Sunday, November 19, 2006
As a way to personally resist the tyranny of Christmas merch that floods our entire field of vision each holiday season, I collect Christmas ornaments that inspire more horror than happy. These are usually at least 30 years old, from a time when irony and cynicism were not equated with cool, (or maybe they were - what the heck do I know, I was six). Each of these items posesses a kind of heavy pathos - earned either through neglect or through poor manufacturing standards - that I find particularly appealing. Some may find that attitude alarmingly cynical, but I approach it in a different way. I look at it as resurrecting these long-forgotten items, giving them a place of honour on my freshly dusted mantle (and I hardly ever dust), seeing the inadvertent (and therefore priceless) humour in the faceless, nameless glut of our capitalist-driven world, which, nostalgia or not, is the wheel that drives this whole mad, mad Christmas machine. Current mass-produced seasonal ornaments have not yet earned this badge of (dis)honour. Any dollar store today offers row upon row of equally tasteless crap (not yet kitsch as kitsch implies nostalgia, which these are too young to bear. It's all in the timing, friends. Nostalgia is a privilege, not a right!).
The problem with modern-day ornamentation is that, unlike decades past, we are far too well-versed in the practices of a throwaway economy that tells us new is better, and yesterday's trinket is tomorrow's trash. We all know where they're headed in a couple years' time when their recent-dated-ness proves to be no match for the latest twinkling accessory: the mid-July yard sale, where they will languish all weekend on the 50 cent table before their shameful demotion to the FREE box that's left by the curb when you've packed 'er in. And there they remain because they are totally, utterly charmless. This is why I prefer to mine the aisles of junk shops where the real survivors can be found. These aren't the Grinch-in-a-Santa-suit bobbles from some Hollywood movie, but rather the decades-old trinkets, the used and abused, the sad, worn and forlorn, the dirty and the denigrated, relegated to the dusty bottom of a cardboard box amidst the loose glitter and tinsel.
Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses longing to be free... I'll give them a spot on my Christmas tree.