Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The 4 Commandments of Christmas Lights Displays

Though he may not have known it, Danny Ainge, a retired basketball pro, played a big role in my family's Christmas tradition. Like many families, every year we piled into our mini-van or suburban (a compact just won't cut it for a family of seven) and cruised the neighborhoods of our city, viewing the myriad Christmas-light displays. The Ainge family's large home happened to be in a neighborhood a few minutes from my parents' house, and we made sure to never miss the extravagant, professionally-done display.

At some point during my many childhood light-viewing adventures, I developed several strong opinions about what constitutes a proper display and what crosses the line into garish-holiday-monstrosity territory.

Behold, the 4 Commandments of Christmas Light Displays:

1. Thou Shalt Use Appropriate Levels of Voltage
You know that scene in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, where Betty Lou Who vandalizes a traffic light to add epic levels of electrical cheer to her home? I swear there are actually people like this out there. Call it the Griswold Effect if you will, we've all seen those houses -- the ones that make you feel like you need polarized sunglasses and a thick layer of sunscreen to even stand in the vicinity. This type of light display screams "keeping up with the Jones," and I don't recommend touching it with a 10-foot pole -- especially not a metal one.

2. Thou Shalt Not Be Monochromatic
I'll come out and say it: what's with the blue lights? There's one in every neighborhood -- that house that glows more like an extraterrestrial pod than a hub of yuletide cheer. There are so many colors out there, people! If your vision is really that centric on the blue hue, there's a very nice show in Las Vegas featuring bald-headed men in turtlenecks and body paint that I'm sure you will love. With that said, I must make an exception for houses that opt for the all-white display -- it looks so much like snow or a frosted cake that I have to let it slide, especially during the Christmas season.

3. Thou Shalt Not Inhabit Thy Lawn with Inflatable Charachters
A few animatromic reindeer and the occasional robotic polar bear are nothing to blow the whistle about. But let me be clear: if it requires a motorized pump and more than two square feet of lawn space, it does not belong in your Christmas display. I cannot tell you how many times I've driven through a neighborhood, enjoying a perfectly quaint and elegant array of Christmas decor, only to be jarred from my holiday joy by a larger-than-necessary Santa or Snowman, smiling eerily and glowing in garish proportions. I can handle the cheese and pomp on many other holidays -- Halloween, anyone? -- but at Christmastime it does nothing but make me wrinkle my nose and utter a "bah humbug" or two under my breath.

4. Thou Shalt Coordinate to Music Whenever Possible
The first time I witnessed a lights display coordinated to music, I was in high school and driving through a neighborhood with a couple close friends. If you're not familiar, these displays of dancing, flashing lights come with a sign instructing you to tune your radio station to a specific frequency. Upon tuning in, you'll realize that the lights are dancing and flashing in careful choreography with the holiday songs. When my friends and I made this delightful discovery, we immediately pulled our car to the side of the road to experience the magic. We soon decided the best view came by standing with your head out of the moonroof, and within a few seconds all three of us were crammed into the small space, mesmerized by the dancing glow.

And there you have it -- the 4 Commandments of Christmas Light Displays. Follow these to the best of your ability, and I can almost gaurantee you won't be the neighborhood eyesore this holiday season. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Katie Hawkes is a freelance writer for BidBoomerang.com. Bid Boomerang is an online resource of reputable tradesmen who provide solutions for home, retail and office improvement needs, from flooring to electrical and everything in between.