of egg nog. Modern plastics allow us to hang a wreath on our front door that will outlive the fillings in our teeth. Truly, human progress is on the march.

Outside, millions of Americans create even more elaborate lighting displays. Beacons blink into the sky, as if to say, “Happy Birthday, Jesus! Hope you enjoy your vacation in the Andromeda galaxy!”

The lights aren’t just for show. The $5,000 sound system that loops the theme song to the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” that’s a show. And the animatronic Santa Claus that does Fortnight dances, that might be just a touch indulgent.

But there’s one aspect of trends in outdoor Christmas lights that bothers me more than all of the rest combined. That would be the inflatables.

I know, I know. You’ve got an inflatable holiday decoration in your yard. You can’t wait to walk into the box store and buy the next one for your collection.

Let’s take the everlasting promise of Christ’s birth, combine that with a secular celebration of the winter solstice, and merge both yet again with licensed characters from 14-year-old animated movies.

And the angels said onto the Dreamworks Minions, “Stop that. You guys are really annoying.” And the minions punched each other in the crotch, even though they don’t really have crotches. And the Lord said, “Make a Sequel.”

The inflatable holiday decorations lack taste, sure, which I could normally tolerate. After all, I’m from a part of the world where a tree growing through the rusted body of a 1947 Ford F1 pickup truck is considered top grade landscaping. No, it’s not the tacky characters that bother me, it’s the endless droning of the electric fans that keep the inflatables from drooping like the old man who’s prescription was not refillable.

These fans are central to the whole operation. And yet, think of it. We run a motor and spotlight nine hours a day for two months to illuminate a character from a 60-year-old holiday special that our kids don’t even like. I’m talking about you, Frosty the Snowman.

Folks, just think if we spent that much time and money on our fitness, we could crack walnuts with several different parts of our anatomy.

And before you get too high and mighty, know that nativity inflatables are also available for purchase. Just make sure the magi don’t spring a leak or that the Christ child doesn’t blow into the neighbor’s woodpile. 

Listen, I can’t stop you. If you’ve got inflatable holiday decorations in your yard, bless you. But when the kids ask about the true meaning of Christmas, don’t let a gyrating Santa Shrek be the one to tell them.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. It was adapted from a monologue in the Nov. 17, 2018 Great Northern Radio Show.

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