And while I did finish my stay in Frankenmuth by eating bratwurst at a place that looked liked it should be nestled on an icy mountain crag under a ski lift, I was really in Frankenmuth for that Christmas store.
Pulling into the parking lot, though, I at least wished I had timed it for a night visit. The lot was lined with light sculptures, meaning we could’ve knocked off a Christmas tradition six months early. But there were day-time decorations, too, like a Christmas float and a nativity scene and a Santa Claus the size of King Kong, the latter of which makes me want to rewrite the myth of Santa as a massive giant that stomps the houses of the naughty and lifts the roofs of the nice to deliver presents. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas would become a song of irony.
The ho-ho-whole thing was started in the pre-Rankin/Bass 1950s by a man named Wally Bronner. He, like his German forebears, was a devout Lutheran. And I only bring that up so that you know why the website and the store both capitalize the entire first syllable of Christmas with just about every usage. Unlike his Lutheran forebears, though, he was also a sign painter. That’s how his Christmas career started, by painting Christmas banners. After opening a shop downtown and then growing into a couple more, he finally moved his entire Santa workshop to the outskirts of town so that he could holly some serious jolly. He died in 2008 at the age of 81, after what I can only assume to have been a wonderful life (both in the sense of a life full of Christmas and in the sense of wanting to jump off a bridge every December). The business is still family-run.
Even in the summer, it was packed, both with curiosity seekers like ourselves and serious Christmas fanatics with full shopping carts and a list as long as Santa’s.
But two weeks ago, we finally put him up. He looks happy. And cold.
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