Image: Bloody Santa
Kathy Willens  /  AP
A New York couple’s holiday display includes a 5-foot-tall Santa holding a bloody doll’s head. The couple says it’s a fun way to comment on the commercialization of Christmas.
updated 12/14/2005 1:55:01 PM ET 2005-12-14T18:55:01

It’s usually easy to tell where a person stands in the culture wars, but whose side is someone on when his Christmas decor is a blood-spattered Santa Claus holding a severed head?

Joel Krupnik and Mildred Castellanos decked the front of their Manhattan mansion this year with a scene that includes a knife-wielding 5-foot-tall St. Nick and a tree full of decapitated Barbie dolls. Hidden partly behind a tree, a merry old elf grasps a disembodied doll’s head with fake blood streaming from its eye sockets.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Krupnik explained that his family thought it would be a fun way to make a comment about the commercialization and secularization of Christmas.

“It is a religious holiday, but they have turned it into a business. And it shouldn’t be,” he said. “We didn’t put it up to offend anybody. It was just something that came out of our imagination.”

More than a few people passing by the brownstone were a little puzzled about the message behind the massacre.

Peter Nardoza, 81, of Manhattan, shook his head and chuckled. “Sick, sick, sick,” he said. “What kind of a world is this that we live in?”

Ronnie Santiago, a deliveryman on his route, speculated that something bad must have happened once to the homeowner at Christmas. A few spectators wondered whether the campy gore would bother children.

The family is far from the only one making an editorial comment this year about how Americans celebrate Christmas, although it may be the only one doing it by depicting Santa Claus as a killer.

Pope Benedict XVI complained this week that Christmas festivities have been “subjected to a sort of commercial pollution.” Christian conservatives have launched campaigns to reintroduce a religious component to Christmastime decor in schools and public squares, chiding even President Bush this year for sending out cards wishing supporters a happy “holiday season.”

But despite the home’s gruesome exterior, some visitors appreciated it.

Bucky Turco, 31, of Manhattan, said the display captured how he felt when watching someone costumed as SpongeBob SquarePants promote products at Rockefeller Center.

“This is brilliant,” said Turco.

Walter Garofalo, a musician from Brooklyn who wandered by wearing a black bandanna covered in skulls, was awe-struck.

“I wonder if these people would let me use this as our next album cover,” he said. “It’s perfect!”

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