“Cowboy Kringle,” church parking lot Santa, and holiday Elvis are just a few of the quirky “characters” who make appearances in the award-winning photo series Christmas In America: Happy Birthday, Jesus by LA-based artist Jesse Rieser. “Initially inspired by the absurdity of a four-story inflatable Santa who appeared to be guarding a tree lot, I have launched this survey of uniquely American Christmas traditions,” writes Rieser on his Behance page. “Christmas in America is an unvarnished examination of the ways people mark the holiday’s meaning.” Rieser also notes that he comes from a secular background and “never connected to the holiday’s religious importance, or its more extreme cultural trappings.”
The series highlights the holiday’s kitschy, religious, and playful side. Rieser traveled through Texas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, and California for seven years to examine the meaning of Christmas in America — and 2017 marks the end of Rieser’s photographic musings on all things merry. Take a look at Rieser’s series here.