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Have Yourself A Tacky Little Christmas

Maybe it all started with ugly Christmas sweaters. Or with cheesy inflatable Santas. Or hideously inappropriate tree ornaments. But Christmastime – at least its visible trappings and accoutrements – seems to be getting tackier.

This is not about the Spirit of Christmas. Or its True Meaning. This is about some of the outward signs and symbols of the season.

"Christmas is such a mishmash of mixed signals and crossed wires," says culture critic Hank Stuever, a Washington Post reporter and author of Tinsel: A Search for America's Christmas Present. "It's ugly because it's kind of a disaster of colliding ideals — simplicity runs smack into commercialism. Religion crashes into the secular. That's why we tend to get so uppity and defensive about Christmas as a culture."

And perhaps why the "I'll be homely for Christmas" backlash appears to be getting more apparent. For example:

1) Ugly Christmas Kitchen Smock

2) Ugly Christmas Ties

3) Ugly Christmas Jewelry

4) Ugly Christmas Leggings

5) Ugly Christmas Footed Pajamas

"We spend a lot of time bemoaning and worrying about the loss of simple, plain, old-fashioned Christmas," says Hank. "We go to great lengths to make our Christmases look classier and authentic and Martha Stewart-approved. This takes a lot of money — mountain cabins, fresh-cut firs, matching decor, snowfall at just the right moment in a world without climate change."

He adds, "It's much more affordable to have a tacky Christmas."

The Protojournalist is an experiment in reporting. Abstract. Concrete. @NPRtpj

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Linton Weeks joined NPR in the summer of 2008, as its national correspondent for Digital News. He immediately hit the campaign trail, covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; fact-checking the debates; and exploring the candidates, the issues and the electorate.