Saturday, December 20, 2003

Seasonal Sociological Enquiry

Or perhaps I mean "anthropological". I'm not always clear on my "-ologies".

In any event, I played for two funerals yesterday, both graveside services. One was up on the peninsula and the other about 30 or so miles away toward Orange County. And the seasonal grave decorations were up.

And I don't mean a bouquet of flowers left on the gravestone either. These are Christmas decorations. Christmas trees. Even a few five foot tall, fully decorated Christmas trees, although most are smaller. There are wreaths, battery-powered lights, cardboard cut outs of Santa and the reindeer, pots of poinsettias, everything, in fact, that you see outside a California house, now placed on a grave. Well, o.k., no giant inflatable Bart Simpson Santas but that probably has to do with lack of room on a, say, 7' x 4' plot. And Christmas cards. People bring Christmas cards to the grave. (How long do they wait before dropping the recipient from the list when they don’t get one back?) One plot was completely surrounded by three-foot-tall candy canes, perhaps two or three dozen of them, planted all round the plot, and in the center was a plastic Santa with the traditional red hat and black boots but otherwise dressed in a t-shirt and white, polka-dotted boxer shorts.

I find this utterly bizarre. Now, the one person I've mentioned it to thinks it was "kind of sweet" and "nice that they want to include their deceased in the celebration." Harrumph. I submit that a Santa in his underwear as a grave memorial is something other than "sweet". But that one is perhaps a sport in the works. The rest I saw were at least something approaching traditional. Whatever. Imagine it: an entire cemetery, awash in plastic Christmas. Nothing short of astonishing.

At Christmastime do graveyards throughout the country look as though they’ve been attacked by a deranged Martha Stewart with bad taste and no budget? Or is it just this benighted state? Are there illuminated Frosty the Snowmen adorning graves in, say, Nebraska, too? One can only hope that intense cold and three feet of snow will keep this sort of thing to a minimum elsewhere.

Merry Christmas, anyway.