You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 10:02 p.m.

Finding the true meaning of the holidays in a glow-in-the-dark plastic reindeer

By Mike Ball

This is a holiday piece from my upcoming book What I've Learned... So Far Part II: Angels, Chimps & Tater Mitts, due out in January 2012.

You know, I'm willing to bet that there's some guy in your neighborhood whose roof is literally sagging under the weight of a giant Santa, a small herd of reindeer, and a life-sized nativity scene — complete with "lowing" cattle, a couple of shepherds who look pretty nervous to be stapled to those roof shingles, a trio of really strung-out Magi, and a fiberglass Holy Family with the infant Messiah lit up by a 450-watt halogen bulb stuck right up his manger.

The guy who owns this house is my personal hero — I love Christmas decorations!

Yes, I called them "Christmas" decorations, not "Holiday Decorations" or any other godless secular nonsense. You see, I have a deep reverence for the collection of mostly Druid, Viking and Pagan traditions that today form the Hallmark® of this holiest of all seasons.

As the Apostle Paul (probably) said, "Yea, verily shall we cometh together and praise His coming with feasting and rejoicing and Midnight Madness Sales, for the angels of the Lord did proclaim tidings of great comfort and seasonal retail activity. Though the actual birth our Savior was, if I recalleth correctly, sometime in March, or maybe April no, it was in March I'm pretty sure remembereth that one time we didst throw him a party and he didst act all embarrassed and even a little vengeful about it? Well, I remember that it was still cold out, because, yea, was I still wearing my winter cloak, so it must have been March. Anyway, verily shall we actually celebrate in December because otherwise our rejoicing wouldst crowdeth Easter merchandising, plus what the hecketh, thou already havest thy winter solstice parties that we couldst piggyback on…" Paul's Letter to the Petersons, 6:23.

One big reason I love Christmas decorations is that without them, this time of year is just so incredibly dark. Dec. 21 is officially the shortest day of the year, giving us, if my figures are correct, about 11 minutes of actual daylight. Admittedly a twinkle light doesn't throw off a whole lot of candle power, but cover the trees, bushes, and the front of a three bedroom split-level with them, and just walking by you could get yourself a pretty good twinkle tan.

I'm also crazy about the inflatables that have started showing up in the last few years. Show me a yard jammed fence-to-shed with giant vinyl elves and snowmen, and I'll show you somebody who's facing the new year looking at a major cash-back bonus on his Discover card.

Of course, my favorite holiday tradition of all is the Christmas tree. No matter what church's collection basket you prefer drop your IOUs into, there really is something sacred about dragging a plastic blue spruce into the living room then decorating it with Gordian wads of lights and ornaments that have been packed away in the attic in dog-eared cardboard boxes held together with duct tape and marked "XMAS" in festive green magic marker. Every year for the thirty-plus years we've been married, my wife and I have talked about trashing all the old Christmas stuff and doing a trendy designer tree with all new color-coordinated lights and ornaments.

And then I spot the ragged miniature stocking with my name on it that my mother made for me when I was about four.

And the glass ornaments that my father loved when he was alive, so scratched and faded that you can no longer tell what the original color was, but each one has one part that is not all that bad, so I always turn the little tin collars that hold the hooks so the not-all-that-bad-parts show.

And the tattered little elves knitted over pipe cleaners, holding tiny pipe cleaner candy canes that my wife found in some craft shop years before we met. And the dozens of "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments that I still insist on using every year since I don't have any that say, "Baby's 26th Christmas."

And the little brass cash register I got for my wife when she opened her store, and the little attaché case she got for me when I started wearing a suit to work, and the little ceramic hockey player skating on a Wheaties box that Santa brought for our son when he made his first travel team.

Ok, so maybe we don't have a 50-foot inflatable camel loaded with bags of glow-in-the-dark myrrh staked out by the mailbox. And I guess we're just too cheap to spring for the pre-programmed Star of Bethlehem Laser Light Show In-A-Box. But every year all the old crap that we do have comes out of the boxes and goes up on the tree, and it always seems to look pretty good to us.

Because it's our crap.

Mike Ball is the Erma Bombeck Award-winning author of "What I've Learned So Far..." and the book What I've Learned So Far... Part I: Bikes, Docks & Slush Nuggets; now available on Smashwords for Nook, Kindle and all other e-readers.



Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 6:33 a.m.

Rump-pumpa-pump-PUMM! Mike Ball failed - to bring up the wonderful "Christmas songs" and "Christmas music" we all love to listen to while shopping, shopping, shopping, like jolly elves a-hopping through the white (what other colors does snow come in?) and drifting (and accident causing) snow! Who is it who doesn't own the Entire Collection of Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas songs?! Who doesn't love the never-ending jing-a-ling - Linging of sleigh bells ringing in our ears (and merrily jangling our nerves) from eight AM to Midnight for a full fortnight prior to Christmas? Never mind that there are no horse-drawn sleighs within a hundred miles of Ann Arbor or any other urban center. And who cares if "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas" was actually written about WW II GIs who might never make it home from the European or the Pacific combat zones? And who doesn't delight in perpetuating the Legend of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in the tender minds of children: despite that it's obviously IMPOSSIBLE and has nothing to do with Jesus Christ in any form or fashion? Regardless: you too can own the entire collection of "Great Christmas Music" - for just five easy payments of $29.99 IF you call RIGHT NOW! Rump-pumpa-pump-PUMM!

Mike Ball

Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Very good, Tru2Blu! Ironically, that column is coming later this week - stay tuned. While we're on the subject of Christmas songs, I am performing a free Christmas Concert with Peter Madcat Ruth at 7:30 PM on Wednesday, December 21 at the Brighton District Library. If you can make it, introduce yourself. I always enjoy meeting a fellow Frosty freak.