2020-Themed Christmas Ornaments Are Now A Thing, I Guess
Looking for a festive way to commemorate the dumpster fire that has been 2020? Move over, sexy hand sanitizer Halloween costumes, Covid-19 Christmas is on the way, coming complete with commemorative ornaments. From sparkly hand sanitizer and toilet paper ...
... and even good 'ol Dr. Fauci ...
pandemic-themed ornaments are now apparently a thing. I guess someone had to do it.
According to The New York Times, holiday vendors faced an unprecedented challenge earlier in the year, deciding whether to stick to their usual offerings of stars, angels, and reindeer or embrace the absurdity of 2020 with equally absurd Covid-19 themed products. Many business owners chose to venture forth into this, erm, definitely uncharted territory, and it seemingly paid off -- people are actually buying them. Old World Christmas exec, Neal Applefeld told the publication his company has seen big sales for pandemic-themed decorations as well as items relating to travel and gardening. "It's interesting to watch, because I think people are buying ornaments that reflect things that gave them comfort at home, or things we've been missing in our lives," he explained.
So why exactly do we find pandemic and quarantine-related holiday trinkets so comforting? As much as I'd love to joke about our absurd state of late-stage capitalism, questioning who exactly would buy a mini Dr. Fauci to display on their tree, these products aren't entirely unprecedented. For thousands of years, people have carried around memento mori, or items that symbolize death throughout various periods in history. Latin for the phrase 'remember (that you have) to die,' memento mori were particularly popular during the 16th and 17th centuries, where they were considered Rennisance status symbols, taking the form of pendants, prints, and more, CNN reported. These items were also common during the bubonic plague, as they were " ... designed to remind the viewer of their mortality and the shortness and fragility of human life," according to the UK's Tate Modern Museum. In a year arguably defined by a global pandemic, the return of memento mori seems oddly appropriate. Sure, a sparkly hand sanitizer ornament is a far cry from a skull ring or grim reaper drawing, but in our cultural lexicon, they carry similar significances. For those of us that lived through this complicated moment, these items will always carry a heavy and arguably painful connotation, just like those ancient relics.
But it's not all doom and gloom. Once upon a time when traveling was actually a thing, my mother, like many other moms around the world, insisted that we buy at least one Christmas ornament commemorating every family trip, good or bad, including that one time when I visited Disney World in Orlando alone with my best friend (and was definitely not bitter about it).
On some level, these items represent a type of wishful thinking that 2020 will somehow be nothing more than a bad trip, that some way (most likely through masks, social distancing, and a vaccine) we can return to "normal," whatever that means anymore. One Holiday season in the (hopefully not-so-distant future), we'll safely gather all of our friends and family members over for a holiday party. As we open gifts, not a mask in sight, we'll spot Santa Claus sporting a sparkling face mask from the side of our tree, and feel a sense of relief that we made it through the Covid-19 Pandemic with a renewed thankfulness for all we once took for granted.
In short, commemorating death and collective fear in the form of purchasable goods is a long-running human tradition, spanning centuries -- and these ornaments, while occasionally veering on tacky, aren't any different. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to buy my mom a small reminder of her inevitable death for Christmas that she'll probably love and cherish for many Christmases to come -- just 2020 things!