These gay merman ornaments are a cult Christmas classic

December Diamonds makes quirky, charming ornaments celebrating the LGBTQ community.

December Diamonds makes quirky, charming ornaments celebrating the LGBTQ community.

Amazon’s “recommended” algorithm is a powerful and mysterious force. One moment, it’s showing you Korean face moisturizers and affordable home office decor, and the next, it coughs up a handsome gay merman Christmas tree ornament with a “Black Lives Matter” sign, and your life is changed forever.

A single socially minded merman is a delightful aberration. When single becomes many — a package delivery merman, a firefighter merman, a trick-or-treating merman and one that specifically honors noted LGBTQ-friendly Rehoboth Beach in Delaware — you start to suspect there is a whole gay merman subculture teeming below the surface.

You would be correct.

For 20 years, a home decor company called December Diamonds has been designing and producing ornaments celebrating the LGBTQ community in kitschy coastal style. There are the aforementioned mermen (and mermaids), a collection of hairy bipedal hunks called “Poke the Bear” and a magical line of male fairies.

The ornaments are beloved by collectors around the world, and thousands of fans on social media await new releases and make their own recommendations for new designs. They’re about as niche as niche Christmas decor can get, and of course, that’s part of the charm for collectors.

But there’s mystery, too. You can’t simply gaze at a lovingly rendered sassy bartender with an octopus for a bottom half and not wonder about the decisions that led to its creation. Who makes these unusual totems of gay joy? And — not that we’re complaining — why?

For the community, by the community


December Diamonds was founded in 1999, and for the first few years, it sold run-of-the-mill coastal-themed Christmas decor. Then, in 2003, the company introduced its very first merman: a buff, shirtless blond stud named Nemo.

“The first one was basic, very crass,” Greg Jones, the president of December Diamonds, told CNN. “But then they started evolving and becoming a little more personality-driven. That’s when the gay community really went after it.”

Jones bought December Diamonds in 2015 and used his prowess as a marketing and product design executive to bring new vision to the company. Jones designs all of the ornaments, so he’s the one to thank for masterpieces like “Mr. Beach Balls,” a merman dressed in an old-timey bathing costume, or a farmers market-themed gentleman called “Big N Tasty.”

“You’re not going to find these ornaments on the Christmas tree of a straight man,” Jones said.

He is constantly thinking of new concepts for ornaments, and many of his ideas come from either his own experiences or the suggestions of fans.

“We’re always getting emails and Facebook posts from customers with suggestions. The occupation-themed ones are generally the most popular, and people are always saying, ‘We need a flight attendant; we need this type of hairdresser,’” he said. “I think the biggest appeal is that, no matter who you are, you’re going to find an ornament that you identify with.”

Through the years, Jones and his team have been conscious to add more body, age and race diversity to their offerings. Hairy guys, guys with beer bellies, silver foxes, trans mermen and maids, and all manner of cultures are represented in the more than 300 ornaments that December Diamonds has produced (some were retired or limited edition — Jones estimates there are about 100 currently in production).


One of Jones’ favorite designs is the 20-year-anniversary edition of Nemo, that very first merman ornament.

“This year, I revisited that and did a commemorative piece. It’s the exact same guy, the same pose, just he’s 20 years older. Now he has gray hairs and he’s a little bit thicker. That one was for all the customers who have been collecting and buying these for years.”

Jones also draws from real life — the people he meets, the jokes he and his friends tell. “Dr. Hipster,” a hot surgeon merman, is based on a real-life hip replacement surgeon. The Rehoboth Beach ornament is a tribute to the beach where Jones used to vacation.

“I can be sitting having a drink with friends and see someone walk by and think, ‘Oh, that’s a great idea for an ornament.’”

But being a company that supports and appeals to gay communities sometimes means more than cheeky, charming ornaments with names like “Daddy Duckie” or “Flaming Bottom.”

“I try not to get political when I can,” Jones said. “But it’s my company, and if I can’t make the products I want to make and support the people I want to support, what’s the point?”


December Diamonds occasionally donates the proceeds of special ornaments to causes supporting the LGBTQ community. Pieces like the Black Lives Matter merman or one sporting a hat that says “Resist” nod to social justice causes that are never far from intersectional LGBTQ discourse.

Just months after Jones bought the company in 2015, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando sent the country into mourning.

“I felt like I should do something, raise money, make a statement. But the last thing I would want to do is exploit that,” he said.

He floated the idea of an ornament to friends and members of his professional community, whose feedback was overwhelmingly positive. When the ornament — a Latino merman holding a rainbow heart — was revealed, Jones said the resulting piece brought tears to one customer’s eyes. A portion of the proceeds went to an Orlando-based charity, and Jones’ path was set.

“Ever since then I’ve thought, whatever I can do to be the voice of the community in a positive way, but without being greedy.”

Advocacy is an important part of that work. But so is producing sexy, silly, charming little ornaments of postal workers, hot surgeons, foodies, Fire Island regulars, barflies, happily married couples, political activists and blissfully carefree himbos. Here, every identity is worthy of celebration — and a prime place on the Christmas tree, of course.

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