This column was published in December 2006, but my feelings haven’t changed —you gotta hang your own Christmas lights.
What is it about holiday home decorations that I find so appealing? Maybe it’s that for a month or so out of every year, a month when trees and foliage are at their most dull, a string of cheap lights can turn the ordinary into something shimmering and magical, the drab into the dazzling. Christmas lights remind us that the ordinary is extraordinary if viewed in the right light.
My attraction to holiday decorations is something that has grown subtly over the years. Invariably around this time of year I find myself seeking out homes that are colorfully decked out for the holidays. Sometimes I’ll even change my travel route so that I can pass through a neighborhood packed with nicely decorated homes. Weird? Maybe, but it gives me a vague sense of “holiday cheer,” so I do it anyway.
This habit of scoping out homes for the holidays stems from childhood, when my family would drive around, usually on the way home from church on Christmas Eve, and look at the holiday lights around town. I realized years later that the reason my Dad would take these extended drives was to give my Mom time to get home and put presents from Santa under the tree. It never occurred to me to ask why Santa stopped at our house early Christmas Eve, not Christmas morning. I just figured we were his first stop on the busy night ahead.
During these Christmas Eve drives we’d find that homes on the swanky end of town always had the best decorations. It made sense to my eight-year-old mind; a higher household income meant more money to spend on holiday decorations. This concept hasn’t changed much over the years. But what has changed are the materials and the effort.
Two Rules, One Cup
There are two cardinal rules to decorating your home for the holidays:
1) You have to do it yourself.
2) You’ve got to be creative.
Current holiday decorating trends ignore both of these rules.
Drive through any new development of McMansions, and you’ll see plenty of dazzling displays of holiday decorations. But most of these were put up by hired contractors; professional holiday home decorators who have carved themselves a nice cottage industry in recent years.
This breaks the two main rules of holiday home decorating. Where’s the personal touch, where’s the pride, in paying someone else to hang your Christmas lights for you? And what’s creative about tossing a “light net” over an evergreen tree?
Wrapping a string of lights around the bare upper branches of an oak or a maple tree, or decorating your mailbox with glowing icicles…now that’s creative!
Estate Homes, Stodgy Owners
Owners of modern “estate homes” don’t climb ladders to hang lights on gutters or position a plastic Santa and reindeer on the roof. The only time they (maybe) break a sweat is when they have to write a check to pay for it all.
That’s not cool. It’s cold.
So get out that ladder and extension cord and get busy. Don’t worry if your “artistic vision” doesn’t quite turn out like you planned—there’s really no wrong way to decorate your home for the holidays. Just let the spirit of the season move you, and you’ll be fine.
And try not to think about climbing back up on that roof in a few weeks—when it’s covered with snow and ice—in order to take everything down…
Happy holidays, everyone!
Originally published in Wayne TODAY, December 2006