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Are you a fan of festive lights?

Outdoor Christmas lights

More people are decorating their front gardens and the outside of their homes. But are inflatable Santas and animated reindeer one step too far or part of the festive fun?

Be it a string of white lights peeping betwixt the branches of a conifer, or a house outlined in animations with a blow-up Santa dangling from the chimney, more people are choosing to decorate their front garden and the outside of their home. And nearly a third of Which? members told us they put decorations outside their house as well as in.

A waste of energy?

I must admit to having mixed feelings about this. When we’re all trying to cut back on the energy we use, there’s something rather decadent about choosing to light up the outside of your home when you’re huddled indoors. Plus, you can’t even admire your own handiwork, trying to keep warm.

And just over half of the people in our survey agree with me, as 54% think outdoor decorations are a waste of electricity.

To be honest, I wouldn’t choose to decorate the outside of my own home in this way. I also hope that my neighbours don’t, so I can understand the 12% in our survey who wished that their own neighbours would stop.

Blackpool Illuminations down the road

But saying that, I do like looking at other people’s displays. When I go to visit family in the countryside at Christmas, there’s one house in the small village that stands out. It’s completely covered with flashing lights and animations. Is it in keeping with the village? Not at all. Is it tacky? Perhaps.

But I’m the first to volunteer to take the kids for a visit, as it does look amazing, and the honesty box on the front gate asks all admirers to donate money to charity. So it makes people happy and raises money for charity, what’s not to like?

Do you decorate the outside of your own home? If so, do you care what other people think? Or are your neighbours driving you crazy with their decorations?


The word “tacky” – as in poor taste – has absolutely nothing to do with tack. I believe the word required is “tat”

1. tatty articles or a tatty condition
2. tasteless articles
3. a tangled mass
[back formation from tatty]

Fair play diesel, tweaked the title. Sure some people aren’t a fan of ‘tacks’ either 🙂

The only outside decorations I have each Christmas is a green wreath on the front door. It is not real but looks very nice and luxurious and has lasted about ten years to date. Most of my neighbours are restrained with their decorations as well, but two very large houses further down the road have the most brilliant blue lights that you can see clearly from a distance. In the beginning, when I turned into the road I thought it was the blue lights of the emergency services, they were just as bright and blue. Indoors I no longer have any multicoloured lights on the tree but use white/yellow lights because I think they mimic the glistening frost much better. In my youth I used to love the multicoloured lights but my taste has changed over the years. Less tacky or gaudy than it used to be.

My brother visits from the country before Christmas and brings a welcome bag of holly with him. I use this to mix with flowers in arrangements and also pop some over pictures as my grandmother used to do. I have tried making a holly wreath in the past but it did not turn out very well. I give any leftover holly to my neighbour.

As I am a little kid at heart I normally have a tree, loads of lights and even Santa himself in a blow up form at the end of my bed.

But this year I wont be having any of it. Such a shame, but I just can’t bring myself to use all that electricity 🙁

You can still have a blow up Santa, at the end of your bed!! And use your creativity to make decorations. Use some cut up pieces of tinfoil to make little frost type decorations for your tree and you may be able to buy some cheap ribbon in the market to make bows. Keep all away from your dog as you don’t want to have unexpected vet bills, also s/he might bite Santa.

We need a Martha Stewart type to advise us on how to have a cheap but chic Christmas.

You are right, my Santa does not run on electricity as I’ve just checked it. No idea why I thought it did lol.

As my electricity bill is now £6 a month (using aprox 5-6 units a week) it would go up too much if i used all my lights and all that like a normal xmas. But Santa will be coming out again 🙂

Partimoneous says:
16 November 2013

LED lights are cheap, brilliant and inexpensive to run from phone-type chargers or batteries yet provide a pleasant display for adults and the more important grandchildren.

Combined with an appreciation of what the celebration is about only party politics and soulless politicians could object.

Using the Loop from your offer earlier this year one can manage them within a budget.

We have a Christmas tree outside the house with LED coloured lights as well as one inside. We like it that way. And I think that is the point – it’s your Christmas, decorate your house the way you want to. Personally I would not cover the whole of my house in lights, but I have driven to see the spectacle some people locally put on.
How we choose to use energy is up to us, so I don’t see this save energy theme as very relevant. Otherwise you would ban town displays of lights, Blackpool illuminations, unecessary car journeys and all those other energy consumers including flying on holiday abroad! The amount of electricity most private Christmas displays consume is minimal.

I entirely agree with your comments Malcolm. I’m a fully paid-up member of the Say No to Ebenezer society and the only thing that constrains our display is the time it takes to set it all up and take it down again! Mind you, we don’t go ove the top either literally or metaphorically, and I kid myself the finished effect is tasteful. At our previous house, with its large front and rear gadens and several suitable trees, we had about four sets of lights at the front and about six at the back [and we usually put the garden floodlights and pond lights on as well from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day and on New Year’s Eve – in preference to shooting money up into the sky as a rocket]. Things will be toned down somewhat this year because our new house does not have the same opportunities, although I expect there will still be four or five lighting sets strung on small trees and I am expecting delivery tomorrow of a four-foot high “John Lewis Outdoor Pre-lit Multi-Function Snowy Paper Tree” to go out the front. We also make a bit of a fuss over the indoor Christmas tree and hall decorations, largely for our own exclusive satisfaction!

I only have white lights on an indoor green tree and a twig style lighted arrangement goes in the hallway BUT I have lots of candles around, mostly scented, and the real flame gas fire on from Christmas eve to Boxing night, waking hours only. When I stayed with my brother at Christmas a few years ago, I had lots of pieces of scented candles for his open fire and the aroma was lovely. I prefer that to too many Christmas lights. My taste has changed over the years and it’s probably about ten or twelve years since I had multicoloured lights on a tree. For some reason I think they look lovely outdoors if they are large, but dreadful indoors, no matter the size. We are all different in our taste and should enjoy and respect that.

John, do you hang up a stocking by your chimney or is it at the end of your bed?

Although our house has a lovely big chimbley on the outside it is completely non-functional on the inside for anything other than the gas fire, so no stockings will be hung from the mantel-piece I’m afraid. The end of the bed might be a better bet and we can put up one of those soppy signs to show Mister Christmas where to deliver.

John, It wouldn’t be Christmas without stockings and all those silly pressies that they become filled with. We have a small chimney but Santa Claus has managed to do his stuff every year so I wouldn’t worry – hang them up anyway.

Santa is magical, he can get into any house, even a flat in a high rise building. So hang your stocking where you wish to find it filled and don’t forget the sherry and mince pies for him or perhaps its a fancy cocktail nowadays.

Thank you Figgerty and Malcolm for your advice. There will certainly be no shortage of the Christmas spirit Chez Ward this Noël, but I was thinking of doing some canapés and vol-au-vents for dear old Santa because he’s probably full to bursting with Malcolm’s M&S mince pies and Figgerty’s figgy pudding. And I think a Moonstar cocktail will help him see in the dark [vodka, Bénédictine and pineapple juice].

John, don’t feed Santa too much or the poor reindeer will have a heart attack. I like the sound of the cocktail though but somehow I had you down as a brandy snifter man. If it’s Christmas, I suppose you could have both. Cheers!

Do you think Santa’s sleigh has a spare reindeer in the trunk in case one of the first team comes a cropper – probably Rudolph with the luminous nasal organ]? Perhaps there’s a space-saver version or a reindeer repair kit . . . or maybe even a miracle cure or a homeopathic remedy for a broken-down Dasher or Dancer. Before long, the Man from MSN will call the bearded wonderman on his contractually locked-in high-price mobile and tell him his sledge is slowing down but he can fix it if Santa will just hand over the reins . . . And do you think the magical sleigh has a satnav and a touchscreen so our yuletide pilot no longer has to crack the whip?

Josquine says:
22 November 2013

In principle I should enjoy looking at other people’s decorations – I’d never put such things up myself – but in practice I just can’t help thinking of the waste of energy and I get quite troubled at seeing them.

Scrooge says:
22 November 2013

Hi Scrooges Everywhere,

Let us be exceedingly frugal this Christmas.
No turkey, no Christmas trees, no lights, no presents, in fact no to almost everything.
No leaving any goodies out for Santa.
Be out when the kids & grandkids come round expecting presents.
Stay in bed on Christmas day and Boxing day and turn the heating off.

Think how much you will be saving the environment while everyone else is stuffing themselves on mince pies, Christmas pudding and other unnecessary Christmas delicacies.

Have a very cheap and mean Christmas.

Lets face it some of these outside lights are simply apalling and the ones that are hung from facia boards which make homes look as if they are jumping up and down are just plain stupid. I do like Chritmas, decorations and lights but with some are now out of hand and I pity the neighbours.

Scrooge – And with the saved money do something useful : )

Incidentally there is a tendency to assume that all nations do Christmas to the same excess as the UK and the US. I think it is more a tribute to the media – think how Halloween has become a major holiday in the last decade or so. Rather nicely in NZ apparently they ban TV ads on Christmas Day and Easter.

I don’t get too excited about Christmas as in my opinion it is a media event telling us to enjoy ourselves by spending lots of money and overindulging. I have no problem with people enjoying it anyway they wish – though seemingly if we do not live up to the enthusiasts standards we are targets for verbal abuse. TSk where are those charitable feelings!!

Peer pressure seems to work well on women in terms of card giving. I worked in an office where the womenfolk despite seeing each other daily in the Christmas period all gave each other cards – so around 1,600 or about £200?. I do believe in olden times you sent cards to those who you would not see over the Christmas period. Makes sense doesn’t it?

is fun.

My string of LED lights for the Christmas tree outside consumes about 15W. If I use them for 2 weeks before Christmas and a week after they’ll cost me about 60p to run in total – the cost of sending one Christmas card 1st class (why would you?). Even if I forget to turn them off during the day – they cheer up the gloom of December – that’s only 2 stamps worth – just over £1. Just thought I’d put the cost of using all that electricity into perspective.

A completely unscientific assessment of my local area suggests that people are cutting back on their illuminations. So far this year I have not seen a single Santa hauling himself up a drainpipe or a team of reindeer winking and blinking across the frontage. There are a few skeins of twinkling icicles but nothing like the festive features of the previous few years. Perhaps better taste has prevailed; this possibility is reinforced by the predominance of elegant ornaments that can be delicately displayed around the house instead of the jolly balloons, gaudy garlands, and paper bells and balls, that come out year after year until they are so stuck up with sticky tape and paper clips that they all fall down. Haven’t seen any mistletoe yet this year either, but there’s still time . . . .

I just wanted to follow up on this story….

It is now Christmas in just over 2 weeks. Normally when I am walking my dog on our massive 3 hour morning walks when it’s still dark we see loads of Christmas trees, lights, the lot. But this year seen none.

I’m not sure if it’s the money saving side of me, or if I’m just growing up or what. But this is the first year when it’s not really felt like Christmas.

I was a child of the fifties and can vividly remember walking down the street where I lived at night and seeing lit up Christmas trees in the bay windows of nearly every house. The effect was magical especially if it had been snowing outside. At that time nobody decorated the outside of their house. Sometimes less really is more. Why do we always have to slavishly copy what the Americans do?

My house has a lit-up Christmas tree in the bay window. The people at number 10 have gone a bit mad will illuminations in their garden, but that’s up to them. As you say, less is more.

I do remember reading that the costs of both the lights and the electricity were far less in the US than here, which is why they used to decorate with such abandon. I do light the driveway (it’s a long drive…) and drape some sets over a fir tree that grows in the front LH garden but that’s it, really.

I went for a walk yesterday evening, after reading Linda’s post. Some people have draped lights on trees in their gardens but in a couple of cases they have been arranged neatly, suggesting that they have been put up using a ‘cherry picker’ or other elevating platform. I thought that the Christmas decorations were fairly tasteful until I came upon a giant inflatable Homer Simpson – thankfully non-illuminated. 🙁