Once upon a time, a single candle was placed in a window to signify the anticipated return of a loved one to the warmth and security of hearth and home. During the season of Advent, leading up to Christmas, the candle expressed a religious belief. This simple tradition has boomed into a robust industry for manufacturers of holiday lighting, lighting retailers and electric companies.
From that single candle, to billions, it does beg the questions: Can it ever be too much; and how much is too much? Mostly, I suppose, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Certainly we all laughed at Clark Griswold’s adventures in lighting in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”. But his heart was in the right place, as are most of those who may go overboard when it comes to decking their halls.
As a professional designer, I have the following recommendations:
- Know your city/community ordinances: if you receive warning letters, you probably have too much going on, or you live in the wrong neighborhood.
- Know your neighbors: Have fun, start a neighborhood lighting display contest, get everyone involved. We all need more community spirit. But if you have cornered the market on holiday light strings, you may have gone a bit too far.
- Know your neighbors, part 2: Babies and the elderly have different sleep cycles than most everyone else. If your display is so bright it’s keeping the neighbors awake, it's too much. Be considerate of other’s right to enjoy their own homes, or offer to make sure no lights are directly aimed at their windows.
- If your January electric bill rivals your mortgage payment or rent, you might have gone too far.
- If the news reports show a lighting display via satellite in your general area, you may want to cut back a bit.
- If your motives are more about showing up the neighbors, or to prove a point about personal property rights, you may lost the meaning of the holiday. Try contemplating that single candle again and regain some perspective.
Communities, particularly regulated ones in historic districts and private homeowner’s associations, often have rules about the type of Christmas displays they will allow. From the color of the light, to the type of lights installed, these groups are usually fairly strict. More exuberant decorators may wish to live in less restrictive locales rather than fight the system. PS – I will never, ever be on board with blow up holiday displays of any kind.