My General Theory of Christmas Decorations

I have been observing trends in Christmas decorations for some time now, and I think I have developed a generalized theory to describe their trends.. There are four phases to the Christmas decoration product lifecycle, and the first three phases typically last one holiday season. They are as follows:

  1. Bleeding Edge – One or two people in your area have the decoration. These people are almost like the beta testers for the product… More accurately, they are like Patient 0 for the meme.
  2. Cutting Edge – A handful of people, perhaps 5% of your local population, have discovered this decoration and have purchased it and put it on display. What’s interesting about this phase is that if the product has made it to this phase, it will continue on through the subsequent phases. While a product might die on the vine at the first phase, once it’s “cool” enough for this handful of people to adopt it, it will achieve traction with the rest of the decorating community.
  3. Fad – A huge percentage of the decorating population has bought several of these decorations.. Things are completely out of hand, and headed for disaster. (i.e. 2004’s “Inflatable Decoration” craze)
  4. Passé – This is the endgame… The only people who continue using this decoration in their display are those who don’t realize how lame it has become. Sometimes this period is very brief, and only a few people try to perpetuate this decoration (i.e. the christmas lights with complicated, seizure-inducing blink patterns), but this period can also be drawn out and involve a reasonable swath of the population (i.e. “Icicle Lights” in 2004).

Now, applying this theory to the present, and I have made some predictions… We are comfortable saying that this year’s “Bleeding Edge” decoration is Orb Lights (strings of baseball sized orbs, similar to the Ambient Orbs, which either are a constant color or slowly cycle through many colors). We are also comfortable predicting that one of this years “Cutting Edge” decorations are animated light displays (featuring a set of lights that turn on or off to create a few “frames” of a jerky animated scene…).

It is important to note that I expect it to be possible, on the rare occasion, that a decoration mired in the “Passé” could circle back around to “Bleeding Edge” if it had become obscure enough and “rediscovered”. In fact, I suspect that the “Animated Light Display” has been around the block before. It is also important to point out that distinguishing between Bleeding and Cutting edge can be difficult at times, so it is possible that both the orbs and animated displays are still in their infancy..

4 thoughts on “My General Theory of Christmas Decorations

  1. I didn’t realize the inflatable decoration was a widespread phenomenon. I was going to my sister’s house deep in New England just after I had accidentally gone over a one-lane wooden bridge and passed a man inexplicably hosing down a building labelled “WATER WITCH HOSE COMPANY”. When I saw a home with something like eight inflatable characters on the lawn, I assumed it was the caffeine.

    1. The spread of these deco-memes starts regional, but thanks to the kitsch-power of beasts like QVC and Wal-Mart, this is changing…

      I suspect that it is via these channels that the inflat-o-rations have spread…

      To me, the best part is that you can watch the trend dying this year… People, sick of going outside to top off the air on their decorations, have given up and let them topple over, sad and limp.

  2. Is there any room for “Neo-Retro” in your theory? I’m partial to big fat colorful bulbs. I grew up around those types of lights in my grandparents neighborhood, Italians… gotta love them ;)

    1. I should have clarified that my theory is focusing on the “fad” phase of the decorations… Occasionally things in the Passé stage transcend this system and actually become classics…

      I wouldn’t be surprised if twinkle lights, fat bulbs, and even garland at some point had fallen through this model, but I don’t have any historical data to analyze.

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