Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's beginning to look....

Photo: Sister72/Creative Commons
Reindeer! Snowmen! Carollers! Giant snow globes! Lights of every hue and description! Santa in an inflatable NASCAR with elves as pit crew! Santa in a plane with spinning propeller! Santa Homer! Santa Grinch! Wooo!

All of the above and much, much more can currently be seen in yards across the country. For many Americans, outdoor holiday decorating is a serious business. Usually on the weekend before Thanksgiving homeowners begin the process of setting up elaborate displays, and the competition is fierce in my small town.

Strings and strings of glittering lights outline fencelines, outbuildings, rooftops and any architectural feature that can be reached. Giant inflatable figures that rival the balloons in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade loom over sidewalks.The amount of time, effort and money that go into the creation of these winter wonderlands is truly amazing. Some impressive and famous spreads can be see in "Merry Christmas, America: megawatt displays across the U.S.A.".

Many families take an evening during December to ride around and enjoy their neighbors efforts. Back in the  60s, my mom, dad and the six kids would all pile into the station wagon and drive around Silver Spring. The high points back then were one house off of University Boulevard outlined in blue lights, Mrs. K’s Toll House Restaurant, with wooden elf figures all over the roof, and the Bishop’s house on North Portal Rd, just inside the DC line (not the present extravagance, but still exceptional for the time).

If driving around the neighborhood seems too random, there are two parks in Montgomery County that offer beautiful light displays.
Brookside Garden - the Gazebo
Brookside Gardens hosts the Garden of Light walking tour, featuring over 700,000 lights throughout the grounds of the arboretum.

The City of Gaithersburg sponsors the Winter Lights Festival at Seneca Creek State Park . This one is a driving tour, with over 400 displays through out the park.

A longer drive, but an experience not to be missed, is a trip to the Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore. The amazing displays on the facades of traditional rowhouses in one city block draw visitors from across the state.

Street in Hampden Photo: ©
The library has plenty of help for those who’d like to join in on the fun, but without risk of electrocution or rooftop pratfalls. "Holiday Hero, A Man’s Manual for Holiday Lighting" is suitable for all skill levels from can’t change a light bulb to electronics wizard.  If you need some inspiration, try "Holiday Lights Brilliant Displays to Inpire Your Christmas Celebration".

As for me, I stick to a modest string of lights, and an illuminated horse figure.  Not much, but at least I do my bit.


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