The holiday season hits me like a swing from a coal-filled stocking once CVS starts playing Christmas carols the day after Halloween; the pressure alone could turn that coal into a diamond. Many of us spend the next two weeks struggling to manage seasonal stress like underfed reindeer pulling a giant, gift-laden sleigh.
Americans have spent decades trying to make the holidays more manageable. My siblings and I grew up circling pictures in the Sears catalog for Santa (How had he grown so lazy? And brand-loyal?) while buying pre-filled stockings for our dog. Soon enough, Christmas trees were coming out of the box already decorated and the Hanukah candles pre-lit. (I might be wrong on that last one; I have to get my shopping done and don’t have time to research it.) However, nothing symbolizes our frustrated attempts to maximize yuletide efficiency more than the evolution of holiday lighting.
In the old days, those giant colored strings of lightbulbs were basically firestarters — touch them after they’d been on five minutes and you’d burn your fingerprints off. Still, the strings were harder to tangle and the bulbs easy to replace. As one bulb burned out, you simply placed another macaroni ornament over the dead spot instead of replacing every bulb down the line to find the culprit. They rarely twinkled unless there was a short in the wire, and one’s front porch looked as if it had been outlined in green marker from the spiderweb of thick, criss-crossing wires.
The hasty decisions of late January (“I’ll just stuff this string of lights in the bin and untangle them later”) came back to haunt us in December as we dragged the sagging cardboard boxes of decorations out of the attic like cats off to the vet. Advances in holiday light technology seemed limited to making the bulbs ever smaller and impossible to replace without pulling out one’s fingernails.
Then, like Prometheus bestowing the Gift of Fire to humankind, the “Star Shower” hit the market. Suddenly, a small, multicolored light-projector-on-a-stake could be pounded into the ground and replace hours spent stringing lights outside. “Put away those ladders and never hang a Christmas light again” the slogan read, and I did (and “never did again”)! In time, I even added a second unit that featured moving snowflakes because $27 lets me roll like that.
Because lazy is popular, it soon spawned inevitable imitators like “StarTastic” and the “Star Night Laser Shower,” cheap knockoffs of … a cheap original. It was only a matter of time before this year’s logical evolution, the “Star Shower Tree Dazzler,” appeared on the shelves. A better name would be “Star Trickle Tree Underwhelmer,” consisting as it does of eight strings of lights emanating from the top like illuminated octopus legs. The box reads, “Create a dazzling light show on your Xmas tree in seconds.” They really should add, “… because you’re too lazy to take a minute to wrap lights around a tree.”
I’m not judging; I love anything that frees me from the electric tyranny of the lightbulb-on-a-string. These days Santa delivers using Amazon Prime. We put holiday tips on Apple Pay and drink almond milk eggnog, for crying out loud. As Doctor Evil might say, “Is it too much to ask for frickin’ lasers on our frickin’ houses?” Like the North Star, my Star Shower has become the focal point of my holiday decorating … hopefully, the strangers bearing gifts arrive soon.
Should you choose to outsource your holiday lighting this way, remember to keep those lasers aimed at your house so they don’t blind unsuspecting pilots of low-flying planes, helicopters … or giant sleighs. One blinking red nose is quite enough up there. Happy holidays, and may your lights shine brightly throughout the year.