They start to make their appearance round about November of every year—if not earlier—and they’re hard to miss (because they’re so big): oversize holiday decorations out of scale from reality, including giant candy canes, super-sized gingerbread men, hulking snowman, toy soldiers and nutcracker figures that dwarf their surroundings, gigantic glowing snowflakes and stars of Bethlehem, and whatever else the vivid celebratory imagination can dream up. Erecting such colossal decorations seems like a lot of work—especially considering they’ll only spread their cheer for about a month.
Why bother doing it?
A Big Holiday Deserves Extra-big Decorations
And there’s your answer. Can you think of any bigger day to celebrate in all the year than Christmas? For some people, celebrating Christmas is the perfect way to round out the year, and they go all in on decorations like these. And who can blame them? They’re eye-catching and lots of fun!
Giants of the Imagination
And yet there’s more to it than that. For centuries, people have been fascinated with tales of “living small” in a world of giants. Call it “Jack and the Beanstalk Syndrome.” Countless books and films have explored this theme to the nth degree. Examples that spring immediately to mind include:
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
The US comedy film, features the children of a brilliant inventor who accidentally shrink themselves with their dad’s experimental shrink ray to be a quarter-inch tall and must survive a series of indoor and the outdoor perils on a different scale.
Fantastic Voyage (1966)
This 1966 American science fiction adventure film is about a submarine crew who are shrunk to microscopic size and venture into the body of an injured scientist to repair damage to his brain. Along the way, they encounter giant white blood cells that try to eat them and survive a trip through the “rapids” of his beating heart.
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
In this classic ’50s B&W film, the protagonist is enveloped by a strange mist while out at sea, only to later discover that he appears to be shrinking. After he shrinks to the point he can fit into a doll house, he has a battle with his family cat, which leaves him lost and alone in his basement, where he is now smaller than the average insect.
Films in the Marvel Ant-Man Franchise
Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, the protagonist escapes a mouse that is chasing him by setting off a mousetrap and catapulting away. In another scene he even shrinks down to subatomic scale.
The most enjoyable part of the aforementioned films is seeing our perception of the scale of the material world turned topsy-turvy. That is part of the reason why oversized candy canes and other holiday displays are so enjoyable!
Among the various literary works that explore this concept, the most famous surely is Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726). In Part II of the book, when the protagonist Lemuel Gulliver finds himself stranded in the land of Brobdingnag, he observes that it is fully cultivated;…
but that which first surprised me was the length of the grass, which, in those grounds that seemed to be kept for hay, was about twenty feet high.
He also sees “corn rising at least forty feet” and is threatened by a cat “three times larger than an ox.” The adult people of Brobdingnag are described as giants who are at least 60 feet tall; and the farmer who takes in Gulliver serves him a meal “in a dish of about four-and-twenty feet diameter.” In this painting by Richard Redgrave, we experience Gulliver’s world from his perspective.
All of the examples cited above, of course, are satires and science fiction—which is to say, they are intended to be fun yet scary adventures. But now imagine this oversized world at Christmastime. It would not be scary at all!
Take candy canes, for example. Candy Canes are usually about 6 inches in length. Over the years, of course, candy manufacturers have introduced various modifications on this classic look. To this day, “normal” candy canes can vary in length from about 2 to 12 inches. Even the extra-large candy cane depicted below is not unreal, and it would be edible—even if it made you sick afterward.
The look on the kid’s face says it all. He is so astonished, that he has lost his gloves and dropped his schoolbooks in the snow! It is this exact same feeling of wonder, enchantment, and excitement that the world’s various “Candy Cane Lane” celebrations seek to create.
About Candy Cane Lane
A Christmas tradition since 1968, Canada’s “Candy Cane Lane” in Edmonton, Alberta, is visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors every Christmas season. It has become traditional for both Edmontonians and visitors from far away to flock to this West End Christmas Light and Decoration display every year. The sights and sounds of Candy Cane Lane instill the spirit of Christmas in all visitors, with their colorful light displays and unique decorations—including giant candy canes and other seasonal decor!—which bring out the magic of the season for young and old alike.
Many other cities in both Canada and the United States now follow Edmonton’s lead and put on their own Candy Cane Lane celebrations. But you don’t have to travel far to experience Candy Cane Lane yourself. This Christmas, you can create your own at home, with Christmas Night Inc.’s giant candy canes and other oversize displays.