Claudia Newcorn: Whatever happened to Christmas decorating?

columns@modbee.comDecember 19, 2013 

Claudia Newcorn

At first, I thought it was my imagnation. So I started to research it, biking for miles around my area, then driving through other parts of the city over the past week. Nope. It wasn’t.

To my genuine disappointment, houses decorated for Christmas have become a rarity. Sure, a stray wreath, but inflatables? Not a one. Lawn ornaments, like angels or reindeer? One each. From time to time, I’ll spot a good old-fashioned home decked out in Christmas splendor, but not like I did in the past, when I had enjoyable whiplash from looking at all the houses.

And it’s not just a lack of decorated homes, but decorated businesses. So what’s going on? I’ve done an informal poll of people who have noticed the same trend. Possible explanations (and my point of view) include:

“Christmas came up too fast.” Ummm, it’s Dec. 25 every year, and there have been plenty of years where there were only four weeks to Christmas.

“It’s the economy.” Doubtful. I saw more lights and decorations during the heart of the recession than I do now.

“It’s become too commercial.” No argument there, but how does that stop a person from decorating?

“The stores don’t want to offend anybody.” Ah, yes, the politically correct argument. How about hanging some shiny snowflakes? Surely that won’t offend anybody’s religion.

“It’s just about gifts. Why bother with decorating?” OK, at least he was honest.

“I’m too busy to deal with the hassle of decorating.” Now this, I think, is the heart of the matter.

As technology continues to permeate every minute of our lives to the extent that people are crashing cars or stepping in front of them as their eyes remained glued to the next banal detail of who knows what, it becomes apparent that we have made a conscious choice to relinquish our free time. Free time that went into reading books, calling (not texting) friends and family, taking leisurely walks to enjoy the day (instead of multitasking on a treadmill), and doing fun things that did not require 100 glances per minute at our smartphones.

We have chosen to so overclutter our lives with minutiae that we have no spare time, and I believe that holiday decorating has become an unplanned victim of this. And that is truly a sad situation. How often in the past have you driven by cheerfully decorated homes and smiled? Have you ever gone light-looking, driving through neighborhoods to see the light displays? It’s been our holiday tradition for years – yet last year, except for a few isolated spots, much of Modesto was dark. And I think this year, it will even darker.

Holiday decorating isn’t about “one more thing on the list to do.” It’s about giving to others – giving smiles, laughter, a sense of brightness, all things that we need more of in our lives. It’s a gift for which you receive no thanks, accolades or compensation beyond knowing that you’ve helped somebody have a nicer day because you made the effort to celebrate the season.

And, in the end, isn’t that what Christmas is all about? So hang up a sparkly bow on your door, and a string of lights. Do something so that when people pass your home, you gift them with a smile and a little bit of the Christmas spirit.

Newcorn is a community columnist; send comments to

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