Christmas Lights or Bust!

This article was originally published on Humorality, on December 21, 2009.

In Case You Run out of Candles for Jesus’ Birthday Cake

Christmas is a season of peace and joy, a chance to reflect back on the time long ago when Mary and Joseph made the difficult journey to Bethlehem, only to stay overnight in a stable because the innkeeper had burned down the hotel with too many holiday lights. Luckily, decorating your tree and home today involves much less bodily peril and only half the number of donkeys. To enjoy a safe and sane Christmas, use the following “Lighting Checklist” to help prepare your house for winter lighting conditions.

Purchase Your Lights. Before you make the long trip to your local major retail store to stock up on lights, figure out how many lights you need. For the outside of your house, many homeowners purchase strings of lights that look like icicles when lit up at night, and like broken fishing tackle during the day. These lights typically come packaged in twenty-foot long sections. Estimate one section of lights for every two feet of roof border, since manufacturers are required by federal law to keep these lights from being untangled by the consumer. For the Christmas tree in your house, always buy two strands of lights since nobody has the patience to go around the tree more than seven or eight times.

In every neighborhood there is always one house that pushes lighting to the extreme, covering the property with approximately the same number of lights used in New York’s Times Square, only brighter. You must resist all attempts to compete with such neighbors. Instead, visit these local Christmas elves and commend them on the fine job they are doing. Better yet, invite them over for some early Christmas cheer and eggnog. This will give your kids time to collect a few hundred feet of lights from their house, since the store will only have three half-open boxes of lights left in stock.

Test the Lights. Many homeowners make the mistake of nailing up long cords of Christmas lights, only to discover that some or all of the bulbs in each strand fail to turn on. That’s why it is important to test your Christmas lights before putting them up. To properly test them, lay one strand out to its full length and plug the lights in. If any of the glass elements stay dark, move to each errant bulb and—taking care not to damage the delicate wires at the base of each tiny unit—strike it with a blunt hammer. Then return the entire section to the store for a replacement set, indicating how the first string was defective. Repeat this process until you find a set that lights up completely.

Install the Lights. Attaching the Christmas lights to your house is the most dangerous part of the decorating procedure. You should adequately prepare for the task, being sure the take plenty of time to plan each step in the process. Five or six weeks should be enough. But if you have one of those nagging wives who drones on and on about how the kids would be heartbroken without lights, and if you have verified that they really are your kids, then it’s time to pull out the ladder and put up the lights.

You should not attempt the installation by yourself. Many people are severely injured every year while placing lights on their house, even when Al Gore is out of the country. To ensure your safety, call over some friends to help with the task. One person should hold the ladder steady; another person should carefully unravel each strand and be ready to feed the lights; and a third person should attach the lights to the inside of the eaves. To maintain the spirit of the season, be sure to ask these three people if they would like you to pick up something to snack on from the store, since you’re going out anyway.

All that’s left to do is to throw the switch and admire your handiwork. And after you’ve had a chance to stand back and admire the warm glow, you can take comfort in knowing that there should be a few additional spaces available in the stable.

Tim Patrick

Tim Patrick is an author, software developer, and the host of Japan Everyday. He has published a dozen books and hundreds of articles covering technology, current events, and life in Japan. Find his latest books at

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