Man’s dark struggle with Christmas lights

I’m generally a hopeful guy, so I rarely quote Dante’s Inferno. But one place needs the poem’s most infamous line: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

It’s the Christmas lights section at Home Depot.

Christmas lights are the bane of man’s existence. I do not overstate the point.

Of all the electrical appliances a man might assemble, there is nothing, I repeat, nothing like plugging in a freshly strung strand of Christmas lights and having nothing, I repeat, nothing happen.

Yes, smarty-pants, I checked them in the yard before putting them up. Yes, Mr. Know-It-All, they worked then.

Clark Griswold, the Christmas Vacation character who put 25,000 lights on his home, knows the feeling. He had spent days creating his masterpiece amidst spousal questioning: “Are you out here for a reason or are you just avoiding the family?”

When the time came to plug it all in, only criticisms lit up.

“I hope you kids see what a silly waste of resources this was,” derided Clark’s mother-in-law.

“He worked really hard, Grandma,” defended his daughter.

“So do washing machines,” reported his father-in-law.

At this point a man doesn’t want a diagnosis of the problem. He doesn’t want a handful of solutions. He just wants to be held. And he wants a trust fund to pay someone to do this tragic chore for the rest of his life.

For most men, the trust fund is not to be. The Christmas lights are his cross to bear — alone. And if he has small children, the stakes are as high as the roof line.

I understand the logic: no Christmas lights, no Christmas tree, no Santa, no presents.

But man’s dark struggle against the lights is anything but logical.

If it were logical, the extra replacement lights would actually fix a problem once in a while. If it were logical, there would be no microscopic replacement fuses – I last saw fuses like this in my grandfather’s 1982 Datsun.

And if it were logical, the Federal Trade Commission would close every light manufacturer known to man for their most reliable failure rate. 

Instead, a baggie of extra lights and fuses is taped to each strand by a belly-laughing factory worker. Instead, giddy consumers swept by the joy of the season keep forking over hard-earned dollars for what amounts to an exercise in character formation.

Sure, there have been decorative advances: the net of lights you can throw across your shrubs, the dangling icicles, the inflatable Santas and Frosties. Projectors can put a holiday Mickey Mouse on your garage door. Custom homes have exterior outlets lining soffits and eaves for easy access to power.

But there is simply no substitute for the hard work of installing one’s own creation, for overcoming the broken bulbs, for triumphing o’er the inexplicably expired segments.

There is no trading the thrill on the kids’ faces when the job is done. It’s the equivalent of a 1,000-volt attitude adjustment.

Even Clark Griswold’s easily embarrassed teenagers were moved when his lighted sight came to pass. As the Hallelujah Chorus rang out,

“Dad! It’s beautiful!”


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at


1 Response to “Man’s dark struggle with Christmas lights”

  1. 1 jessestroup December 16, 2013 at 12:58

    Well, this time you brought me to both tears and laughter.  I thoroughly enjoyed every paragraph!  How true it is.  This weekend while Barbara was away one of my assignments was to get Christmas lights to work on the little Christmas tree (this year little since you all won’t be coming).  Finally I got one to work after throwing 4 sets of Christmas lights away that we had hauled from Florence, to Abilene, to Nashville to Dallas.  So there you go.  You hit the nerve that binds! Thanks Kevin, Jesse P.S.  Did you know about Dan Branch’s dad Charles death?  His funeral events were this past weekend in San Antonio.

      Jesse R. Stroup Director of Spiritual Care Lifeline Chaplaincy 511 N. Akard suite 202 Dallas, TX 75201

Comments are currently closed.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 208 other followers


%d bloggers like this: