22 December 2015

Mingle and mangle 2015 consumers' and Christians' Christmas

In the fading afternoon light the bright nylon inflatables catch the eyes of passers by, complete with their own blowers to keep air pressure, along with lights to internally illuminate to figure. In this case the figure of Saint Nicholas (a.k.a. Santa 'claus) astride a motorcycle stands out for its juxtaposition of jaunty biker culture with kindly bewhiskered gent in red. Then there is the giant teddy bear, quoting the Santa costume trimmed at sleeve and hat brim in white fur. Lastly at the far right and sheltering under an evergreen, there are Mary and Joseph surrounding a cradle, pressed from solid plastic and set glowing with bulbs inside the figures. Perhaps they date to the 1980s whereas the inflatables come from the 2000s. In addition to the range of scenes or characters from popular (Santa) and commercial (Mickey Mouse in Santa costume) culture of the year end holidays, manufacturers also have a selection of inflatables for late November (Thanksgiving Day in USA; the 4th Thursday of the month), and perhaps most of all for the end of October (Halloween). So there are a few households that put up a display in October, November and December, while others do none of this public lawn display.
       If asked about reasons to add the electrification and increase their energy bill, perhaps they would respond in one or more of these ways: it is for my (grand)children (or neighbor kids), it brightens the December darkness, I got this on sale after last year's holiday season ended, it is fun to set up and look at each night, it is my contribution to my street's community spirit. But, of course, without actually posting the questions to a cross-section of residents, the list of suppositions is little more than imagination of just one writer.
       A symbolic interpretation might go like this: The Santa figure is suited to a nation of immigrants, since strangers can be a source of unexpected benefit. The biker reference seems to bring the story out of the land of reindeer and onto the streets of a motorized society where people can be together and still be separate or isolated. The bear hearkens to the original Teddy Bear - something fierce and dangerous that now is cuddly and suited to childhood reveries. Meanwhile, dwarfed by the blower and big dimensions of the inflatables (just so much hot air?) there the figures going back to the 2000 year old story and the holy scripture that has conveyed it generation by generation. I wonder how well these relative proportions mirror the larger patterns around the regions of the USA, both in rural and urban places, among the many varieties of ethnic groups comprising the society at the moment.

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