Keep lights on all season long

Paris is often referred to as the “City of Light” because it was a place of enlightenment (education, philosophy) in the 18th century. But during December, Las Vegas becomes the real city of light as Strip casinos and homes throughout the valley burst forth with holiday decorations that rival Disneyland’s Main Street.

However, something different is happening: Decorations are now being displayed for the entire season — if not the entire year. That means there is no need to dismantle wreaths and lights by mid-January and pack them away until next Halloween. The concept of holiday lighting is undergoing a mini-revolution that allows permanent outdoor strip lights throughout the year.

Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design for Home Depot, said Christmas lights are a symbol of hope and peace and customers are decorating their homes beyond traditional holiday months.

“It used to be that homeowners began decorating around Halloween and then added additional decorations for Thanksgiving,” she said. “As Christmas neared, they started adding even more decorations.

“But now homeowners want to keep the lights and good cheer of the holidays into January and February and even March. This is what our customers have told us and we’re responding to their requests.”

Fishburne said the year-round decorating trend began several years ago, and her corporate department has been busy creating outdoor decorations to meet the demand.

“We’re seeing homes being lit with tonal colors after the first of the year,” she said. “Tonal means all shades of one color such as blue or gold. Traditional colors are being incorporated with bronze, rose gold and aqua. It’s becoming quite sophisticated.

“At the same time, homeowners are taking some of their indoor Christmas design and moving it outdoors and vice versa. It’s cold, dark and dreary during the winter so people are having fun. They’re celebrating winter birthdays and anniversaries with a host of color combinations and special effects. There are no rules.”

Fishburne said additional decorations include colorful wreaths with glitter along with doormats with all kinds of winter scenes, not just Santa and his sleigh.

History tells us that the tradition of lighting for Christmas began centuries ago with the first recorded instance being a German Yule log in 1184. Candles followed with the beginning of decorating the Christmas tree with lights.

Sometimes the candles and the dry tree branches created a dangerous situation but that was resolved when Thomas Edison created the first string of incandescent Christmas lights in 1880. For many years only the wealthy could afford to decorate with them, but by the 1930s, mass marketing made decorating with colorful lights available to the greater population.

According to Fishburne, LED strip lighting is the current trend. The lights are durable and cost-effective and can last approximately 20 years even if lit for six to eight hours per day.

“LED lighting is environmentally friendly,” she explained. “They are nontoxic and recyclable, and it’s been shown that switching to LED lights can help reduce your carbon footprint by up to a third. Because they are so long-lasting, I always tell people to make sure the lighting is weather-proof.

“One LED light bulb can save the production of 25 incandescent light bulbs. And even though they operate on a lower voltage, they produce brilliant light and vivid color.”

Because of the new technology currently available, those vivid colors can be changed from one color to another with a simple switch. Christmas trees now come with dual or multifunctions that can become part of a smartphone app. This allows the tree to change colors from red to green to blue or even twinkling.

“What’s amazing is how quickly our customers share their newest decorations and technology with friends,” Fishburne said. “They come in the summer asking about what new technology and decorations we’ll be carrying in our stores for Christmas and then they share this information with neighbors.”

As winter moves to spring, Fishburne said homeowners begin to alter exterior home decorations with a focus on spring and curb appeal.

“This occurs around mid-April when the weather becomes nicer,” she said. “String lights from the holidays can continue to play an important part. Use single strands to outline the door. Place some remaining winter elements such as aromatic evergreens and pine cones in an oversized clay pot or basket.

“Lanterns are popular year-round and don’t forget to remove the Santa and his sleigh doormat and replace it with one that depicts spring flowers. Add accent pillows to the porch and turn your attention to flower pots and lawn decor. The home is now on display creating a warm and welcoming ambiance.

She added, “Remember, there are no rules and also remember that the front of the house says so much about you and how you receive visitors.”

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