Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lighten Up the Holidays!

by Donna MacMeans

I imagine by now the gifts are purchased and wrapped, the cookies made and the house decorated - right? Time to kick back and lighten up. Now that the winter soltice has passed, the days are getting longer - did you notice? (grin). Longer days couldn't come a moment too soon for me. I think I'm one of those people who suffer from sunlight deprivation during the winter.

But I must admit - seeing all the outdoor Christmas lights help. I thought I might share a little history about Christmas lights (what else did you expect for an historical writer?) and some of the lighted homes around my neighborhood. Kudos go to my daughter who hung out the window with the camera as we drove around singing Christmas carols and looking at the lights.

Back in the 1600s, Christmas trees were lit by small candles secured to the branches by bits of wax. The tree didn't go up until Christmas Eve because it was such a huge fire hazard. I had thought that the tree skirt that wraps around the base of the tree was to hide the unsightly tree stand - but it appears it's main purpose was to protect the floor from the dripping wax of the candles.

By 1867, a candleholder with a counterweight was used on the trees - but still the threat of fire remained. It wasn't until 1903 that GE introduced a light bulb string for Christmas trees, but they were so darned expensive, the candles prevailed. But over the years, the lights became more economical. These were what my father used to refer to as "hot lights". Although they could be used on a tree, they were better for outdoor decorations as they heated up significantly after burning for any length of time. You can still see these on some outdoor decorations.

In 1946, the bubble light was introduced. I love bubble lights! My father always set out a minorah decoration (we're not Jewish) and topped it with bubble lights. They were so much fun to watch - the precursors of lava lamps (grin). The cat did love to watch (and swat) those bubbles.

In 1950, miniature lights were introduced which didn't throw off the heat so they were perfect for the tree. Disneyland decided they were perfect for outdoors as well and decorated the parks with them. What Disney does, the world imitates, so now miniature lights, also known as fairy lights, abound.

Have you noticed how many homes are decorated just in white lights? Boring, but practical, but still boring. Our house is done in all white lights - but that's because I'm in charge of the inside decorating. If I had my druthers, the house would be a color riot - but I must admit I like this house because of the owners sense of humor. Makes me smile whenever I drive by.

The next lighting innovation came in 1998 with strings of icicle lights. I love these as well. They're available in all colors. When first introduced, I used to see them hanging from rooflines to simulate the real thing. Now, however, they're used on to decorate trees. Speaking of trees - check this one out. Isn't it beautiful? I hope they don't take down the lights for a long, long time.

Sometime in this decade, guard deer were introduced. You know - those prefabricated wire deer covered in lights? Apparently every home must have a pair placed on the front lawn - at least in my neighborhood. Here's a pair.

This year the innovation is LED lights. These last longer and use less power and come in some pretty amazing colors - especially cobalt blue. I expect these will be more and more common and fairy lights will go the way of "hot lights."

How about you? Do you decorate outside the house? Do you prefer elegant lighting - lots of colors - or something along the lines of Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation? How long do you leave them up? Have you gotten your Christmas shopping done yet? Are you ready for the big day? Don't forget someone will receive one of my books (their choice) and rooster cookie cutters & mix. So let's talk all things Christmas... Oh, and Anna, my daughter took this photo of penguins just for you.


Virginia said...

Come to me my pretty one!

Donna MacMeans said...

Wow Virginia - you're fast! The GR is winging his way to you - will he be able to find your house in the dark?

Virginia said...

Great post Donna! I guess I'm as ready for Christmas as I will ever be! I still have a few dishes to make tomorrow other then that I am through.

We did decorate the outside of the house this year! We have rope lights wrapped around our front porch post and across the porch. Also have a sherpards hooked wrapped in the lights to look like a candy cane, sons idea! I also have a Sprial tree in the front yard with a mother and baby lighted deer beside it. It looks pretty cool.

Virginia said...

Yes Donna he will be able to find me my house has lights everywhere!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Virginia! Round yon Virginia is a Golden Rooster! And the night sure won't be silent!

I love Christmas lights, Donna, perhaps because I didn't grow up with them. I can't remember anyone in the farming hamlet I grew up in having lights. But they seem to be a big thing on the Sunshine Coast where I live now. In fact, whole streets are set up with the most amazing animated displays with Santa and kangaroos and koalas and deer. The neighbours have great Christmas lights this year - a flashing Christmas tree which is really cool and all the coloured icicles!

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Donna MacMeans said...

I like the idea of the shepard's hook wrapped to look like a candy cane - how unique! And you have deer! See - it's like an edict went out. Actually, I like the lighted deer even though the moving ones used to scare my dog. However, it's starting to look like every house has them these days - always in clumps of two - never three, rarely four.

Donna MacMeans said...

Oh Anna - I'd love to see lighted kangaroos and koalas... and deer? See - they're international! (grin)

WHen I took the picture of the last house all decked out with lots of lights, I saw a horse and carriage go by. Now I live in the suburbs. Carriages don't routinely travel the roads away from the city. Apparently, the subdivision rented a carriage and offered rides to see all the brightly decorated houses. I thought that was a great idea.

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Virginia.

Hey Donna,
We live in an apartment so we can't go crazy decorating the outside and the yard. We used to string up the lights on the windows, but now we just get window clings. If I had a house I could go all with the reindeer decorations.

flchen1 said...

How cute are those penguins!

We don't decorate the outside of the house much--we have our inside tree with all the cute kid ornaments and special ones we've collected or received over the years, and that's plenty for us :) Shopping's mostly done except for groceries (maybe a run tomorrow...) but still have some wrapping to finish and cards to finish addressing. Woot!

Congrats on the GR, Virginia!!

Helen said...

Well done Virginia have fun with him

I have the Christmas cake and pudding done the presents wrapped and tomorrow I will be cooking pork and turkey ready for Christmas Day. We put our tree up a couple of weeks ago with the help of Jayden and Hayley so it is a very lop sidded affair but thats the way it is in my house LOL. We don't decorate outside but lots of people in the street and surrounding streets do and they are beautiful some of them are so elaborate I love walking and looking at them and of course the grandkids love them and it has usually cooled down enough to take them for a walk at about 7-30 pm.

I have my daughter in laws birthday tomorrow as well lucky her born on Christmas Eve so there is a bit of a party to go to tomorrow afternoon then I have friends come to our place Christmas Eve night then we will be off up the coast to my sisters for Chrissy Day she lives near the beach and has a pool and all four of us sisters will be there this year I am so looking forward to it and of course my grandkids on Chrissy morning

Have Fun

Virginia said...

Oh Anna, I would love to see the lighted kangaroos and koalas! You just don't see that around here! Mostly deers, santas and such! My deer don't move. They just kind of sparkle because they are LED and they have like plastic beads in front of the lights. This is the first year I have ever put then out. We didn't decorate outside last year.

Helen said...

I forgot to say how lovely the pictures are Donna I love it when they decorate animals all sorts love them

have Fun

Donna MacMeans said...

Jane - I understand. We never decorated outside when we lived in apartments, but usually that means you're close to more public lighted decorations. So you can still get a light fix (grin).

Are you ready for the holidays? Plans for a big feast? Gifts are wrapped?

Donna MacMeans said...

fichen1 - I love kid ornaments! One of my favorites is a simple tiny cube of wood, painted and decorated on each side with a stenciled tree or heart with a rope tie. So simple, but so heartfelt.

We always buy a souvenir ornament whenever we travel. Just decorating the inside tree is a stroll down memory lane. I write little notes about the stories behind the ornament and pack them up with the ornament when we take down the tree. That way, I hope, the stories aren't forgotten when I'm not there to tell the tales.

I'll be making a grocery run tomorrow too.

Donna MacMeans said...

Helen - I had a lot more photos, but when I downloaded them - it looks like our hands were shaking. They're all squiggly.

It is a great time of year to stroll around outside. I've seen more dogs going on walks than I do in the other colder months. No wonder pets get excited about the holidays!

Donna MacMeans said...

Virginia - Isn't it neat to have those outdoor ornaments though? It's just so much fun - and the glow of the lights just sets up a warm and inviting atmosphere all around the neighborhood. I really hate to see the lights come down in January.

Sahil said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Maureen said...

Hi Donna,
We have blue and white lights for outside and we just decorate the shrubs around the house. Our tree has white lights because I think I can see the ornaments better with the white lights highlighting them. I am glad we do not have to use the candles because the thought of all the things that could go wrong with that is scary.

Minna said...

Around here trees still won't go up until Christmas Eve. And usually we are decorating while there is the declaration of Christmas peace on tv.
We don't have a lot of Christmas lights. Just in the tree and on one of the windows.

Gillian Layne said...

As I mentioned earlier in the week, our LED lights aren't really mixing with the older ones, so we'll be buying new lights after the holidays. For now, the mix is fine with me.

I am leaving in a second to finish up for the girls. I always want "one more thing" for them. Just love Christmas! Then this afternoon we'll bake and cook--and evidently clean out the garage, as we are now expecting a Christmas blizzard out of the clear blue. I am not nearly as happy about this as my girls are. Will not make Christmas day travel fun. Where is a sleigh when you need one? ;)

Husband is very excited about buying a bunch of blow up decorations for next season. It's funny. So yes we are on our way to a Chevy Chase Christmas, one ornament at a time.

Be safe and happy day before Christmas Eve, everyone!

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Virginia, good nab on the GR! Remember, keep him AWAY from the egg nog...

Donna, I love Christmas lights and they definitely perk up a long, cold winter night. We have none this year, because my husband refused to mow the weeds and suck up the leaves and pinestraw off the lawn so we could stick out the pre-lit trees. *sigh*

He DID clean the gutters, but decided climbing the ladder again for stringing lights. *sigh* So, all our festivity is on the inside of the house. I didn't put up all my decorations this year. No time!

I still have some gifts unwrapped and the gift I ordered for my mother just shipped YESTERDAY, so I will have no gift for her. Super lame!

Christmas is a slap-dash affair this year, even though I shopped for months. Just too much to do and too little time. I will be working tomorrow, too, then dashing across the state. We'll roll into Charlotte after 9:00 tomorrow night, I'm sure. Then we'll get to do the kids' stuff. Yay.

Tired already, but looking forward to it!

Silvia said...

I'm pretty much ready for Christmas. We have easy decorations outside. Only a holly and ivy wreath that I made to welcome visitors, simple style. It does have a bright red ribbon so it’s really sweet I think. One thing left to do: have to bake a fruitcake!. It's terribly late to be baking a cake I know. I was supposed to do it at least a week ago. But with all the gift buying, carol singing, cookie making, food shopping, card & letter writing and sending. Decorating and housecleaning. Friends inviting for lunch, attending lunches and catching up on holiday emails. Making punch and shoveling snow so people can reach my door. I never thought about it. And then Hubbie said (casually last minute) “So are we having cake than with the coffee?” Cake, what cake. “Your fruitcake for Christmas” Oh no I totally forgot, can’t we go without? “I quite fancy a slice”. So taken the fact I can’t deny him anything I have to rush to the store. Hope to god they have my ingredients and then whip up my cake. In time for tomorrow’s pre-Christmas tea and coffee party. Praying it will taste just as good not having been soaking up flavors in the fridge for days and days. Well I suppose I can always give people some Godiva instead should the cake not turn out its usual great self. Chocolate is always popular although perhaps less Christmassy.

Gillian Layne said...

Caren, yikes!

Here is a Christmas laugh for everyone (I'm surfing blogs and waiting for the thunderstorms to quit--yes, thunderstorms before the blizzard, oh boy). This is on the Boxing the Octopus blog, silent monks singing Hallelujah. Priceless!


Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Maureen -

I hadn't thought about the white lights making the ornaments easier to see. Makes sense - especially with those lighted Hallmark ornaments - do you use those? We have a couple. We used to have quite a few of the ornaments that make noise...the statue of Liberty that plays out the Star-Spangled Baner, the jukebox that plays out Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, etc. Now usually those things start jabbering when you push a button - but they also all play when the power turns on the tree. Our tree is on a timer. Every morning the tree would light and all the ornaments would sing out! Too much noise first thing in the morning!!!! We don't hang those anymore.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Minna!

When do you take the tree down? Do you do all that effort for basically one day? Wow!

When we had a live tree, we didn't decorate it until fairly close to Christmas. The artifical one goes up right about THanksgiving because we don't have to worry about the tree drying out, and it's nice to have the decorating out of the way early because the holiday season gets so hectic.

Now I prefer a live tree for the wonderful pine fragrance...but an artifical tree saves money and skin. We bought our artificial tree after our live one dried up in our living room and stuck us repeatedly when we took the darn thing down. The needles then hit in the carpet to stab the occasional bare foot. We've had an artifical tree since.

Alison said...

I love everything about Christmas but I'm not sure if we'll hav lights on our tree this year as the current string isn't working (despite my husband screwing 70 bulbs individually to see where the fault was). Loved your pictures!

gigi said...

What interesting information in your blog.
The tree skirt was for dripping candle wax, I never could have imagined the real purpose.

I only decorate the outside of my house only with wreaths and bows.
I live so far out in the country no one ever sees the house. I do appreciate a well lit house. I drive around Christmas Eve and admire the houses that are decorated in town.

Donna MacMeans said...

Gillian - I saw that you posted that before - but why don't they mix?? Are we talking indoors? I've see houses with both outdoors. The LED lights are more intense but the mix works.

I'm not fond of those blow up decorations. Seems like during the day - they're all big plastic pools laying out on the lawns -- melted santas and snowmen(grin).

Don't forget to pick up some lighted deers in the after Christmas sales!

Donna MacMeans said...

Caren - what? You mean you don't leave the lights up on the gutters all year round? LOL. We have a big front porch and only decorate that and the shrubs and trees. My husband isn't fond of heights so no ladders for us.

Bummer on the notice of the gift shipping late. I have a gift for my husband that won't ship till February!! I ordered the darn thing in November. I printed off a description, put it in an envelope and tossed that under the tree. I have my doubts about a cookbook I ordered for my daughter, but there's enough other things to open and this way Christmas just continues a bit longer.

The internet sure has changed the way we shop, hasn't it? Be safe on your journies, Caren!

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Silvia -

You make fruitcake every year? Do you wrap the cake in cheescloth that's soaked with Spiced Brandy? I'm not fond of the candied fruits, but I do like the prospect of cake aging in alcohol (grin).

I'd go buy the darn thing from a good bakery. Give your husband cake and have a little peace for yourself (grin). The holidays do get hectic - but so much fun.

Donna MacMeans said...

Gillian - That was great! Thanks for sending the link. Loved the little guy on the end that had to jump to get his sign up there.

Be save traveling through that oncoming blizzard. We're heading north and they're only to get rain. The problem will be coming home when the temps fall. Stay stay as I want to hear what you got for Christmas when you return (grin).

Donna MacMeans said...

Thanks Alison!

My dh used to take a string of white lights and then replace every other bulb with red. Our bushes looked like peppermint candy. Loved it. Then a light would go out and he'd have to find the one that caused the string to go dark, being careful to replace the light with the appropriate color. Now he just uses white lights and tosses the uncooperative string with a bulb goes out. The lights are so inexpensive now, he just buys a new string to replace it during the after-Christmas sales.

Gillian - do the LED lights have the same problem? One light out and the whole string goes dark?

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Gigi -

Yeah - I was surprised by that mysself. So surprized that it inspired the idea for the blog (smile)!

Your country house sounds peaceful and serene. I bet the ribbons and wreaths are perfect. Now that the kids are grown, I wouldn't mind moving out into the country myself and let all the trees be ample natural decoration. Have a merry Christmas, Gigi.

Anna Campbell said...

Virginia, the Aussie animals are kinda cool. One of the houses I saw last year had a whole mob of kangaroos in lights (like the wire deers) outside their house.

Donna, the deer seem to be all over the world. Some of them are done so that the lights make them graze and lift their heads. That's kinda cool too.

Anna Sugden said...

What a wonderful post, Donna - loved all the information about the lights. And thank you to your daughter for that cute penguins pic!

We're all ready for Christmas, having braved the hordes to pick up our turkey and battle for the parsnips (our local supermarket ran out of Brussel sprouts - how does that happen? It's not like this is a surprise that people want them for Christmas lunch?!) Luckily we grow our own or things might have got nasty.

We have lights, colourful and twinkling, but I think they're tasteful. We have some lovely twinkling snowballs, which I love! No deer - at least, not the lit kind! There are real ones in the field nearby, along with some sheep.

These days many of the 'ho ho ho' houses tend to be done for charity - people put a charity tin outside so that visitors and viewers can donate to a local good cause. Out nearest is for the local animal shelter.

As for the ornaments - we have family ones, home-made ones and we also have ones from places we've visited over the years. This year we added ornaments from The Black Hills, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mount Rushmore to our collection.

MsHellion said...

I don't decorate outside the house. (We never did when I was a kid--we barely decorated in the house.) I did put up my tree ASAP, and went to Wally World to get some extra lights. My big tree purchase was some snowflake LED lights in white and blue. They're AWESOME. I love them. I think they're burning my retinas, but I can't look away. I have colored lights on the tree, as opposed to white ones; and a collection of Harry Potter and POTC ornaments. I love my tree.

I haven't decorated with anything else...I may start collecting some other Christmasy stuff, but it'll have to wait in future years. I was just glad to have the tree up.

I did buy some pie crust last night (I'm not skilled enough to make my own pie crust); and I couldn't find any pumpkin. *sighs* But I will be having some sort of pie for Christmas, darnit, so I'll have to think of something. I do have some sweet potatoes...and I could make a chocolate pie.

Anna Sugden said...

Congrats Virginia - hope you put that pesky rooster to work for you!

Anna C - how lovely to have Aussie animal lights!

Today's Christmas joke in my chocolate Advent calendar wasn't too bad, so I thought I'd share - What kind of pizza does Santa order?

Deep pan, crisp and even. *g*

MsHellion said...

I should add, I live in an apartment--so decorating outside is not really practical or possible.

Anna S.!--I visited Laura Ingalls Wilder's house too...but it was a long time ago. How cool you got an ornament to commemorate the time there! I bought some ornaments when I went to New York City--and I hang them on the tree as well. My favorite is the big Macy's building one. *LOL*

Minna said...

It depends. Sometimes we cut down the tree the previous day and bring it inside to melt. This year it was cut down couple of weeks ago.

~Drew said...

Hi Donna!

I loved reading about the history of Xmas lights! I love learning new things over my morning tea!

I don't go Chevy Chase crazy, but I had to smile when I saw the deer. Yep, I have them. The moving ones.
And I will join the boring brigade, all white lights. And to top it off, I have icicle lights on my deck.
But, my outside lights are the big, old fashioned ones, not miniature.
The lights on the house, I leave them up until the snow melts, I leave them on until after New Years. The Deer, however, will be put away after New Years.
My Xmas shopping is done! Whee!

Am I ready for the big day? Bring it on!! I have turkey baster in hand! And My Pillsbury Pie crusts bought!

Cheers~ Happy Holidays~

jo robertson said...

Delightful post, Donna. Makes me smile just thinking of the lights. Our outside lights are those icicle lights, white and blue and I do love the look of them hanging from the roof.

I admit to liking the simplicity of the white lights, don't much care for all the colors clashing together. I do love to drive around the neighborhood and see what other folks have done. Some pretty elaborate concoctions!

But, please, get them down early in January!

Deb said...

Hi, Donna. I like your historical insights on lights.
We have simple colored lights outside along the porch railing and on our two front bushes. I aslo have twinkling snowflake lights strung along the porch, too. We used to do the icicle lights, but it was a chore getting them up. So, I've taken those and put them around one of the bushes.
Our tree has 400 little colored lights, but it doesn't seem like that many!
I miss the lights so much after Christmas that I've draped a couple of strings of purple lights along my wooden window valance and we plug those in year-round.

Deb said...

Oh, I forgot. I let my daughter decorate the tree this year and she used every single ornament in the box! We have a hodge-podge of ornaments, very few that are alike. A lot of them are teacher ornaments, too, that I've received over the years.

Silvia said...

@ Donna, I do bake a cake each year and I pinch holes in it to generously let it drink some good brandy a time or two (or three). It’s a nice cake and I love making it. This year I was just scatterbrained. Doing this, quickly doing that. Thinking I’ll do it later only to forget. Well the fruit (and stuff) is here and stands soaking in some booze. I will be making the cake a little later on. I like the idea of buying a fruitcake but the love of my life dose not enjoy: “store bought goodies”, as he calls them. “Nobody makes a cake like you dear” well that’s nice to know but puts on a lot of stress too. Maybe next year we can come to a compromise. I make his goodies and fruitcake, he pitches in with the card sending and party planning duties, decorating and dare I wish it house tidying. Sounds great but if it’s going to happen ...

Minna said...

Joulurauhan julistus 2007 - The Declaration of Christmas Peace 2007


Donna MacMeans said...

Anna - Yes - those grazing, moving ones are the ones that scared my dog. He couldn't figure it out. (grin)

I'd love to see the heard of kanagroo though.

I know Vrai Anna did a blog about Christmas around the world last year - but I'd like to see one about the decorations around the world. Maybe next year...

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

GREAT post, Donna!

Nope, don't decorate inside or out. I'm just a grinchy ole Bah-Humbug! LOL! I do LOVE to drive around and look at the Christmas lights, though.

There was one particular street in our old neighborhood -- Dove Court -- and EVERY house on the cul-de-sac had enough lights to turn Chevy Chase's character green with envy. As part of the terms of sale on all those houses, the new owners had to promise to put up decorations! Don't know if they still do it, but cars used to line up for miles to see the display. Glad I didn't have to pay any of their electric bills!

STILL wishing I was in Mexico

Donna MacMeans said...

What an interesting idea - decorating the house and collecting for charity. Nice. I think most of the private homes are just decorated for fun - and a competition of sorts with the neighbors. Ever notice how the most outrageous of houses sits in a clump with other wildly decorated homes?

You know - I think one of the reasons England can have homes decorated for charities is that England has currency with some heft to it. I mean - you can toss a pound (the coin version - not the paper)from a car into a bin of sorts. We'd have to fold our dollar bills into little paper airplanes to sail from the car window. LOL just imagining it.

Donna MacMeans said...

MsHellion - Yes, the weather wasn't conducive to pumpkins this year. The stores were running out before Thanksgiving. I haven't even checked to see if more cans made it to the shelves. I made some pumpkin cake rolls around Thanksgiving and froze them - they'll be our pumpkin dessert this year. But we'll still have pecan pie here - it's a tradition in our house.

I would love to see your tree with the POTC ornaments. MsHellion - I'm going to send you an ornament. It's probably too big for the tree, but I know you'll find a place for it. You may even be tempted to leave it up all year LOL. Merry Christmas!

Nancy said...

Virginia, congrats on the rooster! I hope you keep him very busy.

Donna MacMeans said...

LOL, Anna on the Santa pizza. A chocolate advent calendar? I need one of those!

I saw chocolate reindeer placeholders at World Market yesterday. Thought about buying them and taking them to my SIL's house, but then how could chocolate reindeers possibly last long enough to make anyone's place? We'd come to dinner and there'd be little chocolate smears on the plates (and around certain mouths - says the one who probably would be one of them).

Meant to say "here, here" on the brussels sprouts. I love them, but I think I'm the only one in the house that does. My family would applaud your shortage LOL.

Donna MacMeans said...

Psst MsHellion - I'll trade you a very loud Statue of Liberty ornamnent that plays the Star Spangled Banner everytime the tree comes on for the silent Macy's one (grin). Deal?

Donna MacMeans said...

Sorry Minna - I meant how long does the tree stay up AFTER Christmas? Seems like so much work if it only lasts one day. Can't beat that beautiful fresh pine fragrance though.

Nancy said...

Donna--Guard deer?! I love it!

We put a single string of multi-color lights, the kind with big bulbs from when we were kids (pre-fairy-lights model), around the rail of our front porch. That's pretty much it. Each year, I campaign to have an evergreen spray with it but haven't succeeded so far.

We do have the little lights, in many colors, on our tree. We love Christmas kitsch. The dh's sister has made a variety of beautiful wall hangings, a gorgeous stuffed Santa, place mats, and other wonderful holiday decorations for us.

Our beautiful tree skirt came from Jewish friends who loved all the decorating and hoopla of the holiday but couldn't see their way to putting up a tree of their own. Over the years, we benefitted hugely--with a variety of ornaments, the tree skirt, and a wonderful cross-stitched angel. They helped us decorate our tree every year until they moved to Arizona.

We also have a big 12 Days of Christmas cross-stitch done by my late aunt. It lives in our bedroom most of the year, but at Christmas, it lives over the mantel.

Minna said...

One day? Hardly. The tree stays up a week or so.

Donna MacMeans said...

Drew - You deserve to kick back and have some eggnog!

I knew I'd bump into some deer herders here. They are adorable. I just getting tired of seeing them. Must be the dreaded Christmas crankiness (grin).

When we used to decorate the bushes with the red and white lights (unlike the current boring all white ones), I used to try to convince my dh to leave them up till Valentine's Day. He never would though. Ours will be lit until a week or so into January. Then they'll stay dark until we get a moderate weather day to take them down. Actually - that was part of my argument to leave them till Valentine's Day. I figured the longer they were up, the better the chances for a warmer day.

Donna MacMeans said...

Jo - are you a list-maker? An everything in its place type person? (You must be to have raised so many children and lived to retire from teaching). I think that's why you prefer the simple, elegant, and practical white lights.

I'm one of those people that must believe that every surface must be cluttered - as that's the way every desk, every counter, every table in my house is. I guess that's why I feel at home writing Victorians LOL. I love the chaos of many colors. It's uplifting and joyous - not elegant by any means - but fun. Guess that part of me never grew up (grin).

Donna MacMeans said...

Deb - Oh - I understand Christmas Light withdrawal. Yes - once the New Year comes, I'll feel driven to take everything down and probably stow it away to clear the decks for a new year, a fresh start. But I'll admit to colored light withdrawal - it's a tad depressing all that clean open space. I like your solution, though. I may have to drape my indoor fig tree with minature lights so I can light them occasionally. There's a house near here that keeps a string wrapped around a window all year. They used to change the colors for the seasons - but lately they've just stuck with blue. I think there might be vast numbers of us out there that have difficulty letting go of the lights.

Donna MacMeans said...

Yes Silvia - A New Year's resolution to be sure! It's either help with the holiday preparations or wear the cake (grin).

BTW I must admit that the times my daughter has made a fruitcake (my husband says the same thing about store bought. I said "too bad"
but my daughter, the chef, actually makes him the cake) she makes the cake, pokes a few holes in it then I sample the brandy...just to make sure it's still good (hick!)...then she proceeds to soak the cake. Hey - it's our system. It works!

peggy said...

I live in an apartment.So we can't put up lights. but my family and I enjoy driving around looking at all the lights .

Donna MacMeans said...

AC - I'm going to have to find a Grinch ornament just for you (grin). Of course, you don't decorate. You're never home long enough around the holidays to string lights! I love the decorating but if I had the opportunity, I'd hop on that cruise with you. I like family around for Christmas and Cindy - you're family to me. Merry Christmas

Donna MacMeans said...

Nancy - Now that I've suggested that the wired deer are "guard deer" (my daughter's term), I can imagine you'll be rushing out and arming the poor dears (he-he).

I have a counted cross-stitch tree skirt project that I'll finish some year. I've a cross-stitch picture of Mary Englebright's BELIEVE santa that nearly cost me my eyesight to finish. That hangs in our dining room year round. I also have a set of ceramic plates featuring the twelve days of Christmas that my mother made. I keep those on display year round as well. (See - all I need are to add those Christmas lights and I'll have my Christmas shrine complete!) Love the magic of Christmas and love the handicrafts that can be passed down from generation to generation.

Donna MacMeans said...

Minna - Now that makes sense!

Pissenlit said...

Congrats on nabbing the GR today, Virginia!

Nopers, we don't decorate the outside of the house anymore. I think we may have done it once or twice back when I was a kid. I distinctly remember one year when some hooligan smashed a few of the light bulbs on our string of lights and our neighbour's. Nowadays, we just prefer to save electricity. That and we're MUCH too lazy to tack them up and take them down again. :D

I like lights, period. It sort of doesn't matter what kind. They all brighten everything up.

I'm done my Christmas shopping so I guess I'm ready for the big day.

catslady said...

My husband is a grinch when it comes to outside decorations so I overdo inside the house lol. I do put up lit decorations in the windows though. We watch Christmas Vacation every year!! And I haven't wrapped anything yet - I'm just happy to be finished shopping lol.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Christmas shopping is done and my big day is today, too many families now and not enough Christmas days so I get today.
I don't decorate anymore, not as young as I once was and I am not chancing a broken hip. When I did decorate it was somewhere between elegant and Chevy Chase.

Kirsten said...

HI Donna! Love the blog -- I still remember those candle holders. We had a few from my grandpa. They were tin, I think, and had a place for the candle and then hooked around the branch. My mom shuddered every year and refused to light the candles, but they sure did look cool.

We have a fakie tree for the same reasons as you -- I love putting it out early, not worrying about the mess and fuss, and not having to buy something new every year. But our fake tree is about 10 years old now, so it's starting to show a little wear and tear. LOL. I'm thinking we may need a new one in a year or two.

Gillian, I'm like you -- I was done shopping weeks ago, but I keep thinking of "one more thing" that I want to get my kids. It's terrible. They're spoiled enough as it is!

Donna MacMeans said...

Peggy - that's what my daughter and I were doing last night! Fun, isn't it? Of course, I had to remember to watch for parked cars while slowly cruising looking from side to side. Jess didn't take a picture, but I liked one display that had the lighted words "Seasons Greetings" in white lights, then "From Bob" in red. Can't presonalize a display more than that!

Nancy said...

Donna wrote: Nancy - Now that I've suggested that the wired deer are "guard deer" (my daughter's term), I can imagine you'll be rushing out and arming the poor dears (he-he).

Now there's a thought! We could disguise grenades as festive holiday pineapples. :-)

There used to be a guy in our neighborhood whose house, even though it was down in the hollow, was visible half a mile away because of all the lights. He outlined the entire house, had holiday greetings and emblems in lights on his fence, had inflatables in the yard, spotlights, and "guard" deer. If a shape came in lights, he had it.

We called him "Christmas Guy," and we were sorry when he moved away. We went to look at his house a couple of times every season. We suspect his neighbors on the cul-de-sac did not share our sorrow, however, at least as far as the light-drawn traffic was concerned.

Donna your Santa sounds wonderful. Engelbreit does some very pretty designs.

Donna MacMeans said...

Pissenlit - Break out the eggnog! Time to kick back and enjoy. I still have to run out for a cookbook (ssh - it's for my son. He's starting to take an interest in cooking/grilling - already thinks he's an expert at 24)but other than that I'm done. Want to take in a movie? I think that's how I'll celebrate the end of shopping tomorrow.

Bummer on the filthy light smasher! No Christmas cheer for him! LOL - I'll probably be putting up lights on my nursing home door. I love how they make everything look magical.

Donna MacMeans said...

Catslady - I've started the practice of wrapping as I go. When the kids were little, we used to hide the presents in the attic as soon as we bought them. On Christmas eve, I'd have to wrap them all while the dh was assembling the bikes or ghostbuster fire station or whatever. I hated it. I think I got wrapping burnout. So now I wrap everything the night it comes home. Keeps me much saner.

Hey - has anyone else misplaced gifts that they bought months in advance only to find them years later?

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hey Donna!

While there were many houses with lights on them as I was growing up in Ohio, it wasn't until the DH and I moved our family to Florida that I really saw some elaborate Christmas decorations.

We're talking whole yard and house lighting efforts with moving objects, (dear, santas, trains, elves, etc...) and outdoor music. And this isn't one house. In our old neighborhood, we'd walk around and watch house after house try to outdo each other.

We were the subdued people. We'd put colored hot lights on the roofline and around the window. Yep, that was us...and quite frankly after the wild all white light houses, ours looked....peaceful!

My husband's theory was that living in Florida, with only a miniscule miraculous chance of snow, everyone did the elaborate light shows to try and get in the Christmas spirit. Our family did it by taking part in the church Christmas pagent. Now that's a whole other story!

Here in Texas, the house lights are more like those we had in Ohio, except people keep putting lighted longhorn cows statues out...(geesh you'd think they were in Texas!), but in Texas we had snow just last week!

Donna MacMeans said...

Dianna - You need some deer. No assembly required. Toss them out on the lawn and plug them in - voila - instant decorations.

Seriously, I think that's why so many people put them out. Easy, peasy and they are cute...except for the guy that hung one from his porch as a dressed deer. I think Caren knows the guy.

Merry Christmas Dianna!

Donna MacMeans said...

Kirsten - That's so cool that you have the old candle holders. Yes, I'd be hesitant to actually light the candles but it would be neat to even see the unlit ones on the tree.

Our fakie tree is about 35 years old. I'd like to get one of those pre-lit trees so we wouldn't have to wind the strings around the tree every year - but we've had this one so long it's part of the family. The kids - who aren't kids anymore - have never had a different tree. So I guess as long as the presents continue to fit under the branches, we'll keep using it.

Donna MacMeans said...

Nancy - We have a house like that, but I've noticed now that the kids are grown, he's toned down a bit. We call it the gingerbread house because everything is outlined and criss-crossed. He was late putting things out this year which had us worried. Funny how you grow to depend on the crazy guy down the street so much that you miss him when he's gone.

Donna MacMeans said...

Suz - I had to leave a bit ago to keep my hair appt. Looked in the rear view mirror and the car behind me had fuzzy plush antlers attached to the car windows and a red ball on the grill. Loved it! I might have to try that next year, but I'm guessing my dh would refuse to drive the car.

I think another part of the Florida overabundance might be the warmer weather allows you to put up lights without gloves. That's got to be easier. I'm with you when it comes to the real reason for Christmas - there's a lot to be said for peaceful and serene.

Nancy said...

Donna wrote: Funny how you grow to depend on the crazy guy down the street so much that you miss him when he's gone.

Too true! We would've hated his electric bill.

Kate Carlisle said...

Pretty pics, Donna! We don't decorate outside, just inside. We put lights around every window (chili lights in the kitchen) and fresh garland with lights hang on all the bookshelves and drape along the mantle. I love driving around the neighborhoods, looking at the lights. In my mom's community in the desert, they have a contest for best decorations, so we always take a long walk after Christmas dinner to look at the houses.

I still haven't quite finished my Christmas shopping, which I just started two days ago. Yes, in shopping, as in all other things, you can call me Late Kate. Tomorrow when we get to my mom's, the whole family is going to Wally World to buy fun stocking stuffers. Then I guess I'll be finished. :-)

Congrats, Virginia! Enjoy the Christmas Bird.

Nancy said...

Suz wrote: people keep putting lighted longhorn cows statues out

The guys on the corner have a winged pig. With lights. We're not sure what that's about.

Nancy said...

It just struck me that it's already Christmas Eve for Anna and Christine and everyone else in Australia. And probably for Eloisa in Paris as well. And soon for our Anna in the UK and the rest of the Continent.

The holiday is rolling toward us faster than I realized.

Donna, the local garden club gave a prize for the best house decorations when I was growing up, and my parents, especially my mom, liked to ride around at look at them. We'll be going out to do that tomorrow evening, probably.

Nancy said...

Kate, what's Wally World? We don't have that here.

Donna MacMeans said...

A winged pig? He's from Cincinnati!

Cincinnati used to be known as Porkopolis in the pioneer days, so the pig is sort of the city's mascot - esp. winged pigs. You can find little statues of winged pigs throughout the city if you know where to look. Maybe that means that Cincinnati is where dreams come true (where pigs fly).

Donna MacMeans said...

Kate - I love the idea of minature lights throughout the house on the mantel and bookshelves and such.

I'd probably do a better job of sticking to my budget if I waited till the last couple of days to do my shopping - but I'd probably angst over it as well. A family trip for fun stocking stuffers should like a great family tradition LOL. Have a wonderful holiday Kate. See you again when you blog here on Christmas day.

limecello said...

Donna - the pressure's on, huh? :P
No lights outside - ever.
And the tree's not up yet :X But... it will be. Soonly O_o
We're celebrating Christmas as a family a day late, so I've got some extra time ;)

Congrats on the GR, Virginia!

Louisa Cornell said...

Good for you, Virginia! Keep an eye on him! And hide the eggnog!

I do decorate with white and colored lights in spite of the fact that the only creatures who see my Christmas display are the neighbors' cows and my dogs!

Now my Mom lives in a subdivision and my niece and nephews get a real kick out of decorating her house for Christmas. My brothers have bought her every animated blow-up thing Wal-Mart sells. Her yard looks like a demented Christmas Disney World on steroids. She has two gorgeous big blue spruces in the front and my nephew does one in red, white and blue lights with a lighted flag at the top. This tree is for our troops who are serving overseas.

The other tree is done in white lights and is topped by a huge wrought iron star sculpture my youngest brother made. The sculpture is covered with tiny white lights. Really gorgeous.

And yes, the requisite lighted moving deer are in the yard as well. They even have safety vests made of orange lights on, just in case.

And as you enter the neighborhood their are lighted arches across the streets every few feet. It is a neighborhood tradition and it looks amazing!

Kate Carlisle said...

LOL Nancy - Wally World is what my girlfriend calls WalMart. We don't have one anywhere near us, but there's a beautiful new store in the desert by my mom so that's a big thrill for us!

Yes, that's how exciting my life is. ;-)

Nancy said...

Donna, thanks for explaining the winged pig thing. We were totally mystified!

Nancy said...

Kate, I guess we do have Wally World here--there seem to be rather a great many Wal-Marts. We just didn't have the nickname. :-)

Thanks for explaining!

Nancy said...

Louisa wrote: Her yard looks like a demented Christmas Disney World on steroids.

LOL! I can just see it!

I'd actually like to see Disneyland at Christmas, except I hate crowds, which are bad enough there at other times. I shudder to think what the Christmas season there would bring.

Donna MacMeans said...

Limecello - No decorations! You and AC are cut from the same mold. Have fun with the tree. I'm well used to celebrating Christmas whenever the family can get together. Sounds like you'll be busy tomorrow and Friday. Good thing the shopping is done, right?

Nancy said...

Everybody please remember we continue to put up new posts right through the holidays. We have KJ tomorrow, Kate on the 25th, and me on the 26th. We'd love to have you pop in adn join the resident banditas while you're taking a holiday break!

We don't want to be lonely, so--


No, Demetrius, I'm not forgetting you and your crew and the cabana boys and the hockey hunks are here. *sigh*

Please come see us ALL if you can.

Donna MacMeans said...

Yes Virginia - Don't let the GR hog the nog!

Louisa - Your mom's house sounds lovely, and with the vast variety of blow up deocrations available - I bet the front yard is fun. I do hope the air isn't cut off doing the day, reducing them to a plastic puddle. I think I would hope out some lights even if no one could see them but me from inside. From my dining room, I can see the lights wrapped around the porch rail and a string dangling from the roof of the porch - and it feels good to see. So kudos to you for going through the effort.

Susan Sey said...

Oh, Donna, you're always full of fascinating info! I really love knowing that the tree didn't go up until xmas eve because it was such a fire hazard. That just tickles me for some reason.

I'm not so much about the outside of the house (or even the inside so much) but what I really dig is the crafty stuff. I like making the popcorn cranberry strings for the trees, making a gingerbread house from scratch with the girls, baking cookies, making Christmas dinner...

If it plugs in, I don't care about it. But if it goes in the oven or into my mouth? I'm all about it. :-)

Nancy said...

Susan, you actually make those strings of popcorn and cranberries? Wow. I don't have the patience. I tried once and decided I'd honored the tradition when the badly strung popcorn kernels covered a foot of thread.

You go!

Margay said...

Hi, Donna, I don't decorate outside because I live in an apartment building and my balcony looks off into the woods, so decorations would be wasted out there. One tradition I do have is I keep my tree up until January 6th, which is not only little Christmas, but is my youngest sister's birthday.

Donna MacMeans said...

Susan -

I think this must be an age thing. When I was younger and still had small kids, we made gingerbread houses from scratch, threaded popcorn strings, made paper chains, rolled pinecones in peanut butter and birdseed for the birds (we thought - but turned out this is a squirrel feast). It was all magical with those little ones. Now that they're adults - it's just work. Give me something that plugs in, LOL. Should grandbabies appear someday, I'll probably break out my apron and be back in the royal frosting business - but till then...pass the nog.

Donna MacMeans said...

Margay -

I try to keep the tree up till Little Christmas but sometimes it's tough. There's something about greeting the new year that makes you want to start over fresh and uncluttered - clear the decks for 2010. But it's cool that you have a special reason to make the giving season last extra long.

Linda Henderson said...

I live in an apartment complex so I don't get to decorate outside. I do have my tree up and will take it down this weekend. It's an artificial prelit one about 3 feet tall. I finished my shopping last week when we thought the weather might get bad. Now we are under a winter weather advisory so it looks like we might have some ice or snow for Christmas. I hope not, I use a walker and it's tough getting out when it is slick. Have a Merry Christmas everyone.

limecello said...

Does anyone check the comments this late? :X I hope so - because for all you Bandita friends in the US, I have $10 restaurant.com giftcards to give away, and would be more than happy to send you one - just let me know if you'd like one!

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Linda!

Hopefully the apartment complex did some decorating so you wouldn't be totally without the holiday cheer. Kudos to you for finishing your holiday shopping early. Every year I try but even tonight I was out looking for a cookbook for my son (and bought one for my dh as well).

Hope you have a safe holiday weekend. Those walkers can be unforgiving on ice and snow. Stay warm, stay safe, and be sure to stay in touch with us! Have a Merry Christmas, Linda!

Donna MacMeans said...

Limecello - I've never used restaurant.com, do you like it? Don't you have to chose specific restaurants that are on their network? That might actually require planning (grin). We tend not to know where we're going to eat until we arrive. Have a Merry Christmas, Lime!

limecello said...

lol Donna- some planning required- but why don't you check out the website and see what you think? The giftcards you buy there are I think almost universally good for a year.

Donna MacMeans said...

Drumroll, please...

The winners from this blog are:
choice of a book and the Bandita 12 days of Christmas prize - Louisa

Choice of a book - Silvia

and MsHellion - I'm sending you a special ornament for your tree.

Merry Christmas, everyone!!

Donna MacMeans said...

Oops - should have asked the winners to contact me at www.DonnaMacMeans.com so I can get your shipping information.