Herr Drosselmeyer is rolling over in his grave… again. 1987 mid-November; the time had come to venture into the wooded hills behind my town to find our Christmas tree. Slogging through mud up to my knees, I held my dad’s saw aloft with two hands to assure it didn’t get lost in the mud.
At home, we decked our tree with miniature incandescent lights; if one bulb burned out, the strand was a lost cause. My dad spent hours checking each bulb until he found the one with the broken filament. Since the original, traditional Christmas tree illumination was candlelight, my mother placed candles in the tree. However, due to fire danger, those candles would only be lit for about 5 minutes for holiday pictures, and then they were quickly extinguished. However, those few minutes were always the pinnacle of holiday season magic for me.
Fast-forward to 2007. It will be the first Christmas my wife and I will spend in our new Texas house. While shopping for holiday decorations, an interesting spectacle caught my attention. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) have found their way into Christmas lights.
Certainly LEDs carry many benefits over incandescent technology: they represent a 90% reduction in energy, they are more robust against burn-out, and they run cool to the touch to eliminate fire danger.
Nonetheless, I worry that we have lost something with our modern Hallmark-ified holiday season (which now starts in August), our fake Christmas trees complete with spray-on fake pine scent, and our over-the-top holiday displays.
Holiday displays are inherently wasteful, but isn’t tasteful excess what makes them magical? If you are worried about saving electrons, wouldn’t it just be more efficient not to deck the halls at all? To me, LED holiday lights are like hybrid SUVs (see “Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV an Oxymoron”). Why bother trying to save energy when your underlying activities are inherently wasteful?
Live a little, I say. Instead of buying LED holiday lights, buy your friends and loved ones some Carbon Credits.