KwartlerWhy do we decorate for the holidays?

I know, at this time of year, that as soon as you hear the words “holiday decorations” you’ll picture front lawns full of lights and figurines, and your family room, which is essentially a scale model of your front lawn, complete with smaller figurines, smaller lights and a smaller tree.

But any other time of year, you might not think solely of Christmas decorations. In LO, you’ll see decorations (either inside or outside) for the major holidays of Halloween, the Fourth of July, Valentine’s Day, the Civil War game, St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s and my birthday. Well, perhaps not one of those; not too many people put out flags or lawn decorations for Valentine’s Day.

As a school-attending teen with a thirst for knowledge — so, sort of like a thirst you might have after drinking 18 gallons of a fast-food milkshake — I have to wonder: Why do we decorate for the holidays?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to say that decorating is bad, and if I was a politician I could probably tell you why holiday decorations are good for the middle class, the lower class, environmentalists, senior citizens, citizens of Ohio and deceased pets. I simply want to know: Why do we do things like popularize giant spiders during October?

My first thought is that decorations prevent us from forgetting about the holidays. I’ve heard many stories of people getting so drunk at New Year’s Eve parties that they actually found my previous columns funny. When you’re that inebriated, it’s hard to remember what year it is, even harder because the year changes just to mess with you. Upon closer consideration, however, it’s unlikely that this is the true reason we decorate during the holidays. Would we really forget that Valentine’s Day celebrates cardiovascular surgeons if we didn’t hang up paper hearts everywhere? I doubt it.

The next option, then, is that we employ holiday decorations to cut down on crime during the holidays. Those strings of lights really brighten up your exterior perimeter, and no one wants to mess with a 12-foot-tall inflatable guard. Furthermore, few people would consider robbing a haunted house guarded by 3-inch ghosts made out of tissue paper. Do you realize how many fingerprints those fake spider webs pick up?

But let’s assume, for a minute, that not all holiday decorators have crime prevention in mind. We live, after all, in LO, where the top police blotter items are often potted-plant kidnappings. No, I suggest that people decorate for the holidays because other people decorate for the holidays.

Just think about it: If no one else in the entire world placed carved squash on the porch during Halloween, would you? If your neighbor suddenly started leaving sculptures of carrots out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you’d probably — no, definitely — put it in the police blotter. “Rotting vegetables were sighted on a porch on Eighth Street. The homeowner is unresponsive.”

And don’t tell me that seems weird only because carrots have nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll bet that St. Patrick didn’t live life without trying at least a few orange veggies. Regardless, the real point is that the pumpkin’s only connection to Halloween is that everybody decorates with them. They originally used turnips, for crying out loud.

Aside from the obvious American flag decorations for American Independence Day, most unusual decorations started with just one person and a semi-logical explanation (as far as my research indicates, which means I scanned the first sentence of relevant Wikipedia pages). This is terrific news. All we have to do as a community, therefore, is start some completely random holiday tradition next year and then watch it catch on.

When the time comes, I recommend something harmless, yet original. Instead of fireworks, perhaps we fire tea bags out of cannons, to once again stick it to the British. Maybe we rent a bunch of tigers to prowl the streets on Halloween, ‘cause, y’know, the colors are the same. Heck, let’s all start wearing a fanny pack on New Year’s Eve, just because. Do you realize what sort of power we possess? Fanny packs haven’t been in style since the day they were invented.

Maybe you know why we decorate for holidays. As a teen, however, I know I’m always right, so kindly just fake agreement until you come around. Either way, one thing’s clear: Holiday decorations can make any holiday more cheerful, even if they are simply a great example of a materialistic bandwagon mentality. At least, that’s what I tell myself when people forget to decorate for my birthday.

Joel Kwartler is a junior at Lake Oswego High School and writes a monthly column for the Review. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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