Deck the halls without the folly

Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved Christmas, particularly when it comes to all the decorations, the tree, the lights…I simply cannot wait for the festive season. I’m one of those people who’s happy to catch a glimpse of Kris Kringle in October, salivating over inflatable snowmen the minute they hit the shelves. 

Of course, when I was very young, it was Dad who decorated the house. Back then in Cayman we didn’t have access to the live trees we can get these days, so every year we’d pull the fake one out of its box and the assembling process would begin. Inevitably this piece couldn’t initially be found, or that piece didn’t seem to fit where it was supposed to, and we’d all scarper until the matters were resolved and tempers cooled. A ribbon would go up to hang all the Christmas cards, and the lights would work until they were put on the tree, at which point the middle strand would immediately stop functioning. Ah…those were the days. 

Now that I’m something of an adult, I decorate my own home, and have done so for many years. In November I start pulling all the accoutrements out of whatever boxes I stuffed them in previously to see if they’re still operational, and take it from there. 

Of course, possessing the personality I do, I insist on trying to top my efforts each year, despite the fact that we live down a small lane off the beaten path. This means that the only people blinded by my winter wonderland tend to be us and the neighbors. Nevertheless, I soldier on. 

I feel that my personal experiences and advice could assist others not as wise in the ways of Christmas decorating, and thusly I offer the following: 

When you’re hanging icicle lights from your shingles, use those plastic thingamabobs designed to hold the wires in place. They slide under your front shingles and stay beautifully in place, making the job a cinch. You can usually find them in a box anywhere that festive lights are sold. Before I discovered these beauties, I used to wield a staple gun while balancing on a straight ladder, trying to hold the lights’ electrical wire in one spot for just long enough to staple it without compromising it. Those were long days of aching arms and expletives, both when I attached the lights, and when I attempted to take them down again about six months later. 

While we’re talking about being up ladders for extended periods of time, don’t do it in slippers, socks, bare feet or flip-flops. Wear proper sneakers or workman boots, or you’ll end up with foot cramp and numb tootsies. 

Test the lights before you put them up. Sure, many sets seem to have been designed to stop working the moment you get them in place, but you might as well try to improve your odds slightly by plugging them all in on comfortable dry land before you begin putting in the effort to hang them. Oh yes, and I have three light testers in the house that are “guaranteed” to help me locate bad bulbs in a set so I can replace them. Save your money on one of these and put it toward a new set of lights. 

When you buy the boxed version of the twinkling reindeer, Santa, snowman or anything else you see on the showroom floor, it might be a good idea to buy a magnifying glass at the same time. In my experience, those instructions are written by elves with 10/10 vision. They tend to be vague, skip random, important steps, and will make your eyes water. Do not attempt to assemble any of these merry yuletide creatures when you’re in a rush. They need to be approached like an enemy in a bunker – with stealth, cunning, and the acceptance that you may die trying. 

Bear in mind that what goes up, must come down. I get so swept up in the enthusiasm of what I’m doing, that I don’t consider the future ramifications of trying to get that North Pole sign down from the top of that palm tree in January (February, March, April…). I tie things on, I staple them multiple times, I plug, and stick, and bend stuff into place, oblivious to the mammoth task ahead of me just one short month later. Some Christmas decorations can be really expensive. The harder they are to remove, take down or store, the more chance there is that they’ll be ruined and need to be replaced. It is never a fun job, taking down everything and putting it away properly, but it will save you a fortune in the long run. Take it from someone who regularly leaves Rudolph outside well into the spring. 

Remember that every plug and wire requires electricity that costs money. They may be small twinkle lights, but they can really add up. Try to have all your inflatables and icicles on a timer, otherwise you’ll be giving CUC a substantial Christmas gift whether you mean to or not. What I saved on my air-conditioning bill last year was more than covered by the energy radiating off the bonanza on my front lawn. 

If you’ve got cats or dogs in the house, and a live tree, keep checking the water levels in your tree stand. I have more cats than I care to admit, and the moment that Fraser fir goes up, their water bowl in the kitchen gets no attention at all. Maybe it’s the pine, or that safe feeling of being hidden under the bottom branches; whatever it is, those moggies won’t drink anything else when eau de Christmas tree is available. 

Of course there’s so much more advice I could give, but half the fun is figuring it out for yourself! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and shower my windows with spray snow. 

Before I discovered these beauties, I used to wield a staple gun while balancing on a straight ladder, trying to hold the lights’ electrical wire in one spot for just long enough to staple it without compromising it. 


You too can have a house that looks exactly like mine (not pictured above).