Say your husband is Jewish. Say you haven't put Christmas lights up in twenty years (or come to think of it, ever). Say you have a kid now and the importance of holiday traditions has suddenly dawned on you. Say it's mid-December.
This was my position a few years ago when I realized that no, the Jewish husband would not be putting up any Christmas lights (imagine that!), and if they were going to be a part of our holiday tradition, it was up to me. I learned how to string Christmas lights the hard way; here are a few tips to make stringing your Christmas lights easy:
- Timing. In Seattle, if your Christmas lights aren't up by early November, you're virtually guaranteed to be up on a slippery roof in a cold rain in the dark uttering some newly-minted phrases that aren't exactly in keeping with the holiday spirit. This doesn't mean that come mid-December, most of us Seattleites aren't out there doing just that, but we do have special dispensation to get our lights up early. In other parts of the country, stringing your lights anytime before Thanksgiving is seen as sacrilege. Though you won't be the Grinch who stole Christmas, you'll be the turkey who snubbed Thanksgiving.
- Consider the weather. Dress appropriately. Here in the Pacific Northwest, gortex is more than just a fashion statement; it is a way of life. Those gloves with the fingers cut out--what did you think they were for? Even with all the right clothes, you are still going to freeze a few key parts, most likely your digits. If you've got Reynaud's syndrome, may I suggest that you consider stringing a wreath instead?
- The Joneses. Let's face it, once the lawn and barbecue season is over, the friendly neighborhood ribbing opportunities dwindle over the winter months. If you just happen to be a distant cousin of Martha Stewart and can't help but create a classic lighting display that perfectly complements your country chic house, kudos to you. If you didn't get the right genes for that, there is always overkill. How many lumens do the Joneses have? Add a zero and you win.
- Get a good ladder. There's nothing like trying to descend from the roof with frozen fingers and a burned-out string of lights onto a ladder that tests the durability of your newly reconstructed anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). You can forget the moguls but if you expect to be skiing the steeps into your forties, fifties, and beyond, invest in a good ladder now.
- Measure first. Measure the area where you want to string the lights. I know--it's like asking for directions. But it will save you return trips to the hardware store, and face.
- Choose your tree wisely. If you'll be stringing lights on a tree, go for the evergreen and not the hawthorn--"thorn" is in the name of this tree for good reason. Remember, thorny and gnarled was Halloween.
- Don't overload your circuits. As much as that bright orange extension cord across your lawn does not fit your vision, let it be (and never plug more than one extension cord into an outlet). Trying to get an electrician to your house when you blow out your electrical box is guaranteed to blow your circuits, too, and counteract any of the goodwill generated by your magnanimous offer to string the Christmas lights in the first place.
There you have it. And don't forget the brandy when you're through. Remember, it's all about tradition!