Plugged In to the Holidays

Plugged In to the HolidaysGet into the spirit by lighting your home inside and outBy Lis King

Never mind those Scrooges who satirize holiday light displays as symptoms of suburban one-upmanship. The rest of us love this once-a-year license to go all out following our whims, be they for palm trees wrapped with strings of light, wired reindeer, Christmas trees with fiber-optic needles or garlands and wreaths blinking in the night. Some of us keep it simple, others go for exuberance, but either way the light shows are festive symbols of the holiday spirit.

“Even if money is tight, people are eager to celebrate,” confirms Dorothy Creamer, editor of Selling Christmas Decorations, a trade magazine that tracks holiday products and trends. “They want some fun. Therefore those vibrant seasonal displays.”

Katie Powell, owner of Beautiful Lights in Destin, loves holiday lighting so much that she organizes an annual cavalcade of cars to cruise the best-lit neighborhoods in the area. “A few weeks before Christmas, we pile into a bunch of SUVs, appoint a designated driver, open some bubbly and go light-gawking,” she tells.

So what about those trends in holiday lighting?

 Ronda Williams with Decorating Design in Panama City will transform your home into a sparkling winter wonderland. Photos by Scott Holstein and Courtesy of Property Innovations, Inc., dba The Lighting Comapny

“Lately, it’s all about motion,” Creamer says. “Falling snowfall lights, also called ‘chasing lights,’ were hot sellers last year and are expected to be so again this year. Lights that dance to music are also big sellers. Colored bulbs are making a comeback, although white mini lights are still enormously popular. That’s because white lights transcend religious connotations and also suit wintry themes.”

Along the Emerald Coast, aqua lights are favorites, according to Mary Romair, owner of GG Bloom florist in Destin. “They’re perfect for our area, and when you combine them with bling they become even better,” she says. “Copper goes especially well with aqua.”

Creamer mentions another trend: The holidays are no longer just for those celebrating Christmas. “It has become much more common for Jewish homes to have both Menorahs and Christmas trees,” she tells. “You can now buy Hanukkah tree toppers and there are strings with lit-up dreidel tops. In fact, manufacturers now offer something for every spirituality.”

LEDs Light The Way

Bob Craig of The Lighting Company, Freeport, calls LED (or light emitting diodes) technology the most important new factor in holiday lighting.

“LEDs are remarkable,” he says. “They use about 10 percent of the energy of an incandescent bulb, their colors are brilliant and they’re nearly indestructible. They’re also cool to the touch, so you don’t burn your fingers handling them. So I can see them taking over for the incandescents, even though they cost twice as much.”

Creamer says this is already happening. LED holiday lights are catching on in homes everywhere. With the White House and Rockefeller Center lighting the way with their iconic Christmas trees, retailers expect last year’s brisk sales to skyrocket this season. Home Depot, for example, posted a triple-digit increase in LED holiday light sales in 2010, and Christmas Lights Etc., an online retailer, announced a 200 percent increase over the previous year.

Decorating Help

Santa is not the only one who needs helpers. Some people are just too busy to proclaim Christmas inside and out, or they don’t like climbing around on roofs and ladders. That’s where landscapers, florists, interior designers and concierge services come in handy.

Romair, for example, has clients who count on her help every Christmas. “Some want us to do everything, indoors and out,” she tells. “Others just want us to do the Christmas tree. But it doesn’t end there. Holiday decorating isn’t just about the month of December. We take down the decorations after the holidays, store whatever has to be stored, and make lists of what’s broken and has to be replaced. 

“Then I go to the huge holiday market in January and stock up on whatever items will make my clients’ next Christmas brighter. At some point, way before the holidays, I meet with those clients to discuss what they want to add or subtract. For example, they might have redecorated their house during the year, so we may have to come up with a different color scheme for the holiday finery. Or they might decide that this year they want to do more garlands or light up more of the shrubbery. And for new clients we go to their house to make sure they get holiday decorations that’ll complement their rooms and yards.”

‘Tis the Season … All Year

To Bob Craig, whose company is behind some of the most spectacular municipal, commercial and residential light shows along the Emerald Coast, holiday decorating is absolutely a full-time endeavor.

“Designing, installing, dismantling, storing and renewing the light shows plus keeping up with what’s new and exciting in the field does occupy every month of the year,” he tells. “We meet with most clients in the spring and certainly no later than June-July to review their plans for the holiday season. That’s how long it takes to get ready for the December shows. Some of them require a lot of planning. Last year, for example, we did a spectacular for The Village of Bay Towne Wharf. We set up three shows a night three nights a week. The lights were animated in tune with a musical program. It was a great success, but also a lot of work.”

Hiring holiday decorators can cost a pretty penny. For example, area florists might charge more than $2,000 for a tall artificial tree decorated with ornaments and lights, but they point out that you’ll have a gorgeous focus for your holiday celebrations, the tree won’t set your house on fire and you can use it again next year.
However, Katie Powell likes to see homeowners putting their imagination to work and do at least some of the decorating themselves.

“Even if it’s just the chandelier over the dinner table that you tackle, it’ll get you into a festive mood,” she says. “If it’s a candle-light chandelier, think of tying a ribbon around each candle, or let ribbons hang from its arms. Or wind a garland around its arms. Or put in some colored bulbs.


 Ronda Williams will transform your home into a winter wonderland. Ronda Williams will transform your home into a winter wonderland. 













Holiday Lighting Safety Tips

  • Use lights that bear an Underwriters’ Laboratories tag. Lights rated for only indoor use carry green labels. Those carrying red labels are rated for both indoor and outdoor use.
  • When unpacking last year’s lights, check for cracks in sockets and wiring before plugging in. Don’t use any string where the wiring is exposed through the insulation.
  • If you plug one string into another, check string tags for information about the maximum number of allowable connections. If in doubt, don’t connect more than three strings of small lights with push-in bulbs or 50 or more of the larger, screw-in bulbs.
  • If you use extension cords, avoid overheating and fire hazards by choosing higher wattage ratings than those of the light strings. Outdoors, use extension cords rated for exterior use.