Archive for Thursday, November 29, 2001

Neighborhood lighting war joined

For every decoration there is a proper season

November 29, 2001

I'm old school. I maintain the Christmas season starts after Thanksgiving. It's a quaint and outdated view in a retail age that makes a seamless transition from Halloween to Christmas.

We have neighbors who have bought into this thinking, and for the past few weeks the streets have been illuminated with a Chernobyl-like glow as I walked the dog in the evening.

Laura hadn't missed our growing decoration gap. I had a few things on my to-do list for what might have been the last nice weekend day or our prolonged resort-destination fall. But Laura excavated a garage still filled with unpacked boxes from our move last summer to uncover our Christmas decorations. Such dedication had to be rewarded; and my Sunday work schedule was set.

The technological revolution hasn't left the Christmas decoration sector untouched. Over the past 10 to 15 years, mini lights have replaced the long-familiar larger triangular bulbs. They go up easier and look neater once in place. My mother, who is indifferent to all music but Christmas tunes, found a set of lights that flash to endlessly recycled carols emitted from a small electronic music box.

The new lights' downside is they snarl as badly as the tackle of a novice fisherman. The tendency was made worse with the introduction several years back of "icicle" lights, strands with multiple hanging strings that look like icicles hanging from roof lines.

The mini lights' other shortcoming is their reliability. In truth, they are one step removed from being disposable. It was no surprise when two strands didn't work when we tested them. That was no problem because, inexplicably, we had more strands of lights than we could ever use.

They can sometimes be made to work by replacing one of the mini lights or the tiny little fuses. But that is a task best left to someone with the nimble fingers of an east Asian assembly plant worker where the mini light strands are manufactured.

Another development that has coincided with the appearance of mini lights is the introduction of plastic holding devices that eliminate the need of staples, nails or tape. The holders are designed to fit under shingles or snap on eaves. Too often, the holders snap when you're stretched out on a ladder trying to hook them over the lip of an eave.

The plastic holders Laura bought this year actually worked, even better than their manufacturer thought.

"For best results, use one holder every six inches," Laura read from the instructions on the packaging that showed a house lit up with more lights than an oil refinery. To me, this sounded like the same kind of suggested overkill that you see shampoo bottles, instructing you to repeat once you've rinsed your hair from the first shampooing. I placed the holders every 18 inches with no sag in the strands.

Once we were finished our home was as festive as any on the block. But Laura was apparently unsatisfied and is going escalate our neighborhood lighting war. I returned home one night this week to find packages of the net-type lights that drape over bushes and other new adornments. They better look good, because they'll be around awhile.

I may be a traditionalist about when the Christmas season starts, but I'm less strict on it's ends. Left to me, the decorations will be up until Valentine's Day.

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