It’s almost time for you to drag out the lights and the plywood angels and tell the world you’re a festive person by decorating the outside of your home for the holidays. The traditional of holiday-centric self-expression dates back at least to Ancient Roman Saturnalia displays, and so does the tradition of completely messing it up. I don’t want that to happen to you, so here are seven big mistakes you should not make when decorating the outside of your house for the holidays.
Not being safe
According to my maths, there will be over 87 bajillion injuries in 2022. Don’t be one of them. Don’t be stupid with ladders and electricity, and watch your back — you’re not as young and spry as you used to be, champ. Watch out for your cat eating tinsel, your child breaking ornaments, and extra sharp wings on nativity angels. Remember: Candles can burn down all of our houses, whether we’re celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or the Inti Raymi winter solstice festival of the ancient Inca.
Not planning it out beforehand
You can’t just throw your decorations up haphazardly, lest you be the person your neighbours point at and shun. So start with a plan. Try to think like a designer — take a look at your house from the street and imagine how to make it express your feelings about your holiday of choice. Don’t limit yourself to the “traditional” colours associated with The Winter Solstice or Christmas. Mix it up. but be coherent. No one wants to have their holiday ruined by a junky, random-looking display when they drive by your house. And consider scale — a gigantic house with a few lights can look really bad, as can a tiny yard with a huge display.
Doing too much or too little
I am of the opinion that there is no way to overdo a holiday light display — I want at least 25 inflatable Santas, a choir of snowmen, and a life-size nativity scene, preferably with a real donkey and baby. But some people think you should not be “tacky” (as if tackiness isn’t the whole point). That said, don’t sleep on holiday solemnity if that’s your jam — a single light in each window can create a powerful, minimalist holiday effect. But here’s what will not work: One string of lights outlining your door or haphazardly thrown around a bush. That’s like spitting on the holiday season or punching Santa in his fat belly.
Injecting politics or being confrontational
Look, I know you really don’t like Joe Biden, or you believe Mitch McConnell is actually The Grinch, but a holiday decoration display on your lawn is not the place to express these groundbreaking opinions. Also: I guess it’s fine to acknowledge your religious beliefs in a public display if you must, but try to have some understanding that other religions are good, too, and don’t be all in-your-face about it. It’s hard to describe exactly where the line is, but we all know it when we see it.
Trying to do it all at once
You’re not going to be able to put up all the lights in one day. If you try, you’re going to get tired and sloppy, and fall off the ladder. This is the kind of thing you do all the time — try to take on too much responsibly and then wait until the last minute and cram it all in without planning. Then you get bitter and snappy when it doesn’t work out. It’s a pattern that you need to recognise. But I guess it’s too late now, because you’re hobbling around on crutches expecting me to wait on you hand-and-foot. Now we have to spend the holidays at Uncle Dana’s house — again — instead of having Christmas at home, like a family. So let’s just “get through this” like we do every year. (I’m filing for divorce after New Year’s.)
Not using LED lights
Remember how your folks had a box full of snarled-up strands of Christmas lights in the garage that they’d been using since 1978? And if one single bulb was burnt out, the entire string wouldn’t work? Throw them out: There is no reason to continue using incandescent bulbs for Christmas displays anymore. LEDs use way less electricity, they don’t produce heat so they’re less of hazard, they change colour, sparkle, and can be programed to do all kinds of cool things if you want to get fancy, and they’re laughably inexpensive.
Not taking down the decorations when the season is over
We all love the holiday season, but it’s over after New Year’s Day. You have a one-week grace period to get your lights back in their cardboard boxes and into the garage. After that, there’s no excuse for still having lights up. Also: Lifehacker managing editor and holiday expert Meghan Walbert wants you to know that you cannot just throw Santa hats on the giant skeletons you left up from Halloween, as it is “an insult to both beloved holidays.”