How to show that people feel really festive and are in the mood for some serious Christmas celebrating? Why, decorate their houses, of course, and apparently, more is better when it comes to decorating a household for Christmas in fictionland.
Characters light up their house from the bottom to the roof, the yard/garden included; decorate and/or illuminate their door and windows; have the biggest, finest tree; fill all their rooms with Christmas wreaths, candles, garlands, tinsel, wrapped-up gifts, stockings, cards, bells, Nativity scenes, Santa Clauses, reindeer figures, angels, snowmen, snowflakes, holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, candy canes, peppermints, cookies, gingerbread, gingerbread houses, gingerbread men, and more. Everything is very bright and very big. One popular colour combination is red and green, often with silver or gold, and there are lots of lights everywhere. Absurdly Bright Light and Christmas Light Chaos might be employed for extra comedy.
Often, there is a contest for the best decorated house, and it's a matter of honour to try one's best to win. In some cases, this might be related to Conspicuous Consumption and showing off. It might be pointed out that more is not always better and that this kind of decorating can be tacky.
This is a staple of most Christmas episodes, Christmas specials and Christmas movies. It's very often Played for Laughs on sitcoms and in Western Animation. In workplace comedies, it's not uncommon for characters to take a similar approach to adorning their office or cubicle come the holidays.
These extravagant and overblown decorations have been seen in Real Life, too, but usually people don't exaggerate that much and try to keep the budget down. (Usually.)
See also Christmas in America.
- A 2006 Miller Lite commercial used a direct snippet of the viral video of the Mason, Ohio home of Carson Williams playing a computer-animated light show synched to the song "Wizards in Winter" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
- A GEICO ad from 2017 shows a man telling his neighbor across the street that he just switched to GEICO and saved money on his homeowners insurance. The shot alternates back and forth between his house and his neighbors as they both decorate for Christmas. Every time the first man's house is shown his Christmas lights are progressively fancier and the commercial ends on a shot of an astronaut looking down at the Earth and seeing a multi colored twinkle coming from the man's house and remarking "Houston, are you seeing this?"
- A Charlie Brown Christmas: Snoopy gives his doghouse the decorative overkill treatment and wins first prize in the local newspaper's Christmas decoration contest.
- The Whos at the beginning of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! even had a song about it:
"Trim every blesséd needle on the blesséd Christmas tree.""Christmas come tomorrow. Trim you, trim me!"
- Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas: Minnie warns Mickey not to go overboard with the Christmas decorations in his home, which he does. At least until Pluto accidentally destroys them, forcing Mickey to go the simple route.
- In National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Clark covers the entire house in lights. The entire house. They're evenly spread across the exterior walls. When he turns them on, the power plant has to activate an emergency power supply to keep things going.
- The live-action movie of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! turned the scene from the animated film Up to Eleven by giving the Whos a device like a belt-fed machine gun to shoot decorations at their houses.
- In the 2006 film Deck the Halls, Buddy Hall's goal is to have his Christmas light display seen from space.
- Part of the plot of Christmas with the Kranks is the Kranks' refusal to take part in this over-the-top decorating, causing their neighbourhood to lose the annual "Best Decorated Street" award.
- In Elf, Buddy was raised by elves at the North Pole, so over-the-top is the only way he knows to decorate for Christmas. He decorates the toy section at Gimbel's department store so well that the supervisor thinks it's the work of a spy from corporate headquarters, trying to undermine his job. Buddy also decorates Walter's apartment, destroying some of Walter's property in the process to use the pieces as decorations. He gets a Christmas tree (so big it barely fits into the apartment) by cutting one down from a public park—which, as the movie reminds the audience, is a felony.
- In the parent-centric subplot of Unaccompanied Minors, we see Aunt Judy Davenport's house is decked out in a downright ludicrous amount of decorations, inside and outside, and she implies that her christmas decorating somehow goes beyond that. There is even an inflating Santa in a chimney with motion sensors on the lawn that scares the bejeezus out of anybody walking by.
- In a rare example from a film that, while it takes place during the Christmas season, is not a Christmas film, Michèle's neighbors Rebecca and Patrick in Elle put life-size illuminated figures of the Three Wise Men on their lawn. While this may not seem like a lot by American standards, the film takes place in France with all the characters being French, from whom we would usually expect more tasteful, restrained displays. (Justified by Rebecca being such a devout Catholic that she and her family take time off to go to Spain and join the pope on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela).
- In the children's picture book The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza, Mr. Merriweather originally intended to celebrate Christmas by decorating his house with a simple string of Christmas lights around the front window. However, when his neighbor, Mr. Clack, shows off his own decorated house with more than one string of lights, Mr. Merriweather decides to add more decorations to his own house. At this point, he gets carried away with the decorations, adding bigger and more elaborate displays until it ends up taking up the electrical power of the city, leading to a mob led by Mr. Clack to tear the decorations down during Christmas Eve. While Mr. Merriweather is shocked when he discovers the destruction on Christmas morning, it is then that he realizes that fancy displays are not what Christmas is about, and once again his house is decorated with a simple string of lights.
- The Cat in the Stacks Mysteries: Book 10 has new resident Gerry Albritton filling her yard with an absurd amount of inflatable decorations a short time before Christmas. At least one person doesn't approve, since they sneak in and deflate all of them. It's later revealed it was Gerry's brother Billy Albritton, who was trying to frighten her, though it didn't work.
- Clue: Variant in book #5, chapter 6 ("The Guest Who Stole Christmas") — the lights and decorations on Mr. Boddy's house don't look too extravagant, but then it turns out he spent a million dollars on the Christmas tree ornaments.
- Agent Scully's flat in episode "Beyond the Sea" of The X-Files is full of Christmas decorations, which is kind of over-the-top, especially considering she's a single career-oriented woman. She has her parents visiting and her father comments on it.
Scully's father: Are you going to leave this up all year?
Scully: Yup. All year. Since you always made us take the Christmas tree down the day after Christmas, I'm making up for lost time.
- In How I Met Your Mother, Lily and Marshall are big fans of Christmas and their and Ted's apartment is overblown with lights and other dreamy winter wonderland decorations. It's taken Up to Eleven when Lily gets angry with Ted and takes all the stuff to her tiny crappy apartment.
- Home Improvement: Tim's desire to add MORE POWER to his already over the top decorations ends up creating such a blindingly bright light that an airplane was able to locate the runway in the middle of a snow storm thanks to him.
- Grimm: Monroe really likes Christmas, so when Christmastime comes around, he decorates his whole house with Christmas decorations inside and out. When his girlfriend sees it, she's nonplussed because it reminds her of her aunt and uncle who were killed at Christmastime.
- Bones: The Victim of the Week is a Santa who lived the part 24/7, including having decorations all over his apartment. For a brief moment they consider the possibility that the guy really was Santa.
- Ally McBeal: Ally loves Christmas, but her boyfriend Larry's not too keen. Ally pesters him to decorate his office a bit and he gets piles and piles of illuminated Christmas stuff and mechanized reindeer. We later find out he doesn't like Christmas and other holidays because he has a small son, and Larry misses him even more during holidays.
- Gilmore Girls: In season 7, Lorelai and Rory celebrate Christmas in January because Rory spent the actual Christmas in London with her boyfriend Logan. They insist on a Christmas tree in every room and they decorate all their downstairs rooms with garlands. Christopher gets enormous stockings for the whole family, too.
- Roseanne: After receiving notice from the neighborhood association about not putting up tacky Christmas decorations on their property ("white twinkle lights only"), the Conners decide to have a "white trash" Christmas and Roseanne and Dan compete who finds the tackiest Christmas stuff.
- ABC has a light-decorating competition series that airs during the season and shows off real-life examples called The Great Christmas Light Fight.
- In the first season Christmas episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will, annoyed by the family's subtle and boring Christmas decorations and Ashley not being into the holiday spirit, has himself, her and Geoffrey decorate the house extravagantly, with lots of lights, snowmen, trees, wreaths and even putting tinsel onto the living room phone. Their neighbors were not amused by the "K-Mart look".
- Attributed to Jeff Foxworthy: "If your Christmas decorations are bigger than your house, you might be a redneck!"
- In the Greater Tuna sequel A Tuna Christmas, there's a three-way battle for Tuna's best Christmas yard display between Vera, whose display includes a nativity scene with live sheep, Santa Claus, Bing Crosby, the Grinch, and Natalie Wood, Didi Snaveley's pie pan Christmas tree lit by surplus military floodlights that causes retina damage if looked at for too long, and Helen and Ineda's 'All I Want for Christmas': two life-sized cowboy mannequins stuffed inside gift sacks. Helen and Ineda win.
- While not shown, one strip of Helpdesk had one of the technicians tell a teammate that every year his parents make the nativity scene they set up in the yard more elaborate. The descriptions ultimately end with "when they added Herod slaying the male children of Israel, the neighbors called the cops".
- In early seasons of The Simpsons, Flanders put up really elaborate Christmas decorations, including mechanized Santas, lots of lights, etc.
- There's a Mickey Mouse short where Mickey and Mortimer competed against each other about Christmas decorations — it got to the point that it put out all of the city lights and destroyed their houses. They compromised only when a signboard behind them displayed "Peace on Earth", and mediated by sharing gifts... which turned out to be boxing gloves designed to hit the recipient.
- Goof Troop shows that Goofy clearly went to the Clark Griswold school of decking the house.
- The Kim Possible Christmas Episode begins with the lighting of the decorations at Kim's house, played up with dramatic donning of protective goggles and flipping a Big Electric Switch as if they're activating some mad-science experiment. The lights are so overwhelming that Ron is temporarily blinded as he arrives, and the Tweebs mention that they rerouted the Middleton power grid so they wouldn't overload it like they did last time.
- On The Fairly OddParents, Timmy's parents decorate the whole house, inner and outer, for the holiday, even changing paint on the walls.
- There's a house in Illinois that does YouTube videos of their computerized Christmas lights that flash in time to the appropriate Christmas song they're playing. Drivers can tune their car radios to a specific FM station to hear the music in real time so it doesn't blast the whole neighborhood.
- When the late Jennings Osborne put up very elaborate Christmas lights as a gift for his 6-year-old daughter, his neighbors complained. He responded by purchasing their houses and used them to expand his light display, which got bigger every year. Ultimately the display was considered to be a public nuisance by the Arkansas government and the US Supreme Court ordered Osbourne to shut it down. However, after gaining national attention, Walt Disney World in Florida asked the family if they'd like to display their amazing spectacle of lights at their Orlando park. Thus began The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, which lasted a healthy 20-year run at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
- Al Copeland — most known as the founder of American fast food chain Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen — was also known for having extravagant Christmas displays at his home in New Orleans for every year after he struck it big with the franchise and until his death. He became a little infamous among locals as everyone flocking to see his displays created massive traffic jams, to the point where his neighbors in 1983 tried to sue him for causing such a ruckus each year. Following his death in 2008, the Christmas lights celebration continues to be held at a nearby park.
Maria C. Montoya: I told my daughter on Monday about Copeland dying and she said to me what I imagine a lot of local kids are saying to their parents this week: "Will we get to go see his house anymore?" I realized it was like telling a kid that Santa Claus was dead.