The Twelve Mysteries of Christmas, Day 6: Lights, Camera, Competition!

Sometimes words just aren't sufficient...

Sometimes words just aren’t sufficient . . .

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love queried me: “Why do some people go outrageously overboard with their Christmas decorations?”

Dear Soul,

There’s one in every crowd, isn’t there? Not content with a modest display of outdoor lights and a tree in the window, or a simple Nativity scene, this enterprising soul threatens each December, usually starting no later than the day after Thanksgiving, to disrupt the local power grid. One psychologist has gone so far as to call it “a full-blown behavioral addiction” for some.

Fact is, you could say the whole thing started (not surprisingly) with Thomas Edison, who in 1880 created the first string of Christmas lights and hung them around the outside of his lab in Menlo Park, NJ. Two years later, his close friend, Edward H. Johnson, decorated his home Christmas tree with electric lights and invited the press to take a look. Within a month Electrical World magazine dubbed it “the handsomest Christmas tree in the United States.” But the concept didn’t really catch on until a few decades later, due to the cost of the lights and their installation by an electrician.

But how did we get from Mr. Johnson’s tree to the level of lightbulb lunacy so frequently witnessed today?

Several factors are said to account for this: Christmas lights come in large quantities for a relatively cheap price; homeowners get bored with their cookie-cutter home fronts; and some people are simply attention-seekers, with Christmas lights and similar decor requiring little skill to display.

Of course, we cannot discount financial incentives, such as the total of $250,000 in prizes offered by the ABC TV series “The Great Christmas Light Fight.” That kind of moolah can fuel a family’s holiday madness for years to come.

Yet lest we become too jaded, it’s good to remember that most holiday light enthusiasts aren’t motivated by greenbacks or even addictions, but just plain fun. As one man said, “It makes me feel like a kid again.”

My take: While I prefer a more tasteful, subdued look myself, let’s face it—there’s a certain train wreck-like fascination about some holiday light displays, so if you can afford it and don’t interrupt MY power supply, you won’t hear me complaining. Besides, if you’re lucky, you might even find your house featured on a Tacky Light Tour.

Recipe for Outrageous Christmas Decor

Mix and serve.


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