Every festive holiday – me, my wife and our three kids just love looking at all the houses with their outdoor Christmas lights up. We’ve been doing it since they were babies and it really gets you in the Christmas spirit.
But although we don’t think Xmas lights look tacky, we know that some people (grinches) do – so we want to address the subject in this article…
Outdoor Christmas lights are not tacky. If you plan your display and take some time to create a tasteful layout, you can put up professional-looking festive lighting that you, your friends, family and neighbors will all love – especially the children.
So let’s dive down into the subject of outdoor Christmas lights in more detail, and discover what we can do to avoid getting too carried away so they end up looking tacky…
Do Outdoor Christmas Lights Really Look Tacky?
We’re no Grinches here at Take A Yard, and we love Christmas decorations. Outdoor Christmas lights are becoming more and more popular each holiday season, and they’re a great way of brightening up the neighborhood for everybody.
However, it is a fine line between being bright and eye-catching and just plain tacky. If you work with your house and garden (stringing lights in the trees for example), rather than just throwing on every light set you like the look of, you can create something that’s truly beautiful and filled with festive magic.
We’ll take a closer look at how to create a pro display, as well when to turn your holiday decorations on (and take them down) and how to take care of your lights
If you want to stay on the right side of tacky, just remember that even in the holiday season, less is more. We can’t resist sharing this selection of truly OTT festive displays that Realtor.com has spotted as a How-Not-To guide…
How Can I Make My Outdoor Christmas Lights Look Professional?
It’s perfectly possible to make your outdoor Christmas lights look like they were hung by a pro. The key (as with so many things) is in the preparation.
Firstly, tidy your home and yard. Empty and clean the gutters and wash the windows before hanging your decorations. Clean the porch or patio, and weed between the slabs. If you’re fixing lights to trees, fences or shrubs, make sure they’re all tidy, too. It’s a good chance to give your front yard that pre-holidays clear out.
Next, measure the spaces you have. What’s the size of the gable, the distance between windows, the length of the fence? Take measurements of every area you plan to decorate.
Draw a plan. You can even take a picture of your house and photoshop your decorations onto it (or, get the kids to do the photoshop part…). This is how the pros manage to get everything looking so beautifully even.
Plan a scheme. The easiest way to look tacky is by gathering together all the outdoor decorations you love and hanging them all on your house. What colors are you using? Which areas are you decorating? Is there a theme, such as a winter wonderland or favorite festive characters?
Want some inspiration? Here’s Lowe’s short film about choosing and hanging your Christmas lights.
Check the combined wattage of your lights to make sure you don’t overload the system (and to have an idea of how much this is going to cost you in energy bills). Work out where your power outlets are. If you’re lucky, you have power outside and this is an easy task. If you haven’t, what’s the easiest way to access the supply (safely!) from outside? Also, work out your cable management strategy.
Plan done, make sure you have the right fittings. The pros use clips (you can buy these in homeware stores), and you may need the occasional bit of painter’s tape. Zip ties come in handy for garlands and cables.
Can I Leave My Outdoor Christmas Lights Up All Year?
It’s not offcially Christmas after January 6, so you really don’t need to leave the lights up later than that. OK, it might not be ladder weather on the sixth, so simply disconnect them and wait for an appropriate time to take them down. Keeping them switched on after that not only looks tacky, but it really spoils the fun of putting them up again the following December.
You might be tempted simply to switch them off and leave them in place for the next holiday season. Don’t, because they’ll start to deteriorate (the lights and cables will turn green and dirty-looking) and their colors may fade in the sun. Besides, your home will also be permanently draped with ghostly Christmas decorations, which isn’t a good look.
When they’re down, clean and dry them, then carefully pack them away until next December. If you have any string lights, wind them gently around cardboard so they don’t tangle.
Missing your decorations? Pick up some year-round, solar-powered string lights or lanterns for your patio, or hang them from the trees. You don’t have to go from bling to bare.
When Should I Turn On My Outdoor Christmas Lights?
Are you a business that needs the holiday shopping trade? If the answer is yes, put your Christmas lights up after Thanksgiving. If it’s a no, don’t turn on your Christmas lights until at least the first week in December.
As well as not wanting to look tacky, you really don’t want them up for more than a month. They’ll start to look tired before Christmas itself if they’ve been up there since the Fall – and think of your energy bill…
Should You Leave Outdoor Christmas Lights On All Night?
You can leave outdoor Christmas lights on all night – provided they are not disturbing your neighbors or your own household.
What are the sightlines from your neighbors’ houses? If they are just catching a glimpse of a few fairy lights, then that’s probably OK. However, if your homes are close together and a giant, glowing Santa Claus is lighting up their bedroom window, don’t leave the decorations on all night.
Think about your own home, too. Are the lights shining through the windows and disturbing the kids at night? Either adapt the design before you hang up the lights near the bedroom windows, or switch them off at bedtime.
It’s also more cost-effective to switch the lights off late at night, especially if you have a lot. You can attach them to a timer, to make sure they always switch off before it gets too late at night, and they’ll be on again to welcome you all home the following evening.
Even if you live in a remote area and your lights won’t cause a disturbance, remember the electricity costs. Do you really need the lights on for those nighttime hours when no-one but the cat will see them?
Are Outdoor Christmas Lights Safe In The Rain? (Are They Weatherproof?)
Outdoor lights are designed to withstand the weather. However, like many “waterproof” items, it doesn’t mean that they will stand a soaking from torrential rain.
The most important thing is never to use lights that don’t specifically say “For outdoor use” on the packaging. Indoor lights won’t be weatherproof at all. Next, make sure that any sockets, extensions, and cables you use are certified for outdoor use.
If there’s very heavy rain, don’t switch the lights on. It’s not like you or anybody else will be outdoors admiring them anyway. The biggest electrical problem will be if a cable or decoration is allowed to get waterlogged in a puddle or gutter, so design your system to keep everything hanging safely.
If your lights do go out when it’s raining, don’t attempt to fix them. Safely switch off the power, and investigate them when it’s dry again. You seriously don’t want to be wet from the rain, dealing with wet electricals.
If this all sounds a bit doom-laden, remember this is the worst-case scenario, and quality outdoor lights should be perfectly happy in typical rainfall.
Final Festive Words
So that’s that settled then – if you take some time to make a professional looking display with your Christmas lights then they’re anything but tacky.
In fact, you could end up creating a lovely festive light show that all your neighbors love – especially the kids.
So what are you waiting for? Santa’s on his way and those lights aren’t going to put themselves up! 🙂
Homeowner and property investor Larry James founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >