When I was growing up, our neighbors across the street had a tradition of putting up their live Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.
(This was in the ‘90s, before it was common for people to start celebrating Christmas in September.)
My mom used to look out the living room window, through which we could just glimpse the twinkling lights from The Durlings’ freshly decorated evergreen, and make pointed remarks about it: “I don’t know why they get their tree so early! Too soon, if you ask me. All the needles are going to fall off. Yeesh.”
And my brother and I (it was his best friend’s house) would just agree but also kind of wish that we, too, could enjoy a Christmas tree for a whole month.
Well, the years went by and it turns out the Durlings were really onto something, because now the whole country is knee-deep in Christmas lights by mid-November and I’m over here feeling like a slacker.
It started with the house on the corner. A week before Thanksgiving, I glanced out the window at 4 p.m. as darkness descended and noticed their front porch columns had been wrapped in strands of red and white LED’s. There they were, glowing like otherworldly candy canes in the autumn dusk. By the time night fell, the house on the corner had stolen the show, drawing the marvel of all three Roy girls, who gathered on the sofa to peek at it through the curtains.
“Wow, it looks so pretty!” Tiny crooned.
“Yeah,” agreed The Architect, and I detected a hint of wistfulness in her voice, as if to say, “I wish we could have candy cane lights on our front porch.”
No matter, it was just one house.
“Yep, looks nice! Not sure why they decorated so early, though!” I said in a tone I’d describe as “forced-cheerful.” “So, who wants nuggets?”
I thought I could safely leave Christmas in a cardboard box in the basement for a few weeks longer, but then the weather decided to pretend it was May and I noticed the next-door neighbor out on his front porch, fiddling with a strand of lights.
“OK, I get it,” I thought to myself. “Smart guy. Save the decorating for the nice weather. I can respect that.”
What I wasn’t expecting was to plop down on the loveseat later that evening only to see, through the window, glowing bulbs twinkling down at me from the neighbors’ eaves — not just white, or just colored, but BOTH. In succession. Along with a color-changing front lantern, oversized bulbs on stakes in the ground, enough faux greenery to deck several halls and a festive accent pillow plopped on the porch swing.
So far they haven’t attempted to time the light flashes to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s on the list for next year.
A few days later, the folks across the street outlined every feature of their home’s exterior in colored lights, and the retired gentleman who lives in the house down the road spent a whole afternoon assembling their blow mold nativity scene, complete with a wooden stable.
The icing on the cake was the night I thought I heard voices outside at 2 a.m., which didn’t make sense because it was cold and rainy, but sure enough, I opened the blinds the following day to see an inflatable Santa Claus emerging from an upper window in the house across the street.
The new homeowner there had also installed roof lights that would make Clark Griswold proud, with an astoundingly bright front porch setup to match.
I blinked at it a few times.
“FINE,” I announced to no one in particular. “Fine. Clearly I am the Scrooge here. If November is when we’re doing Christmas lights, then so be it!”
I drove to the home goods store to make my annual purchase of pine garland and spent the next two hours fighting with boxes in the basement to find the strands of lights I usually use for outdoors.
Later that afternoon, I put on my biggest, most festive smile and decked the front porch and landscaping with warm white lights.
It wasn’t until 8 p.m., when I went out to survey my hard work, that I realized a generous half of one (prominently placed) strand was dead.
You know what? I’m at least two weeks ahead of 2021 Abbey, so I’m just going to take the credit.
My lights may not change color or even be fully present, but at least I’m not Scrooge!
Abbey Roy is a mom of three girls who make every day an adventure. She writes to maintain her sanity. You can probably reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, but responses are structured around bedtimes and weekends.
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Abbey puts up Christmas lights early because the neighbors did