The Cost of Cheer
Updated: Dec 6, 2019
The holidays are upon us and, like many of you, I often think of those less fortunate than me. And by that, I mean those poor souls who live on Candy Cane Lane.
“Candy Cane Lane” is just a few blocks away from my home in my suburban southern California neighborhood. It is a street with a different real name, but it has been dubbed, “Candy Cane Lane” because of what happens there every December.
Imagine a Christmas parade where each float is elaborately decorated, covered with lights, music is piped everywhere, and mechanical characters greet an onlooking crowd. Now, imagine those floats are actually houses and, instead of this parade moving past stationary viewers, it is the viewers who move, strolling up and down the street to get a glimpse of each holiday house they pass.
Cotton “snow” is strewn everywhere, often connecting one yard to the next. Giant clockwork Santas wave at children. Inflatable Frosty-the-snowmen smile at babies pushed by in strollers. Papier-mâché reindeer are strung between rooftops. Entrepreneurial girl scouts sell hot chocolate on their porch.
It’s a whole scene. Every December. Every year. For years on end. No end in sight. Candy Cane Lane. Like Christmas napalm fell on the street and covered everything.
Cars can’t easily move in and out of this street during the evenings when the lights are lit and the crowds are biggest, pretty much for four straight weeks. Visitors park blocks away and walk in.
This is what brings me to the poor people that live there and why I think of them every year. I’m told when a house in this neighborhood sells, the buyers are forewarned. Coming home from work after dark might be difficult in the month of December. Prepare to spend hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars on electricity to light those holiday lights and animate those Frosties every winter. Don’t get too attached to your landscaping—it will get trampled. Be ready to scrub melted marshmallows off the sidewalk in front or your house. And don’t, even for a minute, think you can opt out. These aren’t just reindeer games. This is serious. Santa Claus is coming to town and he knows if you’ve been bad or good.
I’ll be honest—I kind of like going and checking this place out each year. I’ve been known to bring holiday visitors over for a gander and a gawk, to give a girl scout a buck or two for instant cocoa in a cup, served at a pop-up stand on the sidewalk. Guilty as charged. In short, I’ve contributed to this horror show and, arguably, the girl scouts are the only ones turning a profit.
But, still, I’m left feeling bad for the residents of Candy Cane Lane. I’m sure they really believe they know what they’re in for when they move in, but can anyone really predict that moment when you’re hosing gingerbread barf off your driveway or scooping candy cane dog doo off your lawn? I’m sure they’d prefer to buy wonderful gifts for their family rather than write their checks to Southern California Edison for the excessive electricity they consume. Bah humbug.
And yet, consume it they do. Every year. Without fail. Every house. No exception.
I’m not sure a disillusioned Candy Cane Laner could break the cycle even if they wanted to. Then again, one way I think they could, is to get everyone in the neighborhood to agree it’s over. Everyone turn off the lights. Everyone keep the decorations in the garage. Everyone leave town for the month. Do that two years in a row and you can stop the insanity, end the enemy incursion, cool the cheer. Visitors might get the message. Maybe.
Then again, that would just be sad. As bad as I feel for these people, I’m grateful they do it. It makes me, and loads of neighbors, and scores of guests, and dozens of girl scouts very happy.
Whoever you sad souls are—and I can only guess there may be Jews like me among you who are particularly worthy of my gratitude for your noble sacrifice—I thank you. Thanks for tolerating the looky-loos and the barfy kids, and the poopy dogs, and the boot stompy grass smashers. I thank you for paying the exorbitant electric bills, hosing down your driveways, and putting up—then taking down—all those elaborate decorations, and for doing it year-in and year-out.
You are the heroes of the holidays and I salute you.
But I pity you too, suckers.
© 2019 Herb Williams-Dalgart