Ever since I was a little girl, nothing about the holiday season has made me happier than seeing Christmas lights go up around the city, one house or neighborhood pocket at a time. Though the Christmas stocking is perhaps my favorite holiday tradition, it’s generally a private one, with socks hung on the mantel, bookcase, or elsewhere inside people’s homes. You have to live there or be an invited guest to share in a family’s stocking celebration.

Lights, on the other hand, are a very public method of celebrating. We needn’t ask permission or get approval from anyone (unless you live in one of those HOAs – in which case, you knew what you were getting into before you moved in). We just haul out and untangle last year’s strands … or head to Target to buy a couple of animatronic reindeer or gigantic inflatable Disney characters. Some displays, no doubt, are gaudy and garish; others are enviably tasteful. Most fall somewhere along the mid-range of that spectrum.

My joy comes in simply driving through new neighborhoods and delighting in the thought that each of these families or individuals took the time to participate in this collective celebration of lights.

Recently, I came across a Web site that is dedicated to Christmas light displays … but not in the way you might imagine. This site’s focus is not the collective festivity and joy involved in hanging lights for the holiday season. No. This site is called TackyChristmasYards.com, and as its name suggests – and you might imagine – it proceeds to decimate virtually all attempts, both grand and insignificant, to join the annual luminary celebration. OK – so the one with a gnarled knot of lights apparently thrown over the garage in exasperation was actually kind of funny … but for the most part, the people whose lights this site mocks really made an effort to partake in the joy of the season, even if they didn’t hire Madison Avenue decorators or take their cues from Martha Stewart.

Interestingly, I searched for the site’s positive counterpart: GorgeousChristmasYards.com – but came up empty.

Which made me wonder … what is it about this thing we call human nature that takes such sheer delight in critiquing, sneering, ridiculing, and pointing out the bad stuff … and rubbing people’s noses in it?

A few years ago, a business coach friend of mine who began her career as a therapist explained to me the reason she left therapy to become a coach. She said something I will never forget: “We are a society that celebrates brokenness. I wanted to celebrate success.”  What a true statement that is! The question to explore, though, is why we are so keen to wallow in the negative.

With a very snarky sense of humor, I’ll admit I am as culpable as the next person. I can be arrogant and sarcastic as hell, making all kinds of comments that, if said to the wrong person or in the wrong environment, might cause some very ruffled feathers and bruised feelings. However, being acutely aware of others’ feelings, needs, and attitudes, I generally manage match my behavior and tone to the people I’m with at the moment. With the friends who share my wacky, somewhat offbeat vision of the world, I may let loose; in situations that require more decorum, I have the common sense and decency to conduct myself appropriately. One thing I never do, though, is deliberately make statements purely for shock value or with the intent of deliberately causing someone else pain, discomfort, or embarrassment. And I wonder about the motives of people who do – as this Web site seems intent on.

I mean, seriously. I don’t usually get all preachy, and it’s not my wont to tell anyone else how to live their life … but I was truly saddened by the TCY site. For one thing, the old saying is true. Beauty – or tastefulness, as the case may be – is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder. One person’s tacky may be another person’s gorgeous. Who is this Webmaster who has crowned him/herself judge and jury of what defines a tasteful Christmas display, and what doesn’t? And, more to the point, what does it matter if the neighbors have different ideas about what constitutes a nice lawn display?

Personally, I don’t really care for all the inflatables … from Santa to Mickey Mouse to Tigger and everyone/thing in between. Ask a 5-year-old, though, and I bet you’ll get a radically different answer. Sure, the out-of-control, willy-nilly lights of all shapes and sizes that are strung from the saguaros to the rafters at the house across the street from my mom’s could be construed as tacky … but I choose not to focus there. Instead, I honestly acknowledge those people’s attempt to join our neighborhood’s festival of lights – and I am grateful that they, and all the others like them, made the effort.

If the TCY people had their way, Christmas light displays would require permits and be awarded only to the deserving, much like the ribbons at a juried art show. If I had my way, every house would be encouraged to drape their eaves with lights – the more the better! Just goes to show you, there’s no accounting for taste!

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