Hanging Christmas Lights Outdoors Without Getting Divorced!

It's that time of year again for hanging outdoor Christmas lights. You want some tips on how to get through this holiday season putting up your lights without getting divorced? I have seven important tips on things you need to do to stay happy during these trying times and not end the season with a bitter divorce!

Rule #1:  She decides what they will look like and I put them up.   You can read about the interesting history of hanging Christmas lights here.  I can only assume that  Christmas lights migrated outdoors as a natural extension of the Christmas celebration.  Seven years ago as a new homeowner, I got my first experience hanging our outdoor lights.  I remember  clearly being full of excitement and anticipation.  Until I found out just how expensive these strands of lights could be.  I probably spent several hundred dollars that first year collecting a small army of C9 Christmas lights that I expected to last for years. Did you know C9 lights were first introduced by General Electric in 1927?  I didn't either.    My first experience ever hanging these C9 lights would make any trauma doctor salivate.  I was invincible that year, up on the roof with brisk winds and steep grades dangling in positions man was never meant to dangle.  It's a miracle I didn't fall and kill myself.  

Rule #2: Man should not place himself on the trauma service in the interest of holiday spirit.  That was my first and last year of hanging our outdoor lights with stupidity.  No more dangling over the edge  for me.  I should have done what my neighbor did and rented a cherry picker.  And the expense.  Holy cow!  That was just the beginning.  How little did I know about how expensive Christmas lights would become.  These things were made of glass and were easily broken.  Bang the strand of lights against the ladder and they shattered immediately.  They were hot and they consumed a lot of electricity.  Check out this neat Christmas lights electricity cost calculator.   My first year of Christmas lights cost me over $150 in electricity. I was not prepared for that.

Rule #3:  Your holiday light extravaganza should not bankrupt the family budget.  If you're spending too much on electricity, just stop it, or switch to the new LED bulbs, which may break your budget in other ways.  I also found the C9 Christmas lights burned out quickly.  Within a week I found myself replacing individual bulbs.  It seems like all Christmas lights are made in China these days.  So it doesn't surprise me that quality is an ongoing issue.  

Rule #4:  Put the lights up when it's nice out.  Take 'em down when it's nicer.  It makes for a wonderful family experience.  If it's cold out and the wife has to freeze while she helps you, you're asking for trouble.  Nobody likes to hang Christmas lights when its cold out.  I remember a few years ago having unbearable pain due to brisk winter weather.  This year we've had had an unusually warm November.  Mrs Happy and I have succeeded in hanging our lights barely a week out of Halloween.  That's a record for us.  I'm sure it turned our neighbor's heads too.  I noticed many of my neighbors have instituted rule #4 to protect the sanctity of their marriage as well or else  they've hired someone to come and hang their Christmas lights for them.   We have thought about turning them early, but there seems to be an unwritten rule in our neighborhood that lights go on only after Thanksgiving.  What do you think, too early yet?

Seven years was a lifetime ago for hanging Xmas lights.  That was before LED Christmas lights made it big.   LED Christmas lights claim to last thousands of hours before going dead.  However, I'm pretty sure these claims don't include the wiring that comes with them.  I have spent hundreds of dollars through the last few years upgrading our lights to the environmentally happy LED Christmas lights.  These things are much more expensive, sometimes 10x the cost, but they use 80-90% less electricity.  My hope was that if I spent more on the front end, I would save in electricity costs on the back end.  Plus I think they look cool. Unfortunately, over the last few years, I have discovered these LED Christmas lights don't last as advertised, mostly because the wiring doesn't survive cold Nebraska winters when they're made in China.

Rule #5:  If you're upgrading your lights to save on electricity, you're not going to come out ahead.  They don't last as advertised.  If you want to spend five hours hanging Christmas lights only to discover that none of them work,  don't plug them in first.  That's what I did in my second year of hanging Christmas lights.  What a headache that was.  Not only did I hang them up in the brisk cold, I had to take them all down, go buy some new ones and then repeat the process all over again.  That was a mistake I will never make again.  

Rule #6:  Always plug in your Christmas lights and  check them before hanging.  Once you've checked all your lights and you've made sure everything is working appropriately, you have to accept that  something will fail you.  Even though you did everything right;  Even though you checked every bulb;  Even though you carefully devised your extension chord map so all plugs met peacefully in a hidden corner, you have to accept failure.  Lights go dead for no reason at all.

Rule #7:  Accept the death of your light strand with grace.  At first I was upset when my lights died.  I felt like finding the receipt and returning them, but by then the stores only give you the clearance price.  It's just better to accept the death of your Christmas lights with grace and move on.  Someday the Chinese will figure out a way to make Christmas lights that last more than a year or two.  Perhaps someday,  Christmas lights will come with a security guarantee that nothing will go wrong.  Until then Clark Griswold sums it up nicely when he says, "What the....What's going on here".

I'm happy to report Mrs Happy and I have figured out a way to hang our lights in peace and harmony.  Here is a small sampling of our outdoor Christmas lights.  We have a nice collection of 100% LED lights that we fill our front and backyard with Christmas cheer. 

Outdoor Christmas lights at our home 2012.

But our show is nothing compared to this video of an incredible light show I took in 2011 at an  acreage on 112th street just north of A street in Lincoln, NE.  Watch this video here.  I can't even imagine how long this takes to set up.




There you have it folks.  These are my top 7 ways to avoid divorce hanging Christmas lights.  While our light hanging experience has not ended in divorce, I did experience some complications.   After a few nights of beautiful C9 lights glowing up Happy's sky, they all went dead. They've gone dead not just once or twice, but three times.    I'm done with C9's.  It's the fuse for sure.   Those cheap Chinese strands and fuses can't handle the electricity load.   So they're all going to Goodwill and I'm going 100% LED from here on out.  And we've been enjoying LED ever since.  

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