October 14, 2020 7 min read

Merry COVID Christmas – Light It Up!


What do Boston Terriers, Unicorns, Poppy the Troll and Nativities have in common? Seriously, you can’t see the connection here?!? Really? You think these items seem random to be grouped together? Maybe yes, maybe no, but they have one particularly important trait in common…when made into outside Christmas decorations, they ALL make my nieces smile and giggle with delight!! I can’t believe you couldn’t guess that?!?!?

Ever since she was little, my sister has LOVED Christmas lights. My parents were educators, so none of our Christmas decorating really happened until school let out for the holidays, and by that point, my dad was not big on the idea of putting up outdoor decorations. But, one year she convinced him to put one strand of multi-colored lights around the perimeter of the picture window on our front porch, and you would have thought she won the lottery!!

So as an adult, there was never a question of whether or not she would have outside lights. Each year she and her husband let their girls pick one new blow-up decoration to add to their display. Usually, the pick is totally random and has nothing to do with anything else in the display, but it makes them happy. Isn’t that the reason for putting up outside décor…to bring JOY to others?!? Seriously, if you guys had any idea how much of a perfectionist my brother-in-law is about everything he does, you would truly understand the sacrifice he makes for his girls in this endeavor. The lights lining their driveway will be perfectly spaced, and there won’t be an extension cord showing anywhere in the yard, but, inevitably, no one will notice that, because the eye is automatically drawn to the eclectic gathering of blow-up characters scattered around. Have I mentioned he’s a really good dad? I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge that my brother, who is also a teacher and inherited my dad’s indifference to outdoor décor also began putting up outside lights once he had daughters who also delighted in their twinkle. We tease him about being a grinch whose heart grew two sizes (one for each daughter) once he became a dad, but in reality, I think he enjoys them as much as anyone, but he just won’t admit it! And, we’ll talk about my husband and what he’s done to make my outside décor dreams come true in a few minutes!

This is the best picture I have of the Carter Family Christmas yard. Not all of the collection of character decorations are here, but you get the idea! Isn't the spacing of those lights perfection?!? 

Throughout our Merry COVID Christmas, we’ve been talking about ways to modify activities and traditions to find ways to keep COVID from stealing our JOY during the 2020 Holiday Season, but when discussing Christmas lights, we can have a completely different conversation. Christmas lights are the 2020 way of not just sustaining JOY but multiplying it exponentially!! Riding around as a family and admiring everyone’s outdoor displays is one of our favorite family traditions, and every year, I say “next year”. Next year ours will be bigger and better, and somehow we always manage to get something up, but it’s not the elaborate scheme I see in my head. For anyone who has ever said, “next year I’m going to really do-up my outside decorations.” This. Is. The. Year. Adding outside lights and decorations can multiply people’s JOY. It’s a visual representation of the love you have for the season and a perfectly safe way to share that JOY with others.

So, you may be asking yourself, “Wendy, you own a Christmas store, and for months you’ve been preaching about JOY and Christmas and how much you love it. Why wouldn’t you have tons of lights and décor at home?!?” It’s a perfectly valid question with a logical explanation. I didn’t get the teaching gene in my family, and for years now, I’ve been involved in creating the Christmas decorations for the towns I’ve worked for. Once you’ve designed drive-through light displays, organized Christmas parades and lighting ceremonies and decorated for pictures with Santa, and coerced your husband into volunteering to help with all your Christmas capers, there’s not a lot of time left for decorating your own home. Confession time… before I was a parent, there was a year the tree went up in our home, but after we put the lights on, we never hung one ornament on it! We always traveled home to see our parents and extended families for the holidays, so once I finished all my job decorating responsibilities, I just couldn’t make myself do all that work at home, too. If you’ve ever felt your holiday decorating left something to be desired, this is me telling you to give yourself some grace. It can’t always be perfect, but it can be happy. 

The first decorating program I ever organized was in Hillsboro, Texas. They had historically had beautiful wooden stars with big lights on them lining the streets of town. They had fallen into disrepair and were no longer being used, but there was a group of donors and volunteers who wanted to revive a downtown lighting program. We didn’t have enough time that first year to raise the money and build replicas of the stars, but we did have time to do something simple to be a place holder for a year or two. I needed some people with special skills to help me make it happen on a shoe-string budget. So, naturally, I turned to my husband and asked him to help me figure it out. He talked to his dad, we bought minimal supplies and loaded up and drove a couple of hundred miles to San Angelo, and they went to work. They fabricated all weekend and made several dozen metal star frames for me. Then, we loaded the frames up, drove back to Hillsboro and a small, hard-working group of volunteers zip-tied lights to those frames until they had blisters and calluses on their fingers. They went up everywhere from the clock tower on top of the courthouse to the light poles lining the streets in every direction from the courthouse, and you could see them for miles. I only meant for them to be used for a couple of years, but by the next holiday season, we had moved, and we didn’t get to work on the next step. Ten years later we drove through town on our way to San Angelo for Christmas at my in-laws, and some of those stars were still up lining the streets. I couldn’t believe it. It made me smile to think about all the love poured in to making those just because I asked. A year or so after my father-in-law passed away, my husband was sorting through some things in his shop, and he found the star they made as the pattern for the others. Now, it’s the centerpiece of our outside lights as the star over the manger, and my son is beyond proud to have something PePaw made (nearly a decade before he was even born) as part of our decorations. You never know how long your efforts will bring JOY to others, so…Light. It. Up.

This is the first year we put PePaw's star up in our yard. I can't wait to get it up this year!

When we moved home last year, I found that over the last several years, Hillsboro has really amped up their decorating game from where we began years ago, and Christmas Under the Starsis a fabulous hometown celebration that brings families JOY every year…mine included.

It’s funny how bringing JOY to others can not only prompt you to do something, but also to continue it year after year. In 2015, Chris Rogers committed to doing a light show set to music for his and his wife’s families to enjoy during the holidays. He had been fascinated with the light shows since he saw the first video of one on YouTube years before, and his mom kept encouraging him to make his own. So, at her behest, he did. Now, five years later, the Rogers Farm Christmas Light Show is a family tradition for people in Hill County and the surrounding areas. Chris never imagined people would drive from all around to see the show. He thought he was just doing it for his family, but the show brings JOY to thousands each year. People come out, park in the corn field and tune in their radio to watch the nearly hour long show set to Christmas carols telling the story of the birth of Jesus Christ and the events that unfolded to even have a Christmas to celebrate.

Chris Rogers and his family put in countless hours each year to bring a fabulous light show to their community and surrounding areas. They are definitely JOY makers!

If 2020 has you down, and you just can’t muster the energy to give JOY to others, research has shown that putting up your Christmas lights can actually improve your mood. Check out this Pre-COVID,  2017 article about the benefits of Christmas lights!

Intimidated by the mechanics of putting up outside lights? Don’t let that stop you! Here’s an article from Popular Mechanics with information on the different types of lights and equipment and the best tips and tricks to hang lights like a pro.

I’m telling you…This is your year. No excuses. Go Griswold on this world and be a JOY maker and not a JOY taker! I’d love to see what you create, so drop me a message at info@TexasChristmasPickle.com or share a picture to our Christmas Pickle VIP group. Are you looking for ideas for ways to celebrate Christmas in 2020 without letting COVID steal your JOY? Check out the other installments of the blog series, Merry COVID Christmas, here!


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