Stringing Christmas lights a challenging tradition

By RANDALL RIGSBEE
Posted 12/20/18

When it comes to holiday traditions, we probably can’t help being influenced by how we were raised.My parents, for instance, while by no means anti-Christmas, were steadfast in their tradition of putting up Christmas decorations no sooner than one week before Christmas Day.

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Stringing Christmas lights a challenging tradition

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Posted

When it comes to holiday traditions, we probably can’t help being influenced by how we were raised.
My parents, for instance, while by no means anti-Christmas, were steadfast in their tradition of putting up Christmas decorations no sooner than one week before Christmas Day.
Visiting friends’ houses during the holidays, I knew we were in the minority on this tradition, and maybe even a tad odd when it came to the timing of our decorating.
Likewise, my mother, citing some superstition she’d picked up somewhere, also insisted that all holiday decorations – tree, lights, candles, wreaths – be taken down absolutely no later than Dec. 31. To leave Christmas decorations languishing into the new year, she explained to us year after year, was “bad luck.”
As an adult capable of making traditions of my own, in spite of historic influences, I’ve varied from my parents’ traditions somewhat. At our house, we normally have decorations up soon after Thanksgiving.
But for better or worse, as familial influences go, I still cling to that “bad luck” notion and see to it that all of our decorations are removed and packed away until next year by the new year.
As circumstances dictated this year, quite by accident our Christmas decorating coalesced neatly with the way my parents handled decorating. Just over a week away from the holiday, we finally got around to decorating over the weekend.
I think we procrastinated because neither of us relished hauling boxes of holiday stuff down from the attic.
But once over that hump, which we accomplished Saturday, we got on a roll and about an hour later, we not only had our artificial tree unboxed and branched, we had it lighted and decorated and tinseled, too.
Another hour or so later, we had a wreath on the door and even a few presents wrapped and under the tree, just so it didn’t look so empty.
All that remained was placing the strands of icicle lights across the roofline of the front of our single-story house.
With few exceptions, every year in recent memory we’ve adorned our house with those simple but inviting outdoor lights. It’s one of our traditions of our own making and one of my favorite Christmas touches.
But it’s one that, inevitably, presents challenges, and if you’ve ever handled a strand of Christmas lights, you can relate.
What I mean is: no matter how gently I remove those lights (before Jan. 1, of course) and carefully pack them for future use, when the next year comes those lights always need fresh attention because there will always be a couple of lights that don’t light, even though they worked beautifully when last plugged in.
This year was no different.
I’ve learned to test them before going up and down a ladder placing them, and as expected, a few isolated portions of the connected strands of lights didn’t light in their test run.
I fiddled with them for a while, trying to find the single defective bulb, but with no luck, before making the executive decision to scrap the bad strand and replace it with a new strand.
It’s no Clark Griswold-worthy light display we’re after. But the process involved in that simple strand of white lights often feels nearly as involved and frustrating as the travails Mr. Griswold experiences trying to refresh his house for the holidays with elaborate lights in “Christmas Vacation.”
The process is frustrating but the end result is rewarding.
I can be as “bah humbug” as I want about the demands of holiday decorating, and for a bit of that I thank my parents, but I’m glad we bit the bullet and finally – even though we were pushing deadlines -- decorated for the 2018 season.
It’s beginning, at last, to look a lot like Christmas. Here’s to a merry one for all.

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