Deck the Halls! Outdoor Christmas Lighting Tips You Can Really Use
How to Survive the Holiday Lighting Experience...
(**AUTHOR'S NOTE : This article is intended as humor. If you're looking for real outdoor lighting tips, you are hereby advised to seek out a real article. Thank you and Merry Christmas.**)
The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and suburban homeowners across America are reluctantly dragging their outdoor Christmas decorations out of attics, closets, garages and basements to prepare their annual holiday yard displays. In years past, such displays were relatively simple: most suburbanites would hang a string of outdoor lights on the front gutters or the shrubbery, set up a lighted reindeer or plastic Santa Claus on the front lawn, and they'd call it a day. In recent years, however, holiday decorating has become the latest mundane activity transformed into a competitive sport, thanks to the influence of TV shows like ABC's annual "The Great Christmas Light Fight," in which camera crews seek out lavishly-decorated homes that are clearly inhabited by people who have way too much time on their hands. There's at least one house in every town whose owner spends weeks or months planning his displays and covers his property in so many lights, figurines and special effects that his house is visible from space. Such homes attract carloads of curious onlookers from miles around every night all through the holiday season, constantly driving past the house to "ooh" and "aaahh." If you live next door to one of these people, I pity you.
How out of control has holiday decorating become?
In this age of convenience and extravagance, there is now an entire industry based around holiday decorating. You used to have to schlep down to Wal-Mart or Sears, buy up all the decorations and supplies that you could carry, bring them home and spend an entire Saturday setting them up yourself, without electrocuting yourself in the process. Nowadays, a quick Google Search will provide the names of dozens of professionals who will happily come to your home and transform it into a Winter Wonderland which will be the envy of your entire block... for a substantial fee of course. Of course, most of us can't afford this level of convenience, nor do we have any friends with degrees in electrical engineering or who work for KISS' stage crew. So in order to turn our humble abodes into eyecatching Santa Lands, we're pretty much on our own...and if I may be totally honest about it, most suburban males rank the chore of holiday lighting near the bottom of their list of Favorite Around the House Jobs (tied with gutter cleaning and only barely beating out septic-tank inspection). The only reason most of us even bother to put anything up at all is because the kids have been driving us crazy by asking, "When are you going to put up the lights, Daddy? Are you gonna put them up soon? Can you do it now? When you going to put up..." since the day after Halloween. With that in mind, let's keep it as simple as possible by following these handy steps to the letter!
Don't be like "Clark."
1. Go to your basement, closet, toolshed or garage and retrieve your holiday lights from the spot where you carefully stored them away at the end of the season last year.
2. Wonder how the hell those damn gremlins got into your light sets yet again and tied them all into one gigantic knot while they were in storage. Spend an hour cursing and untangling the mess.
3. Carry your lights and your ladder out to the front of your house. Gaze up at your front gutters and reflect on how they seemed to be a lot closer to the ground when you were a younger man. Remember the "Ladder Incident" from a few years ago that led to an emergency room visit, and decide that you're going to just wrap the lights around your front porch railings instead.
4. *** VERY IMPORTANT *** Be sure to "test" your lights by plugging each strand in and making sure that they all light up before doing anything else with them. Few things are more frustrating than finishing an elaborate display, turning on the juice, and finding out that the light strand in the middle of the arrangement doesn't work. If all the bulbs are in working order, move on to step #5.
5. There are a wide variety of methods to help place holiday lights on the front of a house. Some homeowners tap small nails into the front wall of their house to give the light strands a "frame" to cling onto, which can be used year after year. Others buy special "light hooks" that can be installed permanently into your home by drilling a hole into the siding and attaching them with screws. We call those people "overachievers." We're just wrapping the damn things around the deck railings, remember? So get to it!
6. Explain to your anxious children that YES, the lights will be up soon, and NO, we are not going to Sears and buying the five foot tall inflatable Frosty the Snowman for the yard that lights up and plays eight different Christmas carols, because if we did, one of the neighbors would probably steal it or shoot a hole in it, and Frosty would be mostly hidden by the front shrubbery anyway.
7. After your lights are wrapped around the porch railing to your satisfaction, run an appropriate grade outdoor extension cord from your basement outlet to plug them into. What's that? You don't need to run an extension cord? You've got outdoor outlets on the front of your house? Well, la-dee-dah. Some of us aren't that lucky, Mister. Don't make me turn this column around!!!
8. When your lights are plugged in, carefully look over your display to make sure each strand of lights is lit. Start cursing like a sailor when you notice an entire section -- of course, it's always in the middle -- is dark. Didn't you read Rule #4? I TOLD you it was very important!!
9. Re-read Rule #4.
10. Go to the hardware store and buy as many replacement bulbs as you can find. Stop at the package store for some malt liquor on the way home. You're going to need it for step #11.
11. Spend several hours pulling each bulb from the "dead" strand out one by one and replacing it with one of the "new" bulbs, in the hopes that you'll quickly find the "bad" one. Of course, this never happens. Much like the way a lost item is always found in "the last place you look," the "bad" bulb will always turn out to be at the other end of the strand from where you started.
12. When at last you find the "bad" bulb and replace it, the light strand will spring back to life. Rejoice in the fact that everything is now glowing brightly. Celebrate with several swigs of malt liquor, then turn the lights off again.
13. Call your family out to the front lawn for the ceremonial "throwing of the switch." Make sure to tell them how much work went into it and that you hope everyone appreciates the fact that you froze your buns off on a perfectly good Saturday doing this while they were all inside the nice warm house playing Xbox. Flip the switch, then stand with your arms around your family unit gazing at the multi-colored awesomeness, "ooh"-ing and "ahhh"-ing, for several minutes.
14. When you're back inside and feeling has returned to your frozen extremities, look across the street at your neighbor who's turned his house and yard into a spectacularly bright, elaborate, festive holiday scene straight out of a Rankin-Bass TV special. Smile and be thankful that you don't have to pay his electric bill when it's all over. The neighborly thing to do would be to walk over there and offer him some of your malt liquor.
15. May your Christmas season be merry and bright!!