Have you ever been too paralyzed to leave your house because of what the neighbors were saying about you? I faced this situation soon after moving into our new home in a suburb of Portland, OR. The reason: It was Dec 10th, and we hadn’t hung up our holiday lights.
Holiday light neighborhoods are a whole new level of keeping up with the Joneses, and we didn’t find out our area fell in this category until, well….light season.
We had traveled to California for Thanksgiving. Which meant we were gone on that all-important post-Thanksgiving weekend. We soon learned that was the unofficial “put up your lights weekend” in our hood. And sure, we could have caught up the next weekend, but the weather turned out to be blustery and miserable – hardly climb-a-tall-ladder-and-hang-lights weather.
That’s when our neighbors set us straight.
Are you not ‘light people’?
There we were, thinking all was calm in our suburban utopia, even if all wasn’t bright around our house. After all, there were still three weekends left in December. What we hadn’t realized was that our neighbors had been whispering behind our backs, wondering if we were not, gasp, “light people.”
I found out that we were the community light blight a couple of weeks into December, when a neighbor sidled up to me preschool pickup and asked, “So, are you guys going to put up lights?”
I assured her we were – that we had been gone, then it was dark by the time we got home from work, then it was raining, then it was windy, blad de blah. She gave me a half-smile.
“Well, good!” she chirped. “We’d hate it if you weren’t in the spirit!”
I collected my son and shamefully scuttled home; then I immediately called my husband at work to inform him that we were failing at the holidays. I begged him to come home at lunch, or early that afternoon, and get busy. That was so not happening. In fact, then he had the gall to leave town the following weekend, leaving us light-less yet again.
I had a plan, though. I decided that whenever we finally got those lights up, we would go full Griswold. We would impress the heck out of the street with a new, flashy light scheme, the best and shiniest Target had to offer.
And so we did – we hung lighted garland from our rafters. We wrapped our trees. We lined our walkway with candy canes. And we were duly rewarded with oohs and aahs, the kind typically reserved for a fireworks display.
Ever since that dark year, we’ve blocked out time the weekend before Thanksgiving to hit the ground running and get the lights ready (but not turned on, since actually flipping the switch before Thanksgiving is similarly frowned upon.)
And to really up our light game, we don’t stick with the same tired-and-true scheme. Nope, we shake things up and hit the latest trend, whether it’s inflatables on the lawn (OK, that was kind of tacky); lighted snowflakes; warm white, cool white, rope lights; outdoor tree ornaments; icicle lights; net lights; or the disco like Star Shower Light Projector.
In fact, before we even think about ghosts and ghouls, we’re already focused on what’s going to be hot in holiday lights this year. My money’s on White Shooting Star Icicle Lights, accented with the Star Shower slideshow in three speeds.
Getting the scoop before you buy
Now, keep in mind, I was just dealing with average- to medium-nutty light fans. They could be far, far crazier. Many towns have one street where every home is over the top. Here, my street pales in comparison to the splendor of Peacock Lane, “Portland’s Christmas Street,” which actually bars through traffic to make room for the throngs who stroll through to view the lights, which no doubt rival the wattage of Las Vegas or Times Square.
While Peacock Lane’s FAQs state that homeowners are not “contractually obligated” to participate, I wouldn’t think anyone would choose to be the neighborhood Grinch. And many other streets and neighborhoods have their own scaled-down, but obligatory version – so it’s worth asking your real estate agent about your new hood’s holiday rep so you don’t inadvertently Scrooge it up.
Hack your holiday lights: A survival guide
If you live in a “light neighborhood,” the pressure can be intense, but there are ways to survive. In fact, there are some recent advances that I am guessing were spurred by people who had previously suffered shame for their lackluster light game. Why mess with ladders, hooks, and extension cords when you can illuminate the night with one of these holiday hacks?
- LED Projector: You’ll achieve instant decorations, as the projector bathes your house in stars or falling snow. Yes, it comes in gaudy multicolor, which your kids are likely to insist on if they are of a certain age, or you can keep it classy with white.
- Net Lights: Thank you, net light inventor, for a product so simple to use, even a mom without a doctorate in electrical engineering can get the house festive. You just fling them over your bushes – and let there be light! (Some people wrap their trees with them, but that’s next level.
- Professional Light Hanging: Outsourcing is a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t come cheap. You’re going to shell out an average of $400 to have a pro hang your lights, with costs varying depending on the size of your house and the complexity of your scheme. But for many people that is money well-spent. beware that if you’re going with this option, you’re going to want to book your appointment, oh, last November. Because everyone wants them the same weekend, natch.
[realtor.com/home improvement: Cathie Ericson]