How to do right by the holiday season in terms of etiquette, safety and fun.
Ok, its time. Unfold the ladder, get the decorations down from the garage and ready the staple gun. Santa Clarita is in holiday decorating mode.
Typically, just hours after Thanksgiving's pass, residents use their extra day off of work to get the house ready for the holidays. Here's what to do, when to do it, and how to make it awesome.
Since this arduous task usually takes several hours, most serious decorators like to get a full month's bang for their buck. Putting up lights the day after Thanksgiving is the most popular day for the task because:
• Almost everyone is off work;
• The kids can help because they're not in school and most athletic and/or extra curricular activities are cancelled that week;
• If things go well, families have three full nights to immediately enjoy the fruits of their labor;
• If things don't go well, there's two days to troubleshoot and fix.
If Thanksgiving weekend is out, pretty much any day afterward is acceptable. Just remember that the longer you wait, the sooner you will have to take them down.
Remove your lights the first week of January. This year, New Years is on a Friday so use that weekend to clear the lights and decorations during daylight hours.
If you live in a condominium or apartment complex, check with the Homeowners Association to see what and where you can decorate, along with any time limits for removal.
Depending on your existing decorations, you may want to augment your Christmas decoration design with new features. For example, try making a pond out of blue lights for your automated deer to drink from. Or create candy canes by stringing white and red lights up posts. When all else fails, look at pictures of what other people have done. A simple google search should suffice (it's not stealing if it's across county lines).
Make sure you're using lights specifically designed for the outdoors. The package will note this. Also, make sure you use lights with fuses at the end of the chords. If your lights are old, it's probably time for an upgrade since newer lights burn cooler, use less energy and shine brighter. Only turn the lights on when someone is home. Also, do not use indoor extension cords outside.
Our generation is becoming increasingly enamored with artificial Christmas trees. With fake trees, it doesn't matter how you set them up, just make sure it is after Thanksgiving.
For the old souls (I'm with you here), real Christmas trees require a bit more work, planning and upkeep. The biggest challenge is timing a tree purchase to ensure the tree's survival, while still leaving enough time to enjoy the sight and smell in your home.
Trees will typically last 3-4 weeks if fresh when purchased and properly watered. The National Christmas Tree Association  (NTCA) recommends giving trees a "freshness test" before purchasing. Make sure the tree still has rich coloring, and keep an eye out for excessive needle loss. Then, test the needles. But be careful: fir needles will snap easily if fresh, pines will snap only when dried out.
Douglas Fir needles
Monterey Pine needles
Buy a tree that fits whatever holder you have. The most important factor for tree stands is water capacity, since trees require a large amount of water once erected.
Other tips from the NCTA:
- If you buy a pre-cut tree, be sure to cut a small section of the stump off before putting it in water. The bare portion of the stump will have dried out by the time it got to you, so a fresh cut will open it up and allow it to absorb the water;
- Use plain tap water in your tree stand. The NCTA claims that homemade concoctions can actually harm a tree's survival;
- Make sure you shake out the tree. This is especially true if you cut down your own tree. Many lots can do this for you for a nominal charge, and it's much easier than dealing with a bunch of dead needles on your carpet or a stowaway little critter;
- Involve the family in selecting a tree.
When decorating the tree, be sure to use lights that have been approved by UL or ETL. Inspect lights each year to make sure there are no wires exposed. Even though the above mentioned lights should be safe, never turn them on while away from the home. Also, don't overload electrical outlets or extension cords.
That covers the basics; the rest of the holiday is up to you! Just be sure to enjoy the preparations and encourage the whole family to participate.
P.S. To help you usher in the Christmas spirit, tune your radios to KHTS AM-1220. Christmas music is running 24/7 until Dec 26.
Photos courtesy of the NCTA.