Policing Holiday Light Violations

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.

Topic: Legal


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience 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.

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  • You issue Christmas light citations?

    Is your middle name jerk?
    • Pop Quiz

      Can you spell P-A-R-O-D-Y?
      • I can spell it

        can you define it? Because handing these things out to neighbors isn't it. The word for that is spelled r-u-d-e. Look it up.
      • Apology

        I read it a third time and realized you could be making a statement on the nazi-like behavior of Home Owners Associations. So I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and apologize.
    • Jerk

      ya i think his name Jerk Jerk Jerk
    • You should have paused....

      ....for a beer and thought about it for a while before you clicked "add your opinion." You might have gotten the point had your reread the blog later.

      Nice post, Jason.
      • I read it twice just to make sure

        I wasn't missing something. Here's what I got:

        Some people really don't know how to put up Christmas lights, and I have a fun time sticking notes on their doors telling them how their Christmas light set up sucks.

        Maybe Jerk is too kind a word for a person like that.
    • Lighten up, already :-)

      • lighten up?

        is that a pun?
      • How funny is a stupid ticket complaining about your light display?

        The commendation part is wonderful; a 'citation' for light violations?.. that is stupid, at least they took some time to put up lights. Why not spend that time volunteering at a shelter or something encouraging.
  • RE: Policing Holiday Light Violations

    The best (and worst) display I have seen: http://wikimapia.org/4367757/3481-Hawthorne-Dr-N-Wantagh-NY. The hum of all the compressors can be heard a block away.
  • This has to be a joke. Its amusing if it is... if it isnt.. wow.. just wow


    I would be forced to disconnect someones utilities if they issued me a citation. I imagine i would have the full support of the mob.. i mean community.

    Our HOA gives out an award for best display and provides them with a $50 gift cert to lowes.
  • RE: Policing Holiday Light Violations

    Being Jewish does not mean you can't participate! I have seen some beautiful Hanukkah decorations adorning houses that included sparkling blue lights reflecting off a giant silver Star of David, giant lit Menorahs, and so on. Like all holiday lights they are a bit garish - but that is the fun - in my book, the more garish the better!

    Have at it and see if you can earn one of your "citations" - just don't look at your electric bill in January ;)

    Really, what we should be discussing is the merits of incandescent vs LED holiday lights. LEDs are cool but they appear to pulse when looked at from a distance. And what about those computerized blinking-light music sychro gizmos?
    • Other religion.

      Other religion and even atheist and scientologist are able to participate in xmas without needing to believe or not in Jesus and/or Santa Clauss (Saint Nicholas). Though, they are unable to blame or critic such festivity. In the same basis, non-jewish can't criticizing Hanukkah saying its so boring, cause this can be considered as a impolite act against other religion.

      So, the right to critic xmas is a exclusivity of christian. :-P

      BTW its just a bunch of lights, most important is to share in family.
      • It is CHRISTMAS, not XMAS

        Is it really that much work to type "Christ" vs. "X". I know all the "rationalizations" for using "X" but come on.. [b]Would you like your name replaced with an "X"?[/b] Imagine if we took [i]Christ[/i] out of all the Christmas carols (uh, I mean xmas carols)?

        What child is this, who, laid to rest,
        On Mary's lap is sleeping?
        Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
        While shepherds watch are keeping?
        This, this is X the King,..


        O come, let us adore Him,
        O come, let us adore Him,
        O come, let us adore Him,
        X the Lord.


        Good Xian men, rejoice,
        With heart and soul, and voice;
        Now ye need not fear the grave:
        Jesus X was born to save!
        Calls you one and calls you all
        To gain his everlasting hall.
        X was born to save!
        X was born to save!


        God rest you merry, gentlemen,
        Let nothing you dismay,
        Remember X our Savior
        Was born on Xmas Day;..

        Wishing everyone a [b]Merry Christmas![/b]
        John 10:10
        • Actually, it -is- Xmas

          From Wikipedia:
          "In early Greek versions of the New Testament, the letter Χ (chi), is the first letter of Christ. Since the mid-16th century Χ, or the similar Roman letter X, has been used as an abbreviation for Christ.[7] Hence, Xmas is often used as an abbreviation for Christmas."

          From Answers.org:
          "Xmas is not of modern coinage. The Oxford English Dictionary documents the use of this abbreviation back to 1551. Undoubtedly it was employed before that. Now 1551 is fifty years before the first English colonists came to America and sixty years earlier than the completion of the King James Version of the Bible! Moreover, at the same time, Xian and Xianity were in frequent use as abbreviations of Christian and Christianity.

          You see, the X in Xmas did not originate as our English alphabet's X but as the symbol X in the Greek alphabet, called Chi, with a hard ch. The Greek Chi or X is the first letter in the Greek word Christos. Eric G. Gration claims that as early as the first century the X was used as Christ's initial. Certainly through church history we can trace this usage. In many manuscripts of the New Testament, X abbreviates Christos (Xristos). In ancient Christian art X and XR (Chi Ro--the first two letters in Greek of Christos abbreviate his name. We find that this practice entered the Old English language as early as AD 100. Moreover, Wycliff and other devout believers used X as an abbreviation for Christ. Were they trying to take Christ away and substitute an unknown quantity? The idea is preposterous.

          Some may use Xmas today as an unchristian shortcut for Christmas, but the ancient abbreviation by no means originated as such. The scribes who copied New Testament manuscripts had no intention of taking Christ out of the New Testament. They used the abbreviation simply to save time and space. We use abbreviations for the same purpose today, as witness FDR, HST, JFK, LBJ, and a host of others. Xmas is a legitimate abbreviation. I do not use it because of the possible misunderstanding it often causes as a result of its misrepresentation or abuse. But by no means can the use of the abbreviation be a valid objection to the observance of Christmas itself! Is God against abbreviations?"

          And from a Christian study website:
          "The exact origin of the single letter X for Christ cannot be pinpointed with certainty. Some claim that it began in the first century AD along with the other symbols, but evidence is lacking. Others think that it came into widespread use by the thirteenth century along with many other abbreviations and symbols for Christianity and various Christian ideas that were popular in the Middle Ages. However, again, the evidence is sparse.

          In any case, by the fifteenth century Xmas emerged as a widely used symbol for Christmas. In 1436 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press with moveable type. In the early days of printing typesetting was done by hand and was very tedious and expensive. As a result, abbreviations were common. In religious publications, the church began to use the abbreviation C for the word "Christ" to cut down on the cost of the books and pamphlets. From there, the abbreviation moved into general use in newspapers and other publications, and "Xmas" became an accepted way of printing "Christmas" (along with the abbreviations Xian and Xianity). Even Webster?s dictionary acknowledges that the abbreviation Xmas was in common use by the middle of the sixteenth century.

          So there is no grand scheme to dilute Christianity by promoting the use of Xmas instead of Christmas. It is not a modern invention to try to convert Christmas into a secular day, nor is it a device to promote the commercialism of the holiday season. Its origin is thoroughly rooted in the heritage of the Church. It is simply another way to say Christmas, drawing on a long history of symbolic abbreviations used in the church. In fact, as with other abbreviations used in common speech or writing (such as Mr. or etc.), the abbreviation "Xmas" should be pronounced "Christmas" just as if the word were written out in full, rather than saying "exmas." Understanding this use of Christian symbolism might help us modern day Xians focus on more important issues of the Faith during Advent, and bring a little more Peace to the Xmas Season."
  • In my humble opinion

    such put downs are most satisfying when done behind the recipient's back. There's no need to make enemies over something so trivial.
    Michael Kelly
  • At first I didn't get the joke ...

    ... because I starting thinking about all of these 'neighborhood associations' and the tedious rules are regulations these high strung retentive groups impose. After reading a little bit further the parody became apparent. :D
    • today

      Today its hard to differentiate a parody from the reality, or how a parody can become a real fact.

      For example to say "in USA everyone can be president, even a idiot" is not a joke anymore.
  • Good post....

    I think this is a cool post. I like a nice light display and commend those that try, but sometimes they just throw out the lights and plug them in and that is not right. By the way doesn't Hanukkah mean "festival of lights"?? Looks like someone stole the idea from the jewish?? Happy Hanukkah to you and your family!