Tuesday, December 20, 2011

True Christmas Crime Tuesday

JAN BROGAN: Although the Christmas season inspires all sorts of generosity and philanthropy, it also inspires crime. A good friend of mine was once mugged, while pregnant, unloading presents from her car in her urban neighborhood. Not long afterward, she and her husband moved.

Short of cash and the true holiday spirit, some people resort to stealing presents from homes and cars. But who wants to think about that at Christmastime? Not me, I'm more interested in this novel new Christmas crime in Florida. In fact, I'm wondering if it's really a crime at all....

True story: Two South Florida women were arrested and charged with grand theft after a TV surveillance camera caught them allegedly stealing $500 worth of outdoor Christmas decorations from the neighbor's home.

But the thing is -- the two women didn't keep the decorations, they merely moved them to another yard less than a block away.

I'll let you decide, but here's a list of some of the decorations: Mickey Mouse on a horse, hugging penguins, Snoopy on a doghouse and Santa on a sled.

Coming from New England, home of the "anything other than just white lights is just plain tacky" mindset, which I believe is akin to the "Christmas decorations as indicator of social status" mindset, I say there's a good chance the two women in Florida are actually New England transplants and they just didn't like Snoopy on a doghouse or Mickey on a horse near their homes. Maybe they had a couple glasses of wine and thought they just couldn't stand another moment of Santa's blinking sled. And is Snoopy festive enough for Christmas?

There is also the possibility that this was some kind of revenge and they were merely getting back at the other neighbor - a block away - by dumping the decorations in her yard.

Come on....in this era of a downward spiraling house market, maybe they were worried the decorations were depressing their home values. Maybe they thought they WERE doing something philanthropic for their neighborhood.

In my neighborhood, we have a house around the corner with....let's just call it.. very busy outdoor decorations, and not just for Christmas. These people decorate to the nines for Valentines Day and Easter as well. A lot of little gnomes, and light up Santas, hearts and bunnies, depending on the season. Up here in New England, that generates actual hate mail, according to the neighbor. But she also says she gets letters of support. (Who are these people taking the time to write her about it, either way?)

But what I want to know is how do you feel about really big, inflatable, colorful, or otherwise tacky decorations? Is there a neighbor who bugs you or does the sheer festivity light up your life?


  1. My favorite Christmas decoration is my neighbor's goose -- a plaster one that she dresses up for all seasons. A bikini in August. A pilgrim dress at Thanksgiving. And now she's dresed up in a red suit with white trim.

    We were bereft when, for a few days the goose was naked. It was as if the stars hadn't aligned.

  2. We have a neighbor-ish--down a few blocks--whose whouse is astoishing. Every square inch is covered in colored lights..and some of hte lights spell things. It's breathtakingly awful..and the traffic in the neighborhood is congested becasue people troll by just to look. I cannot imagine what it might belike to live next door.

    I'm a wreath kinda girl..and I admit to liking tiny little white lights on evergreens so at night it looks like theres no tree.

    And amaryllis. Except this morning, I walked into the sun room and the beautiful red one just--wham. A flower fell off. FelL OFF! Gardener Rosemary--WHY?

  3. We once lived in a neighborhood where every house decorated, with lights turning on Dec. 1 and staying on until Jan. 5. The homeowners association contracted off-duty police for traffic control. Seriously! WE LOVED IT! We've long since moved but our first few years here, the yard was full--a softball game between polar bears and penquins, a reindeer in a bi-plane dropping parachute presents (the plane was suspended on a wire between two giant oak trees in the yard) and the control tower had two elves who looked suspiciously like Wiley Post and Will Rogers. Fire chief Santa slid down a candy-cane pole from the roof, with three firefighter elves holding a net, just in case, while Rudolf, with light-up nose, waited in an old-fashioned fire engine. Age and energy have reduced us to a few outside strings now but I *REALLY* miss the days of decorating like that. (Not the electric bill, though!) And I have to admit, the computerized displays make me go all *fangirl squee* inside when I see them.

    Tacky? Probably, but I'm just a redneck country girl from small-town Oklahoma. ;-) And it wouldn't be Christmas without Snoopy and the Peanuts gang! Just sayin'...

  4. Since I am originally from New JErsey, I LOVE all the colored lights and big displays, Silver - although living in New England these thirty-some years, I have come to love the smaller, more dainty lights.

    Hank, the amarylis sometimes falls off -- if its gets old, or sometimes if it was not planted deep enough. The weight of the flower just brings the thing down.

    I love amarylis too, but I always force one in January, so I have something ot look forward to after Christmas.

  5. When I lived on Peaks Island there was a tradition of self-selected judges touring the island a couple of nights before Christmas to determine who won the CMP Award that year, the initials standing for Central Maine Power. The results were posted on the bulletin board on the side of the market.

    Silver, it sounds like you would have run away with the honor every year had you lived on Peaks.

    We are white light people, but one night each year an inflatable Santa hat-wearing polar bear named Francois (he hails from Quebec) presides over our yard. We bring him inside immediately after unplugging him. He's far too dignified a fellow to collapse in a fabric puddle on our frozen lawn.

  6. Hallie, do you live in CT by any chance? I live in CT, a few towns away from someone who decorates a goose for each season. I think she was "kidnapped" at one point some years ago!

    As for tacky: I sure wouldn't want it for myself, but if nothing else, tacky decorations make me smile. I'm always glad to have a reason to smile! Living in a condo, I don't do outdoor decorations, although some of my neighbors do - tastefully, of course!(We have rules against tackiness!) I sometimes hang a wreath outside my door. One year when I was feeling inventive, I bought a plain grapevine wreath and decorated it myself. It desperately needs to be redone, and I don't have time for that this year.

    Deb (from TLC)

  7. Funny--the same thing happened in my town this week: stolen ornaments ended up at someone else's house. It even made the evening news, as a mini crime wave.

    And Swarthmore, PA (not quite in New England) followed the same policy about white holiday lights. If you saw a house with colored lights, you knew you had passed the town boundary.

  8. Quite a coincidence. Yesterday I decided I had to revisit the over-the-top uber-decorated homes of my Brooklyn youth. As teenagers we would climb into two or three cars (this was Bklyn, not CA) and drive to Canarsie and then Dyker Heights to see the lights. Moving reindeer, toy soldiers 20 ft high, talking elves and lights that can supposedly be seen as the planes land at JFK. I'm going tonight. Take a peak.


    I'm less fond of inflatables. Somehow they don't do it for me, except for the ones that look like giant snow globes.

    Me, personally? Strictly white minilights outside, although this yr DH convinced me to go with colored lights on tree and they're not that bad.

    Condolences on your amaryllis. That's horrible after waiting so patiently for the darn thing to bloom. No answer for you darlin'. I don't suppose you were naughty this year...

  9. One of my neighbors has a light up helicopter in her front yard, which I do not get. It blinks so it looks like the blades are twirling.

    "A lot of little gnomes"--I would have to move. Gnomes are scary.

  10. Previously, we had neighbors that decorated every inch of the house and yard.. It wasn't a large house and I always wondered where the heck did they keep all those things the rest of the year?

  11. Girlygirl,

    Yes, I also wonder where those neighbors keep all those decorations. And what I find most odd is that... well, I would expect people who are so festive about every holiday to be friendly, but they really aren't. Maybe it's because some people do send them hate letters (can you believe that?)

    Ramona, I agree with you gnomes are scary and, I have to say, not at all attractive.

    Brenda, I'm glad you are taking good care of Francois.

    I think Christmas decorating SHOULD be entertaining instead of an extension of indoor decor. But I'm a coward, although we have colored lights, my husband does an incredibly tasteful New England job of using the green only on tree trunks, and the red are off on a separate bush.

    So in fact, it is an extension of indoor decor.

    So conflicted.

  12. Sheila,

    Interesting. I'm wondering if this is somehow the new au current Christmas prank.

  13. Last June Molly Weston and I went to a tag sale and I had to be restrained from buying the giant camels from a nativity scene - not that I would have been able to get them on a plane.

  14. Rushing out on a story..crossing fingers. Will scout for decorations...

  15. The best outdoor-light decorating I've ever seen for Christmas was in a photo posted by a friend on Twitter. One house had gone completely overboard with colored lights all over the house and big light-up displays in the yard. The house next door had a display of white lights only in a picture window. the white lights spelled out DITTO.

  16. After our annual holiday brunch Sunday, we and our guests traipsed out to the road and hung gold garland and red plastic bulbs on a tree in the right-of-way. You can do that sort of thing in Montana. :) We borrowed the idea from 3 trees, probably kid-decorated, on a stretch of road we regularly drive near Helena; they're decorated year-round and always make me smile.

  17. Linda,
    Loved the Ditto.

    And Leslie, I'm picturing a big wide expanse in Montana an a single, festive tree!

  18. No, no, no on the inflatables! We've had the white/colored lights conflict in our marriage too. I have to say my colorful New Jersey roots have prevailed...but last year I bought the new energy-saving white bulbs to try something different. Never again--such an unappealing blue-ish white

  19. I don't care for the blowups because I hate to see them lying on the ground during the day when people aren't home. I like decorations but when they go crazy, overboard, they look redicuous. Truthfully, I could never understand the cost and the storage issue. Guess I'm cheap. Oh and the traffic jams on streets. No way!

  20. More Montana flavor: the Christmas Parade in our town features half a dozen llamas, each wearing reindeer antlers, a Santa hat, or a wreath around its neck. They are amazingly tolerant -- and amazingly popular. (And yes, they're going in a book.)

  21. Neighbor who bugs me? Oh yes, Jan. Next door--penguins, santa, snowmen etc etc. Not even the mercy of snow to soften the effect.

  22. I'm laughing Rhys, and visualizing your pain!

  23. Ywah, gnomes, kind of scary. Wouldn't want to run into one in the middle of the night.

    And the blow up Santas--there's a punctured one just down the street. So sad. Sometimes I feel just like that....

  24. Wicked funny, Jan!!!!

    "'Coming from New England, home of the "anything other than just white lights is just plain tacky" mindset, which I believe is akin to the "Christmas decorations as indicator of social status" mindset, I say there's a good chance the two women in Florida are actually New England transplants and they just didn't like Snoopy on a doghouse or Mickey on a horse near their homes.'"

    You have brought back great memories from my New England childhood. The white lights thing is still going strong in the family, most prominently seen on my aunt's house in Milton. Last year she caused a minor scandal by stringing those drippy icicley thingy-things all around the house. She was so embarrassed by the gossip she had my cousin drive up from the merchant marine academy to take them down before the neighbors did it their way.

  25. Reine,

    Yup. Absolutely New England. Your poor aunt!!


  26. And Jan, let's not talk about the time she drove into the parking space someone else had cleared the snow from. How was she supposed to know they were down the cellar looking for an old lawn chair to keep their place!

  27. I like decorations, but I'm picky. All white is fine, but the blue lights are creepy. I don't like strands of lights just thrown up into a tree, or wrapped around and around a trunk and one or two low branches, then just stop. I guess I like balance.

    We look forward to the decorations from our across the street neighbors. They have "deer" made of white lights, probably ten or twelve of them, plus a moose whose head moves side to side. Each year he sets them up to represent a sport. It started with football, rows of deer lined up facing one another with a ball between. The moose was the quarterback. Best of all, when he brings the deer out and then puts them away at the end of the season, he doesn't just drop them all into place. On day one they are on the sides of the house. Day two they move forward just a bit. Day three they're halfway into the front yard. Day four they're all in the yard, but in no particular order. It's only on day five that the theme is revealed.

  28. Piecemealquilts,

    Has he ever done reindeer baseball? I want to see THIS!!!

    Yes, that can get you killed in the city.

  29. Piecemeal, that's hilarious. Wouldn't you love to hear the conversations when they decide what to to do?

    Reine, I had just put that in my new book!

  30. No no no to the inflatables! Some in neighbors' yards used to scare our big, tough German shepherd on her nightly walks. And rightly so! And deflated in the daytime, they look like corpses.

    piecemealquilts, I am in love with your neighbor's "sports deer." Wish I could see that!

    As for us, we've gone from religiously all-white to odds-and-ends of colored strings. They're cheerful, and remind me of my childhood.

    We switched to supposedly "warm" white LEDs on our tree last year instead of our traditional white fairy (Brit speak alert) lights. And while they are certainly safer and more energy efficient, they are not "warm", and I really miss our old lights...

    And don't mention blinking! I hate blinking! I'm turning Grinchly green at the thought!

  31. Hank! Are you kidding? So hilarious, that tradition. Wicked funny!

    My second favorite is the snow-level countdown during spring thaw. Just spotted . . . tinsel and pine . . . we're down to Christmas tree level . . . on the watch for poo . . . that's it folks spring is near . . . we're down to dog poo level!!!! Who needs the ground hog anyways, huh?