They are big, they are new, they are everywhere. They are coveted and in loud demand this Christmas.

Whatever be the occasion., the birth of Jesus, holly wreaths, the Chipmunks — it includes these gargantuan, inflatable outdoor decorations, called “Airblowns”. They have been around for quite a while but 2006 marks the year when these became a full blown fixture in the pantheon of holiday decorations. A spokeswoman for Home Depot said its stores doubled the number of inflatable Christmas items offered this year to 18 from last year. Most of the popular inflatables are made by Gemmy. They can also be found in bricks-and-mortar stores like Home Depot, Target and Ace Hardware and online at, HomeClick, Mary Holidays, Flower Barn Nursery, and

“The magic of the Airblown is that you buy it, plug it in, and it’s ready to go,” said Sharlene Jenner, the marketing manager for Gemmy, a company that first made its mark six years ago with a wall-mounted singing fish known as Big Mouth Billy Bass, and began making Christmas floats soon after. Inflatable lawn decorations are the rage of the season. You probably have a neighbor — or two or three or four — who goes overboard decorating the house and the yard with them. Its a craze among children as well.

But not everyone is fond of these inflatables. They may be colorful and larger than life but they have an uncanny presence as well. The traditionally accepted cute happy go lucky image of Santa that floats before our eyes is completely undone when we glance at these phantasmagoric giants. Besides when deflated, they look grotesque and ugly like faceless crumpled up bodies.

“Appalling,”my friend Kate, a traditionalist who prefers only holly and evergreen as decorations, sneered as she stopped her car in front of an inflated Santa playing poker with two shrewd-eyed reindeer in a menagerie totaling two dozen figures. “It’s bad enough to see those things on Halloween. At Christmas, they rise to a level of tackiness that is horrible.”

So, how would you like a cheesy plastic Santa with super rosy cheeks and unearthly beard peeping inside your kitchen window with an unnatural smile on his face this Christmas?