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The story behind viral Mandeville dragon Christmas display

December 22, 2018

MANDEVILLE, La. (AP) — Dragons, it seems, have far more fans than the Grinch.

One neighbor’s outrage over Diana Rowland’s Christmas dragons display in her front yard has not proved to be widely shared on social media or by other residents in the Mandeville-area neighborhood.

Rowland received the anonymous complaint in a plain white envelope with a Christmas stamp on it that was mailed to her house. Typed in all capital letters, it said her display of two large two-headed inflatable dragons was “only marginally acceptable” on Halloween.

“It is totally inappropriate at Christmas,” the writer said. “It makes your neighbors wonder if you are involved in a demonic cult.”

The writer asked Rowland to consider removing the dragons, signing off with, “May God bless you and help you to know the true meaning of Christmas.”

“It was a real jolt when I first read it,” Rowland, 52, said. “Then I thought, ‘This is kind of mean and nasty.’ ”

But the idea that someone would find a dragon only “marginally” OK for Halloween made her start laughing, she said. She announced to her teenage daughter, “We have hate mail.”

The letter, which she shared on her Twitter account and on Facebook, went viral, with more than 100,000 likes, 25,000 retweets and 4.8 million impressions. J.K. Rowling liked her tweet, and it was retweeted by George R.R. Martin — two writers who have more than a passing familiarity with dragons.

Rowland, an author of urban fantasy and science fiction novels who has written about zombies and demons, is a friend of “Game of Thrones” author Martin. But she got a fan-girl thrill out of the attention from “Harry Potter” author Rowling.

Support for the dragons isn’t limited to the Internet, however. Jenn Gesvantner, who lives several doors down from Rowland, said she’s heard nothing but positive comments since the buzz began.

“I personally really enjoy the dragons just because they’re so different,” Gesvanter said.

Sharon Bostwick, who also lives on the same street, points out that they are red and green.

“If I spent all that money, I might want to use them for more than Halloween,” she said. Bostwick finds the dragons “colorful and cute” and something children enjoy.

“I don’t think it’s frightening or satanic or anything else,” she said, adding that while one neighbor has a nativity creche display, there are plenty of polar bears, puppies and Santas on view in other yards.

“It’s just festive,” she said.

The neighborhood Facebook page has similar sentiments, with comments suggesting that the anonymous critic should lighten up, although one commenter did worry that the controversy might bring sightseers to the gated community.

Rowland said she’s had dragons for holiday decor for about four years and never received a negative reaction until this year. She puts them up for Halloween but takes them down and doesn’t reintroduce them until after Thanksgiving, with little holiday touches like ornaments and presents and now Santa hats.

She rearranged some white lights she had on the ground with a lighted reindeer and another figure after the letter came because she worried briefly that people might think it was a pentagram, she said with a laugh.

But she’s definitely not backing down. She has since added two more dragons, sold specifically as Christmas dragons, which she named Holly and Jolly.

When she learned that there were online efforts to raise money for even more, though, she realized that could get overwhelming.

She encouraged people instead to donate to their favorite charity in the name of the dragon army. Donations have been made to penguin chicks, a school for girls in Africa and a music program in New Orleans.

“Something good came of it,” she said.

And she doesn’t want a dragon army in her yard, she insisted. “It’s one thing to get back at a jerky neighbor,” she said. “You don’t want to be the jerky neighbor.”

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Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com

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