Home Improvement : Reflections, Lights and Tips for Christmas

Merry Christmas ! Happy Holidays! It’s time to get out the decorations! Bah, humbug!

The wonderful ritual of decorating the home with the elegant, simple decorations of Christmas seasons past has morphed into a commercially-driven monster.

The effects of the spectre may be seen everywhere; outrageously signaling the arrival of a blinking, flashing commercial money-making season, a recurrent and greedy bad habit with symptoms that have grown exponentially every year.

Lights decorate house eaves, walls, windows, doors, fences, trees, sidewalks, snowmen and parked vehicles. Santa now has thousands of seedy, derelict sleighs sitting all over North America, hauled out of the garage as early as October, and placed in the front yard, draped with lights and powered by plastic motorized reindeer. Delusional home owners aspire to be original, but conspire to fail by doing poor imitations of each other, year after year.

Yet another string of lights is purchased and attached to anything that is stationary. Lights are winking, blinking, and flashing. Some are not blinking, but will do so upon the approach of unsuspecting viewers or visitors. Motion detectors to trap the unwary, inflicting Christmas happiness upon them, ready or not. Search lights. Spot lights, icicle lights, you know the ones, the crooked plastic “pretend icicles” that hang in sagging, droopy rows. Does no one realize that icicles are usually straight in nature? No matter, Santa happily approves crooked icicles, bright, garish lights, and pretentious plastic trees with red ribbons blowing in the breeze.

Hundreds of big fat, jolly red plastic Santas chase herds of white plastic reindeer, complete with sad eyes and cold, red blinking noses. Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer didn’t like his red nose much and neither do some of the neighbours .

Reindeer made with chopped grapevines and bits of dull wood fare no better than wire reindeer with lights. Aluminum angels glowing plastic wings cannot fly or bring us Christmas cheer even if they are outlined in myriads of lights to shine on the commercial holiness of the occasion. Bah, humbug!

What has become of simplicity, beauty, and natural light, the natural night, and why? The fact of the matter is, holiday house decorations, instead of intimate, elegant and glorious, have become loud, garish, and meaningless.

Large collections of exterior lights can be in very bad taste. They light up the night, disturb beautiful moonlit nights, and wash away the stars themselves, the delicate peace, and silky darkness enjoyed by lovers walking by, hand in hand in frosty snow.

That is really not the worst of it. Modern decorations propel the sensibility, peace and good will of men into fits of arrogance, where the Jones can never keep up with the Browns, and the Browns can never quite keep up with the Wilsons in turn, but they deviously and happily best one another upon occasion for the purpose of vanity only, precipitating yet another round which they meet with drooling anticipation, collectively feeding that commercial madness, the eternal garnering of wealth. The spiritual value of the season seems forever lost.

Never mind the annual spending of more electricity, money, time, and effort. Normally-sensible folk also spend much energy vowing to quit, ” this is the last year we’re doing this…” but it never stops, and the power meters roll over faster every year, draining the Christmas pocketbook, indeed, providing more artificially coloured light, but increasingly less personal satisfaction each and every December.

Every year without fail, it becomes an even more fitful contest of willful foolishness, power consumption and a perpetual contest to find ever more creative places to stuff little coloured light bulbs, in the hope the neighbours will not fail to notice or imitate the innovation on the year following, imitation being the finest form of flattery, as it were. Cities offer prizes for the most outlandish, largest displays. Do tell.

Even if all of the little lights are green in colour, holiday lighting is an environmental disaster.New LED lights do consume only a tenth of the power of the old strings of lights, but that innovation is merely an invitation to install greater numbers of lights. The unexpected change in technology is resulting in the dumping of millions of strings of old-style incandescent lights in landfill sites, never to be used again; Thomas Edison would undoubtedly be mortified and complain bitterly to the Grinch or Scrooge himself. Wasteful people. “Tis the season to be jolly if not wasteful. ….” Bah, Humbug!

Oh well….regardless of the opinion of any Scrooge, Grinch, or holiday nay-sayer, use these tips to improve the appearance and street appeal of your home this Holiday season.

1. Avoid excesses. Install as few lights in the yard as possible to be the most effective. Too many decorative lights destroys the beauty of a few, or even a single, special light, glowing in the night. More is not better, but in fact reduces and sometimes destroys the appeal of decorative lighting. Cut down on the number of lights and enjoy the genuine beauty of light instead.

2. Don’t forget to build small displays for the children, in the back yard or not. Let them help. Decorations really are for the imagination of young children, so encourage them to be involved . Somehow, the excitement and wonderment of children on special occasions does make everything look brighter.

3. Avoid “competing with the Joneses”.Be unique, individual, and beautiful in your own way. Imitating a neighbour’s gigantic, tasteless lighting display is tacky and unappealing at best. A small, unique and tasteful display is inherently more attractive than a huge circus of lights that washes away the natural darkness needed to enjoy the effect of lights.

4. Avoid overly-complicated themes. Simplicity is far more attractive than confused attempts to cover every holiday theme imaginable all at once.

5. Avoid placing decorations and lights too early in the season.Christmas is not three months long,it is but several days. Although crass commercial interests purposely hype up and extend the season as far as possible to excite shoppers and generate business profit, that practice substantially and effectively destroys or reduces the special appeal of the Christmas holiday season. A few days of Christmas lighting is far more appreciated and is appropriate.

6. Put lights on timers and only operate decorations for a couple of hours each night. Months of wasting electricity unnecessarily by leaving lights on day and night is economically foolish. Donate some money to charitable organizations or a food bank instead. “Cut down consumption and share instead” comes to mind.

7. Remove all lights and decorations a few days after New Year. Leaving them up until July or all year totally destroys the unique value of displaying them at Christmas. Packing them up will also reduce sun exposure and weathering damage to lights, displays, and accessories.

8. Avoid using worn out, faded displays. Having a tiny display in good shape is far more appealing than a huge, junky, weathered and worn display. If the display components are tired looking or shabby, do consider painting, repairing, or renew them for optimal appearance.

9. Remember, safety comes first. Inspect light strings and other electrical equipment to ensure it is in good condition. Be extra careful installing decorations on rooftops, eaves and tall trees. Sand sidewalks carefully to avoid icy conditions. Being hospitalized will certainly destroy the fun and holiday appeal of any decorations you may have put on your home just prior to falling off of the roof, taking a serious fall, or suffering an electrical shock.

Finally, in keeping with the spirit of the season, do donate extra light strings and decorations in good condition to someone that needs them instead of tossing them in the landfill site. Place a free ad on www.freecycle.com in your area to have someone in need come and adopt any unneeded extra lights and decorations.

Using some ofthese ideas will help make your home more appealing and the holiday season seem more delightful, special, and more beautiful. Reducing commercialism will also help return the true meaning of the season to society. Enjoy the beauty of natural darkness for once.

Bah, humbug, right, okay, maybe next year…..now, honey, where is that extra string of lights?….

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