Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 12.9.11
Stanstead, Quebec


Have yourself a Murray Little Christmas

House decorations should be like me: simple and old.

The KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Santa

As a newly elected Stanstead town councillor in Quebec, my wife was invited to the town hall annual Christmas dinner, and as her spouse, I was invited along. That's right: I was political arm candy, and I've never been prouder.

Prior to leaving for the event, Deb informed me that dress was casual. It was decidedly not. Thankfully, I successfully convinced everyone that my look was "A Salute to the Denim-Clad Men Who Built This Town and the Women Who Knit Casual Sweaters for Them."

What do we learn from this? One: on domestic issues, my wife's credibility has taken a hit. And two: when it comes to Christmas, you don't need to go all out. It's all about attitude. As many people say, less is more. The people who say this usually have less to begin with and are merely trying to make themselves feel better, but there is a truth to it.

With that in mind, and as we ease into the Christmas season like a sexy elf costume that is nowhere near as sexy as you thought it would be (a story for another time, perhaps), I'd like to offer some tips on how to have yourself a Murray Little Christmas. This week: lighting up! The house, that is.

For starters: NO BLOW-UP THINGS! You know who didn't have blow-up things? The Baby Jesus! Christmas decorations are supposed to symbolize elements of the birth of Christ -- evergreens representing eternal life, lights representing the Christmas star, reindeer representing things we like to eat. The only thing a blow-up penguin represents is a spike in your Hydro bill.

Blow-up lawn decorations also open the door to overly broad definitions of "Christmasy." Down the street, there's a house that has a blow-up Christmas dinosaur. You know it's a "Christmas" dinosaur because it's wearing a Santa hat. (Any archeologist will tell you that you can't get near a dig without tripping over half a dozen fossilized Santa hats.) Next to the dinosaur is a blow-up Noah's ark.

This is crazy: Noah's ark and dinosaurs have nothing to do with Christmas; they're both in the Old Testament! But as the saying goes, those who don't know history are doomed to inflate it.

Mostly, though, you don't want inflatable things on your lawn because they are new. Yes, yes, they've been around for more than 10 years, but they're not old, like tradition old, like my-casual-sweater old. I feel the same way about any new Christmas songs by new singers, and not merely because they have titles like "Get All Up in My Chimney" or "You and Me and Mistletoe is a Harassment Suit Waiting to Happen."

Which brings me to the second rule of decorating your house the Murray Little Christmas way: DON'T CHANGE ANYTHING! Whatever you've been doing for the past 20 years, keep doing that. Otherwise your children will be confused. They'll see you buying new decorations and think you have money and then they'll ask you for it. No one wants that.

Your spouse might also be upset with your messing with tradition, and she may take it out on you by vindictively downplaying holiday dress codes.

Stick with what you know. In my case, this is a string of lights outlining the edges of our front porch. We've been putting these lights up the same way for nearly 25 years, and we inherited the strings of lights from Deb's parents, which means we are keeping alive a longstanding Christmas tradition of electrical hazards.

Thankfully, unlike those seizure-causing projectors that turn your house into Studio 54, these older lights are completely inefficient and give off only the softest of glows and mildest of shocks.

Remember: Christmas is a time for the senses, not just lights and music but also smells. A mere whiff of the fake plastic holly we string along the railing of the porch and I'm whisked back to a time when manufacturing standards were merely suggestions, when asbestos was a miracle fibre and plastic contained the goodness of lead.

So what if you breathed in the dust of that artificial wreath that partially disintegrated in your hand after years in the basement exposed to damp and cat urine. This is what you do! Tradition! Why, I've been handling these mould-infused, disintegrating substances for years and I've turned out just Finland.

Keep tradition alive! You, on the other hand, can be replaced.

Next time: How to make small talk at Christmas parties that doesn't involve explaining why you're wearing sneakers.