The holiday season is upon us. For some, it is a time for reflection and remembrance. For others, it is a time of fruitcakes and pumpkin spice lattes. Generally speaking, however, the holiday season is seen as an annual opportunity to demonstrate spirit and cheer with the help of lights and other decorations.
Whether your goal is to create something low key or a display bright enough to be seen by the naked eye from Low Earth Orbit, here are some suggestions to help you along the way:
We get it - the thought of putting up a light display to make yourself the envy of the neighborhood is intoxicating. However, a better strategy towards taking the title of Chief Curator of Holiday Lighting Spectaculars from the neighbor down the street may be to start small and grow into the role over a couple of seasons. Drape a strand of lights or two over your entryway or pick your favorite landscaping spot to emphasize with lighting - after all, the work you put into maintaining your trees and hedges ought to have some pay-off in the winter too!
Since we are on the topic of landscaping, it is not too late to do some last minute trimming of deciduous trees and shrubs to ensure your lighting highlights the neat appearance of your yard and garden.
Have a Plan
Rather than filling a shopping cart with a random assortment of lights and accessories, have a plan in mind before heading off to the local retailer of choice. Measure where you intend to put your lights in order to determine the number and lengths of strings you will need for full coverage. Plot your light placement relative to the outdoor electrical outlet(s) in order to save yourself a second trip to the store for another extension cord.
Don't forget to think through how you will hang your lights as well. Avoid using nails or staples. The pros use clips appropriate to the surface and situation. We think this is a practice best followed.
Test Your Lights
We'll spare you the long version of why some strings fail to light because of one broken bulb.
What you want to avoid is an afternoon spent hanging your lights. Then, at dusk, a crowd gathers outside of your house for the great reveal. Someone starts a countdown. You throw the switch...
And that is when you discover the dance of blinks and flashes you have spent hours synchronizing to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" goes dark right at the exact peak of your roofline.
Benjamin Franklin famously wrote, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." He may not have been on his fourth trip up the ladder to check for a dead bulb when he wrote it but we think he was spot on nonetheless.
Please keep safety first in your mind while creating your lighting display. Some suggestions:
- Discard any strings of lights with frayed or broken wires.
- Always be sure to use extension cords and lights which are specifically sold as being safe for outdoor use. Keep moisture out of your connections by wrapping them with electrical tape.
- Work with a partner. Many hands make light work as they say. Also - you will want someone to hold the ladder.
- Use a light-hanging pole to help with stringing gutters or trees.
- Stay off the roof - especially after rain or snow.
- Don't overwhelm your trees and shrubs with too many lights. We are not talking aesthetics here. No. We simply would like you to avoid having to deal with snapped branches due to the sheer weight of all the lights piled onto your tree.
- A timer can help you save energy.
- Avoid running cords over walkways (to prevent tripping hazards) and anywhere you plan to use your snow blower.
Above all else, be deliberate in what you do and how you do it. The time you spend planning and stringing pales in comparison to the hours of enjoyment your lighting display will provide for you and your family.
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