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How to Plan Your Outdoor Christmas Display

You only get one chance a year to put together a dazzling Christmas display – the kind of display that will encourage passersby to slow down for a longer look. But planning a light display takes some time, and can be more complicated than it might first appear. If you’ve never done it before, it can take a little time.

Of course, once you’ve planned your Christmas display once, you can hang up the lights the same way every year. Maybe you can change up other design elements, like lawn ornaments, to freshen things up. Try to get an outsider’s perspective of your home to decide what will look most impressive, think about what design elements you want to include, and make sure you’re working within your limitations to create the display.

Get an Outsider’s Perspective of Your Home

The first step towards creating a dazzling Christmas display is to take a few steps back and try to see your house as an outsider – any person walking down the street or driving by, or one of your neighbors – would see it. Cross the street and look at your house from a distance. Take some pictures. Make sure one of them is a clear shot of the roof – most Christmas light displays go around the eaves and some people like to place lights along the peak of the roof, too.

Choose Your Design Elements

Christmas lights are a primary element of most home holiday displays, but they’re not the only possible one. Many people like to put up holiday-themed lawn ornaments, like Santa and his reindeer or outsized Christmas bulbs. Porch decor is also common, and can include things like hanging a beautiful Christmas wreath from the front door, erecting Christmas trees on the front porch, and adding ribbons, garlands, and ornaments to planters, railings, and columns.

Take Measurements

You need to know how many lights to buy, so take measurements of any part of your house where you plan to hang lights. For columns, railings, and trees that you wish to wrap lights around, measure their height and width. Divide the height by the number of inches you plan to space the wire apart when wrapping (so, if you plan to wrap the wire around the tree or column every six inches, divide by six). Multiply that number by the height of the column, pole, railing, or tree to find out how many feet of lights you need to wrap the whole thing.

Get Appropriate Lighting

Buy Christmas lights from a reputable manufacturer like Celebrations. Make sure any strands of lights that you plan to hang outdoors are rated for outdoor use. Buy LED lights, especially if you plan to connect multiple strands of lights together. You can connect many more strings of LED lights than incandescent lights, since LED lights draw a lot less power. LED lights are also cheaper to operate.

Buy larger bulbs for areas that are further away from the ground, such as around the gutters and along the roof peaks. Large cone lights create larger blots of lights that are easier to be seen from a distance. Mini lights are perfect for ground-level decorating.

Consider Your Needs

How many strands of lights are you going to need to decorate every part of the house you want to decorate? How much electricity will that require? How many extension cords? Do you have enough outdoor outlets? If you can’t manage the needs of a large display, start smaller this year and work on expanding your display a little more each year.

Test Everything

It’s a good idea to test your lights before you plan to hang them, preferably on a different day, since just plugging in all your strings of lights and checking them for burnt-out bulbs can be onerous. Testing your bulbs ensures they’ll work once they’re hung, and it gives you a chance to replace burnt bulbs.

Work with a Partner

A partner can give you feedback on whether your planned display is just right or overkill. You’ll also need someone’s help when you actually start to hang Christmas lights. You need someone to hold the ladder steady for you while you attach Christmas lights to your gutters, and to call the ambulance if you fall off.

Planning and executing an outdoor Christmas display can be one of the most fun parts of the season. Plan ahead to create a display that everyone who passes your house will enjoy.

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