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When it comes to the trappings of Christmas—primarily lots of snow and all the things that go with it, Texas was left out in the cold. That hasn’t fazed us, though; every Christmas we import evergreens and buy snow in spray cans or rolls and spread it around in homage to traditions our ancestors brought from Europe. The obligatory camels of the wise men may be slightly out of place amid the icicles, but if the camels notice, no one else seems to.
Decorating for Christmas often takes on a life of its own. Regular folks with a little too much time and energy start turning their houses into mini-Coney Islands of lights and tableaux, often creating the wildest juxtapositions of angels, choirboys, and Santas.
Over the last eight years, Christina Patoski has sought out the extravaganzas, the famous and the humble, from across Texas. She has found Christmas decoration a sort of folk art, a performance art that claims passersby as its audience. Whatever may go on inside the houses in the way of celebration, the outsides say, “Look at my yard; this is my notion of Christmas.”
Photography by Christina Patoski
Shirley Carter, director of the Texas Girls’ Choir, lives on a block in Fort Worth where everyone decorates. She spends about $100 every year, partly because people keep stealing the wise men. Sometimes she decorates her 1941 Dodge too.