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Holiday decorations are as boring this year as they were garish last year.

Most households are mindlessly decking the halls with last year's boughs of holly and pumping up the same old 10-foot blow-up Santas, snow people and Sponge Bobs.

With nothing to top last year's first coming of inflatable decorations rivaling Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade floats, households are relying upon the same old kitsch to put them in the spirit, according to Stevens, PA-based Unity Marketing.

Pam Danziger, Unity president says holiday celebrating consumers will spend the same $8 billion this year on holiday decorations, but only two thirds of households will shop for what often amounts to decorative schlock. They will spend about $100 -- $15 less than last year.

Ebenezer Scrooge says most of the money will go to air pumps, helium, tethers and counseling for kids who get relentlessly teased about the two-story inflatable snow globe on their front lawn again.

"With decorations manufacturers and retailers showing very little new or innovative this year, shoppers have little reason to shop for Christmas decorations this holiday season. This year there are no new ideas in the stores like we had last year with outdoor inflatables. It is new products that drive people into the stores to shop for decorations," Danziger said.

And a little crazy trying to outdo the neighbors, Scrooge would add.

Last year, along with inflatable Jesus Christ balloons, few rooms were spared the grace of a Christmas tree, candles found their way into the laundry and, when it came to holiday decorating, not a Bah Humbug was stirring.

Households will actually spend the most of their holiday decor budgets on new ornaments for their multiple Christmas trees. Later they'll tap their home equity for a room addition to store all the glitter for the next 11 months.

"More Americans are setting up two or more trees with an old-fashioned family tree in the den, but more fashion-forward decorative trees in the living room, dining room, foyer, and other public spaces," Danziger said.

The battle rages on over what's often the centerpiece of holiday decor. And it's no longer just question of faux vs. real, some assembly required vs. schlepping to the tree farm.

It's pre-lighted vs. stringing your own lights.

"When it is time to replace a dowdy old artificial tree, people are trading up to pre-lighted trees that cost two-to-three times more than an ordinary faux tree, but which come with pre-strung lights that look better than the ones you do yourself," Danziger said.

Danziger says the higher cost and the need to replace an artificial tree only once every ten years could put a damper on the more luxurious pre-lighted trees.

What about the real thing?

In a war of words between the growers, the National Christmas Tree Association and fake tree maker backer, the Vinyl Institute, 24 percent of households will purchase 27 million of the real deal, down from 27.1 million last year.

"We are encouraged by the fact that three times as many real Christmas trees will be purchased as fake trees," said Beth Walterscheidt, president elect of the tree growers.

Only 8 percent will purchase facsimile trees, but that number doesn't account for scores of man made trees purchased in previous years and reawakened from closet hibernation each year.

Try that with a real tree.

"Vinyl Christmas trees offer the same beauty as natural trees while protecting families from a potential fire hazard," said Tim Burns, president of the Vinyl Institute.

"During the holiday season, when most parents are pretty harried, it's one less thing to worry about," he added.

Yes, but the phony foliage is an outsourced product, produced by underpaid workers with no health insurance to protect them from plastic needle impaling, Scrooge is quick to remind.

But that's only because Americans are a lazy lot and grow trees largely because the trees actually do all the work. They can't handle the tedious labor involved with actually building a tree from scratch.

Whoring your holiday decor or not, you'd better not call that tree a "Christmas" tree for fear of offending those who celebrate other year-end holidays.

Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

Remember when it was just about decking the halls and fa la la la la?

Today, even holiday decor in the privacy of your own home is a topic of political correctness.

"Ultimately there is only one reason why people decorate their home for the holidays: Decorations gives an emotional lift and stimulate the mood for celebration," Danziger says.

Scrooge would say a good jolt of spiked nog costs a lot less and provides pretty much the same effect.

Quaff enough and you'll see plenty of stars -- and maybe a red and green elephant or two.

Say, "Elephants in holiday colors."

Now, that's new!

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