A leisurely evening drive through the neighborhood to see the elaborate Christmas light displays is one of the highlights of the holiday season. If you’ve always wanted to create your own holiday light show, read on for some tips.

1. Do your electrical homework.

tangled, multicolored Christmas lights

Outside Christmas decorations are beautiful, but it’s important to remember that lights—regardless of how colorful they are—are still electrical devices. Electricity requires respect. Attach lights to your home and other structures with hooks and clips designed for that purpose. Never nail or tack a string of lights—doing so can expose the wiring and poses a fire risk. Make sure that your lights are plugged into outlets that are equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). These outlets detect any shift in the electrical current and will shut down the circuit if it becomes overloaded. A light display that is large enough may require additional circuits and electrical meters. When in doubt, bring in a local electrician to double-check any work done and advise you.

2. Buy the right lights.

Miniatures, C6s, C7s, C9s, incandescent, LED—depending on the holiday lighting effect you want to create, there are myriad options for bulbs. Make sure that any lights you purchase for an outdoor display are waterproof or water-resistant and rated for use outside. LED outdoor lights are growing in popularity for use in Christmas light displays because of their energy efficiency. LEDs are bright and colorful, and they last longer and burn much cooler than incandescent bulbs. And perhaps most importantly, they won’t result in jaw-dropping electricity bills.

3. Don’t be afraid to go big and bold.

house at night lavishly decorated with Christmas lights and figurines

A house and yard is a lot of space to work with in creating a light display. If your decorating taste is typically reserved and understated, now is the time to try something a little different. Since passersby will be viewing from a distance, Christmas lights on houses must be bright, colorful, and plentiful. The miniature bulbs that look so delicate and beautiful on the tree in your living room may not have the same effect on the eaves of your house or on the tall shrubs and trees in your front yard. Opt for the larger C7 or C9 bulbs instead to make a festive statement. To complement the light display, look for oversized ornaments and novelty items, such as inflatable or lighted figurines. Mix up shapes for visual interest.

4. Incorporate music into your display.

If you’re ready to go whole-hog with your holiday light display, music is the ultimate finishing touch. Computer programs now give you the ability to sync your light display with a tune of your choice, so you get to decide which lights twinkle, flash, and strobe along to “Jingle Bells.” Your neighbors might not be too pleased with the unsolicited evening concert, however, and you’ll quickly tire of hearing the same song over and over again. As a solution, look into an FM radio transmitter. A transmitter will allow you to broadcast your chosen music over an unused FM signal, so only visitors who are tuned to that particular station will hear anything. It’s a nominal price to pay for not infuriating your neighbors.

The best Christmas lights match the festivity of the holiday season with color and whimsy. While interior decorating may be best accomplished with a healthy dose of less is more, more is definitely more when it comes to holiday light displays.

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