Monday, December 22, 2008

no christmas in east county this year

It's hard to find houses done up for Christmas. I saw this home in Deer Park last year.

My mother, a real estate agent, is cutting back from her normal output of holiday cards and stuff this year: she's only sending holiday cards to houses with very nice Christmas lights. The decorations on our own house have spent the better part of a week to set up; naturally, we assumed a drive around East County would yield people who'd done the same.

"People must be Jewish," my brother insists as we drive down the dark streets winding off of Fairland Road, looking for a light show. (It should be noted that he is only nine, though if you'd like to send me angry comments for being politically incorrect, I'd be happy to receive them.) "It must be the economy. People are too depressed to put up lights," my mother says. "Your father and I used to drive up to Hampshire Greens and look around. They always had the most decorations."

But even that swanky golf-course community north of Cloverly was pretty dark, though the houses we find must have taken some effort: a runway down the driveway for Santa's sleigh; a giant peace sign hanging in the foyer. The house that won second-place in the neighborhood lighting contest was done up like a girl getting ready for prom: icicle lights, multi-colored strings all over the bushes. The front lawn was littered with electrified vignettes: Santa and his reindeer; trees and snowmen; baby Jesus in the manger with Mary, Joseph and the Three Wise Men, all glowing.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

It didn't take us long to find the obvious first-place entry, just around the corner, lit up like Times Square: Giant bulbs in four colors tracing the roofline. Candles in every window, with a tree planted in a big window over the front door. Ribbons of light tracing through every bush, shrub and branch on the lawn, ringed by stake lights lining the cul-de-sac driveway. Blue tinted spotlights gave the house an eerie glow, almost as if it was about to lift off.

We had to stop the car. "Let them know we're admiring their house," I say. "They deserve it." A moment of silence follows in appreciation of the one family in East County who actually had the Christmas spirit. "This had to be in first place," my brother says. There was a sign in the front yard. "Lighting By: Christmas Decor," it reads. They'd had it professionally done! No deal, I thought. You can't do that. It totally defeats the purpose.

The Christmas Decor website says they've been professionally decorating houses for twenty years with a network of franchises in forty-eight states and Canada, and even offers a "Decorating Simulator" that shows what they can do to your home. What it doesn't say is how much it costs to do what I'd assumed was an age-old tradition: Dad climbing a ladder to string lights across the roof and nearly falling off, kids arguing over whether the sleigh should be climbing the chimney or landing in driveway. What exactly do you do while people decorate the house for you? Watch while you drink hot chocolate and the kids argue over the remote?

Either way, I figure Hampshire Greens must be wise to the professional decorators, because that house didn't win anything in the neighborhood lights contest.

1 comment:

WashingtonGardener said...

This is backwards thinking to me - the more depressing the news, then the MORE lights we should put out to combat it.
I admit though that my own light display was a bit lacking and late this year - due to a week away for a family funeral and a batch of dud batteries. My lit-wreath and window candles lasted about 6 hours before petering out. Think I can get a refund? I did do extra greens and red bows to compensate for daytime viewers :-).