My ideal December morning starts at 6 AM. It’s still dark, and nobody is awake. I make a big pot of coffee, sit on the sofa, and turn on the Christmas tree lights. I gaze at the majestic green tree lovingly chopped down at the tree farm and adorned with handmade ornaments. The glow of the white lights makes everything in my house look good, including my tired self taking selfies with the tree. At this moment, I think everything is beautiful.
But on alternating years, we do multicolored lights. I do the same morning routine, but it doesn’t ever feel the same. I struggle to get that holiday high. “I just didn’t feel it this year,” I will say as I pack up the decorations on New Year’s Day. When I look back at my phone’s photo albums, it's just a few pics of my decorations on the mantel — nothing of the tree. I do try to make a go of it and enjoy the lights for what they are, but I truly think (I know, I know) the lights ruin my holiday spirit. And — not to be dramatic — it’s all my husband’s fault.
Let me set the stage by saying it’s not just the lights. The day after Thanksgiving we go and cut down a tree — a tradition I started with the kids and he begrudgingly participates in, insisting that we shop in an area of misfit trees that are half off. When we get the tree home he will undoubtedly declare as we pull into the driveway: “There is no way I am bringing that tree in tonight.” Obviously, after a few hours, the kids get restless and beg to bring the tree indoors. I go outside pull the tree off the roof of the car and shove it inside. He will awake from his nap and say something along the lines, “If you needed help why didn’t you just ask me?” We set up the tree, and go through the familiar dance — “Is it straight?” “Are you even holding it?” — getting it into the stand.
But it’s the lights that really stick in my craw. When my kids were little, my husband and I agreed to switch every year between white and multicolored lights for the Christmas tree. I like white lights; he prefers multicolored lights because they remind him of his 1980s childhood. But here’s the thing: Multicolored lights make me feel down right sad and give me no feelings of holiday magic. I am 100% team white lights. They enhance all your other holiday decorations and don't overwhelm the ornaments. White lights are classic and made to represent candlelight. Everything glitters and glows.
Multicolored lights are too bright, and you can’t see the ornaments. Last year I tried buying the big C9 bulbs, which have a cool vintage vibe, but now they are LED, and they give off a light show of color that bounces off every surface. When I first turned them on, I agreed they did felt fun and happy. But at 6 AM, drinking my coffee, it isn’t very enjoyable. Frankly, it’s a little nauseating living inside a disco ball. Multicolored lights overwhelm the space and take away from all the other Christmas decorations. I decided to just leave the lights off.
When it was my white light year, I added a zillion bows to the tree to give it the feel of multicolored lights. I felt slightly guilty that I was being such a snob about the white lights and thought this was a good compromise. It turned out quite lovely, and I felt happy. My husband’s reaction: “Why did you cover the tree in bows? It looks ridiculous”. Well sweetheart, I was trying to make it cheerier for you.
But I realized he doesn’t care about any holiday decorations. A few weeks ago he said to me, “Can we skip the tree this year because nobody cares?” Our kids are 7 and 10, and they most certainly do! He then brazenly suggested, “Let’s get a fake one.” We always cut down a tree and it’s a tradition the kids and I love. Honestly, this is just his style: He enjoys trying to get a rise out of me, to the point of once sending a spoofed Amazon receipt of a fake Christmas tree with lights that turn from white to multicolored. And, ok, I can admit it: I can take decorating too seriously. But the thing is every other day of the year (that’s not a holiday) he’s the fun one. He’s YOLO and the totally enthusiastic parent that will play all the over-priced games and get slurpies at the amusement park. He is typically saying to me, “C’mon Katy, don’t be a grouch.”
So I asked my kids. Do you like white or multicolored lights? The 10-year-old said: “Rainbow lights mix all together and make the tree look like poo. White lights are fancy.” The 7-year-old told me, “I like the colored lights because they flash and have different colors.” So there we have it: white lights obviously win and this year it’s my turn.
Katy Elliott is the Personal Stories Editor at Scary Mommy. She loves to cook, garden and chat with people about anything from your how much you love your kids to how much your kids drive you nuts. She’s a mom to two kids and lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts.