Christmas time is all about making style statements, showing your taste in everything from the wreath on your door to the dominant colour of the baubles decorating your tree. Blue baubles were big this year. The massive tall and dense tree outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London was festooned with loads of small blue lights which looked spectacular when they were lit up, once dusk came.
We like to squirm at those householders whom we deem to have poor taste (or none at all) for going completely over the top, with plastic reindeer and big bulky Santa’s in their gardens, along with mock sleighs and angels and multi-coloured twinkling lights.
It’s so much better to be minimalist, don’t you think? You know the look. A tree with just one theme, such as white or blue coloured decorations, definitely no balloons around the house and some wooden logs with white sprayed cones around them, arranged in a large glass bowl. Or something like that.
Flick through interiors’ magazines at this time of the year and they’re all about ‘good taste.’ But who decides what is and what is not good taste? And why do some folk like neat clean lines while others tend towards fussiness in decor?
Needless to say, philosopher, Alain de Botton has a theory on this. He believes that the particular style of things you choose to surround yourself with, is an attempt at creating balance. This means that someone whose life is completely chaotic might be attracted to serene, minimalist decor.
On the other hand, someone who feels wiped out by the demands of a busy life, might favour warm comforting rustic styles. This would apply to Christmas decorations and cards also.
My favourite card this year depicted three sheep in the snow, wearing red hats with the words ‘Baa Humbug’ above them. The sender has a good sense of humour and the card, as well as being funny, is tasteful, mostly white and unfussy.
One of my brothers, who fancies himself as an arbiter of good taste, has declared that the most important possessions for a citizen of our world is a pair of good Italian leather shoes and the best Extra Virgin Olive Oil you can buy. He sent me a card depicting The Snow Queen by Harry Clarke which was originally used to illustrate a Hans Christian Anderson book of fairy tales, published in 1916. Nice one!
There are some folk who don’t get too fussed about the type of cards they send. I mull over cards for ages and have found that Oxfam ones are quite tasteful. (I should perhaps be more concerned about the efficacy of the charity I support, but I’m afraid, aesthetics win out in the end.)
Others select pedestrian cards depicting a plump robin on a branch or a gaudy fat Santa Claus. They’re not neurotically concerned with image. Have they bad taste? How does one account for so-called ‘bad taste?’
According to Alain de Botton, people who embrace excess of any kind (understood to be bad taste), do so as a means of coping with trauma of some kind, compensating for something that is, or was once, achingly missing from their life. We all know of nouveau riche types who suddenly have cash to flash after a life time of frugality. They like to show off their wealth in an ostentatious way. Think gold toilet seats.
People who are broke, with no options apart from working in poorly paid and thankless jobs, tend to embrace sentimentality in decor. According to Alain de Botton, this gives them a warm escape from the daily drudgery of their life.
Bad taste, says the philosopher, is “a trauma created by a badly broken and unbalanced world.” It follows that if we could only create a fairer equitable society, gaudy excess would disappear.
It’s always interesting to follow fashion trends. Some women are complete fashion victims which means they’ve been buying jumpsuits - a big mistake. If I were a fashion victim, this winter I’d have bought yellow garments. But yellow can only be worn by people with dark skin. Otherwise, it’s a colour that drains the life blood from pale Irish complexions.
Faux fur in bright colours is also a thing this season. But it’s only for the seriously zany. Otherwise, it’s just bad taste. If I sound fascistic, forgive me. Wear garish pink faux fur if you want!