Christmas lights started appearing all over the neighborhood the day after Thanksgiving. In the last few years, holiday decorations have included these weird inflatable figures like Mickey Mouse Santa and snowmen, even snowglobes and elves. They are eerily reminiscent of the larger-than-life Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the movie "Ghostbusters."
I haven't seen any inflatable dreidels or latkes or ornamental Maccabees on front lawns, but it's really not necessary since it is customary for Jews to place their lit hannukiyot (Hannukah candelabras) in the window for others to see.
Then I started to think about the metaphor of inflating and deflating.
Sometimes we feel like the deflated figurines, wilted and flaccid and face down in the dirt. But if we get too inflated, we might explode. We need just the right amount of air (and of course a decorative backdrop of lights fit for a Broadway opening) to stand upright in the spirit of celebration.
The holiday season can be fraught with stress, expectation, complicated relationship and family dynamics and financial worry, all of which interfere with and distract us from the joy, generosity and miracles that are the spiritual themes of the holidays.
"Don't give up your praise," said Bishop Yvette Flunder in last Sunday's sermon to her congregation. Even in the midst of stress or suffering, we have a deeper capacity to express joy and praise, perhaps even to praise our way through the difficult times. This is also true in the Jewish tradition with the Mourner's Kaddish, a prayer of praise that is said when someone dies, during periods of mourning, and on special holidays and yahrzeits (the anniversary of the date someone died).
Maybe the inflatable lawn figures are an expression of praise for the holiday season. I wonder if they might start doing a happy dance…