Outdoor Festive Illuminations Help Alleviate The Gloom:

We must find new ways to celebrate Christmas this year, to minimize the risks for ourselves and those around us”. What Joan Bakewell, the veteran broadcaster and Labour peer had in mind when she expressed this view on Channel 4 News on 24th November was, for instance, that we shouldn’t on this occasion huddle together with the others in our domestic “bubble” around the Christmas tree in the living room, but instead put it up in the front garden (if we have one) and then decorate it as usual. Moreover, that the outside of the house (or flat) should be festooned with festive lights as much as (or more than) the inside.

It seems Bakewell may have been unaware that this had already start to happen around the UK. On November 29th, the Sunday Times columnist Katrina Burroughs reported that since earlier that same month “a galaxy of  outdoor glitter has exploded on to urban streets across the country, from Cornwall to Cambridgeshire and Lancashire to London”. This “garden decomania”, the New York decorator Benjamin Bradley, explained to Burroughs, represents a rational reaction to the frustrations engendered by the succession of constraints imposed on the population over the past 10 months, hence a concerted attempt to banish the despondency and look on the bright side.

As a result, observed Burroughs, by mid-November, many large-scale decorations – such as Wayfair’s “besteller”, a 243cm inflatable Christmas tree with a Santa, a snowman and a penguin – had already sold out, and although Lights4fun’s popular acrylic light-up reindeer family was no longer available, it still did have a 1.75m-high 400 LED (electroluminescent diode) acrylic stag on offer for £179.99.

The Uswitch Energy correspondent, Kasey Cassells, on 14th December cited a survey by her organisation that had found UK households have been particularly keen this year to get into the Christmas spirit, with 4 million putting up their displays earlier than previously, the most common date being November 26th, and did so because they wanted to cheer up both themselves and their neighbours during the lockdown. It appears, observed Cassells, that we’re no longer satisfied with a bit of tinsel: Fairy lights accompanied by dazzling reindeers, Santas and snowmen are the evocative items now especially in demand.

Cassells has also pointed out that most individuals don’t seem to take into consideration the impact this will have on their electricity bills, with only 39% checking the power consumption or energy efficiency of the products before they buy. She calculates that for the full holiday period, a home with 200 fairy lights and a glowing reindeer could incur an extra £11 in costs by keeping them on for six hours a night: “Multiplied by 7 million domiciles, this could add £79 million to the UK’s energy expenditure.However, if they all changed to energy-efficient LED , their outlay would only increase by an average of £1.10 over the Christmas / New Year break – a tenth of the current amount”.

It’s precisely because – as the Guardian journalist Jon Henley reported on 5th December – advancing technology has made bigger and more complex options available at an ever lower price and modern bulbs use less energy that the authorities in the Dutch city of Amsterdam have introduced new and stricter limits on their size and colour permutations.

From next Christmas, throughout Amsterdam,“solely low energy LED appliances  will be allowed and they will all have to be turned off between midnight and 6 am. Any inhabitant wanting to hang more than one square metre of these, or cover more than 10% of their facade, will be required to inform the council and obtain its permission at least 72 hours in advance.” In the 17th-century canal district, a UNESCO world heritage site, only “warm white” may be used and all garlands will have to closely follow the gabled outline of each building.

These stipulations will probably have gone down well with the contributor to the mumsnet website who complained that the people living opposite her had put up some very bright flashing combinations outside their house which were disturbing her sleep: “Surely, they could be switched off at, say, 9pm?” In fact, as the Lifestyle Daily commentator, Claire Roberts, pointed out on 4th December, an investigation by the online estate agents Emoove has shown that anyone infringing Section 3 of the Environmental Act 1990 , which regulates the safety of roadside lamps, interference with other residences and statutory nuisances such as excessive noise, could be liable to a fine of up to £20,000.

Naveen Jaspal, Emoove’s Chief Operating Officer, recommends installing a timer which will automatically deactivate the array at a reasonable hour. Above all, he urges, avoid anything that flickers continuously or noisily plays tunes on a loop: “ ‘Jingle Bells’ once will undoubtedly get everyone into the seasonal mood, but 50 times a night is sure to get the culprit onto the ‘disapproval list’ of all those nearby obliged to endure the incessant repetition of this traditional Christmas melody”.

Filed under: Society | Posted on December 21st, 2020 by Colin D Gordon

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