Putting up lights seems like such a bright idea

Because I neglect to join my wife in singing Christmas songs in July and opine that this behavior is only normal of alcoholic bridge dwellers with imaginary squirrel friends named Steve, I am relegated to Ebenezer Hitler, Hater of Goodness. I’m thinking about embracing the role by turning off the lights and thermostat and having my children enter numbers by hand into an old timey ledger by candlelight.

Aside from the excuse to drink alcoholic beverages in front of children whose names you probably should know, the best part of Christmas is all the lights. My love of Christmas lights began at an early age, as my father routinely would cover the house with enough lights that pilots used our house as a beacon during blizzards and more than once a ship crashed into our home mistaking it for a lighthouse.

Everybody knows that having the most lights on your house is how you win at Christmas. Unfortunately, some of the places I’ve rented, putting up exterior Christmas lights would’ve been like trying to enter a decrepit junkyard raccoon in the Westminster dog show by putting a bow on his head.

I prefer the smaller lights than the fat bulbs, which, to me, are the Abe Vigoda of exterior illumination.

“Come on in,” the abnormally pudgy lights shout, “and have some butterscotch candies as we regale you with stories about our neighbors, how cold it is in here, that one really hot summer and complain about the price of gas. Are you getting enough to eat? Here, let me pinch your face. Have another Werther’s Original.”

In the meantime, smaller lights go to clubs with smoke machines and wear buttoned-down stripped shirts with eagles on them and drink cocktails that take 45 minutes to mix.

The most painless way to adorn your house Christmasry is to wait until Dec. 24 to make your lighting purchases, as at this time they are typically 60-80 percent off. Often, you’ll see weary sales clerks trying to sneak them into people’s bags just to get them off the shelves.

When you return home, don’t even unpack them. Just take out enough so you expose the plugin. Then duct tape the box to the window. Done. If your wife is one of those unreasonable ones that finds this method unsatisfactory, I’ve provided a guide to help you with your exterior illumination project.

Step 1: Locate your Christmas lights. Often this can take awhile so it’s recommended you start your search early — like in May.

Step 2: Once you locate and dust them off, throw them all away. Sure, you could try and sort through them all, but you’ll find that only about 30 percent are functional. Like toilet paper manufacturers, Christmas light manufacturers specifically design their products to deteriorate after one use.

Step 3: If you insist on keeping them, you can try and find the malfunctioning bulbs, but if you want the same feeling with similar results it’s much faster to simply repeatedly smack yourself in the head with a plaster manger donkey.

Step 4: Lift them gently out of box and admire how nicely they come out. Haha, just kidding they’re a tangled mess of snakes. It’s a well-known fact that no matter how neatly you attempt to put them away, Christmas lights will immediately bind together with one another as if attempting to create a new element. Patiently attempt to uncoil them, having as much success as my 5-year-old trying to eat peas with a butter knife. After spending an hour, shake them furiously like you’re trying to unravel a wet shirt as you scream. This will be the moment your child will choose to see what you’re up to, giving them a delightful image they’ll one day describe in therapy.

Step 5: Curse at icicle lights. One of the fundamental laws of physics is for icicle lights to huddle together like a pit of snakes and only dangle beautifully on other people’s houses. Yours have all the dangling properties of an unopened box of spaghetti. The only other explanation is that Christmas light manufacturers live in a world where icicles grow horizontally. Cursing them doesn’t do any good, but it’ll make you feel better. It’s easier to pry a marshmallow from a baby’s karate death grip than it is to extend these devil things.

Step 6: Purchase gutter clips. These clips are made of plastic and are designed to support all types of lights — all except yours. Feel the joy of turning them over and over in your hands as you try to figure out how they attach to your gutters, growing dumber by the second, refusing to look at the label because IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD.

Step 7: Climb up to the roof during the coldest day. It doesn’t matter what day it is, because that day will be the coldest.

Step 8: Drop all your gutter clips.

Step 9: Notice everyone in your neighborhood already has their lights up. Consider asking to exchange houses for the holidays because this is hopeless.


Kelly Van De Walle can be reached at