You’re doing Christmas all wrong

By Rex Huppke

‘Tis the season to be judgmental, so let me say this: The way you decorate for Christmas is weird. I don’t care for it and, frankly, I’m not sure what you were thinking.

You’re likely asking what in the name of properly decked halls makes me the arbiter of Christmas decorating excellence. It’s simple: The way I decorate for Christmas is perfect. If you disagree with that, you’re wrong, and shame on you and your strangely decorated home for thinking otherwise.

I’ve been celebrating Christmas for 46 years now, and my decorating technique, color choices and ornament placement are unassailable. Yours, on the other hand, are extremely assailable. In fact, if you’d like, I’ll gladly come to your home and assail all relevant decor.

The key issue with your Christmas decorating style is that it’s different from mine. It’s a bit like when a houseguest loads the dishwasher — they always do it wrong. I and my family are the only ones who know how to properly load a dishwasher. Anyone else’s placement of the bowls or decision on whether the forks should go in with tines pointed up or down is wildly, almost comically, incorrect. (Fork tines always go down. Anyone who disagrees is a dishwasher terrorist.)

But back to Christmas. Few have the holiday balls to admit it, but most Christmas enthusiasts spend December in a state of constant evaluation: eyeballing lawn decorations and light displays, calculating the level of care with which friends’ stockings are hung, pondering a neighbor’s tragic overuse of tinsel.

People walk home thinking things like, “Wow. Those flashing lights along the mantel were SO tacky.” Then they walk into their own homes, admire the festive decor and think: “Perfection!”

They are, of course, wrong. Only my festive decor is perfect. All others exist on a spectrum between mildly flawed and horrendously flawed. Don’t try to argue with me — I’m right.

(For readers who don’t celebrate Christmas, rest assured I would be the best at decorating for any holiday. If I were Jewish, my Menorah placement would be unmatched, and the rotational speed of my dreidels would be legendary. If I celebrated winter solstice as the ancient Romans did, my Feast of Saturnalia would far exceed my neighbors’ in both debauchery and in the quality and size of the sacrificial suckling pig.)

I’m sure you’re muttering angrily to yourself at this point. That’s because you know I’m right and desperately want me to share my vast and unrivaled Christmas decorating knowledge. You long to achieve peak Christmas.

Well, sorry. There can only be one perfectly decorated home, and it’s mine. But in the spirit of the season — a season that, it’s worth noting, I fully dominate — here are some basic rules you can follow to make your yuletide displays less flawed.

Don’t even try it with the all-white lights. We know you think this looks classy and somehow makes you superior to your neighbors, with their inflatable Santa in a helicopter and blinking multicolored light strands. But you’re not fooling anyone. White lights are the Christmas equivalent of wearing a beret in a coffee shop in the hope that people will think you’re a poet. They don’t. They just think you’re wearing a weird hat.

Use inflatable decorations, but avoid logical inconsistencies. Take the aforementioned Santa in a helicopter. What in the name of Blitzen’s behind would Santa be doing in a helicopter? He has a flying sleigh. Get that nonsense off your lawn. And don’t go mixing up holiday classics. Pairing an inflatable Grinch with an inflatable Frosty the Snowman will earn you a scornful eye roll if not outright condemnation.

Blue lights? Really? Blue lights? C’MON!

Ornament arrangement is of the utmost importance when it comes to proper Christmas tree trimming. I follow a strict Republican decorating model, placing the prettiest and most expensive ornaments high on the tree and using the crummier ones — which I call “the masses” — to fill in everything below. That allows the beauty of the elite ornaments to trickle down to the lesser ornaments. Also, I don’t provide the lesser ornaments with hangers. They need to learn how to lift themselves up by their bootstraps.

Ornaments should not be too close together, nor should they be too far apart. A reasonable and consistent spacing produces optimal tree coverage. Anyone who sparsely decorates their tree or adorns it only with bows or the same style and color of ornament over and over again should be locked in a Russian gulag. Also, if you describe your Christmas tree as “minimalist,” I’ll sneak down the chimney myself and set it on fire.

I hope these tips are helpful, though I don’t want any of you to feel too optimistic. You may incorporate all my advice, invest tremendous time and lovingly decorate your home and yard, obsessing over the smallest of details. But you will never out-Christmas me.

I will find fault in what you’ve done. I will judge you.

Because that’s what the holidays are all about.

By Rex Huppke

Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may email him at [email protected].

Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may email him at [email protected].