Holiday-adorned homes: Tech the halls


In homes across America, age-old squabbles are underway. Couples and kids are wrangling over the deep issues of the season — clear or colored, flashing or steady — while “Silent Night” plays defiantly against noisy background.

Everyone starts out merrily enough; then, faster than you can say pa rum pum pum pum, the mood shifts from festive to foul, as one by one family members abandon the hearth, leaving one lone holiday decorator holding a strand of fizzled out lights that worked just a minute ago, she could swear.

Next door, the neighbors are showing off their new flying sleigh.

Ahhh Christmas.

Go ahead, pretend it’s not so at your house. Try to drown out the acrimony with amped up holiday music and copious pours of eggnog, but if you’re truthful, you’ll admit: Holiday decorating is like tossing a grenade dressed as a pinecone into a house, where it goes off and detonates one decorating problem after another.

The fully ornamented tree falls over. Melted candle wax ruins the stockings. Somebody takes the Baby Jesus from the nativity scene and hides him, prompting a series of “I’m looking for Jesus,” and “Did you find Jesus yet?” comments, which a tasteless few, including me, find funny, but try to pretend we don’t.

Lore has it that once there was a much simpler time: Families strung popcorn and cranberries, burned real logs in the fireplace, bedecked a fresh-cut evergreen with handmade dough ornaments and candy canes, and hung a circled wreath bough on the front door. And that was the extent of the decorating. I pine for those days.

Today’s holiday-adorned homes look like a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert.

They beg the question: When did deck the halls become tech the halls?

Holidays have turned more techno because clever inventors have capitalized on solving holiday hassles with a microchip, said Kelie Charles, holiday merchant for Home Depot, in so many words.

“Function and ease have changed the most,” she said. “Consumers like control and convenience, and they’re getting more of both.”

I then asked Charles to fill me in on the hottest techno trends of the season and the holiday headaches they have resolved:
• Problem: Light wars. Solving the household argument over clear or colored, flashing or still, family members can now each have the lights their way. With the flick of a switch, today’s technology lets you change tree and outdoor lights from clear to red to blue to purple, and to many colors in between, including multi-color, said Charles. Plus, you can make them hold steady, pulse, twinkle, flash or chase. If that isn’t enough stimulation, some lighting programs let you set your dancing lights to music. “You can basically create your own light show,” said Charles, who would bet all her Christmas presents that today’s techno décor is easy enough for even the most technically challenged consumer (me!) to use.
• Problem: Dead lights. I don’t know why, but I have this plastic baggie full of dinky replacement Christmas lights that I have diligently saved over the years from packages of light strands. I thought I might actually use them some day to resuscitate a dead strand. That has never happened. Ever. Not to anybody. Makers of the Lightkeeper Pro knew that when they made this hot handy tool that you clip to a light strand where the incandescent bulb is out. Click and the gizmo gets the current flowing again. At $20 a pop, Home Depot has sold nearly 90,000 of these, said Charles. Think of the trips to the store — not to mention the marriages — this has saved.
• Problem: Tree assembly trauma. Quick-connect, pre-lit trees are pushing those cumbersome artificial arbs — which used to take a full day and a bottle of scotch to set up — to the curb. Newer trees are literally a snap to assemble. (I had mine up and lighted in less than 10 minutes, which means you could do it in three.) Pedals let you turn the tree on and off with a foot tap, which means no more lying on your stomach crawling between branches and gifts to plug the tree in. New on the market this year from GE is the iTwinkle Tree ($299). A free app lets tree-control freaks manage their i-tree’s appearance from their mobile devices (iPad, Android or iPhone). I am not making this up. Right now the app only works on the GE tree, but next year, you will be also able to buy light strands that you can manage from your phone, said Charles.
• Problem: No white Christmas. For those dreaming of a white Christmas, but who live, like I do, in Florida, the Gemmy LightShow Projector kit with Kaleidoscope special effect can create the look of light snow falling outside your house.
• Problem: Your neighbor’s yard has bigger toys. Not long ago, inflatable holiday characters sprung up in yards near you and stood at a statement-making 4 1/2 feet tall. Then they grew to six feet, then to 12, then 15 and now you can buy 20-foot-inflatables, said Charles, including motorized ones that do stuff. Home Depot sells a Santa who throws snowballs — maybe at the neighbor's flying sleigh?

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through


Marni Jameson

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press)
Last modified: December 11, 2014
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