When setting up a display you need to figure the theme you want to convey. There are many ways people decorate for Christmas. I like the simple look of an old farm house with just a candle in each window. This always gives the charming appearance of warmth. A house with nothing more than a Nativity scene sends the message that the occupants remember the “Reason for the Season”. It doesn’t matter how big the display is, it is the fact it is there that matters.
Then you have the many folks who have taken to the dancing lights theme. These can get pretty extravagant and time consuming when you figure having to set these lights in time with music. With special wiring needs and computer software requirements these can become quite an investment to begin with. Special programming and a miniature broadcasting system allows the viewers to sit in their car with their radio tuned to a specific station and take in the sounds of the light show.
Some folks have almost nothing but plastic figures such as snowmen, candles, elves, Santa's, well you know what I mean. You can go on and on with this idea. After seeing 12 different Santa's spread out in a yard you get the feeling there was a loss of thought. There are many other ways to spread the cheer.
Of course there are the displays that I enjoy the most, lights and lots of them. Many people who go light hunting seem to enjoy finding homes with tons of lights without all the motion. These displays are also the easiest to photograph since lights in motion are hard to capture in a picture. Just as the camera flashes the lights are apt to go off as they twinkle. Many times you end up with a picture of dark holes where the lights are but they had just twinkled.
With a display of silent, steady lights your photos show others exactly what you see. When we go light hunting we enjoy pulling off the road and just observing other displays in beautiful silence. It is not uncommon for us to see several cars each night pull over in front of our display and sit. Before long we notice the distinct flash of a camera coming from inside the car. Having someone take photos of your displays tells you that you have done a good enough job that folks want to share the beauty with others.
One of the neat things about big Christmas displays is coming up with new ideas. Sticking lights on everything in sight, hanging wreaths in every window and putting plastic snowmen and blow-up Santa’s, reindeer and the like everywhere seems to get old over time and folks won’t keep coming back to see the “same old same old” year after year. It is more entertaining for them to come out and see what’s new.
Along with the new Nativity we erected in 2009 we also added a new set of reindeer. These plywood cut outs stand up to nine feet tall and with a good set of spotlights really set off the yard. Assembly is the same slot “a” in tab ”b” system as seen in thousands of the smaller versions that dot front yards this time of year. A set of deer like this requires four full sheets of plywood and several hours of cutting, sanding and painting. The end result is a display that is guaranteed to slow traffic as many like to get a good glimpse of the marvelous giants.
If you really want to be creative, try designing your own decorations and build them from scratch. The twenty wooden Candy Canes lining our drive where made from plywood. Three layers were cut from 3/4" plywood and sandwiched together. The middle layer had a 3/4" gap cur into it so when the outer layers were applied the was a hollow spot for the cane to drop over a length of re-bar that was driven into the ground. add some red and white paint and you have a nice looking, as well as sturdy, decoration. The eight foot star on our big barn was constructed from five eight foot long 2X4's painted white and wrapped with three strands of lights. These are simple items to make but add a new dimension to your display.
If you can't make your own display, then where to buy from is something to think about. Wal-Mart, Lowes and Home Depot have some things, but it seems to stay repetitious. Lights, wreaths and garland can go far, but you are always left with wanting more. For some of our displays we have bought from The Winfield Collection. Their patterns give you every detail you need and you are never left second guessing. Another good place that I have heard of is Bronner's. Although I have never bought from them, they are on my list of places to check out. Wal-Mart has a lot of different items and much of the common items in our display are from there.
We generally go to Wal-Mart about a week after Christmas when the prices are slashed 75%. when you can buy lights for seventy-five cents a box and store them you will realize it isn't as expensive to decorate as you think. At that price I have found that if a half strand of lights go out and the problem isn't clearly obvious, such as a broken bulb, I pitch the entire strand and get a new one off my storage shelf. I keep about a hundred spare strands on hand just for this purpose. We also buy a lot of their indoor trees for prices between $8.00 and $15.00 on sale. The are pre-lit with 400-500 lights. We set these up throughout the yard by slipping them over a 1/2" piece of rebar they look good in a yard and can quickly add to the light count. at the end of the season we simply put the tree stand on them and store them fully open in our hay loft. Of course many folks don't have a place like that so you may have to disassemble yours and put it back in the original package.
No matter the type display you decide to create, have a good plan ready and have at it. Somebody is going to have a look.
‘Tis the season! So put on your thinking cap and enjoy it!