When our great-great-grandchildren look back at holiday photos from the 2020s—I’m picturing them flipping through albums but, let’s face it, the images will probably be downloaded to their eyelids or something—they will surely wonder why we were wearing ugly Christmas sweaters featuring Baby Yoda or Dwight from The Office. Irony doesn’t translate well in a photograph. They will just think we were weird.
Just like our fashion choices, holiday dressing for the outsides of our homes has been subject to all sorts of fads over the years. Even in the pre-electricity days, folks were doing interesting things to make their homes look festive for the season—including placing real lit candles in every window and on the Christmas tree. Fun fact: Apparently, Martin Luther started that tradition, inspired by the starry sky over a forest during a mid-winter’s night walk. Considering the number of homes that literally burned down because of the candle trend, perhaps he should have encouraged people to nail pretty papers to their front doors instead.
So-called “blow mold” nativity scenes, made using glass-blowing techniques but with molten plastic, were all the rage starting in the 1940s. A decade or two later, Americans began adorning their homes with the simple strings of holiday lights that were then becoming available. It was a holly jolly time—until 1973, that is, when President Richard Nixon asked people to conserve energy in the midst of an oil shortage by not hanging lights. Bah humbug. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that it was right around that time that painted plywood cutouts of Santa and Frosty became popular front-yard decorations. If people couldn’t hang colored lights, by golly, they’d get crafty.
Remember the first time you saw icicle lights dripping from the eaves of a house in your neighborhood? They were a holiday hit in the late 1990s. Apparently, the two Indiana ladies who invented them raked in $500 million a year in sales in their heyday. Then came net lights, the lazy man’s way to illuminate a bush with a simple toss of the wrist. What a revolution.
Advances in technology have added significant sizzle to the standard neighborhood displays over the last several years. Some of my favorite holiday houses to drive by these days have signs prompting visitors to tune their car radios to a certain low-wattage station to hear music programmed to go along with the flashing of thousands of colorful bulbs that cover the rooftops and dance through the flowerbeds. I’m guessing these homeowners spend many, many hours putting together such a spectacle, and I tip my Santa hat to them for that joy-spreading feat.
It seems like this year’s hottest holiday décor trend is a little more low-tech, but I’m here for it: giant Honey, I Shrunk the Kids-worthy ornaments basically made from colorful exercise balls. I’ve seen them advertised everywhere, and never let it be said that advertising didn’t work on me. My front-yard live oaks will be Christmas trees before you know it.
By the time our great-great-grandchildren are decorating their own houses for the holidays, who knows what fads they’ll be falling for. They might even be paying big bucks to wear our “vintage” ugly Christmas sweaters while they do it—even if they have no clue who the heck Baby Yoda is.