The last many years, I’ve left the icicle lights that we hang around the porch up for a significant time after we take down the rest of the Christmas decorations.
The first year I did it was way back after our current landlady bought the place (and moved in down stairs). All of the porch lights for all the units in our little four-plex are controlled by a timer in the basement. We can’t turn our own porch light on or off. As summer changed to fall and then to winter, sundown went from well after 9:30pm1 to about 4:30 pm2, but the porch lights weren’t turning on until after 9. It was freakin’ dark around our front door. The icicle lights were controlled by a light sensor that I have plugged them into, and they made it possible for people to see to walk up and down the concrete steps, and for me to find the right keys to unlock the door.
We eventually found out where the switch was, and tried to teach the landlady how it worked, but she just didn’t understand. However, she gave us permission to adjust it throughout the year, and that’s what we’ve been doing since.
The next year, because we had control of the porch light, we took down the icicle lights right around New Year’s Day. And the landlady was very sad. She asked why we took them down, because she liked the lights. Also, after the lights came down, when she drove home from work after sundown, she kept driving past the driveway3, because she couldn’t tell which house was which, and she’d have to turn around and drive back more slowly to find the driveway.
The problem is, when I leave the lights up well past Christmas, I start feeling judgmental attitudes from other neighbors and strangers who pass by. I recognize that this is mostly just in my head, but it bugs me. Also, the PCV plastic on the lights isn’t really designed for prolonged exposure outside, and the longer you leave the lights out, the fewer Christmas seasons you will get to re-use them.
So we came up with a compromise. I agreed to leave the lights up until Daylight Saving Time starts, at which point sundown is late enough that usually when she’s coming home there is enough light for her to tell the houses apart by color.4 And she agreed to talk to her business partners who had nagged at me to take the lights down.5
Since Daylight Saving Time’s start keeps getting moved earlier, I decided to change my date to the Spring Equinox. Sundown well after 6pm by then, and twilight lasts a while after.
This year, I also left all the other outdoor lights up, though I had unplugged them. I didn’t mean to, at all. But every weekend since New Year’s Day has been either very rainy, or we had a lot of things going on, or I was really sick.8
This week, since I was going to take the icicle lights down, I was determined to get the rest of the lights no matter what. And I did. I haven’t heard from the landlady, yet, but I know when I next see her, she’ll be very sad that the lights are down.
So I’ll just have to remind her that she only has to get by without them until October, because that’s when I’ll put up the Halloween lights.9
1. That’s one of the advantages to living as far north as we are.
2. And that’s one of the disadvantages.
3. She lives in the unit behind and downstairs from us.
4. She isn’t completely happy with this, because when she comes home later she sometimes still misses the driveway, and has to circle back.6 She also admitted that she just thinks they’re pretty and wishes everyone left their Christmas lights up all the time.7
5. Turns out she didn’t. Last year when she and him were meeting us and an inspector as part of the refinance of the mortgage, he started to give me shit about the lights, and I told him they were still up because she asked me to leave them up. She very sheepishly explained to him what was going on. He thought it was weird, but seemed happy when I told him I took them down at after the equinox.
6. I have pointed out that we have a bunch of those solar light sticks on the flowerbed running up the driveway, and by that time of year there’s enough sunlight during the day for the lights to glow until after midnight. I know they aren’t as easy to see as lights hanging from an eave, but I still think they should work.
7. When I pointed out that most years she doesn’t even put lights in her own window, she said that it’s mostly because she’s too tired and/or busy each year.
8. Several weekends, all three were true and my husband was as sick as me!
9. Of course I put up Halloween nights! Halloween used to be the high holy days of queers everywhere. Until the straights co-opted it for Heteroween. But that’s okay. Straights need a socially sanctioned night to dress up as sexy nurses or sexy firemen. They’re so reppressed the rest of the year!