One of the Christmas traditions in my house as I was growing up was going out in the evenings to look at Christmas light displays. This was even before the time of wireframe reindeer covered with lights with heads would move up and down, so anything that was even mildly elaborate was worthy of note.
About all you could do in those days (early 1960s) was slather your house, garage and nearby trees with colored lights, the apparent message being–“if more is good, then way much more must be way much better!” Thus, there was a certain overkill with the more notable displays, and adult sightseers could be heard muttering “I”d hate to have HIS electric bill!”
Sometimes Popular Mechanics enthusiasts would build and place the Sleigh-Reindeer-Santa-with-a-moving-arm-that-waved cutout combination on the roof. Another popular “high-tech” lighting display took a different approach–a spinning wheel with several colored sections, behind which a spotlight was mounted. The resulting constantly-changing colors lit up the house, garage, etc. There was also the thermonuclear (lit-from-inside) Snowman family in the yard.
The problem with going out to see Christmas lights was that there was no hard and fast agreed-upon schedule for when and how long they’d be left on. Usually they were first turned on starting the night after Thanksgiving, and stayed on every night until sometime around New Year’s Day. Some homeowners started limiting the hours after Christmas Day, perhaps trying to save some cash. Some would turn on the displays just after dark, but would shut them down when they went to bed–at 8 or 9 pm. And, there were those that would actually start taking down their lights before the first of the year.
Things sure have changed. There’s LEDs now, which run much more cheaply and cooler as well. And, there’s music that synchronizes perfectly with the moving light dislay, using special technology. Here’s an example of just such a house:
Be sure to turn up your speakers for this one! The actual house (and all of the ones in this article) use FM transmitters so cars full of passing viewers can listen to the music on the stereo, and not disturb the neighbors.
Another display is from the town of Waikele, Hawaii, and is solar powered–to the tune of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Sarajevo.” There’s an option to donate, and any proceeds the homeowners collect go to a charity to purchase Christmas gifts for poor and struggling families. (YouTube says embedding this video has been disabled by request.)
Finally, here’s another “Gangnam Style” display found in Perth. This one is distinctly different–one way is the animated “face” that “sings” the words. It’s also much shorter, which can be a good thing. (Why two houses with that particular song? The original music video is the most popular video of all time on YouTube.)
There’s information on each display–how the houses were set up, how many lights/LEDs were used, and so on here, in an article from Chris Hoffman on PCWorld.com.
Finally, here’s a video from NVidia’s John Storms on how he set up his display (his was the first YouTube video of “Gangnam Style” in this story):
While these displays are very impressive, there’s still nothing like taking the family out during the evenings at Christmastime to see your neighborhood lights. If you take a look on Yelp! or Twitter you should be able to find some nicely-lit homes right near you.