The Great Light Debate: Spectacular Color or Traditional White?

A NoBo Head to Head Perspective

“Spectacular Color” by Matt Laidlaw

Color is a great thing.  We see color every day.  Bold reds, bright blues, fluorescent greens and yellows, each stirring a different emotion, bringing life to everything we touch, taste and see.  There’s much debate about the use of color at Christmas.

You see the houses decorated in white, and they’re nice but there is something about a house all decked out in reds, blues, and greens.  There’s something about a Christmas tree that’s a centerpiece, not something stuffed in the corner as a lamppost.

Color is what makes the holidays come alive.  Santa is in a jolly red suit, not winter white. Elves are dressed in green and trimmed in red, not a blanket of snow-white.  Color stands out beyond the snow-caps on our bushes. While there are appropriate uses of color, let’s be very clear about what we think that means.

Never should we forget the travesty of the days of silver trees with their spinning, multicolored disks mounted to a flashlight. Sure, there’s the excuse that it was the 70’s, but the last time I checked Santa doesn’t mix hallucinogens with his milk and cookies.

There’s some fun these days with the LED trees that try to accomplish the same feeling, especially with the ability to go through five or ten colors, timed perfectly to the beat of your music.  Fun? Yes. A little over the top? Absolutely.

If you’re one who enjoys an all blue or all red house, I’m not sure sticking with one tone is a great idea either. There’s just something not right about it, but I guess I’ll still support you because at least it’s color!

Considering that we do not live in black and white times, the use of color whether inside or out is the perfect addition to the spirit of Christmas.  May your holiday bring with it peace, love, and lots of color to you all.


“Traditional White” as defended by Keith Spencer

Like Clark Griswold in the holiday classic “A Christmas Vacation”, I prefer the “traditional” look of white lights.

I suppose it’s something that’s been instilled in me since I was a child. I’m not really sure if there was ever a choice. My mother has always been adamant: white lights are the formal, peaceful, traditional look for the Christmas holiday.

Growing up in a relatively urban environment, I always felt as though my house was transformed each December when we put up our lights. While I know we weren’t magically transported to a farmhouse on the countryside, adorned in Christmas decor from top to bottom, I certainly felt the busy nature of the city morphed into a more silent, twinkling evening when the lights turned on each night.

Reminiscent of candles, white lights are certainly the traditionalist approach. In European countries, traditional Christmas trees are lit with real candles. While I don’t recommend taking this hazardous approach, the use of white lights will give that time-honored look.

White lights are certainly brighter, especially the new LED versions, which I am not truly sure qualify as the “traditional white light” I desire. They shine brighter than the muted strings of colored lights, both indoors and out, and just a few sets will illuminate your tree and yard as if it were a landing strip at Logan.

The clean, neat, uniform look of white is perfect for the obsessive-compulsive side of my personality. The crisp absence of color is defining, allowing ornaments and decorations to really stand out on the tree. Nothing is distracting you from the beauty and emotion attached to the ornaments you’ve collected over the years.

I do want to say that I am not completely anti-color lights. I enjoy the newer option that keeps the colors to the tradition red, green, blue, and white. Just please don’t throw in the rest of the rainbow.

Let me be clear, though, they are not “winter lights”. Just because they are not “Christmas colors” and they look beautiful after a snowfall, the lights should come down well before the dawn of spring, whether color or white.

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