With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for the next set of holiday decisions to be made. There are Black Friday bargains to consider, including your own personal naughty-or-nice list. Maybe you have an office party to plan or must decide which side of the family to visit for the holidays this year.
For some, there is an even larger decision looming as the calendar turns to December and marches unmercifully into the colder weather. When to begin dragging out the Christmas lights and decorating the outside of the house?
My career putting out Christmas lights ended a few years ago when nobody in my family seemed to care if I put them out anymore. It used to be a big deal decorating the outside of the house for the holidays.
I really got into the spirit, lighting the bushes and trees, stringing icicle lights on the eaves of my house and slowly building an army of lighted figurines. We had a Santa in a sled and three reindeer to go along with a snowman and about six or eight wooden soldiers. Of course, we had a manger scene with a light-up Mary, Joseph, a few animals and a baby Jesus. It was always a big production when it was time to light everything for the first time. We wrapped the kids in winter clothes to bring them outside for the 15-second presentation.
The joy in their eyes, and the satisfaction in mine at a job well done, was worth the price of admission, as the lights illuminated an otherwise dark front lawn. My house wasn’t going to win any prize mind you, but it got the job done. Santa never missed our house.
Most “holiday lighters” of my generation knew the dangers of procrastinating as the December weather was unpredictable. Doing a quality check on the lights and figures required patience and fortitude. All light strings needed to be plugged in, one at a time, to insure they worked. Every figurine needed a small, working light stuck into its back, and those were the hardest bulbs to find when you really needed them. Where did you put the sticks for anchoring the figures? Do you have the clips for the lights hung off the gutters? What happened to all your extension cords?
Planning your display required the technical skills of an electrical engineer and the tactical skills of an army general as you designed your connectivity strategy. You just can’t plug things in willy-nilly. A chain of extension cords must lead into a single connection to the electricity, so everything went on and off at the same time with one plug.
New innovations, like the devices that project stars or holiday shapes onto your home, or the inflatable figures help make the process somewhat easier. If you really want to press the “easy” button (and have the scratch), you can hire a company that will do the entire job for you. Put it up, take it down and haul it away.
Whereas putting up the lights was triumphant when completed, taking them down was a real drag. For me, having to remove the lights from your frozen lawn in January was utter torture. It reminded me of driving with the family down to Florida. It was all fun, games and anticipation on the way down, but there was no incentive during a 20-hour drive home.
We don’t get a lot of white Christmases here on Long Island, but we get a lot of white January’s. I know people make fun of neighbors that don’t take down their Christmas lights until the spring, but is there a law against that?
This weekend, I spied numerous dads on my street balancing precariously on ladders or staring blankly into a twisted tangle of icicle lights. I’m sure sometime after dark, they bundled up their family for the traditional plugging in of that single extension cord to triumphantly bask in their lighted glory.
I wonder how many of them will still have those icicle lights dangling from the eaves when things begin to thaw out in March?
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.