Written by Susie's Yard Care
"How to Decorate Your Front Yard for Christmas
Have you ever wanted to make your house stand out during Christmas with brilliantly beautiful lights and decorations? Well, Christmas is the perfect excuse to throw caution into the wind and deck out your front yard with a spectacle that will make your neighbors green with envy. 'Tis the season!
Buy Christmas lights. You can find these on sale in November or early December. Department stores are generally good places to buy lights; some even have breakdowns of the unit price per foot.
- If you want to be strategic, go shopping on the day after Christmas or after New Years. Stores put lights on massive markdowns, well, because the Christmas season is over. Store these lights for next year's extravaganza.
- The internet is increasingly a one-stop shop for items like Christmas lights. Online retailers often compete for lowest prices and sometimes even offer free shipping.
Examine your electrical outlets. Don't overload your power source. Do you have any outside outlets, or a porch light? These will be your source of power for your lights.
- Think about adding outdoor outlets if you don't have any — it's relatively easy and inexpensive, especially if you get hubby to do it!
- If you need to, you can string an extension chord from an outside outlet along the house and to your lights.
- If you need to power your outside lights from an outlet that is indoors, you might be able to string an inside extension chord under a door and outside, where it will feed the lights.
Evaluate your front yard and house to determine where you will put your lights. If you have a tree in your yard, you can put lights around the trunk, in a spiral pattern, or wind lights through the branches. You can use ice lights on your roof, or you can spiral lights around railings and banisters. Use whatever you have to make your house unique.
- Use the trim of your door or the edge of your house for lights. Illuminating contours that are usually unseen because of darkness is a nice way to make your house even bigger.
- Fences are also fair game. If you plan on putting lights up on the top of your fence, check with your neighbor first. Remember that Robert Frost quip, "Good fences make good neighbors?"
Pick your lights. There are tons of different kinds of lights on the market, owing to the popularity of the holiday season and people's ever-growing fascination with light shows. Do a little bit of research on the types of different lights you may want in your front yard:
- Mini lights or net lights are a standard kind of light and go on houses or landscaping.
- Icicle lights or c-series lights drape down and usually go on the roof.
- Mini Trees are two- to three-foot-tall trees, often made of tomato cages wrapped in lights of one or multiple colors. Arranged in a line or a triangle, they are very useful in an animated display.
- A Mega Tree usually consists of a large pole with lights extending from the top to a large ring around the base. This too is very useful in animation.
- Blow molds are plastic lighted sculptures of deer, Santas, etc. They are usually placed throughout the yard.
- C9 Lights are bulbous, colorful lights that usually go on the house or on the yard perimeter.
Put up your lights. If your goal is to have the best lights on your street, take into account what your neighbors are doing or have done. Be creative and have fun with your lights. If you have a small space, make the most of it. Three strands of lights can make a small space impressive if you arrange them the right way. If you have a large space, spread your lights all across your yard.
- Purchase and place blow molds throughout your front yard. Have a whole community of elves, reindeer, and Santa's. Position your blow molds in expressive ways, so it looks like the figures are interacting with one another, or telling a story.
- Color-coat like a pro. Arrange your lights so that the colors work well with one another, in contrasting and complementing fashion. For example, if you have three hedged you want illuminated, drape one set of green, one set of blue, and one set red over each hedge. A yard full of color looks better than a yard lit by a single color.
- Share the nativity scene in your front yard. Don't lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. If you're game, stage a nativity scene in your front yard, reminding passersby of the gift of Christmas.
Consider programming your lights to flash to music. Alternately, program them to flash on their own, in a loop. Be careful, though: Flashing lights can be a burden on the eyes, and flashing lights with music can positively irk your neighbors. But maybe that's what you want to do, eh?
- You'll need to buy a control system and software, which vary in cost and complexity, in order to do this. If you are unfamiliar with electrical systems, opt for the simple and pre-programmed over complex. Here's some software that you might consider using:
- Light-O-Rama is the vendor for most residential lights displays. It is, however, pretty complex, and can take as much as four hours per minute of song to program 32-48 channels.
- Animated Lighting is more expensive, but easier to program. Some residential light displays and most commercial ones choose Animated Lighting.
- D-Lights is the least expensive of the bunch, but you need to have some passing familiarity with and knowledge of control systems and electrical engineering.
- Find what kind of music you want to showcase with your lights, if at all. Do you want traditional Christmas music accompanying your lights, or would you prefer something a little more modern?
- Give yourself at least a couple of months to set your lights and program them with the software.
Don't be shy. Experiment with your options. A wreath or garland on the door gives your house a nice feel. If you aren't satisfied the first time, take down your lights and rearrange them. No one's stopping you from doing exactly what you want.
Have fun and let the lights complement your personality. Whatever you do, have fun. Lighting up your yard in the spirit of Christmas can be energizing and fulfilling. Let your personality shine through in your lights.
- You can add to your house's appearance by putting lights in your windows. Get suction cups with hooks to keep the lights up.
- Putting the Christmas tree by the window makes everything come together.
- Don't procrastinate. Put your decorations out at least one week before Christmas. This will give you time to plan everything out.
- Get great decorating ideas from the best by checking out Christmas light websites like the Tacky Light Tour
- Have a theme. Use all white lights set up neatly, or have colored motion lights scattered over your bushes. Decide what you want before you begin.
- If you put lights up in your windows make sure that they match the other lights.
- Straight lights work better on straight roofs while icicle lights work on slanted roofs.
- Don't overload electrical outlets. Read warnings on the lights and outlets. Generally only 3 strands of lights should be used on one outlet.
- Avoid large decorations and overcrowding. You don't want to cram too much into one small space.
- Use only lights that are safe for outdoor use.
- Don't get into a competition with your neighbors, unless it's fun spirited. Remember, Christmas is not about sticking it to the family across the street."
(Top Left Lights Image Credit: Flickr/ Jo Naylor)