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Light Up the Holiday

By Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension

What is it about the inflatable yard décor that always looks like a murder scene during the day? I realize that they need puffed air to look their best, but driving past the crimpled, lifeless figures is an unsettling sight.

That my neighbor has a yard full of them overseen by a wicker pig in a Santa costume just makes it bizarre. The pig remains standing during the day and I can’t help but think it it’s there to feast on the souls of the departed. That’s more Nightmare Before Christmas than a jolly holiday.

Once they’re inflated, I don’t mind the decorations, but I’m still partial to festive lights strung around houses, fences, trees, and lampposts. If you’re a fan of lights, too, you can wrap them around most anything in your yard, provided you secure them from wind.

To get the most from your lights, go with LED, which take less energy to run – up to 80-percent – and last an average of 50,000 hours, instead of the 25,000-hour lifespan of incandescent. And the nuisance of hunting for the one burned out or loose bulb that keeps the whole strand dark is a thing of the past with LEDs, which light up even if one bulb is shot. Made from epoxy resin, LED bulbs are harder to break than the glass incandescents.

When getting ready to string up your house, do what makes you happy. If multi-color lights thrill you, put them up. If you prefer understated single colors of white and one other color, such as green, don’t hesitate to hang them. But if you’re going to use large blocks of single colors, take time to see how they work together. I learned that large blocks of white, red, and blue make a nice Fourth of July theme, rather than Christmas. My spouse said he felt like saluting each time he arrived home after dark.

The secret to getting drama with unvarying color is to mix bulb sizes. Tricking the eye into thinking they’re twinkling, the combination of large bulbs (size C-7) with smaller lights jazzes up icicle strands along gutters and branch lights on trees. For the illusion to have its best effect, match the colors.

Get your trees into the spirit by wrapping them up in lights. For a pro touch, wrap evergreens in a spiral, and if doing several evergreens, be sure to wrap in the same direction in evenly spaced rows. Treat deciduous trees differently, since their limbs are bare. Run the lights along the branches to highlight their outline, instead of trying to make them a spiral. If stringing lights in your trees requires you to climb a ladder, consider hiring a company to have it done. Ladders in winter can be risky.

Think beyond the house by lighting fences, trellises, or pillars, by adding a touch of fun stringing wheelbarrows with lights. Traditional items such as old children’s sleighs or wagons on the front porch sparkle with a bit of light. Then sit back, and enjoy the show.