The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Submitted photos Snowbabies
Submitted photos
Antique snowmen

The holiday festivities on Oroville’s Main Street got underway recently with the Tree Lighting event at Centennial Park–-brilliant lights, Santa’s visit and all that. Tree lights also went up in front of the dark, former restaurant, most recently known as The Plaza, on the following Saturday with the pop-up of Treasures of d’Oro, an artisan market.

Grim Belsnickiel figure.
Grim Belsnickiel chalkware figure.

To this primary destination of the Season–that of shopping for gifts–the 49º North Artists’ group has added a new art-based project to the merry-making. Oroville’s Main Street trees will soon be festooned with an array of earlier must-have purchases depicting the cultural icons of the annual displays. A reminder of what the extravagance has meant to us, then and now. Much like the Ghost of Christmas Past that visited old Ben Scrooge in the classic Dickens’ tale to point out his former delight.

Before the inflatable Santas and Elves of today’s celebrations pass into oblivion, replaced by new renditions of these essential icons, local artists are creating a critical review of the designers’ art conveying the holiday spirit in the past. So as not to confuse the appreciative eye with traditional presentations of ornamenting trees with an assortment of images, each Main Street tree will feature a single motif as evolved through the years. Maybe only since last year; the fashionable moves quickly.

For example, the original Santa Claus image of memory has changed in style, form, even color in every era. New icons arrive—some with red noses—others fade away (anyone remember Belsnickels?); snowbabies of the 1890’s have returned. Oh, they left again?

Vintage artifacts are limited to local supply; not all the downtown trees may host an exhibit of ornamental design. 49º North Artists promises that the Ghosts of the Past project will present a fresh perspective on our holiday expectations for this season of wreaths, candy canes, angels, elves, reindeer, sleighs, snowmen, mistletoe.

And we encourage imitation: Get that old stuff out of the attic and make your own art history project.