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12/21/2002: Twinkle, twinkle little deer

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One of my favorite things about Christmas is the fact that people put up thousands and thousands of lights. And of course as the season marches onward, we occasionally hop in the car (if the night is clear) and drive around the town admiring the lights.

This year, apparently, someone sent out a memo. We didn't receive this memo, I would like to point out, although even if we had I would have ignored it anyway, but the point is that someone out there decided that this was the year for light-up lawn deer. I say this because every street we drive has at least half a dozen houses with those deer in their front yard. Some are standing, some have their heads bent to the ground as if eating (or worse yet, 'drinking' out of a 'stream' of blue lights laid out across the grass), and others rear up. Some of them even move, turning their heads this way and that. You can't escape them in this town. These deer are everywhere.

They're not so bad when it's just the deer, of course. There's a few houses that seem to comprehend the 'simple is best' motto of decorating in any form, but they are few and far between. Most of the deer-displaying houses mix the critters in amongst blinding displays of every possible Christmas decoration they could get their hands on. Along with the deer, tacky plastic nativity sets, angels, snowmen, and Santas gather on yards like a dime-store display gone mad. And this year also has brought about the introduction of the inflatable snowmen and Santas. For a while we saw them everywhere, until the rains and the wind moved in and all the inflatable creatures collapsed in damp and pathetic heaps behind the light-up deer.

There are a few yards that seem to do well even with significant clutter. Those are the yards with a particular theme. There's one house down the road from my parents' where each year the little old guy lines his property with plywood candy canes and tin soldiers. It's adorable. It's like looking at a little toyshop. It may be a lot more work and effort than most of us are willing to put out to be festive, but for his yard, it works.

And then, of course, there are the lights. Let's start with the icicle lights. Someone clever came up with the concept of icicle lights and put them up for sale, neglecting to put a huge warning on the box that said "Caution. Should only be placed on houses larger than 2500 square feet, and only on those with more than one story". Consequently there are rows of tract homes liberally draped with icicle lights - lights that flash in patches, or hang in lopsided patterns down a sloped eave. They look pretty on extra-tall houses, but short, flat-roofed houses? No. It doesn't work, people. Trust me on this. Not a chance.

An important point about lights. Lights should either remain steadily lit, or twinkle. Lights should not blink in ten-foot patches. Lights should not race around and around in circles, especially multi-colored lights. Multicolored lights that blink in patterns do not look festive. They only look like some strange army of mutant ants marching in dizzying circles in some futile race to nowhere. I suppose they could find some use in hypnotism or in torture techniques, but never as a house decoration. Remember folks. The key word here is "twinkle." If they won't twinkle, then have some compassion for the rest of us and let them just shine. Just because the light string comes with a 'mutant chasing ants' mode doesn't mean you actually have to use it. Be strong. I'm begging here.

Something new we're seeing this year in more abundance is the drape lights. These can actually look very classy - but only when hung properly. The sad fact of the matter, however, is that most of the time we see something other than plan strings of lights on a house, they were obviously hung by some long-suffering spouse who probably hung them only when he got too tired of being asked "did you hang the lights yet?" and just tossed them up without caring how they turned out. With single-strands of lights, this can sometimes work. Not so with the drape lights, however. The three loops of lights have to be hung evenly so that each loop hangs the same distance as the loops to either side. The introduction of the drape lights has me even more convinced that there should be classes in light hanging. Do's and don't on decorating, in other words. Large warnings of "don't try this at home unless you're certified." Neighborhoods would benefit, I'm sure of it.

I'll admit, I'm partial to tiny white lights. After all, that's what we've got on our house. But there's other ways to hang lights that can look just as appealing. Someone in our neighborhood puts up those big bulbs, all red and green. We've seen another house with tiny lights, red and white like candy canes. And one house had multicolored lights on the front and white on the roof, making it look vaguely like a large gingerbread house. It was a bit gaudy, but somehow it worked, probably because at least it was *coordinated*.

Over the past few days I've been taking my camera with me when we go out, just to capture some of the more interesting decorations we've seen. Taking pictures of the lights themselves hasn't worked too well, but there are still a few worth sharing with the rest of you.

Someone in this house *really* likes little wooden lawn decorations. Note the eclectic collection, which includes carolers, the nativity, tin soldiers, and of course the requisite collection of penguins.


I shudder to think what their electric bill might be during the month of December. What you cannot make out in this shot is the collection of inflatable snowmen and Santa's to the left of the yard. They also had moving-head deer. This picture just cannot begin to do this house justice. It was…blinding.

I love these trees. They look like they're some kind of accursed creatures, springing from the ground, all tentacles waving as they prepare to take over the neighborhood. Um. Why yes, I *do* play Call of Cthulu. Why do you ask?

And this next one. Well. What can I say except that when I saw this one I made Richard turn the car around so we could go get the camera. Because a sight like this one just couldn't be ignored.

Tis the season for Holidailies!

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