All lit up

Out of step in the Virginia boondocks, a Christmas lights snob learns how to enjoy being gaudy:

After the first Christmas, when I didn’t put up any decorations outside our house, the lady next door—a sweet, Christian Secret Service agent—presented me with a shiny, four-foot-tall aluminum Snoopy, ringed by blinking lights. I tried to demur, but she insisted not only on giving it to me but helping me set it up, too. I was both touched and horrified. When she moved away, blinking Snoopy went up into the attic, and we went back to having no Christmas decorations. I thought this was perfectly normal. My neighbours did not.

Rich asked me about it a couple years ago. “Is there something wrong?” he asked—in a sympathetic, not sarcastic—tone. “Do you just not like Christmas?” Rich lives in the pipe-stem next to us and is such an enthusiastic Christmas decorator that he spends the weekend before Thanksgiving every year crawling around the roof of his house to trim the entire structure in dangling icicle lights.But that’s just the start. As I write this, I’m gazing out at Rich’s front lawn. There are 10 reindeer, 5 snowmen, 3 peacocks, an Eiffel Tower, and much, much more. Rich’s lawn menagerie has grown over the years so that it eventually spilled over into his next-door neighbor Michelle’s property. This year, he outgrew her yard, too. Over the summer, a nice Muslim family from Afghanistan moved into the house on the other side of Michelle. Their front yard is now home to the overflow of Rich’s overflow decorations.

And so, shamed by Rich’s example and my Muslim neighbors’ good cheer and forbearance, this year I bought a Christmas decoration for the outside of the house… It’s tacky. It’s terrible. And I loved it so much that five minutes after setting it up, I ordered a second one.

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Chief theatre critic for The Times. Twitter: CliveDavisUK Facebook: Instagram: clivephotos
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