Policing Holiday Light Violations

Summary:Having been brought up Jewish, my wife and and I never had the opportunity to actually decorate our homes with holiday lights. That being said, we appreciate a nice display, and have come to think of ourselves as connoisseurs and critics of the very best (and worst) in holiday light entertainment.

Having been brought up Jewish, my wife and and I never had the opportunity to actually decorate our homes with holiday lights. That being said, we appreciate a nice display, and have come to think of ourselves as connoisseurs and critics of the very best (and worst) in holiday light entertainment. Over the years, we've developed a set of guidelines for holiday lights. This year, we decided to codify them and to distribute citations (click to download PDF file, if you'd like to issue them too!) to local residences for exceptionally good (and exceptionally bad) light displays.

Does one of your neighborhood residences require a visit from the Holiday Light Police? Click the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.


Exceptional Display: Well coordinated, perhaps including music; may be way over the top, but in a pleasing manner. Display is either very elegant or outrageously fun and attracts positive attention to the neighborhood.

Pleasant Coordination: Light type and color are well matched or mixed in a pleasing fashion.

Music: Audible music as part of display. Bonus points for unusual or cool holiday music, such as oldies by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby or Burl Ives.


Bulb Clashing: Mixing of big and little bulbs, mixing of white and colored lights, in an uncoordinated manner.

Poor Maintenance: Lights are burned out in and creating gaps in display, figures knocked over.

Uncoordinated: Strands of light blinking out of sequence, clashing colors.

Laziness: Sloppy strand work, especially on deciduous trees which should be strung along branches and twigs and not sparsely wrapped around the tree. Or, not using an extension cord to bring the strand of lights to the object to be lit, so that you see the string of lights along the base of the object.

Mixed Iconography: Religious and Secular should not be part of the same display. Santa was not part of the nativity scene. Nor was Rudolph one of the animals in the manger.

Inappropriate Color Use: Christmas is red, white and green. Blue should not be used unless you are Jewish, neon Blue should almost NEVER be used.

Timing: Displays may be lit from dusk until 11PM (or earlier, if required by local ordinance). Your neighbors might want to go to sleep sometime without 10,000 watts of light shining in their bedroom keeping them awake.

Date: Displays may begin on the Friday after Thanksgiving and must come down no later than the Sunday following Epiphany.

Multimedia Distraction: Blaring music or flashing lights that may be hazardous, especially on busy roads. Check this video out for an example of a over the top holiday light display that could easily cause an accident. (EDIT: Here's the original site, where you can watch several computer coordinated Christmas light displays synchronized to different holiday music.)


Here we have a case of particularly sloppy strand work on a tree. The strands seem to have been "wrapped" rather than running light strings up the branches.

The house itself doesn't look bad, but the sloppy strandwork on the tree trunks just makes the whole display look crappy.

Here is what good strandwork on a tree should look like -- this is a tree for a local hospital, and obviously they put a huge amount of effort into it.

This is a case of bad light maintenance. If you're going to bother putting up lights, make sure they are functioning properly and replace bulbs when they go out.

This house is just pathetic. Santa's been knocked over by the wind and looks like he's passed out from drinking too much eggnog. The blinking light display is out of sequence and has parts burned out.

Again, sloppy strandwork, and to add insult to injury, the obnoxious neon blue lights over the garage which makes the whole thing look asymmetrical.

Another case in which sloppy strandwork on the shrubbery sets the whole concept off, which was otherwise executed semi-decently. The vertical lights to the left of the door is a ladder with toys climbing up it. Might have been nice to shine a spotlight on that feature to have it visible at night.

This house is a mish-mosh of white, small colored and large colored globe lights. Uncoordinated.

In this case, the globe lights are used exclusively and yields a simple, classy and elegant display.

This is what we consider to be a pristine example of an excellent, well-coordinated, over the top light display. Tremendous care was put into the the stranding, colors are used as accents, and not one element stands out against everything else. And to add extra points, Frank Sinatra music is being pumped out.

By contrast this display is simple and elegant.

While we generally feel that blue lights clash with the classic red and green, this house uses it as a primary focal element and does a particularly good job when mixed with the basic white lights.


On this one I'm conflicted. This is an awesome display, but should the New York Stock Exchange really be footing such a huge electric bill considering the uh, mess Wall Street has got us into?

It's that wonderful time of year again. Got any serious violations you'd like to show us? Talk Back and let us know.

Topics: Legal


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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