Just Say Noël

Edmund Marsh

MY FAMILY IS FRUGAL all year long, even during the Christmas season. We’re modest with our gifts and sparing with our decorations. Each year, our sprucing up consists of one cut-your-own Christmas tree trimmed with the same ornaments we used the year before. I can’t say the same for our neighbors. They pull out all the stops to create a seasonal spectacle.

There’s no need to take a long, cold sleigh ride to the North Pole to scope out Santa and his companions frolicking in snowy splendor. A short drive around my neighborhood reveals reindeer prancing across lawns and elves dancing in doorways. Santa himself strolls among candy canes or climbs down the chimney with a sack full of goodies. Strings of lights festoon trees, fences and eaves. It’s just as well Mrs. Claus stays home on Christmas Eve. She would be holly green with envy if she could see the dressed-up digs around here, and Santa’s wallet would be a lot lighter.

I’ve never been tempted to follow suit before. But this year, I decided to see what all the fuss is about—and how much it costs to be fussy.

With that in mind, I sat down one evening for some e-commerce on the computer. As a Noël novice, I know I can’t compete with the decorating doyens right out of the starting gate. I just hope to raise our neighborhood standing a couple of notches by adding a little more Christmastide curbside appeal.

Icicle lights for the eaves at $24 a strand seemed like a painless beginning, until I realized I needed five to span the distance. Holiday necessity also demanded a $24 single strand for the rest of the roof, along with seven lighted green garlands for the porch columns at $40 each. The house will be well lit for just $424.

I can’t leave the windows without the Christmas treatment. Some $320 would put a cheery wreath in 12 of them, plus $65 to dress up the front door. Total so far: $809.

Our newfound Christmas image is incomplete without a three-piece, lighted family deer set for $240. And for $53 more we’ll have a candy cane pathway coaxing visitors toward the front door. These additions make the outdoor bedecking complete for a mere $1,102.

Once inside, guests will find our messy tree farm specimen replaced by a pre-lit, “real feel” full Downswept Douglas fir. It’s a bargain at $435.98, marked down from $799.99. Extension cords, assorted holiday gewgaws and taxes take the decorating total close to $2,000. And, no, that doesn’t include the 10-foot-tall inflatable, Santa-garbed Grinch.

Let’s face it, for that much green, we could abandon our parsimonious habits and get downright decadent with our gift-giving. Or we could motor over to the next state and marvel at some world-class Christmas glitter.

Tempting as those merry visions may be, I think it’s safe to say we aren’t joining the Joneses in their festive illuminations this year. We’ll just take our usual leisurely drive around town to appreciate their exertions from the cozy comfort of our warm car. While my wife and daughter ooh and ah, I’ll try to hide my glee over the time and money I didn’t spend-–yes, my first two initials could stand for Ebenezer you-know-who.

Meanwhile, to pick out our Yuletide centerpiece, we’ll squeeze into the cab of the old pickup truck and head over to our favorite Christmas tree farm. Once there, the hardest task is choosing the almost perfect tree. The easiest is paying $35, which includes a complimentary cup of hot cocoa. Then, it’s home to hang the trimmings, with holiday music playing in the background. Christmas spirit? That’s all I need.

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