Christmas Lights Addiction, 2009

Five years ago, I covered something called Christmas lighting addiction in our then-fledgling newsletter. It was a bit tongue-in-cheek, because I’m not a big believer of most addictive behaviors. Christmas lights? I mean, c’mon…

But as I guess with anything in life, you can go overboard with decorating your house in Christmas lights.

Adorning one’s tree (and eventually one’s house) as a holiday tradition dates back to the early 20th century, when Christmas lights were invented as a safer alternative to the use of candles (which, when knocked over or bumped, had the unintended effect of turning one’s Christmas tree into a blazing demonstration of how quickly fire can engulf a house). Over the years, Christmas lights migrated from our trees to our houses (since, after all, you can’t see the lights from outside very well). It was a reasonable extension of the holiday spirit. When done in moderation.

But leave it to humans to find a way to turn a simple celebration of a holiday with some simple, colored lights into some sort of competition or grand statement:

Americans, though, like to take things to the extreme. They like extreme snow boarding, extreme makeovers, and extreme programming. It’s no wonder that some have found an outlet of expression with Christmas lights. It is an extreme behavior of an otherwise normal expression of a celebration of the holidays.

I think the core of why many people over-adorn their homes in Christmas lights is a desire to show off, attention-seeking behavior meant to demonstrate how into the holidays one is. At the same time, people who go overboard with Christmas lights are playing a ridiculous (but mostly harmless) game of one-upmanship with one’s neighbor.

This is made possible by the relative inexpensiveness of these lights in the U.S. (due largely to cheap Chinese labor). That makes a few strings of thousands of lights very affordable, at every income level. What people don’t take into consideration — at least not at first — is the cost of electricity. The old style, inexpensive Christmas lights most people still use become expensive once you start adding up hundreds (or even thousands) of watts of electricity. New LED Christmas lights are available and can help with this component, but most people have not purchased or replaced their existing lights (due in part because they are more expensive).

I stand by what I said five years ago, though:

If you’re one of these folks who can’t live without their million-light holiday display, seek help. Imagine how much better your gift to the world would be if you donated your electricity costs to a local charity or homeless shelter. Leave the holiday lighting spectaculars to Radio City Music Hall or professional displays found in most communities done in formal gardens or the like. Let’s try and get back to celebrating Christmas in a way that honors the heart of the tradition without turning it into some sort of glitzy and tacky sideshow of lighting horror.

A few lights on your tree, on your house, even on some shrubbery is perfectly fine. But resist the temptation to just keep adding to your Christmas lights inventory year after year, just because you can. Donate a little more to charity or spend it on a gift for your child, a child in need in your community, or your significant other. Because, after all, giving something away can make us happier. And what better way to celebrate this time of the year with none other than a little selfless giving?

Read the original article: Christmas Lighting Addiction.