Christmas lights - is it just festive ‘peacocking’?

The festive season is here, and so are the shiny, sparkly, twinkling decorations to go with it.

Share
Related Topics

Christmas lights are as much a part of the festive season as crackers, pigs in blankets and after-dinner games around the fire.

What’s a Christmas tree without the twinkle? What’s a bustling high street full of frantic shoppers, prams and dropped gloves without a shimmering display above, illuminating the forgetful husband and the frosty pavement?

Yes, December is so dark a month to hold the year’s festive celebrations that we need little bulbs to light up the occasion. We don’t want to be sitting in buzzing, every day lighting while tucking into our turkey or goose; we don’t want to be enjoying a glass or two of medicinal mulled wine on Boxing Day afternoon in full colour. A gentle, hazy glimmer from the corner of the room is enough. That way everybody can drift off for a stolen half an hour and wake up just in time for Chicken Run.

But it’s not just on the tree that Christmas lights twinkle. And they’re not always gentle and forgiving. Some find it necessary to dress up the front of their respective homes as if they’re each and every one of them a Las Vegas hotel, expecting Elvis for a sell-out show at any moment.

At times, it’s just one homeowner’s dream to display. Like festive ‘peacocking’ to use a term stolen from The Game; a way perhaps to highlight how much they can afford to spend at B&Q throughout November. But often, these houses stand alone as a glowing beacon of happiness, Father Christmases blown up and raving, colours so vivid an Aldous Huxley mescaline trip would find it hard to compete.

There are the neighbourly competitions, always amusing, in which two quite often middle-aged men find it necessary to outdo one another in yet another chauvinistic outlay. Who can put on the greatest show? Who can rack up the biggest electricity bill and annoy the Green Party member at number 64 the most? We all know the stereotype: something that wouldn’t look out of place in an American department store; something our mothers might describe as ‘tacky,’ or possibly ‘kitch.’ Something, maybe, that pulsates to the tune of Gangnam Style.

In society there are always those who think it best to go the extra mile. And if nothing else it’s staggering to read about how much people spend on festive showcasing. One IT consultant spent a jolly £30,000 on his artistry. ‘What do the neighbours think?’ indeed. Imagine if you were across the road. It’d be blinding. This particular extravagance is in aid of a charitable cause however, so it can shine without complaint.

But other such contrivances come without such similar meaning and are met with derision. As with so many things there’s an element of snobbery when Christmas lights come out to play. It’s yet another source of middle-class prejudice and ridicule. How ghastly and garish are those houses with all the red and green, the inflatable reindeer on the roof and more flashing than Hampstead Heath? Don’t they know that a simple, delicate, white set of fairy lights hung gracefully upon the sill is enough? At most, perhaps strewn through the tree at the end of the driveway? Councils are contacted and letters are written. The tutting brigade march swiftly through the streets. Only Lights that whisper ‘Ikea’ so faintly in the moonlight are acceptable.

The question is, do Christmas light exhibitionists deserve this? Are these spectacles really just another piece of ‘tacky,’ seemingly America-caused over-indulgence, or just ‘festive fun’ that need not be criticised by Waitrose shoppers and House of Fraser fans?

It seems to me that while the environment certainly suffers somewhat over Christmas, there’s an endearing beauty to the arrangements. Like a moth to a flame, we are drawn to light and these decorations are mesmerising. Sure, vajazzling one’s house may not be in the best of taste; but those who moan of vulgarity, light pollution, front garden boundaries and increased traffic need to either be quiet or put their Ray Bans on. There’s just no room for such nose-upturning at Christmas.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz