I’m going to be honest: I still get a kick out of Clark Griswold’s over-the-top holiday decorating.
Perhaps it’s because we can all relate to the situation. In my case, I grew up with a neighbor who, before the pumpkins had a chance to wilt, had already transformed his yard into a wacky wonderland. We’re talking inflatable Santa. Life-size figurines of Mary, Joseph, three wise-men and baby Jesus in a manger. Even an electronic elf choir. All of this highlighted by the glory of a light show that danced in unison to the electronic pulse of the Trans-Siberian orchestra.
Sure, it spread holiday cheer to onlookers who would drive by. But to my family, our days of “merry and bright” meant drawing the blinds in an attempt to lessen the so-called cheer. So how do you deck the halls without making your neighbors hit the wall? We’ve got the answer, plus a few other holiday decorating etiquette tips.
The Gift of Time
A general rule of thumb is to plan on starting the holiday decorating after Thanksgiving.
Earlier is never a good time to put up Christmas décor. For one, firing up the holiday spirit early might turn your neighbors into scrooges. That doesn’t mean you can’t book an appointment early if hiring a professional to do your bidding. This will help beat the rush and ensure that your system is up and running in plenty of time for the grand reveal. Just remember to resist the urge to preview your winter wonderland early.
For some, dusting off the décor after you’ve barely put away the turkey platter might seem a bit hasty. However, when it comes to deflating some of the inevitable holiday stress, it’s key. You’ll have the luxury to plan ahead for a theme. Beat the holiday shopping crowd by purchasing your extra necessities early. You can even save a buck or two thanks to extra time spent on DIY décor.
You can take them down any time after New Year’s Day. Just don’t forget that Three Kings Day and the actual last 12 days of Christmas falls on January 6. Even if you celebrate a different faith, a great guideline is the Black-Friday-to-Three-Kings-Day window.
All Strung Out
When it comes to outdoor lighting, less is always more.
Good news? According to experts, there are many ways to spread plenty of holiday cheer and not eye-strain headaches.
Location is crucial when determining your light placement. Be aware of your neighbors’ floor plan. Does their bedroom window back up to the side of your house? If you aren’t sure about the answer, ask your neighbor prior to installing. There’s no quicker way to lose the holiday spirit than getting back on a ladder to redo the lights.
Even if your neighbor gives you the “OK” to decorate as you please, doesn’t make you free to light everything. Create a flow of light that moves the eye from one area to the next. Avoid “hot spots” of lights bunched in one area. Use special lighting effects sparingly, such as a red or green gel pack that can filter the color of a white light. Highlight architectural features such as roof lines, chimneys, peaks, windows and ridges. If you decide to decorate your driveway, leave at least a foot between the edge when lining. A driver shouldn’t risk taking out a row of lights when backing out.
Consider lighting up more than your home’s exterior façade to create depth. Incorporate seasonal lighting with your outdoor landscape lighting. These pre-existing lights can enhance or compliment the holiday lighting. Or, carry the design style from within your home outside. Add pre-light wreathes and garlands to indoor doors and columns. Pre-lighted candles in a window give off a classic look.
The types of lights are a major benefactor as well when it comes to holiday decorating. It’s important to pick between LED and conventional lighting. If decorating with LED, make sure to use less lights since they are brighter. This means choosing to do your house in LEDs, while wrapping trees or bushes in conventional lighting often create a difference in hues that makes the brighter of the bunch more jarring. Avoid sticking with all green or red lights, which often look commercial and not homey. Icicles work best on bungalow-style homes versus modern.
Most importantly, don’t leave your lights on all night. For starters, leaving them on all night can be a huge energy suck. Especially, because nobody will actually be awake to appreciate them. Unless you count your neighbors, who are probably trying to sleep. Set a reminder to shut off the lights before hitting the hay. Also, don’t bother turning them on until it gets dark.
Don’t Get Your Tinsel in a Tangle
Santa should be the only one who takes risks to spread holiday cheer. He’s seasoned, and the joy of holiday decorating won’t mean much if you hurt yourself.
Adding more lights and decorations to your roof, siding and windows can damage your home. It can devalue your home by adding eye-sores such as staple scars and holes.
Always select lights, extension cords, power strips and timers that are rated for outdoor use. These materials needs to stand up to moisture, precipitation and weather changes. When using these materials, remember to read all included instructions. Make sure your electrical connections are clean and dry. Avoid overloading an outlet. Don’t ever use indoor extension cords outside, and especially avoid stringing multiple cords together.
Staples are for paper décor and not your home. Any penetration through your roofing material can lead to damaging leaks. You could also damage your lights. One staple misfire could cost you an entire strand of lights. Instead, opt for plastic clips sold at most hardware stores alongside the holiday décor. These clips or hooks are easy to install and won’t leave you singing a literal version of “Oh Holy Night.”
Most importantly, don’t ignore safety precautions. Anytime you are working with ladders, walking on your roof or dealing with electricity, it’s important to be smart. Don’t ever decorate by yourself or home alone. Always wear properly fitted clothing and gloves so nothing gets caught or snagged. Safety goggles or sunglasses are always advised.
Spreading the Cheer
Anyone who’s shopped at Wal-Mart can tell you that holiday decorations come in a variety of options. That is, from the classy and elegant to the tacky and over-the-top wacky.
It’s tempting to go with a mixed-bag of options when deciding on what exactly to display. Instead, set a theme for you outdoor décor and stick with it. Feeling traditional? Pick an all-white theme and spruce it up with metallic or pops of red and green color.
Blow-up decorations are fun for the kids. Depending on where they are placed in your yard, they can become a burden to your neighbors. Be cognoscente not to block anyone’s visibility of the road or their driveway. Often, oversized decorations violate safety codes, so having a specific holiday decorating rule isn’t superfluous.
Before busting out the entire decor bonanza, check with your neighbors. Your block could have a tradition of sticking to a certain theme. Speak with your neighborhood association to see what rules and regulations there are about what you can place in your yard.
Couching the decoration issue as a safety concern, in fact, is a savvy way of avoiding subjective issues with taste or religion. Another way is for the board itself to do the decorating. The consensus is that it is prudent to allow modest holiday decorating, depending on the aesthetic of the individual homes.
Don’t Be a Scrooge
If you find your neighbors are the ones with poor holiday décor etiquette, approach with caution. If their Tran Siberian orchestra laser-light show is keeping you up at night, it’s OK to say something. Just do so in a way that is polite and offers a compromise, such as an ideal time to shut the party down.
But, if you just really can’t stand the overall look of their electrical lawn-elves, don’t be a Grinch. Like my neighbors, their holiday decorating might make you cringe. But it doesn’t mean it’s not filling them, or other passersby, with holiday cheer.
What it boils down to is: holidays bring out the best—and worst—in people. These are just a few tips on how to play nice with neighbors. If you have any to add, feel free to leave them in our comment section!