Outdoor holiday decorating made easy

Why string outdoor Christmas lights every year when you can do it once and never take them down?

Christmas is the season of lights. Drive down any suburban residential street and every second house will feature an illuminated decoration of one kind or another.

Some homeowners have a simple yet tasteful display of lights around the front window. Others decorate one or more trees in the front yard. Still others go all out with a garish, power-hogging display of everything from nativity scenes to animated deer to a sleigh on the roof with Santa and his toys.

And then there's me. I am of the simple but perhaps not so tasteful school of outdoor design. Rather than spending hours putting up lights and then later taking them down, I long ago adopted a different decorating philosophy: Do it once and leave them up.

Our front yard has a pine tree near the curb. Ten years ago, I decided that it should become our own personal Christmas tree. So I salvaged three ancient strings of outdoor lights from the basement and, with the aid of a ladder, strung them around the tree.

I was able to toss one string high enough so that all but the top third of the tree was lit. And since the lights were resting on the outer edges of the branches, my slapdash creation almost looked like a Christmas tree.

In retrospect, it probably would've been wise to take the lights down after that first holiday season. But ingenuity and innate indolence combined to convince me to leave them up until the following year.

When December rolled around again, all I had to do was haul out the extension cord, hook it up to the lights, and voilà – instant outdoor decorations.

If one year of permanent lights was good, I figured two would be even better, and that three would be the best yet. But by about year four or five, I realized there were some disadvantages to my instant Christmas tree.

Over time, some bulbs broke, some burned out, and some had the color wash out. This necessitated replacing bulbs – at least those within easy reach.

Still, there was little work involved in maintaining our tree of lights.

This year, however, I finally realized that our stately pine no longer looks like a Christmas tree.

Ten years of growth has dramatically altered the positioning and appearance of the lights. Now they cover only the lower third of the tree. And instead of resting on the outer branches, they now reside on the inner ones, giving the impression that perhaps the squirrels have done our decorating.

Despite the odd appearance of our outdoor Christmas tree, I have grown attached to it, if for no other reason than its low maintenance.

So while others toil on their new LED masterpieces, I will remain faithful to my WOB (washed-out bulb) creation. Like every field of fine arts, holiday decorating has its different practitioners – from the traditionalists to the realists to the modern artists. But within that wide and varied group, there is at least one who qualifies as a primitivist. And that would be me – the Grandma Moses of outdoor Christmas lighting.

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