Burning Issue of the Season

December 24, 1992

And now the big question: which Christmas lights are better clear or multi-colored?

Many Marylanders have already voted -- with their pocketbooks. Area retailers report increasingly people prefer the clear or white strings of "midget" lights for tree and outdoor decorating over the formerly favored multi-colored lights by 2-1.

The trend is especially striking in the suburbs. Go out any evening in the next two weeks, look down into any dale and the tableau before you will be of colonials bathed in milky luminescence.

With home furnishing becoming as trendy as clothing, many people no longer regard Christmas lighting as a simple show of seasonal joy, but as an extension of their decor. Also, everyone over the age of, say, 25 hearkens back to the "good old days" and the white lights of Christmases past.

Not all communities have been swept by the change, however. Baltimore households still seem to prefer multi-colored lights. Suburban K-marts, for instance, ship their orphan colored light sets to the store on West Baltimore's Wabash Avenue.

Some insist there's a link between income levels and decoration choices: white lights equal higher incomes. The Washington area, with an even greater class of snobs, opts for white lights more than we do. But the shift is even evident in the working-class communities of eastern Baltimore County, say merchants there.

A New York-based Christmas light manufacturer says that while Northeastern tastes have shifted to clear lights, most of the U.S. still prefers colored ones. If you are a reader who relishes the thought that the Northeast megalopolis will look like one big Williamsburg, from Boston to Washington, come Christmas 2000, you should also know that the light maker reports great interest in marquee and "chaser" lights -- not Victoriana at all. The industry is also developing "remote control" sets so you will be able to change light patterns without leaving the couch.

How gauche, you say? People view decorations as an extension of their holiday spirit. If we can tolerate, nay even appreciate, the spectrum of tastes and culture in Christmas lighting, can peace for mankind be far behind?

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