Ever since we moved into our first house on 7th Avenue, I knew that St. Pete definitely skewed toward the “more is better” school of holiday decorating. And my current neighborhood a dozen streets to the north is no exception.
Having lived in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Arizona, and Florida, I’ve come to believe that the level of regional holiday lighting directly corresponds to the climate. Frigid, snowy landscapes prompt classic candles in windows, wreaths on doors, and maybe a garland or two. Desert and tropical environments feature explosions of lights and yard decorations that cheerily combine the secular and the sacred.
After almost two decades of celebrating Christmas in hot weather, I’m no longer as mind-boggled as I used to be when I witnessed people stretching dozens of strings of lights around their doors and windows, across rooflines and fences, and up their palm tree trunks. White lights prevail in our neck of the woods, though some people opt for a monochromatic, moody blue and others go for those multicolor bulbs that make me nostalgic for the fifties.
I assume the fact people here don’t have to worry about damage from heavy snowfall and or freezing rain frees them up to fill their yards with huge inflatable snowmen, Santas, sleighs, and elves; oversize letters spelling out jolly sentiments; life-size manger scenes; and giant menorahs. This “go big or go home” sentiment has never been part of my decorating DNA, but every year I feel like St. Pete residents’ enthusiastic (and sometimes over the top) approach is chipping away at my minimalist tendencies.
For our first decade here, we did what we had always done – put a wreath on the door and a candle in each window. But eventually, I started to want more, which generated versions of the following conversation with my husband every year.
“How about more lights?” (me)
“Around the door. Or along the porch railing. Or in the windows. Or draping the bushes.”
“I think the candles are perfect.”
Several years ago, I finally convinced him that we should complement our wreath with a single strand of lights around our beautiful front door. It looked a little anemic but it was a start. Last year, I hit on the idea of doubling the strand, and we both agreed that brighter was better.
This year, as always, many of our neighbors were way ahead of us on the decorating timetable. We came back from our Thanksgiving trip to a neighborhood filled with miles of garlands; at least a million flocked red bows on pillars, posts, and doors; and trees that were glowing with top-to-bottom illumination. But I was most surprised to see new neighbors whose house and yard boasted dozens of huge poinsettias that packed an enormous visual punch. Gorgeous! The owner had told us that she loved Christmas, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise when the poinsettias were later joined by three large, lighted white deer. And then a lighted snowman. And a lighted wreath on the door. Her seasonal spirit suffuses her surroundings, and again, it’s kind of rubbing off on me.
“How about a deer?” (me)
“I don’t think so,”
“I looked at huge wreaths – for between the front windows — but they’re way too expensive.”
“Hmmmm … I wonder if we could buy some of that garland stuff and make a wreath.”
That idea was too labor intensive for me, and I decided to live with what we have. But the fact that my craft-averse husband actually suggested making a big, new, outdoor holiday decoration means the St. Pete spirit is rubbing off on him, too. Fingers crossed for next year.