The Great Christmas Light Fight – Or How Ill Prepared I Was for What I Saw

I’m a sucker for a reality competition.  Cooking shows, weight loss competitions, Amazing Race – I love them all.  And Christmas is my all time favorite holiday, with the bright lights, the family, and the warmth you have to generate yourself to combat the effects of Old Man Winter.  When I saw the commercials for the Great Christmas Light Fight on ABC, I was skeptical.  I thought they were going to take us on a tour of the tacky – the houses that look like they threw up lights, without any rhyme or reason, just to have the biggest display on earth.

Boy, was I wrong.

Okay, not entirely wrong.  There was one family that I truly got the “Ick” feeling from, feeling like they were doing their display more to garner their 15 minutes of fame or launch a music career, but the other families seemed to genuinely have the Christmas spirit.  They did the displays to share the season with friends and neighbors, strangers who came from afar to see the display, and now us, the television viewer.

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I chose a favorite early on – a retired New York City firefighter and his wife, Kevin and Tina Lynch from Whitestone, NY – not because they had the biggest display or the greatest number of inflatables or the most lights.  I really felt they had the most heart.  Their house oozed the true Christmas spirit – a little bit wonder and amazement, it captured the Christmas of my own childhood.  It felt familiar, in a nostalgic way.

I thought I was going to be so disappointed in this show, but I loved it.  I thought it would be difficult to determine a winner, but I knew right away who I would pick – and so did the show’s judge, Michael Moloney, from Extreme Makeover:  Home Edition fame.

The show will run Monday nights from now until Christmas.  If you need a touch of the holiday spirit, you just might find it here.

Our Florida Holiday Tradition – Drive In Light Displays

When we lived in South Florida, we would travel each year to Tradewinds Park for the Holiday Fantasy of Lights display.  For three miles, you rest comfortably in your car while driving through the park and the many incredible holiday light displays.  Taking place nightly from 11/19 through 1/2/2011, this is a must see spectacle of holiday brilliance, and for only $13 per car ($10 Monday – Wednesday), you can save the time and the effort driving through endless neighborhoods trying to find the best decorated houses.  Well worth the price of admission.

This year, Osceola Heritage Park is hosting their own version of a holiday light spectacular with the Wonderland of Lights.  Running from 11/26 – 1/9/2011, this display is just about a 20 minute drive from Walt Disney World.  This is the first year for this display, and it’s only a mile long, but the park is also going to offer ice skating, Santa’s Village, photos with Santa, and holiday movies.  The cost at Osceola is $20 per car, but it sounds like it’s shaping up to become a wonderful Central Florida tradition!

For more information on Osceola Heritage Park Wonderland of Lights, visit their site at

http://www.ohpark.com/EVENTS/TICKETS/Entertainment/364-Wonderland-of-Lights.html

The information on Tradewinds Park can be found by visiting their website at

http://www.holidaylightsdrivethru.com/

Jolly Holidays, Saturday

So, we sleep a little bit later than usual this morning, and no one is really anxious to get up and moving, since we were up so late last night. Grace bounced from bed to bed until Jim finally put her down, asleep, with Eilis on the fold out sofa.  Jim’s mom has to work later today at a holiday function in their community, so we don’t make any real plans to go anywhere or do anything, other than run out for coffee.  We spend quite a bit of time on the phone and online with British Airways, but the end result – all of our travel reservations for next summer are made!  We got a pretty good deal by booking with the British Airways credit card.  We had to buy upgraded seats (not REAL upgrades, like first class, but upgrades like two across instead of 3), but it was a buy one ticket, get a companion ticket for free deal, so it worked out to be the same price – a few dollars less – than paying for all 7 of us.  We were able to book the odd ticket as a regular coach fare, but then with the frequent flier miles we got from booking the rest of the tickets, we got a free upgrade on the 7th seat, so we’re all together.  London won’t know what hit them when this crew arrives!!

We had a delicious dinner of roast beef, and then after dinner, Russell took us all out on the golf cart to see the holiday lights.  I was surprised how many people were really decked out for Christmas.  I had figured that since it was an over 55 community, there would be a percentage of people not even home over the holidays, since they were traveling to visit their children or grandchildren; and then I figured there is a percentage of homes not occupied for whatever reason.  Add into that however many people don’t celebrate Christmas or might be too old or not up to decorating, and I really assumed there would be way more un-decorated houses.  And some of the people really go all out!  Dot and Russ had one of the best decorated – the kids could have stood outside for hours watching all the things they have outside!

I headed to bed early – around 10 PM – and left Jim out with the girls.  I don’t think they stayed up much later though – they were just as tired as I was. 

The Proper Way to Hang Christmas Lights

So, growing up, it seemed to me the men-folk were the ones who did all the fancy ‘lectrical stuff around Christmas time.  It was the strong, handsome men hanging lights in the windows and stringing the Christmas tree.

Then I married Lazy *** Jim.  Our first year together, he helped out, not a lot, but enough that I thought he did a good job.  He did do all of the lights on the tree, but I did the lights in the windows and such around the house.  Gradually, over the years, it became my job to also string the lights on the tree.  Having never done it, and not sure how to do it, each year it seems that I do it a different way.  It never looks evenly lit all the way around, and I am always pissed off that I had to do it without Jim.  The women are supposed to hang the balls and string the garland.  Lights are not in my chromosomes. 

Last year, for the first time, I watched the White House Christmas.  Damn, those people sure know how to decorate!!   Not only does the whole joint look fabulous, they have truckloads of volunteers to do it all.  All Mrs. Bush has to do is wander in, hair perfectly coiffed, suit pressed and lovely, smiling a big ol’ Texas smile, and admire how great her house and her trees look.  Although lacking the hundreds of volunteers, I decided last year to light my tree the White House way.  They wrap each branch with the lights, each individual branch, each insignificant on it’s own little branch.  It always looks so bright, so beautiful, and so evenly lit.  Of course, wrapping each branch is not an easy task, and when you undertake it, you realize why they White House has hundreds of generous souls wrapping and wrapping and wrapping.  After three branches, my hands ache, my back hurts, I hate Christmas, and at the earliest possible convenience, I intend to stab my husband to death with one of these insignifcant little branches.

So, the problem with wrapping the lights around each branch is that you eventually have to UNWRAP each branch.  Yep, after the hours that went in to wrapping the branches, we try to figure out how to unstring the lights in less than 20 seconds.  And hours later, we are left with tangled bunches of lights, sap over everything, poked eyes, scratched cheeks, and cracked fingers.

Next year, Jim says, instead of wrapping the branches, just put the lights in patches.  I say get off your Lazy *** and do it yourself.