It all started in July. Seriously. I walked into Hobby Lobby in shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops, already pitted out from crossing the heat-baked parking lot. I rejoiced in the momentary blast of icy air that hit me as the store's doors opened. But then the assault began ¦Christmas music! I am not kidding you! I don't know when it started, but I can assure you that by July 9th, the Herald Angels were singing Hark in Hobby Lobby. I turned on my flippy-floppy heels, and walked out of the store.
I ™m really no Scrooge. Ask my friends and they ™ll tell you that there are a minimum of 5 trees in my house each year. I regularly host a cookie exchange and a couple of holiday cocktail parties. Most years my Christmas shopping is finished by Halloween, and my cards go out the day after Thanksgiving. (OK, truth be told, last year I didn't get cards out at all, but that's a first in 21 years of marriage.)
There used to be some sort of holiday etiquette that everyone followed. Nothing was written. There were no classes to take. People just did it. Things began to get a little off-kilter when retail businesses began to set up holiday displays before Thanksgiving. That worked without repercussion, so the set-up day began creeping backward, first before Halloween, then before Labor Day. But now, they have pushed the envelope too far in my mind! I refuse to listen to Dashing through the Snow while sweat is running down the middle of my back.
Once the retail stores started pimping Christmas early, other businesses soon followed suit. The Christmas Lighting guys began hanging folders on our doors in August. The card stores started pre-selling their custom engraved photo cards in September. In some areas, Salvation Army began setting up in October. I can't take it, so I have stayed away from the stores as much as I can. Christmas is no longer special when it lasts for 6 months.
And herein lies the real problem. Many of my neighbors and yours too, no doubt, have joined in the pre-pre-pre-Christmas sentiment. So today, for you my friends, I will step into the role of Miss Manners, as I declare the new Holiday Lighting rules. You can thank me next year.
- Christmas lights should be hung with care. If the lights are to represent a straight line (like on a roof) use clips. If the lights are on a tree or bush, check to make sure that one of the strands doesn't flash while all the others are solid. If you really feel you must line your sidewalks with lights (honestly, Miss Manners thinks this can be a bit distasteful) use stakes so neighbor kids don't trip. Please don't leave extension cords hanging from any of your displays, it truly ruins the effect.
- Exercise caution when purchasing inflatable scenes from large home improvement stores. Miss Manners realizes that some who choose to be festive do not have time to painstakingly string lights around their home, and that the ease of plugging in colored nylon and watching it come to life is nice. However, there's something a bit disturbing about driving through a neighborhood in the daytime and seeing deflated Santas and emaciated Frosty's lying about in everyone's yard. Therefore, I will suggest that no more than one inflatable scene per yard is tasteful and since set up is relatively easy, can you please shove this type of dÃ©cor in your garage (or behind a bush) at the end of each night, and plug it in freshly each evening?
- Icicle lights are no longer chic. Enough said.
- Purchase timers for your display. Lights should go on at dusk, and shut off no later than 11pm each evening. Imagine living next to the Griswold's and having to pull all the blinds in the house just to get your kids to sleep at night.
- Holiday lights should not be turned on prior to Thanksgiving, and they should be turned off no later than one week after New Years Day. This should give everyone ample time to celebrate Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanza and the Epiphany.
My holiday wish for you is that your neighbors will embrace these rules. Wouldn’t it be lovely? Regardless, I will continue in my quest to make the holiday season both festive and tasteful. Next year, we’re going to need to talk about those holiday sweaters.