When I was a kid I was in charge of the outside holiday decorating. I was excited when we moved into the new house in 1977 because we had more space for more Christmas decorations. It would be a couple of years before Dad would arrange for landscaping on the property, but I managed to get a couple of strands of Christmas lights wrapped around the poles on the front porch and two sets of lights around two of the panes of the living room window.
I was always excited by the twinkling of Christmas lights; before moving to the new house we lived in a 10’x50′ mobile home with an 8’x40′ addition my dad built in 1970. The first bedroom wasn’t even big enough for a single bed (it was designed to be a nursery, with room for a crib and that was about it) so that room became a storage room with a space for a litter box. I knew my mom stored the Christmas lights in the closet in that room and it would far from Christmas when I would drag the lights out and enjoy them on a Sunday morning when mom and dad were still sleeping. That was when we had the traditional glass C5 type lights; it wouldn’t be until we moved to the new house in ’77 that we had the smaller “midget” Christmas lights that became popular. They were $1.99 for a set of 35 lights at the local Rite Aid. I don’t remember the manufacturer. The reflector and the base for the bulb were all one piece, versus the version you could buy at Sears or Montgomery Ward where the bulb was separate from the reflector. The “petal” type, shown in the photo above, were the most common, though there were other styles made by different manufacturers, some looked like crowns, and others looked like star points. Even though they were made by different manufacturers, they all had a common base, so you could mix and match between the different types of reflectors, though sometimes the voltage was off. My interest in electricity helped; I figured out how to switch bulbs by unbending the two small wires and moving them to a different reflector.
When the landscaping was installed in 1979 or 1980, I went crazy that year, begging my mother to purchase another set of lights every time she ran into town. She acquiesced as much as the budget would allow and for a few years we had lots of lights out front. The power meter would probably shake itself off the pole but I thought it was beautiful.
I’d spend two weeks up to Thanksgiving setting up the lights with the hard and fast rule that I was not allowed to light anything up until the night of Thanksgiving. We celebrated Thanksgiving and then we celebrated Christmas. There was no encroaching on the Thanksgiving holiday with twinkling lights. I respected that and I still sort of have that rule today.
We were recently in our local Walgreens and I took a peek at the Christmas lights display. One word immediately came to mind: BORING. There are hardly any lights with reflectors. The old $1.99/35 sets from days past had two circuits so you could make every other light blink in tandem or have two different sets of blinking lights in the same strand. From what I could tell through my quick perusal through Walgreens, the cheap lights simply just blink on and off in unison. One circuit.
I still find wonder in any Christmas lights display, but as I get older I find I prefer the older incandescent lights, whether the big C5 or C7 bulbs or the smaller lights. The new LED lights just have this cold look to them that don’t convey a Christmas warmth. Hopefully technology will improve in that regard.
My husband is anxious to put up Christmas lights. I remind him he can but he has to wait until Thanksgiving night to let them up.
We’ll see if that rule holds true this week.