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« The joys of an adult only Christmas | Main | Layered griefs and pleasures »

'Tis the season to be tacky

The Australian ugliness, perhaps architect Robin Boyd’s best known work, was a critique of Australian built landscape, published in 1960. It could just as well have been written about the Christmas decorations that bedeck our city streets 58 years later.

Every year I wander disconsolately around the CBD in my lunch break wondering who decreed that Christmas had to be tasteless. A world traveller who was dropped into Melbourne at this time of year might be forgiven for thinking they had arrived in the tackiest part of Vegas.

The Bourke St mall, graced by the magnificent refurb of the Myer building, is strung with large plastic bells interspersed with large plastic stars. Also in the mall is a giant plastic throne, an extravagance of red and gold, sitting squarely (no idea why) on a block of fake grass. Collins St, on the other hand, specialises in green plastic stars and red baubles. Shops dangle bigger than life-size plastic Santas and reindeers over their verandahs.

Lygon St has ten-foot-high Christmas crackers, red and green of course, with a crude picture of Santa Claus on each one. They look like the decorated cardboard cylinders from the middle of toilet rolls that my kids used to bring home from kinder only less original.

Surely we can do better than this? There are countries (Germany springs to mind) where Christmas decorations are understated and elegant. Sure, the short days in that hemisphere make everything that little bit more magical and mean you can use light in lovely ways. But the fact that we have so much daylight at Christmas time makes it all the more vital to have attractive decorations in our streets; there is no darkness descending mercifully down to cover the ugliness.

 And don’t even start me on the Christmas light displays around my suburb. Did no one get the memo that less is more?

At last, however, on my despairing search for Christmas beauty, I had some joy. Outside the grand and gracious old Town Hall on the corner of Swanston and Collins, somebody had the right idea. Brilliant red and white petunias and pink begonias have been planted in multiple small pots to make the shape of Christmas trees. Simple. Perfect. One of the great things about summer Down Under is the sunshine and the plethora of flowers in abundance. Instead of ugly plastic mass produced decorations, why don’t we just ditch the junk and go for what comes naturally?

This was published in The Melbourne Age on 14th December

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Reader Comments (2)

Clare - I could not agree more!

December 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterFay

Clare I think the plastic decorations and the other tacky elements are perfectly suited to "the season". Tackiness and schmaltz defines what "the season" is about divorced from its origins in Christian belief about the nature and action of God.

December 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRod

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