Don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-penguin. I am not a penguin-hater. If a “Power to the Penguin” movement existed, I would support it.
But my question is this: when did penguins become symbols of Christmas? I’m no yard-art expert but I have noticed a proliferation of illuminated wire and inflatable penguins over the last few years during the holiday season. It’s as if the penguins are part of an “Occupy Front Yards” campaign.
You’ve seen ‘em – they’re mixed right in with the mechanical wire light-covered reindeer nodding their heads incessantly toward the plastic nativity scene. The one that looks like Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the wise men not only are beaming radiant love but may also be powered by some undocumented nuclear device.
If the penguins are supposed to be happy little buddies of Santa’s eight tiny reindeer and Rudolph (whom Blitzen and the others may regard as “’Number Nine’- the jerk who came in and stole our thunder with his blinkin’ red nose and stupid song after we got the whole thing up and running”), they are obviously on an extended play date. Penguins are indigenous to the South Pole. If you sent your letter to a big fat man in a red suit at an address near The Penguins’ house, no wonder you didn’t get want you wanted for Christmas last year.
Will the real Christmas yard art please stand up!
Everybody sing: Where has Plastic Santa gone (long time passin’)? I’m talking tacky, red and white, chipped paint jolly old elves lit with 40 watt GE light bulbs from inside their fat bellies. As inflatable penguins have moved in, it seems Plastic Santa (or “P.S.”, as we refer to him in the Kerr house) has moved out. I don’t blame him. The King of Christmas Yard Art is a kind and loving guy but enough is enough. Plastic Saint Nick could justifiably exclaim, “Christmas penguins – bah, humbug!”
A popular blues and country music motif is the line “You never miss the water ‘til the well runs dry.” Likewise, of course, owning a Plastic Santa never occurred to me until I noticed they were dwindling in number. My wife and I began a highly unscientific Plastic Santa count originating twenty years ago at a movable and quite fluid Christmas party aboard a Johnny Walker tour bus that wound through Nashville. As we noticed they were becoming scarce, I began a quest to find our own P.S.
With some guidance from a friend who advised me to steer my sleigh toward an estate sale in Pegram, Tennessee in Cheatham County, just west of Nashville, this year I hit pay dirt.
So now, upgraded from yard art status, P.S. stands beside our Christmas tree in the living room. And every night when we plug him in, it’s as if:
We hear him exclaim as we turn on his light, “Happy Christmas to all, not a penguin in sight!”
Text and photo copyright 2011 Les Kerr