Thursday, December 08, 2005

Light Peer Pressure


We were out of town either visiting relatives or stalking sitcom actors most of Thanksgiving weekend, so we were a little taken aback to come home Sunday night to find three of the units in our townhouse group already had Christmas lights up. And like the gap in a redneck’s smile, our plain unlit house sat in the middle of them.

We had been rather Grinch–like the past two Christmases because we were traveling over the holidays and didn’t want the hassle of putting up and taking down decorations when we wouldn’t be around to enjoy them. Last year my son just duct-taped off a corner of the living room as the “tree” so we would have a place to put the presents for him to rattle.

The peer pressure got to me, so on the next Saturday, in near freezing weather, I dragged out the box of lights and started hanging. Fortunately, there is not much that needs to be done to light the front of a townhouse. I hung icicle lights from the bay window over the garage and put rope light through the railings and around the front door.

Since it’s not Christmas without spending money, my wife bought two strings of very fancy holly lights that use small red bulbs for the holly berries. Each box had two spare bulbs and when we got the lights on the railings, there were five dead lights already. Rather than hunt down spare bulbs, we found, on sale, a string of 70 lights that use the exact same bulb. We now have a lifetime supply of spare red pearl lights in case anyone needs some.

When we threw the switch my newest neighbor came out and congratulated me on getting with the spirit. He’s a little gung-ho and I was glad my lights met with his approval. In the picture, his house is on the right and has two moving reindeer and a “pond” of blue lights in his front yard. The neighbor with the end unit adds something every year and is now up to a reindeer-drawn sleigh, a lighted angel, and an inflatable Santa. I’m happy just to stick in the middle and not try to keep up with the Griswolds.

I call our little group of houses “mini-Hampden” after the Baltimore rowhouse neighborhood that goes completely bat-crap beserk with decorations every year. Baltimore Diary has a good post about the Hampden phenomena and there are plenty of pictures on Flickr of this block long extravaganza. The pictures cannot possibly do justice to this garish yearly phenomena.

So, how many lights are too many lights? And how early should decorations go up? Jumping up after Thanksgiving dinner to hang lights strikes me as too soon, but with all that peer pressure around me I knew I had better get with the program and set my house aglow ASAP.

24 comments:

TBG said...

I don't know if you can fully appreciate (or even make out) what this picture shows, but there is a house in Fairfax that has a yard FULL of inflatable Christmas decorations.

http://gibsons.textamerica.com/?r=3814873

This is in a neighborhood of McMansions, so it is especially out of place (why would I think that $$=class, anyway?). These things overflow on the other side of the empty driveway into the narrow little strip of land that borders on the neighbor's yard. I'm sure they love it.

Note the trash can put out on the curb. I think it adds a little something.

loudfan said...

Awwww, I miss Hampden! A visit to Hampden was always a holiday "must" for me when I lived in Baltimore. Much as I love Berkeley, it is definitely not a hotbed of holiday decorating.

Claude said...

What's truly scary is that there are people in the Fairfax McMansion area who actually shell out hundreds of dollars (we're talking in the $1500 range) to have somebody else decorate their homes. Doing it that way is...I don't know. Beside the point, I guess.

As far as the picture linked by tbg...yeah. It's the trash can that makes it art.

trusty getto said...

Well, if it floats your boat, YJ, then I'm happy for you!

I think it looks nice, anywhoo.

I myself am not going to do any outside lights this year. Just not up to it, but who the heck knows? Next year, anything's possible !

yellojkt said...

Anyone can set a McMansion blazing with lights. It takes work to truly decorate something 12 feet wide. That what makes the erstwhile working class rowhouses of Hampden so special. And the inflatable ornament parade is beyond camp.

CagedRabbit said...

We haven't done outside lights in years, but we do have some weird Christmas lights on our back deck (that stay up all year). We've had jalapeno peppers, Holstein cows, and now have sort of a candy cane patterned thing.

The rowdy people at the end of the street have an inflatable snowman. It's so incongruous, but it makes me laugh as I drive past. Good to know they have Christmas spirit.

BTW - Ellicott City, rowhouses - I had a good friend many years ago who lived there...

Mooselet said...

Living in Australia now, I find it hard to get into the Christmas spirit when it's 90 degrees outside and I'm walking around in tank tops and shorts. So I haven't done outdoor decorations in, well, 4 years. Now we're on acerage and no one will see it, so more of an incentive not to.

Personally, though, I love lights. I don't think there is such a thing as too much, but the only thing I can't stand is the single candle light in every front facing window and a huge wreath on the door. Every Christmas on the drive through Hingham, MA on the way to visit the grandparents every single old colonial house (white w/black shutters) had this set-up and it was dull and said "I'm too rich, and therefore have too much class, to put up anything colorful." Pricks. How I hated them.

So as long as there's color involved, even a single rope light is good. The weekend following Thanksgiving is a good time to start; most lights here start going up Dec 1st, or the first weekend of the month.

Can I say I have a link over on my blog to the guy who not only did up his light display, but synced it to heavy metal Christmas music? Is that shameless self-promotion?

yellojkt said...

Shameless self promotion is not only allowed, it's encouraged (spammers will be shot, though). I'm going to check it out.

The Complimenting Commenter said...

Those are some great lights. I think you choose wisely, not trying to outdo everyone. You did a fantastic job too! Great pics.

J.Po said...

I must respectfully disagree with Mooselet. I am neither old, rich, nor (well, some might disagree on this) a prick, but I like candles in the windows, perhaps some lights on outside trees/bushes, and a wreath...I can't quite understand the fascination with making one's house look like a cheap motel. I'd rather spend the effort and cost on doing something for others during the holidays...

trusty getto said...

Thanks for the encouragment, btw, but no way will I ever pay someone to put lights on my house. If I can't do it, it won't be done !!!

used*to*be*me* said...

I remember once when I was prego with 6, I had been asking TheMan for days to put our lights on the house. It finally took me (9 months prego I may add), a staple gun, the kitchen chair and him seeing me try to balance to run outside and ask WTF I was doing. When I explained that a pregnant woman simply cannot wait, he send me in the house and did it himself.

I'd pay to have them done. It might be easier and more timely.

As for how many lights are too many? I think I live around the corner from someone in the Grizwald family. I'll be posting pictures next week of his magical house comprised of all WHITE lights. I'm not kidding, it lights up the park next door!

Plain Jane said...

*cackle* "bat-crap beserk"

You just defined my neighbors ... who can probably be seen from the moon with all their lights!

I say the first weekend of December is a good time to decorate at the earliest and too many lights should be quantified by whether or not you confuse night with day.

Here from Michele's! :)

Angela said...

Teehee, the house that mooselet linked to actually had to take down their display on the 6th because it was causing traffic accidents and congestion in the neighborhood. Hey, but yellojkt, that means there's an opening in the tacky light displays competition--I hear he posted directions on how to get the lights and the music to sync up, I think you've found your inspiration, LOL!

Michele sent me ;)

Uncle Pavian said...

Hello. Michele sent me.

Happy motoring...

Courtney said...

I like your lights. Not over the top, but definitely festive.
I've seen Baltimore Diary's banner, with the Hampden neighborhood craziness. There's no neighborhood like that around here, which is too bad, as my 3 and 5 year old nephews would love it.
See you around trusty's.

maggie said...

Too many lights happens when you wear yourself out sweating about whether to put up this.. or that. Too many decorations happens when you fret about getting them up in time!

Very pretty pictures. I must admit - the blue pond is pretty cute!!

margalit said...

I like the blue pond, too. I think any lights are too many, but I'm Jewish and I really hate watching electricty wasted with excess lights when we're fighting a war over oil, but that's just me!

I've been to Ellicot City. I remember it was very hilly!

Michele sent me.

Sandy said...

Really I'm jealous. The extent of our "see it from the street" decorations this year are the two candles in the bedroom windows and the wreath on the door. One of these years I will actually get a stand of lights or two outside!! I so very much want to if only I could figure out where to plug them in. ;)

Here via Michele tonight.

Wickwire said...

Haha, don't want to keep up with the Griswolds eh? I never cared to bother with outside lights till I had a wee one. Now I hear a low electric buzz sound when I flip the on switch. And the neighborhood lights flicker. Fa la la la la LA LA LAAAAA.

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