To say "Christmas kitsch" in describing Christmas decorations, in fact, seems redundant, and to go in pursuit of examples would be like shooting fish in a barrel. I know all of this from experience because, when I was a little girl, I was as bad as a little, blue-haired, old lady in my desire to decorate the house, inside and out, with as much sentimental, Woman's Day craptastic crafty, red and green, Santa Claus-ey, Victorian Christmas-y kitsch as I could lay my hands on. I was a regular Martha Stewart, with a six-year old's taste.
Yet, even then, I would have been horrified by this. You see, every now and then, a piece distinguishes itself for grotesquery, vulgarity, and commerciality. I submit to you, the human-sized, dancing Grinch: I saw that in the thrift store. I kid you not. The thing was as tall as I am. When I passed it, I thought, "Oh yes! We have a blog post!" As I pulled out my camera, two women stopped cold in their tracks and squealed, "The Grinch!" One walked up to it, noticed a button between the Grinch's feet, extended her toe to press it, and jumped back. It danced.
Yes. Danced. It swiveled from side to side, raising each arm in alternation, and turned its head. Some horror of a song emitted from the base, but I was too bowled over to catch any of the lyrics.
"This is fantastic!" I thought. "Thank you Christmas Kitsch Fairy!"
You know, I thought that the lines between Halloween and Christmas were being blurred when the Santa Claus decorations began going up next to the witches and goblins. Heck, sometimes they go up before the witches and goblins. This Grinch, however, isn't just a blurring, it's a melding.
Of course, now that I'm thinking about it, the original text and original t.v. adaptation were already a melding of the two holidays. The story centers on a a Christmas monster -- because isn't that really what the Grinch is, sort of a Smeagol for the holidays, only his "precious" is the holiday? -- and the original interpreter of the Frankenstein monster, Boris Karloff, narrates the t.v. adaptation. Then, of course, that hideous actor brought us that atrocity of a live-action Grinch film a decade ago. We won't get into the nightmare holidays at my own house, growing up -- at least, not now. So, I suppose a scary, ugly Grinch decoration was merely the next step.
I have to say, I have a fondness for the Grinch, with his desire for revenge and his redemption through an epiphany of love. And his little dog, too.
In fact, the most horrifying thing that I find about this Grinch thing in the thrift store is the cutesty-happy expression on his face. The Grinch, through the fabulous animation of Chuck Jones, presented a sour face throughout the film, occasionally breaking into a evil, devious grin, and finally exploding into a daffy, joyful smile at the end. This rendition expresses nothing accurate and an attempt to rob the Grinch of his Grinchiness and render him cute and cuddly for the masses:Alas, eventually I had to tear myself away from the life-sized Grinch and move on to CVS to refill my happy pill prescription. After all, 'tis the season for happy pills.
Then, in CVS, what should I find amid the Christmas and Peanuts anniversary stock? This:
"OMG!11!eleventy-one! Poniez!!!" I squealed, right there in the middle of the CVS. "A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree!!!!one!!!eleven!!!!" Yes, I used all of the exclamation points!!!!!
The tree stands about a foot or two high, the size that you would imagine the actual tree would be if it weren't a cartoon. The Linus blanket adds a nice touch; but, really, to be accurate, the Linus blanket should be much larger. The Linus blanket should also be over to the side because, if you recall the source material, when Linus wrapped his blanket around the base of the sad little tree, it grew ten feet tall.
A Charlie Brown Christmas, I must admit, was not one of my favorite Christmas stories, despite having the coolest dance scenes in animation history, including the original Happy Snoopy Dance. The whole bit with Linus reciting the Biblical passage seemed to me a bit pedantic, even as a child obsessed with "the true meaning of Christmas."
Seriously, I insisted that we have a nativity scene (partly to play dollhouse with the figures) and, at school, I made Christmas ornaments reflecting the birth of Christ. I did this not so much because I was a Believer but because I demanded historical accuracy. At least, historical accuracy as I understood it at age 10.
Still, I sympathized with Charlie Brown and his attraction to the neglected little tree. I also liked the idea that enough love and caring will allow a neglected little tree to grow into something big and beautiful. Something about that made me very sad, and I did not want to be a sad little girl at Christmas. I was already a sad little girl for the rest of the year.
As an adult, I can see how trite and sentimental all of those Christmas decorations and stories are. This may also be the root of my affection for a certain type of kitsch, including Christmas kitsch. For a sad little girl looking for any escape from an angry and violent household, the trite and sentimental provided an imaginative avenue for solace.