Thursday, December 13, 2012

What qualifies as holiday “festive,” rather than just downright tacky?

CALUMET CITY, Ill. – It’s that time of the year when some people are going to take offense at holiday displays in public buildings; claiming that somehow our rights to believe what we want are threatened by the presence of a giant Christmas tree.

It might not be politically offensive, but City Hall in Calumet City these days definitely overdoes the holiday spirit. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda

Personally, I think the “threat” to our right to believe what we want is threatened more by the people who try to make an issue out of it.

PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO claim there’s a “War on Christmas.” As though we have to have their vision rammed down our throats for all to be at peace in the world!

But the reality is, I don’t get seriously offended by holiday displays (although I still think all these years later that the people who put up a “Festivus Pole” at the Illinois Statehouse a la Seinfeld had way too much free time on their hands.

What does seriously offend me is when the holiday displays get so overbearing and gaudy that they take what should be a solemn holiday for reflection and turn it into a tacky festival.

If anything, I think many of these public displays for the holiday are offensive – and not just because they were erected just before the Halloween holiday.

IF ANYTHING, I’M nominating my one-time hometown of suburban Calumet City for one of the gaudiest holiday displays in the greater Chicago area. It may be the tackiest, although if anyone out there is aware of something more cheesy, feel free to let me know.
Government activity inside not as festive as City Hall entrance

What they do in Calumet City is erect lights all over the City Hall, 204 Pulaski Road, and in the trees of Pulaski Park located just across the streets.

Those lights are on a timer so that at the top of the hour all through the day, a light show is displayed. Lights flash on and off with more synchronization than at the Hoosier-based casinos that exist just a couple of miles away in Hammond, East Chicago and Gary.

Considering that Calumet City is among the municipalities that has made it clear they want the south suburban-based casino that Illinois officials keep hinting will someday be built, perhaps this is just a test run for how flashy a building can be made to look.

BUT IF THE light show isn’t enough, the sound system runs through a string of pop songs that pass for Christmas carols.

Personally, I find the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s “Christmas Time is Here” (you probably think of it as the Peanuts’ cartoon holiday song) soothing the first few times I hear it.

Although passing through the area near City Hall in Calumet City and suddenly being startled by the sound of Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” definitely threw me out of the holiday mood. In fact, that song may now join that holiday ditty with the barking dogs doing Jingle Bells as pop culture dreck that I never want to hear again.
Take your pick which holiday tree you want to see lit up

And yes, I’ll concede that I’m not much of a photographer, although these images taken Wednesday night do convey some of the sense of the gaudiness that area residents have to put up with.

BECAUSE THE VOLUME on the music is definitely loud enough to be heard for blocks around – including into Indiana (which admittedly is only two blocks to the east).

How long until the neighbors (there are houses within a block of the building) take up their pitchforks and storm the building – demanding a silence to the holiday-inspired racket?

So if you have a low threshold for holiday kitsch, don’t say I didn’t warn you in saying to stay away from City Hall in Calumet City – where these days municipal officials are going through the process by which they try to knock their political opponents off the ballot for the Feb. 26 municipal elections so they can run unopposed.

Which makes the mood inside the building most definitely un-jolly!


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