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Blaser: Shining a light on the excess of the season

Randy Blaser
Randy Blaser

I swear I just don’t know how they do it.

I have a hard enough time decorating the family Christmas tree. I never get the lights quite right, there are always crowds of ornaments in some spaces and bare spots in others, and the Lionel train under the tree appears gargantuan in comparison to my little light up village under the tree.

That’s what I get for purchasing most of my holiday decorations on sale the day after Christmas.

So I just can’t imagine how some homeowners go all out with their exterior illumination as if they are lighting and art directors. I’ve even heard that in some towns, including Wilmette, some fed-up neighbors have had enough and are asking officials to set some limits.

To me, a well-decorated home for the holidays are lights around the outline of house, or maybe lights around the windows or even lights on an evergreen tree in the yard.

But more and more, I am seeing that for some suburban homeowners, even Clark Griswold didn’t go far enough. Everyone knows Clark Griswold, the Chevy Chase character in the National Lampoon’s “Vacation” movies.

My favorite is “Christmas Vacation,” where Clark decorated the family home with 250 strands of lights with 100 bulbs per strand for a grand total of 25,000 Italian twinkle lights for the Griswold family Christmas.

That amount of outdoor illumination seemed ridiculously funny back in 1989, when the movie was made. But it pales in comparison with some of today’s suburban, modern-day Clark Griswolds.

One Christmas we went to visit family in quiet little Westchester and had to navigate the traffic jam in front of one homeowners lavish display, which included about a 15-foot lighted bird, I guess it was a dove, which was suspended in mid-air.

One year cars were lined up to pass an outdoor illuminated home in my home town that had the lights twinkle in time with holiday music that could be heard when the car’s radio was tuned to a specific channel as you drove by the house.

Another year friends invited us to their home town in the southwest suburbs to visit a special holiday display that more or less portrayed Santa’s village and North Pole workshop. All that was missing was the petting zoo.

In earlier times, it seemed most people, if not all of us, were able to curb our fantasies and indulgences. Decorations were tasteful, if amateurish.

Today, there are no limits. Nothing is ever too much. The adage, “Enough is as good as feast,” belongs to another century. Early 20th century, I would say.

But if nothing is ever too much, then nothing less is special. In another time, a trip to the Loop to see the window displays at then Marshall Field’s was a special holiday outing. I once spied Gov. Thompson and his family, followed by a couple of plainclothes state troopers, enjoying a late night look at those holiday windows.

Today, it would disappoint some wanna-be decorators.

But who wants to live next door to the Griswolds or Macy’s?

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